Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

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Jeff
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Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#1 Post by Jeff » Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:48 pm

ECLIPSE SERIES 15: TRAVELS WITH HIROSHI SHIMIZU


[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/release_images/2047/2001500_box_348x490_w128.jpg[/img]

Of all the directors who made names for themselves during the Japanese studio golden age of the 1930s, Hiroshi Shimizu was one of the most respected—and, today, one of the least well-known. A curious, compassionate storyteller who was fascinated by characters on the outskirts of society, Shimizu used his trademark graceful traveling shot to peek around the corners of contemporary Japan. In these four lyrical, beautifully filmed tales, concerning geisha, bus drivers, and masseurs, Shimizu journeys far and wide to find the makings of a modern nation.

Japanese Girls at the Harbor

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/677/eclipse-japanesegirls_w100.jpg[/img]

Shimizu’s exquisite silent drama, set in the modernizing port town of Yokohama, tells of the humiliating social downfall experienced by Sunako (Oikawa Michiko) after jealousy drives her to commit a terrible crime. With its lushly photographed landscapes and innovative visual storytelling, Japanese Girls at the Harbor shows a director at the peak of his powers and experimentation. This edition features a new score by renowned silent-film composer Donald Sosin.

Mr. Thank You

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/680/eclipse-mrthankyou_w100.jpg[/img]

Shimizu’s endearing road movie follows the long and winding route of a sweet-natured bus driver—nicknamed Mr. Thank You for his constant exclamation to pedestrians who kindly step out of his path—traveling from rural Izu to Tokyo. Romance and comedy occur, and tragedy threatens, among his passengers, a virtual microcosm of depression-era Japan.

The Masseurs and a Woman

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/683/eclipse-masseurs_w100.jpg[/img]

A pair of blind masseurs, an enigmatic city woman, a lonely man and his ill-behaved nephew—The Masseurs and a Woman is made up of crisscrossing miniature studies of love and family at a remote resort in the mountains. With delicate and surprising humor, Shimizu paints a timeless portrait of loneliness and the human desire for connection.

Ornamental Hairpin

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/686/eclipse-ornamentalhairpin_w100.jpg[/img]

Two bruised souls enact a tender, hesitant romance in Shimizu’s alternately poignant and playful wartime love story. A soldier (played by later Ozu regular Chishu Ryu) is waylaid at a rural spa when he accidentally cuts his foot on the titular object. Soon enough he tracks down its lovely owner (Kinuyo Tanaka) and finds himself smitten.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#2 Post by htdm » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:13 pm

Hmm, didn't see this one coming -

Although I don't expect it - it would be nice if Eclipse added musical accompaniment to Japanese Girls at the Harbour.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#3 Post by BB » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:23 pm

Naru-!!!
Oh... all already available. ](*,)

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#4 Post by zedz » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:38 pm

BB wrote:Naru-!!!
Oh... all already available. ](*,)
Not just that, but it's the first box set in its entirety (without the exquisite packaging). Completely redundant for me, but those new to Shimizu are really in for a treat. The specificity of the title and the exact replication of the first Shochiku box's contents hints that there might be further Shimizu Eclipse sets on the horizon, quite possibly following Shochiku's themes.

So far the first two Eclipse releases of 2009 are two of their ballsiest yet. I hope they keep it up.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#5 Post by manicsounds » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:42 pm

htdm wrote:Hmm, didn't see this one coming -

Although I don't expect it - it would be nice if Eclipse added musical accompaniment to Japanese Girls at the Harbour.
Donald Sosin has recorded it, so that would be one extra addition to this set over the Japanese one.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#6 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:44 pm

manicsounds wrote: Donald Sosin .
Whoop de frickin DOO

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#7 Post by BB » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:56 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:
manicsounds wrote: Donald Sosin .
Whoop de frickin DOO
I dunno, he did some good solo work after Steely Dan.
BB wrote:The specificity of the title and the exact replication of the first Shochiku box's contents hints that there might be further Shimizu Eclipse sets on the horizon, quite possibly following Shochiku's themes.
Which raises the question, when's Shochiku releasing their next Shimuz set? I need more beautiful packaging to drool over. Also really curious what the next theme will be.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#8 Post by zedz » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:57 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:
manicsounds wrote: Donald Sosin .
Whoop de frickin DOO
Perfect comic timing, Schreck.

