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        Toho Studios and Me      
There was this huge pool.  One of my playgrounds was Toho film studio.

If you are familiar with the Seijo area, you may recall how there was a front and back gate to Toho. Back then, Setagaya-dori (street) was not as wide and straight of a road as now.  It was very curvy, like a snake path.  The front gate now is in the same place, but the narrow street which passed in front of this gate then was Setagaya-dori.  The back gate was at the bottom of a hill which lead down from Seijo.  The Senkawa River was surrounded by a basin.

On days where they were shooting on set, I would go to the film studio on my bicycle.  I would ride down the hill, through the back gate with a proud face, waving my hand.  I guess this was what you call a sense of privilege.  I would then leave my bike in front of the costume department and go straight to the Big Pool as it was known. As I mentioned before, because the Senkawa River was right there, they seemed to not have any problems keeping it filled with water.

There in the pool, I would find a variety of battleships anchored. Yamato, Mutsu, Musashi, Hiryuu and others. I would see many staff busily working. I had no idea what was going on, and these large ships were not moving. 10 minutes, 20 minutes would go by…that was okay, it was still so much fun. Just to be able to be there was a great time for me.  And when they called out “alright, let’s try it!”, for some reason, even I would get nervous. Each battleship was tied with piano wires, and with director Eiji Tsuburaya’s cue, each of these ships moved forward with full force.

For some reason, there were fish in the large pool, goldfish. Beyond the large pool were open sets of the city of Edo (?), bustling streets of Shinjuku and Ginza. At the very back of these sets was where they kept all of the stage sets, and there also was an exit-only gate (I recall this being a very small check-point-like gate). This exit road was along the Senkawa River and connected to the Yukari Kindergarden. I guess the kids were able to go in and out of this gate, and hence would bring in the goldfish they caught at the temple festivals and release them in this pool.

It is very interesting how  huge a difference it makes in the perception of the size of the pool depending on whether there was a backdrop painting or not. Naturally, this does make sense, sure.  As long as it is a filming set, it would morph accordingly.  But no matter how large the set is, one usually sees its limit.

Under the beautiful blue sky, under great summer clouds, with the backdrop painting, this large pool changes into the ocean, and a horizon appears.  The three sides of this large pool are the same height, and the fourth is a bit lower than the rest.  This is what makes the horizon.  Meaning, they make the water brim over and unify it with the horizon.

With this effect, all of the battleships start to look awfully small.  But they would take this effect in reverse use, to depict and give a grand scale to the Japanese Navy convoy coming together and proceeding through the Pacific Ocean.

It was the best of times to spend a short moment in a land of dreams.
July 18, 2007
Ryuji Honda