England 2014 Pt V: Various London Bits And Pieces

The family day at Hampton Court Palace and the trip back to my hometown cut into our trip quite a bit (in a good way!) thereby limiting what we could actually see and get done in London to an extent. This entry includes random photo’s and basically ties up the various bits and pieces that were done in the nations capital in between all the other things going on.

Holland Park was our closest tube station and due to jet lag we were there before 8am on our first free day. I’m a fan on the world’s oldest underground railway and it was kind of cool to have the place to ourselves for a few moments before we rode on to meet my parents-in-law who were staying at a hotel in Shepherds Bush.

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Like last year, we started our tour of London at Waterloo station which is always a good place to take in a few sights in quick succession. Starting with the London Eye, you then see the view across the River Thames to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben not to mention perennial tourist pleasers like double decker buses and black cabs. Sadly, it was a drizzly early Sunday morning as we walked across Westminster Bridge and down Whitehall (going past Downing Street) towards Trafalgar Square where conditions worsened. As a result, it was decided to take them to an indoor place so we tubed it to Tottenham Court Road to visit the nearby British Museum which my father-in-law in particular was very keen to see. We left them to it there as we had to get back for a bit of rest ahead of a long evening event which my sister and brother-in-law had lined up for us.

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The next day began with a quick look around Portobello Road running parallel to our rented apartment on Ladbroke Grove. The main event of the morning was to be the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; an event which takes place every other day and one that was absolutely packed with thousands of tourists on a lovely sunny morning. True to stereotype, my wife and mother-in-law are both fairly short meaning they had a restricted view of events so we didn’t bother hanging around for the whole thing.

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That lunchtime I met one of my friends for a pub lunch in a bar that doesn’t allow droids and after a couple of hours with him I set off to North Acton to find Jimmy’s (Phil Daneils) house from ‘Quadrophenia‘ (1979) which involved a 20 minute walk from the station past this incident under a bridge nearby. The weather really couldn’t make up its mind whilst we were in the country with sudden but fairly constant downpours of rain occurring throughout each and every day. Click here to see the London filming locations for ‘Quadrophenia‘.

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One of my friends in Tokyo recommended a Lebanese restaurant in Soho and usually I take such things with a pinch of salt but as I was on my own one day and wanting to sample something different to usual I decided to pop along to Le Comptoir. I splashed out on a pot of mint tea and a spiced minced lamb kofta wrap platter which was served with hummus, salad and pickled cucumber.

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It tasted great and by chance I returned to the same area the following day too when I met up with friends Richard and Mizuki. A year on from our last meeting and their 20 month old boy definitely likes using his legs now he can walk. Not a shy boy, that’s for sure as when left alone he would just wander through the middle of a group of strangers standing around on the streets! Will be interesting to see how he grows and develops over time!

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It may be quite surprising to some that I have never actually eaten Japanese food outside of Japan but that changed on this trip as my wife and her parents twice went out in the Shepherds Bush area to see how it compares to whats served up in its homeland. Quite interesting to see the differences in style, presentation, taste and service! Whilst I didn’t mind it, it must all be a unique experience for Japanese visitors to London though I can’t have any sympathy really if all they do is sample their own cuisine!

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Finally, here are some more random (and not particularly exciting!) photos which have no better home than just being dumped on the end of this page!

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England 2014 Pt IV: ‘Bond In Motion’ Exhibition

One of the things I really wanted to do whilst I was back in the nations capital was to visit this exhibition at London Film Museum in Covent Garden. With no-one else interested in going with me it was just a question of finding some time to myself to visit this fairly pricey place (£14.50 entry), and thankfully that opportunity arose the day after we returned to London from our mini trip back to my hometown.

This museum boasts as having the largest official collection of original 007 vehicles and is the largest display of its kind ever staged in London. The majority are loaned from the archive of EON Productions who produce the movies and the Ian Fleming Foundation who have located and restored many of the vehicles.

