Watched another film by Keisuke Kinoshita 木下 惠介 a while back. English title is Danger Stalks Near (1957), but Japanese title is 風前の灯 ‘Fuzen no tomoshibi’ , which means something like ‘candle in the wind’. 

(I) Rural land

I took some screenshots of the scenery: the film is set in a small house surrounded by fields on the western edge of Tokyo (this is my assumption based on the presence of Shinjuku station, which we will explore later).

The film is set west of Shinjuku station but it was likely filmed elsewhere. My view is that the rural scenes were filmed on or nears the grounds of Shochiku Studio in Ofuna 松竹大船撮影所, 25-30 miles southwest of Tokyo, past Yokohama (map). The JMDB reference site lists the film’s ‘production’ 製作 as 松竹(大船撮影所)”Shochiku (Ofuna studio)”. This studio was surrounded by sufficiently rural land, as can be seen in aerial photographs from 1945/50 and 1961/64.

(Shochiku is still in the movie business but it gave up its Ofuna studio around 2000.)

(II) Shinjuku station

There’s a nice close-up of the Shinjuku Station East Exit Station Building 新宿駅東口の駅舎; the scene is at night, so the image isn’t too clear, but there are enough details to match the scene to photos from that time period. In the photo at left, the sign for Shinjuku Station 新宿駅 is clearly visible; in the second frame we see a character speaking with police officers in a koban police box.

The photo, below left, is a crisp view of Shinjuku Station circa 1950-51 (source). The other photo, a contemporary, is lower in quality but includes more of the building (source). Towards the left of the photo, indicated with an arrow, is a squarish, two-storey building. This is the same koban that we see above; the yellow arrow points to a mantel or pediment that sits above the entrance to the koban; this feature is quite prominent in the still from the film.

And the following street-level photos of the east exit station area are from circa 1955:

(III) Panorama: the main event

Like many of Kinoshita’s film’s, there’s a a wide panning shot used to establish location. I stitched together several frames to produce the following panorama:

It’s blurry and dark but it captivates me. And I can’t stop myself from identifying the location. Because of the scene at the koban / train station, I had every reason to believe this city view was Shinjuku, but I wanted to be sure. Here are two stills from the film (the first is part of the panorama). I’ve labelled two features visible in both stills:

  • (1) Star sign: “Snow Brand Hokkaido Butter” 雪印北海道バター / 雪印バター (source) / see below for current butter packaging, including the star logo
  • (2) Billboard:

The second still shows the old Shinjuku Mitsukoshi department store 「三越新宿店」, which opened in 1930 (source), but was replaced in 2012 by the Bic Camera / UNIQLO building, aka “Bicqlo” 「ビックロ」 (source) (map).

Based on the image angle, I would guess that the first still was filmed from the roof of the old Mitsukoshi Building (map).

(IV) 今昔物語 Tales of Times Now Past

For further reference, here are two views of the Shinjuku Mitsukoshi; the first is from “early Showa”, probably the 1930s; and the second is from 1958, a year after “Danger Stalks Near” was filmed. The same elements from the film (the star sign, the billboard) are visible in the 1958 photos; these elements weren’t around back in early Showa, and neither was the ‘Mitsukoshi’ sign, yet the overall design of the Mitsukoshi building appears unchanged.

For further reading I suggest the Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Realty website, which publishes before-and-after pictures of the Shinjuku station area, including the Mitsukoshi department store. These are referenced on a map of the area. Item 7 corresponds to the east exit area of Shinjuku Station; item 13 corresponds to the location of the store.

Before-and-after photos:

Links:

Shinjuku and Ofuna history:

About “Danger stalks near”:

Other films by Keisuke Kinoshita mentioned by The Tokyo Files:

About Snow Brand Hokkaido Butter:

Advertisements