Whenever I watch an old Japanese film, I see all these terrific scenes of old Tokyo and just have to know where they were filmed. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times it isn’t. The other day I was watching a compelling yakuza movie,「無頼」より 大幹部 Burai yori daikanbu (1968), aka Outlaw: Gangster VIP. It stars Tetsuya Watari 渡 哲也, the handsome and tough-looking actor who starred in the cult-classic, Tokyo Drifter 東京流れ者 (1966).
Here’s one of the scenes that made me stop and take a screenshot. Spot “A” (map):
Would you believe that now it looks something like this:
What we see today is Shinjuku Esplanade Park 「新宿遊歩道公園四季の道」, a green “S” that cuts through the drab Shinjuku cityscape. It was built in 1974 following the removal of the Toden streetcar that stopped running here in 1970. To the east of this path is Golden Gai 新宿ゴールデン街, that rectangle of tiny old bars on the eastern edge of Kabukicho 歌舞伎町.
Here’s a map of the area, showing a segment of the former streetcar:
Here are some helpful blogs on this topic:
- 都電が走ってた緑道～新宿篇～ Green road – Shinjuku Toden streetcar was running ~
- ＜新宿裏線＞のこと [都電のいる風景] [Landscape with streetcar] things <Shinjuku back line>
- 四季の路。花道通り。大久保病院。水源。西武新宿駅。 （「蟹川」跡をたどる。その５。） Four seasons of the road. Runway Street. Okubo hospital. Water source. Seibu Shinjuku Station.(Following the “Kanikawa” mark.)
And here are three interesting comparisons between the 1968 film and today:
Movie scene (1): bad men walking
In this scene, train tracks are in the foreground. A group of men emerge from the Golden Gai bar district. I’ve outlined the awning of a bar that will appear in a subsequent photo.
Comparison: We stand on the tracks, facing north. The photo was taken in 1970 , by which date the train is no longer in-service. Golden Gai is to the right. An 11-story building is dead-ahead at the back of the picture. To the left is an arch that presumably served the same purpose that it does today: announce the entrance/exit of Golden Gai. A clump of trees can be seen in the front, left of the photo. I’ve outlined the black awning of the bar seen in the still from the movie.
Next we see an aerial photo from 1968 ; the train’s curve is clear from this angle. Next is an aerial view from today, showing that the streetcar path has been completely obscured by trees.
From the ground, this is what you would see when facing north and south.
Movie scene (2): tracks
Here’s another scene from the film, similar to the one that opened this post.
Comparison: The streetcar was still running in the following picture from 1969. The buildings on the right of the picture match the buildings from the film. The photo also provides additional information about the location; to the right (west) is the Shinjuku Ward Office (map). Straight ahead is the 井 sign, which is probably for the Marui Shinjuku building 丸井 新宿. (These are not visible in the scene from the film due to a different camera angle).
Move scene (3): Running man
This scene starts near the northern end of Golden Gai, then follows the tracks as they progress east/northeast. Here’s the scene:
Here’s a contemporary photo from 1967 (source):
And the film scene, annotated to match the 1967 photo:
And the same scene from 2016:
A parting shot:
To finish, here’s an early-morning scene from the film, facing the Shinjuku Station area. This scene was shot from a building at this location: map. I’ve noted some of the landmarks that have been mentioned earlier in this post.
-  Alternate names of Shinjuku Esplanade Park 「新宿遊歩道公園四季の道」: Shinjuku Promenade Park; Shiki no Michi; Four Seasons Pathway; Shinjuku yūhodō kōen)
-  Photo and date source: 繁華街再生11地区実..
-  Source: (broken link) smtrc jp/town-archives/city/shinjuku/column html
-  Photosphere photos from Hisatomo Tatsuki (YouTube)(Google album)
- 廃線 = Waste line
- 東京都電車（とうきょうとでんしゃ） Tōkyōto densha, referred to as 都電（とでん）, aka Toden. In English this can be referred to as ‘streetcar’, ‘tram’, or simply ‘Toden’.
- Click here for a map listing all bars in 2015; (source)
- Shinjuku and Golden Gai Black Market
- Japanese Wikipedia (link)
- Shinjuku Eastside Square, Fugetsudo, and the Greenwich Village of Tokyo
- 都電・新宿駅周辺 Toden Shinjuku Station
- TOKYO STREETCAR MAPS
- Toden streetcar pics
- 都電の写真目次 photos of Toden
- 私の撮った鉄道写真 別冊3-5 都電
- 新宿大ガード “Shinjuku large guard”
Shinjuku Ward Office:
- 新宿区役所 (Shinjuku Ward Office) (panoramio)
Golden Gai map, 1979 (source):