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The ticket sellers at reception advise you to start upstairs on the upper mezzanine that features some examples of the production company’s concept art and storyboards which was interesting enough but it’s downstairs where the real excitement exists as that’s where you can see the vast collection of vehicles representing almost all of the 23 Bond movies thus far.

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Each and every vehicle thankfully has a large TV screen next to it looping the moments it was seen in the film which is a great idea and really adds to the occasion as it isn’t too easy remembering the role each car, motorbike or whatever played in the movie.

There are about 50 James Bond vehicles on display and below are a selection of them:

* Skyfall (2012): Honda CRF250R – The motorcycle which Bond rode through the streets and bazaars of Istanbul as he chased an assailant in the films pre-title sequence.

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* Quantum Of Solace (2008): Aston Martin DBS & Montesa Cota 4RT – The former was heavily damaged after a chase at the beginning of the film in Siena, Italy. The motorcycle was rode through the streets of Haiti which in reality were filmed in Panama.

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* Casino Royale (2006) – Aston Martin DBS V12 – A product placement deal with Aston Martin was probably the main reason this one featured on screen. The car only features a spare gun and a defibrillator and was destroyed during Bond’s pursuit of Le Chiffre.

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* Die Another Day (2002): Aston Martin V12 Vanquish – The infamous car possessing a rather silly gimmick; the ability to effectively become invisible at the push of a button.

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* The World Is Not Enough (1999): Q’s Retirement Recreational Boat – The boat which Bond rode along the Thames, and even under it, in hot pursuit of an assassin.

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* Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): BMW R1200C & BMW 750iL – The stolen motorcycle was ridden through the streets of Saigon with Bond and Wai Lin handcuffed together. The car was remotely controlled by Bond during a chase inside Brent Cross shopping centre car park in London which doubled up as ‘Hamburg’.

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* The Living Daylights (1987): Aston Martin V8 + Cello Case Sled and case – The combination of 007 and Aston Martin were reunited for Timothy Dalton’s first outing as the double agent.

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* A View To A Kill (1985): Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II & Renault 11 2XE – Bond is driven around in the impressive Rolls whilst the Renault features in an early car chase as 007 pursues an assassin through Paris at high speeds whereby it loses its roof and manages to  jump onto and off a sight-seeing bus.

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* Octopussy (1983): Acrostar BD-5J Jet & the auto rickshaw – This mini-folding jet was  originally owned by Budweiser and can be seen exiting a horse-box. The latter was driven through the streets of Udaipur with Bond as a passenger rather at the controls.

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* The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Lotus Esprit S1 – Q delivers this special submarine car to Bond in Sardinia. It is equipped with anti-aircraft missiles.

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* Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Honda ATC 90 ATV & Ford Mustang Mach 1 – The dune buggy that went after Bond whilst the car is owned by Tiffany Case and during the Las Vegas chase it manages to balance on two side wheels to drive through a narrow alley although it mysteriously exits on the other two wheels in one of the great 007 movie goofs.

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* You Only Live Twice (1967): “Little Nellie” – the aircraft flown by Bond to try and locate Blofeld’s hidden rocket base from the air. The weapons include two fixed machine guns, rocket launchers, heat-seeking missiles, rear-firing flame guns and aerial mines.

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* Goldfinger (1964): Rolls-Royce Phantom III & Aston Martin DB5 – The Rolls was  owned by Auric Goldfinger and driven by Oddjob; one of the great Bond villains. The Aston Martin prototype has appeared in many Bond films but with slightly different number plates.

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There’s a photo opportunity allowing you to don a tuxedo (top half only) and recreate the gun barrel scene which features in all the movies. This could be pretty cool but £8 for something that could just as easily be done online for free was not worth it in my eyes!