(And here I was thinking you were a Sosin completist.)

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#9 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:14 pm

No matter how good the music for Japanese Girls may be, I am just plain used to watching this absolutely silent. I know these films had both music and narration originally, but it just seems utterly superfluous in the case of this film.

I obviously have no need for this set, as I have the utterly marvelous (far more expensive) Japanese original version. But I urge everyone who didn't already splurge on the Japanese set to run out and buy this as soon as possible.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#10 Post by movielocke » Tue Dec 16, 2008 12:24 am

nothing like one of the three people in north america to have bought the japanese set to bitch about this release. At least Michael is happy the rest of us get to see them.

I'm excited I didn't expect this set this year. It'd have been nice to get a third Ozu set, but this might be better. I've not seen any of his films, none of the specialty rental houses in LA have any of his films, USCs cinema library doesnt' have any of his films, and all UCLA has is a nitrate print with no subtitles of Early Morning Chorus. So this is probably the biggest introduction of previously unavailable in North America films eclipse or criterion have ever done.

It deserves major applause.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#11 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 16, 2008 12:33 am

movielocke wrote:nothing like one of the three people in north america to have bought the japanese set to bitch about this release. At least Michael is happy the rest of us get to see them.
I haven't seen anyone complaining about anything here (other than the possible musical accompaniment to Japanese Girls).

I though both zedz and I made it clear that we were delighted about the release. Saying _I_ don't need to buy this release hardly constitutes criticism. It is a simple fact.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#12 Post by Morbii » Tue Dec 16, 2008 1:52 am

I think he was probably referring to BB's reply.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#13 Post by Steven H » Tue Dec 16, 2008 2:01 am

This is an absolute DREAM release, and the Japanese set might as well not even exist to most people (out of reach in price, regional lock, and distribution) so its basically moot. One of the most attractive things about Shimizu to me, is that he comes off a bit wild or untamed. There will be moments of cinematic perfection you anticipate (some of the tracking shots in Ornamental Hairpin, the most Mizoguchi of this selection, for instance) but then you start watching Mr Thank You and realize that its very VERY hard to see what's coming around the corner. Mr Thank You reminds me of 40s Rossellini, 30s Flaherty, and Clair all at once.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#14 Post by Fan-of-Kurosawa » Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:09 am

Yes, this release "deserves a major applause".
Okay, I have to admit that I must be one of the "three people in North America" (I don't live in North America but who cares) who have bought the Japanese release and who want to complain.

The way I see it is simple. In Japan there are so many films that have been released without eng subs like the Oshima films, the Kinoshita films, the Imai films, many Shindo films etc.

Out of all the classic Japanese films the ONLY ones that inlcude eng subtitles are the two Shimizu sets. And Criterion chooses to release one of them. This is unbelievable! :evil:

I am not saying that they shouldn't release this set. What I am saying is that they should not release it now. There are so many other great Japanese films out there that are not available ANYWHERE with eng subs. These films have a "priority". Yes, the Japanese Shimizu sets are expensive and hard to get but are at least available.

But anyway I hope that everybody buys the set since the films are indeed wonderful.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#15 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:16 am

Since the North American market for the Japanese sets is minuscule, I can't see the Eclipse set as anything but a very very very good thing. If this new set does well in the West, it could encourage Shochiku to move ahead with its own (mentioned once upon a time) future Shimizu box sets.

In order to have any hope of (eventually) getting releases by utterly neglected directors (Shimazu, Uchida, Yoshimura, Tasaka, Imai et al), one has to develop a new mind set among Western fans -- one that gets them to recognize that cinematic greatness in Japan is not limited to (less than) a handful of directors. Getting belated visibility for Shimizu wil make this process a bit easier.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#16 Post by Steven H » Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:51 am

I hope this set says to people "hey, there's more to 30s Japanese cinema than the Ozu and Mizoguchi masterpieces!" Honestly, after the Shochiku Shimizu retrospective seemed to kind of flop, I was flabbergasted that there'd even be Japanese editions, nevertheless subtitled. That a four film Eclipse set is out of Shimizu films boggles the mind.

