Masaki Kobayashi

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Masaki Kobayashi
Kobayashi on Geijutsu Shincho (September 1953)
Born(1916-02-14)February 14, 1916
Otaru, Japan
DiedOctober 4, 1996(1996-10-04) (aged 80)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation(s)Film director, producer, writer

Masaki Kobayashi (小林 正樹, Kobayashi Masaki, February 14, 1916 – October 4, 1996) was a Japanese film director and screenwriter, best known for the epic trilogy The Human Condition (1959–1961), the samurai films Harakiri (1962) and Samurai Rebellion (1967), and the horror anthology Kwaidan (1964).[1] Senses of Cinema described him as "one of the finest depicters of Japanese society in the 1950s and 1960s."[2]


Early life[edit]

Kobayashi was born in Otaru, then a small port on the island of Hokkaido,[3] the son of a company employee.[4] He was a second cousin of the actress and director Kinuyo Tanaka.[5] In 1933 he entered Waseda University in Tokyo where he studied East Asian art and philosophy.[3] He embarked on a career in film in 1941 as an apprentice director at Shochiku Studios, but was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army in January 1942 and sent to Manchuria.[1]

Kobayashi regarded himself as a pacifist and a socialist, and resisted by refusing promotion to a rank higher than private.[6] In 1944 he was transferred to Miyakojima in the Ryukyu Islands, and was taken prisoner near the end of the war. Then he spent a year in a detention camp in Okinawa.[7] After his release, in 1946, he returned to Shochiku as assistant to the director Keisuke Kinoshita.[1]


Kobayashi's directorial debut was in 1952 with Musuko no Seishun (My Son's Youth).

From 1959 to 1961, Kobayashi directed The Human Condition (1959–1961), a trilogy on the effects of World War II on a Japanese pacifist and socialist. The total length of the films is almost ten hours, which makes it one of the longest fiction films ever made for theatrical release.[1]

In 1962 he directed Harakiri, which won the Jury Prize at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.

In 1964, Kobayashi made Kwaidan (1964), his first color film, a collection of four ghost stories drawn from books by Lafcadio Hearn. Kwaidan won the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival,[8] and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.[9]

In 1968, Akira Kurosawa, Keisuke Kinoshita, Kon Ichikawa and Kobayashi founded the directors group, Shiki no kai-The Four Horsemen Club, in an attempt to create movies for younger generations.[1][10]

In 1969, he was a member of the jury at the 19th Berlin International Film Festival.[11]

He was also a candidate for directing the Japanese sequences for Tora! Tora! Tora! after Akira Kurosawa left the film. But instead Kinji Fukasaku and Toshio Masuda were chosen.

One of his grand projects was a film on Yasushi Inoue's novel about Buddhist China, Tun Huang, which never came to fruition.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Kirkup, James (October 15, 1996). "Masaki Kobayashi: Obituary". The Independent. London.
  2. ^ Andrea Grunert. "Kobayashi, Masaki – Senses of Cinema". Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  3. ^ a b Wakeman, John, ed. (1988). World film directors. New York: H.W. Wilson. p. 527. ISBN 0-8242-0763-7. OCLC 778946190.
  4. ^ Kuramoto, Sō; 倉本聰 (2002). Gusha no tabi (Shohan ed.). Rironsha. p. 137. ISBN 4-652-07709-2. OCLC 51299958.
  5. ^ Sharpe, Jasper (2011). Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema. Scarecrow Press. pp. 240–242. ISBN 978-0-8108-7541-8.
  6. ^ "Harakiri: Kobayashi and History – From the Current – The Criterion Collection". Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  7. ^ Bock, Audie (1985). Japanese film directors. Kodansha International. p. 248. ISBN 978-0-87011-714-5. OCLC 1015968920.
  8. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Kwaidan". Retrieved March 4, 2009.
  9. ^ "The 38th Academy Awards (1966) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  10. ^ Hashimoto, Shinobu (2015). Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I. Vertical, Inc. ISBN 9781939130587.
  11. ^ "Berlinale 1969: Juries". Retrieved March 6, 2010.

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