There’s a cafe and souvenir shop beyond the main gallery which you need to pass through to exit the place. The cafe is surrounded by a few artefacts as well as a GoldenEye pinball machine and the gift shop is a place like no other with just about every conceivable product having the ‘Bond In Motion’ label on it. Needless to say that the 007 fans were lapping it all up!

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The London Film Museum is open 7 days a week from 10am and is located at 45 Wellington Street in Covent Garden. It is open for the rest of this year.

The London Film Museum in County Hall on the Southbank closed at the end of last year.

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England 2014 Pt III: Back To My Hometown

Tickets to Madame Tussauds weren’t the only discounted tickets I bought ahead of our England venture as I also purchased some heavily reduced train tickets to take us from London St Pancras to my hometown of Market Harborough and back following a nights stay. Of course both sets of parents were already acquainted having met a few days earlier in London and my in-laws were very keen to see the front and back gardens that my mum has created and cultivated over the years.

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After a light lunch buffet we visited Welland Park which has certainly changed a fair bit since my days of frequenting the place, but having been there on my cycle trip down memory lane a couple of years ago, I was more than aware of how it had changed.

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From there we walked along the river Welland into the town centre. Sadly the most famous (only?) landmark; the old Grammar school is presently under a bag whilst maintenance work is done on it but my in-laws were nevertheless impressed with what they saw elsewhere. In fact, that seemed to be the theme of the trip as things that I certainly take for granted in the UK were impressionable for our Japanese visitors. Another such example later on that day was the roast dinner and wine we had four our evening meal followed by crumble dessert and cheese and biscuits.

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The following morning we had breakfast together and then took a quick look around the village of Great Bowden where my parents live including the train line, church, oldest house, village shop and the green.

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Around lunchtime we drove the few miles to local sight Foxton Locks for a pub lunch in the wake of seeing the unique 10 lock staircase that takes narrow boats up and down the 23 metre hill. So many people from the village seemed to be in the vicinity on this day and as dog lovers my wife and her family were not only impressed by the near-200 year old locks but the dozens and dozens of dogs being walked in the area.

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More shopping for my wife and her mum in town later followed by late afternoon tea and cake rounded off our short trip to the place where I grew up and pretty soon after that our whirlwind tour of the area was over as we headed back down to London for the remaining days of our England trip.

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England 2014 Pt II: Madame Tussaud’s Waxwork Museum

One of the things that my mother-in-law wanted to do in London was to visit this very famous and hugely popular waxworks museum. I have to say that I’d never had too much enthusiasm for going to this place which may surprise regular Tokyo Fox readers (yes, such people do actually exist!) who have witnessed me travelling wide and far just to get my picture taken with a statue of some sort. However, I have always had a slight problem with there being so many of them in one place and the rather high entry fees probably put me off a bit too!

Before we arrived in England though, I went online and was able to book the four of us some tickets for an early evening visit which were sold at 50% lower fare and I guess £15 per ticket in this day and age ain’t so bad. The first part of the museum is a red carpet affair with some of the world’s biggest and most famous movie stars on show. It certainly hits you how busy this place is which took me a little by surprise as whenever I’ve seen friends pictures on Facebook at this place it’s looked like there’s been plenty of room and space to wander freely and get your photo’s taken with the stars! However, in reality it’s a mad crush and you’ve gotta almost force your way through to the front to get that all-important picture. Luckily my wife and mother-in-law were pretty good at that and soon got into the spirit of the place whilst my father-in-law and I took a little longer to adjust to the hordes of people in attendance.

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The stars on show in this area included Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Willis, George Clooney, Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Craig, Arnold Schwarzenegger (all pictured) as well as Russell Brand, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Emma Watson, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and many more.

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We then proceeded along the walking route to the ‘Sport’ section where I got my hands on the World Cup alongside England great Bobby Moore, met David Beckham again (there’s a model of him and his wife in the ‘Party’ zone) and got to hang out with rugby and tennis legends Jonny Wilkinson and Boris Becker.

