Photo/IllutrationYoshinosuke Yokota, left, and Kenichiro Hase pose with film reels containing images of Einosuke Yokota, Yoshinosuke’s father, at Kyoto University in Sakyo Ward. (Takeshiro Tokunaga)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--Rare black-and-white films have surfaced here featuring a leading figure of Japanese cinema in its cradle years and scenes from his daily life.

Einosuke Yokota (1872-1943) was one of the founding members of present-day movie studio Nikkatsu Corp., formerly Nippon Katsudo Shashin Corp., and served as fifth president of the company.

The 35-millimeter reels were found in September at the home of Yokota's grandson in Yamashina Ward, with most containing scenes from the second half of the 1920s.

Kenichiro Hase, 50, a video director, showed scenes from the films on Nov. 19 at a news conference he gave at Kyoto University in Sakyo Ward.

A resident of Ikoma, Nara Prefecture, Hase is studying the history of cinema in a doctoral program of the university’s graduate school. He discovered the films, likely shot by officials of Nikkatsu, during his research on Yokota.

One of the films, running about seven minutes, shows a general meeting of a company operated by Yokota held on Kyoto’s Kamogawa riverbed in 1927.

Another, lasting about 13 minutes, contains scenes of the funeral of Yokota’s wife, who died the following year. The venue for the funeral, Chionin temple, and surrounding areas can be seen in the footage.

Two time-honored restaurants, Kikusui and Tohkasaikan, along Shijo-dori avenue, also appear in some of the scenes.

One 16-mm film was also found in April at the grandson's home. The sound film, a rarity at the time, contains scenes of a ceremony marking the completion of a film-processing laboratory in 1932.

The film shows Yokota giving a congratulatory address as Nikkatsu’s president.

“The motion picture business originated in Kyoto,” he is shown saying in one part of the speech.

The footage also shows films being processed mechanically, not manually, at the laboratory.

Yokota brought the films with him from overseas and worked hard to promote cinema shows. He founded Yokota Shokai, a movie promotion and production company, and took part in the 1912 establishment of Nikkatsu, serving as president from 1927 through 1934.

Yokota is also known for having discovered Shozo Makino (1878-1929), a movie director who went on to be called the “father of Japanese cinema.”

He is also remembered as a businessman, having served as vice chairman of the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“I hope the discovery of the rare images will prompt a reappraisal of Yokota, who contributed to cinema during its cradle years,” Hase said.

The news conference was also attended by Yoshinosuke Yokota, the impresario’s third son, who lives in Kyoto’s Sakyo Ward.

“I was deeply moved when I watched the moving images (of my father),” Yoshinosuke, 91, said. “I am so happy that a younger person is studying him. I believe my late father is also feeling happy about the discovery of the films.”

The 35-mm films have been donated to the National Film Archive of Japan in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward.

Hase said he hopes to prepare to make the films accessible for a broad audience via the Internet in the near future.