Not too long ago, it was almost the punchline of a joke to even consider such a thing.

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Not to Derail Talk about Shimizu, But...

#17 Post by Ishmael » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:01 am

HerrSchreck wrote:
manicsounds wrote:Donald Sosin .
Whoop de frickin DOO
Yeesh, Sosin. I have the dubious distinction of having experienced the man live. He was accompanying Docks of New York and Chaplin’s The Immigrant at the National Gallery of Art. He made Docks seem like such a happy fun film! Far worse, though, was the little assistant he brought with him. She went “woooooooo” when the ship rolled back and forth in The Immigrant, accompanied a few of Chaplin’s pratfalls on the ever obnoxious slide whistle, and hummed along to the popular tunes Sosin played on the piano. Just in case we couldn’t hear these delightful sounds, she had a microphone so it all came through loud and clear over the speaker system. Best of all—and by “best” I mean literally the most annoying thing I’ve ever experienced in a public place—she sang songs during Docks. She even made a love theme out of one of them, singing it at various moments of tenderness between the two leads. There’s something about hearing a voice while a silent film is playing that’s jarringly incongruous. It didn’t help that the songs were annoying and she really wasn’t such a good singer. Generally, I never take my eyes off the screen when I watch a film, but I spent a lot of time rolling them at the ceiling during this showing. Naturally, at the end of the show, the audience gave her a standing ovation, which I took as a signal to leave the theater ahead of the crowd.

So if you're not impressed by Sosin, at least be thankful this holiday season that Sosin is solo on these DVDs.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#18 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:08 am

I can't see what all the hubbub is about viz the malcontents. It's not even like these were given a release right across the pond in the Kingdom via the BFI or MoC... we're talking a Shochiku box. And one that was risky even-- apparently-- in Japan.

Of his films I've only seen Hairpin, and I remain excited to see the film again (not to mention the rest in the port) with CC's usual high quality of subs. After all, far eastern countries are not known for their precision in dubbing their films into English (though some are better than others).

I do think it's pretty funny that there are now more S H I M I Z U titles in the E/CC lines than Naruse. But I expect that situation to be reversed quickly with more Naruse on the main line. His films deserve no less-- the man was the John Ford of the east.

Ideally of course, neither deserves more attention than the other. Speaking of theEastern John Ford, the thing I wish they'd get on pronto are the extant Yamanaka Sadao titles. God I love that man and his films... I've worked very hard... gone to cinema after cinema... borrowed DVDs... burned copies... duped vhs's from tv rips... and now have officially only ONE MORE FILM TO SEE, OUT OF ALL THE YAMANAKA TITLES!!! I am like Mike Kerpan in that I've hunted, dug, scratched, scraped, trufflepigged under the dirt to tweeze out all these obscurities. I've seen all except one, and like Kerpan I sought the best-known, the lesser known, the ones no one's heard of. I wanted to watch the famous ones and the not so famous ones. I wanted to compare and contrast. I wanted to pick up on themes. I wanted to trace influences along the arc of his career.

Punchline: there are only 3 Yamanaka films extant. I've seen the two subbed films har hardee har har. But 3 Yamanaka films in their richness and substance are worth 50 from just about anyone else.

EDIT: Sosin. I know I just rag endlessly on the guy, but do disc producers like Kino & CC have no fucking ears, or imagination? Are they not aware that there are other composers in the world, some of them quite tasteful, nuanced, and skilled? It seems like a goddamned rule: if it's silent, give Sosin or Israel a call.

At least Israel has done some nice work. But the monopoly maintained by these two guys just baffle me. Sosin is just awful. I think the last time I saw him in person was when Denti & I went to see Hands Up... thankfully he didn't have his wife cooing along with him. Her "Hut-errrrrrrrrrr" on Kino's alternate Nosferatu track (on the purple edition from the prev resto) is an illustration of just how bad silent film scoring can be. I much prefer Mirsalis, our own unclehulot, hell, I'll even take the Alloy orchestra over Sosin.