It was in this section that I realised you really have to pick and choose the ones you want to get photographed with although I’m sure there are some people who do each and every model. Global superstars of past and present like Pele, Rafael Nadal, Tiger Woods and Usain Bolt featured among British talent like Tom Daley, Mo Farrah, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Lewis Hamilton and so on. All interesting to me but pretty much unknown by my wife and her parents!

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We passed through the royals (just too many people waiting for picture opportunities) and culture sections fairly quickly before stopping at the music section which was stocked full with models of pop queens like Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Adele, Cheryl Cole, Kylie and Rihanna. Other legends like Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, the Beatles and erm, One Direction were on display.

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In terms of the waxwork models the World Leaders zone was pretty much the last area of real interest with the likes of Barrack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Boris Johnson and David Cameron (but no Japanese politicians!) featuring among others not that my wife knew who the latter two were when she took the above photograph! We finished off things with the Spirit of London ride; a black cab ride through periods of British history such as Elizabethan and Victorian era’s, Shakespeare, the Plague, the Great Fire of London, The Industrial Revolution, the World Wars, the swinging sixties and so on

The finale was the Marvel Super Heroes and their 4D movie experience went down way better than expected having had to wait nearly twenty minutes to see it.

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Overall, we probably spent about 90 minutes in the place which in all honesty was fairly quick and proof that you could easily stay there for a few hours. Someone came up with the idea of stopping for dinner afterwards at the nearby Wetherspoon’s pub next to Baker Street Underground Station and my father-in-law finally got the chance to sample some fish and chips and a pint of Guinness.

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England 2014 Pt I: When Two World’s Collide!

Our final day in England last year included many of the same ingredients as the first one this year but was very different in so many ways. The reason was that it was the first time for my wife’s parents and mine to meet each other. Having only arrived back in the nations capital the night before, we all set off for Kingston in south west London for the big meet up at 10.45am.

Handshakes and kisses were exchanged as English and Japanese customs collided and we made our way through the town centre to the river Thames to take a boat to Hampton Court Palace where we were due to have a celebratory ‘post-Wedding’ lunch at a pub nearby. As we were ahead of schedule we decided to do the palace before lunch rather than after which was the original plan. We didn’t go inside but instead wandered the outer  gardens which were free and, along with the Thames cruise, were two things that could be checked off my mother-in-law’s ‘to do’ list.

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Before that though we posed for a few group photo’s in front of the Palace which was built in 1514 and was once owned by Henry VIII.

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The bridge over the river from the palace took us to the Prince Of Wales pub in East Molesey where we had a lovely lunch together and had a toast for my wife and I.

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Another ‘must do’ for visitors to London is to ride on a double decker and that is exactly what we did next, to the delight of my wife’s parents, as we took one of the famous red buses back to Kingston bus station where the next surprise was waiting around the corner.

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Despite my many visits to Kingston over the years I had never even heard of, let alone seen the sight that came next. This amazing domino-style telephone boxes art-piece certainly ticked another box on the list of classical London features to see and photograph.

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When we stayed at my sisters place last Summer the house was under reconstruction so was a bit of a mess with the dishes lying in the bath and my nephew George‘s room being a makeshift living room and bedroom for all. A year on though and its finally finished and was looking very impressive as we all went back for afternoon tea. As it was my birthday the day before I was given some lovely cards and presented with the new Leicester City home shirt; a nice Puma affair fit to grace our first season back in the top flight for ten years! The pimms went down very well with all and with that we also enjoyed clotted cream, jam and scones as well as a wedding cake.

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There was so much going on throughout the day that I didn’t really get too much time to play with George which was a shame but all in all the day was a big success and went better than any of us could probably have imagined given the obvious language barrier and clash of cultures.

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TF Top 10 Movie Locations Where You Can Stay

Hot on the tail of the top (double oh) 7 hotels featured in James Bond films here are the Tokyo Fox top 10 recommendations for other places where you can spend a night amidst movie history. Just to get things clear you have to pay to stay in all of the listed accommodation rather than just rocking up and pitching a tent outside the filming location!! This list, which is in no particular order, will take you around the globe and offers the full spectrum of price range.

