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In Session: Redefining Cinema Research and Pedagogy: Workshopping The Routledge Handbook of Japanese Cinema
2: New Paths toward Preserving Japanese Cinema: The Toy Film Museum Backstory
Monday, March 22, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
University of Rochester, United States
The Toy Film Museum (est. 2015 in Kyoto by Yoneo Ota) is a small community cultural resource with a long reach. It represents the culmination of twenty years of recuperating, restoring, digitizing, and exhibiting major feature films as well as “toy films,” small format films that predate small gauge film prints, VHS and DVDs sold for personal use. This work fills gaps in our knowledge of cinema history and identifies “toy films” and their technology as a critical part of Japan’s film culture in the early to mid-twentieth century. Functioning as a home base for Ota’s recuperative work, the museum also advances film restoration in Japan through projects and educational initiatives that reinvigorate the local photochemical film processing industry. This paper details the events leading to the museum’s founding, its mission, and the significance of its collection and its role as a community—and global—resource. Drawing on interviews, newspaper articles, and Ota’s own publications, I situate the museum’s roots in radical changes to the higher education curriculum in Kyoto and Osaka in the late 1960s and 1970s, as former industry insiders hired as faculty linked the region’s cinematic legacy and the emergence of film studies as an academic discipline. The museum continues to provide new opportunities for promoting regional film history, broadening the parameters of our understanding of Japanese cinema through restorations screened at venues worldwide.