Someone mentioned the fact that MoC gets pretentious and hi-winded over aspect ratio descriptions. The worst excess in this direction was the fetishistic description of Sosin's rig for recording Ozu's WEEDS for CC. I nearly retched on the booklet, but I was laughing too hard.

As if anyone gives that much of a shit about what synth and 32 track he used.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#19 Post by Steven H » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:19 am

HerrSchreck wrote:But 3 Yamanaka films in their richness and substance are worth 50 from just about anyone else.
Good GOD I couldn't agree more. The day I get that third Yamanada film (Soshun Kochiyama) subtitled is a day I open a big bottle of sake to celebrate. Actually, maybe a big bottle of sake would help during the waiting stage a little more?

I'm not complaining, but it is a little bizarre that Shimizu is getting a release before Yamanaka. I love both directors, but Yamanaka's been on the table for years (according to Richie) where the Shimizu came out of the blue. I guess that's life in the weird wacky world of Japanese film rights and Criterion release schedules, but still. Also, if they're holding out for maybe a fourth Yamanaka film to show up, we might be in the grave first.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#20 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:34 am

Steven H wrote:I hope this set says to people "hey, there's more to 30s Japanese cinema than the Ozu and Mizoguchi masterpieces!" Honestly, after the Shochiku Shimizu retrospective seemed to kind of flop, I was flabbergasted that there'd even be Japanese editions, nevertheless subtitled. That a four film Eclipse set is out of Shimizu films boggles the mind..
When I met with the Shochiku team (at the Ozu Retrospective kickoff at Harvard in 2003), they were very excited about their upcoming Shimizu series and were expecting to follow this up with DVD releases (and even promised to think about subs for these). I can only imagine how terribly disappointed these people were that almost no one (including the Harvard Film Archive) bothered to pick up the Shimizu series (or their second try at promoting Shimizu -- as part of the Shochiku centennial retrospective). That Shochiku eventually released the sets, in lavish form (and with subtitles) indicates that this project was a true labor of love.

I wrote to thank them, but the ancient e-mail addresses I had simply went into a black hole (or bounced back).

While it would have been nice if Shochiku had sold zillions of copies of its own sets (I fear they didn't -- otherwise we would be hearing about sets 3 and more already), the success of the Eclipse set would constitute at least second-hand vindication of Shochiku's commitment to honoring one of its past masters.
Steven H wrote:
HerrSchreck wrote:But 3 Yamanaka films in their richness and substance are worth 50 from just about anyone else.
Good GOD I couldn't agree more. The day I get that third Yamanada film (Soshun Kochiyama) subtitled is a day I open a big bottle of sake to celebrate. Actually, maybe a big bottle of sake would help during the waiting stage a little more?.
Well, one can get some idea of the story of Kochiyama Soshun by finding the synopsis of the kabuki play Yamanaka adapted. On the other hand, the adaptation is so loose (and radical), the play's synopsis can only get one part of the way. Repeated viewing of this, even unsubbed, gets you closer and closer to comprehension (and repeated viewing of this is really not much of a hardhsip).

I would think Yamanaka's work would fit even better into Criterion's Kurosawa-leaning audience base than Shimizu's.

If Criterion was to release a box set -- and needed to fill it out a bit more, there are always the Mito Komon films that Yamanaka wrote,

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#21 Post by Steven H » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:41 am

I've seen the unsubbed version, and knew exactly what was going on, but with someone like Yamanaka, I just hate the idea of missing all those perfectly timed lines (be they gags, commentary on the film or other.)

