Chishū Ryū

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Chishū Ryū
Chishu Ryu in Tokyo Monogatari 1953 (crop).jpg
from Tokyo Story (1953)
Born(1904-05-13)May 13, 1904
DiedMarch 16, 1993(1993-03-16) (aged 88)
Other namesChishuu Ryuu
Years active1928–1992
Japanese name
Kanji笠 智衆
Hiraganaりゅう ちしゅう

Chishū Ryū (笠 智衆, Ryū Chishū, May 13, 1904 – March 16, 1993) was a Japanese actor who, in a career lasting 65 years, appeared in over 160 films and about 70 TV productions.[1]

Early life[edit]

Ryū was born in Tamamizu Village, Tamana County, a rural area of Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu, the most southerly and westerly of the four main islands of Japan. His father was chief priest of Raishōji (来照寺), a temple of the Honganji School of Pure Land Buddhism. Ryū attended the village elementary school and a prefectural middle school before entering the Department of Indian Philosophy and Ethics at Tōyō University to study Buddhism. His parents hoped he would succeed his father as priest of Raishōji, but Ryū had no wish to do so and in 1925 dropped out of university and enrolled in the acting academy of the Shōchiku motion picture company's Kamata Studios. Shortly afterwards, his father died and Ryū returned home to take on the role of priest. Within half a year or so, however, he passed the office to his older brother and returned to Kamata.


For about ten years, he was confined to walk-on parts and minor roles, often uncredited. During this time he appeared in fourteen films directed by Yasujirō Ozu, beginning with the college comedy Dreams of Youth (1928). His first big part was in Ozu's College is a Nice Place (1936) and he made his mark as an actor in Ozu's The Only Son (also 1936), playing a failed middle-aged school-teacher in spite of the fact that he was only 32. This was his break-through role, and he now began to get major parts in other directors' films. He first played the lead in Torajirō Saitō's Aogeba tōtoshi (仰げば尊し 1937). His first leading role in an Ozu film was in the There Was a Father (父ありき 1942). This was another "elderly" part: he played the father of Shūji Sano, who was only seven years his junior. He was by now undoubtedly Ozu's favourite actor: he eventually appeared in 52 of Ozu's 54 films. He had a role (not always the lead) in every one of Ozu's post-war movies, from Record of a Tenement Gentleman (1947) to An Autumn Afternoon (1962). He played his most famous "elderly" role in Tokyo Story (1953).

Ryū appeared in well over 100 films by other directors. He was in Keisuke Kinoshita's Twenty-four Eyes (1954) and played wartime Prime Minister Kantarō Suzuki in Kihachi Okamoto's Japan's Longest Day (1967). From 1969 until his death in 1993, he played a curmudgeonly but benevolent Buddhist priest in more than forty of the immensely popular It's Tough Being a Man (Otoko wa tsurai yo) series starring Kiyoshi Atsumi as the lovable pedlar/conman Tora-san. Ryū parodied this role in Jūzō Itami's comedy The Funeral (1984). Ryū's last film was It's Tough Being a Man: Torajirō's Youth (男はつらいよ 寅次郎の青春: Otoko wa tsurai yo: Torajirō no seishun 1992).

Between 1965 and 1989 he appeared in about 90 TV productions.


Ryū retained the rural Kumamoto accent of his childhood throughout his life. It may have held him back early in his career, but became part of his screen persona, denoting reliability and simple honesty. When the columnist Natsuhiko Yamamoto published a deliberately provocative piece called "I Can't Stand Chishū Ryū", in which he derided Ryū's accent, there was a furious reaction, and his magazine Shūkan Shinchō (週刊新潮) was inundated with letters of protest.

Selected filmography[edit]



  1. ^ Kirkup, James (20 March 1993). "Obituary: Chishu Ryu - People - News - The Independent". The Independent.

External links[edit]