I brought this up in another thread, but three of Shimizu's silent films that I have were scored by Shochiku's inhouse Jazz band at the time, and constitute maybe my favorite film scores ever, period. The one for Eclipse (1936) especially. Just imagine an upbeat minor key swing music, a la Django and Raymond Scott, with train sounds and trumpet "laughter" scattered about for effect. Unfortunately Japanese Girls At The Harbour did not have this (or at least, not on the VHS to DVDr copy I have of it.) A shame.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#22 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:46 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:When I met with the Shochiku team (at the Ozu Retrospective kickoff at Harvard in 2003), they were very excited about their upcoming Shimizu series and were expecting to follow this up with DVD releases (and even promised to think about subs for these). I can only imagine how terribly disappointed these people were that almost no one (including the Harvard Film Archive) bothered to pick up the Shimizu series (or their second try at promoting Shimizu -- as part of the Shochiku centennial retrospective). That Shochiku eventually released the sets, in lavish form (and with subtitles) indicates that this project was a true labor of love.
Do you have any inkling if-- like Vampyr for CC/MoC who came together to make the transfer possible... or some of the FWMS silents transfers being funded by pre-sales of rights to MoC, Kino, Divisa-- the agreement to license these transfers to CC-Eclipse was built into the projected revenue stream that greenlighted the project?

Nowadays with marginal titles (obscure directors/titles, silents, docs, etc) there seems to be some seamless business models up and running, where all regional licensing parties come to the table before anything is done (in either the photochemical/print-duping realm, or the digital realm) with the primary rights/elements-holders.. who themselves try and glean whether or not it is feasible to go forward based on these regional pre-sales.

I had no idea the retro did so poorly in the east. Perhaps it was the poor performance of the project in Japan that prompted CC to leapfrog this set to try and create some global momentum for Shimizu? Obviously Shochiku wouldn't profit from unit sales (beyond the licensing revenue that made the set possible for R1), but marketing in the USA is never a bad thing, since there's always cross-talk between cultures... and perhaps it'll have a favorable impact for future endeavors in the SHimizu direction in the east?
Steven H wrote:I brought this up in another thread, but three of Shimizu's silent films that I have were scored by Shochiku's inhouse Jazz band, and constitute maybe my favorite film scores ever, period. The one for Eclipse especially. Just imagine an upbeat minor key swing music, a la Django and Raymond Scott, with train sounds and trumpet "laughter" scattered about for effect.

Speaking fo scores and Yamanaka, I recall you telling me how you loved listening to the score of Tange all on it's own.
Last edited by HerrSchreck on Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#23 Post by Steven H » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:48 am

HerrSchreck wrote:
Steven H wrote:I brought this up in another thread, but three of Shimizu's silent films that I have were scored by Shochiku's inhouse Jazz band, and constitute maybe my favorite film scores ever, period. The one for Eclipse especially. Just imagine an upbeat minor key swing music, a la Django and Raymond Scott, with train sounds and trumpet "laughter" scattered about for effect.

Speaking fo scores and Yamanaka, I recall you telling me how you loved listening to the score of Tange all on it's own.
I did rip a bunch of stuff from the film and got a lot of enjoyment out of it. My awful geekiness is only exceeded and rationalized by my joy of having those tracks (though I can't seem to find them at the moment, so I might be a lost cause after all.)

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#24 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:53 am

Steven H wrote:I brought this up in another thread, but three of Shimizu's silent films that I have were scored by Shochiku's inhouse Jazz band, and constitute maybe my favorite film scores ever, period. The one for Eclipse especially. Just imagine an upbeat minor key swing music, a la Django and Raymond Scott, with train sounds and trumpet "laughter" scattered about for effect.
Eclipse's score is great and, as I recall, so was that to Boss's Son Goes to College. I assume the other scored silent must be Hero of Tokyo -- but I must confess I can't really recall the music for this one. These films would make up a nice set -- but the wonderful Seven Seas (being music-less) would be left out.

The music for these is very much of a piece with the score for Shochiku's first talkie -- Gosho's Madamu to nyobo (another treat). A box of early Japanese talkies -- Gosho's film along with Shimazu's Yae-chan and Naruse's Wife Be Like a Rose -- would certainly be a nice thing to have.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#25 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:57 am

Alas, I don't have any way to get in touch with the Shochiku people I met. Some have obviously retired and another is now the number one boss (and thus beyond my ability to reach). so, I don't think I will ever get a chance to accept the offer of a Shochiku tour that was extended back in 2003. ;~{

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