1. Sidi Driss, (from $9 per night) Matmatat-Al-Qadimal, Matmata (Tunisia): Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) – No surprise that this one is featured. Coach loads of tourists stop off here every day yet very few of them actually stay the night! That’s probably because it’s very dirty with poor service! I was the only guest when I stayed there…..but it was a privilege to spend the night at Luke Skywalker’s home! Cheap too! More details here.

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2. On On Hotel (from $3 per night), 19 Phang-Nga Road, Talad Yai, Muang, Phuket  (Thailand): The Beach (2000) – Another ridiculously cheap place to stay. Leonard DiCaprio checks in to this rundown “Kao San Road” backpacker place but its nowhere near the legendary Bangkok spot where western travellers congregate. It is in fact way, way down south in Phuket town. More details here.

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3. Imperial Palace (from $49 per night), 3535 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109  (USA): Austin Powers International Man Of Mystery (1997) – This Nevada state city has been used in many movies over the years and could probably have it’s very own top 10 list (now there’s an idea!) but just the single hotel for this entry and that’s Alotta Fagina’s penthouse suite where Austin shagged her rotten to use his exact words!! It’s since been re-named as The Quad Resort & Hotel. More details here.

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4. Tiki Motel (from $?? per night), 7301 Santa Fe Avenue, Huntington Park, Los Angeles (USA): The Terminator (1984) – John Connor was conceived at this very run-down in what is perhaps the most pivotal point in the whole Terminator franchise. You could stay in the same room where Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese did the deed but in all honesty you probably wouldn’t want to! More details here.

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5. Royal Eagle Hotel (from $627 per night), 26-30 Craven Rd, London W2 3QB (UK): Trainspotting (1996) – The boys take a break from Scotland and head down south to London to do a drug deal. Sick Boy leads the guys out of Smallbrook Mews, across Craven Road in a parody of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover. The “small-time wasters” then wander into the Royal Eagle Hotel. More details here.

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6. Grand Hotel Evropa (from $30 per night), Vaclavske namesti 25, Prague (Czech Republic): Mission: Impossible (1996) – This was the headquarters of mysterious arms dealer Max (Vanessa Redgrave) in the first of this action spy film series based on the TV series from the 60’s and 70’s. More details here.

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7. Westin Grand (from $274 per night), Friedrichstrasse 158 – 164, 10117 Berlin  (Germany): The Bourne Supremacy (2004) – The luxury hotel where Landy stays. Bourne cleverly finds out at reception that she is staying in room 235. He then watches her leave from his position on the 4th floor and then takes the stairs down and goes through the hotels revolving doors where he gets in a taxi and follows her to the CIA hub. More details here.

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8. Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce Hotel (from $216 per night), Wollestraat 41-47, Bruges (Belgium): In Bruges (2008) – Dark, comedy thriller featuring Colin Farrell (Ray), Brendan Gleeson (Ken) and Ralph Fiennes (Harry) with the former two Irish hit-men lying low in the Belgian city at this canal-side hotel. More details here.

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9. Four Season’s Hotel (from $750 per night), Teyfikhane Sok No 1 SultanahmetIstanbul 34110 (Turkey): Midnight Express (1978) – This used to be the infamous Sultanahmet jail depicted in this biographical crime drama. More details here.

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10. Plaza Hotel (from $550 per night), 768 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019 (USA): Crocodile Dundee (1986) – What could be better than washing your backside in the same bidet that Mick Dundee (presumably) washed his posterior in? Well sadly that can’t be done here as the facilities don’t have bidets! The interior scenes were shot in the studio but you could still pretend and shout it from the window down to pedestrians on the street below!  More details here.

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Review: Films Set In Japan – Rhapsody In August (1991)

On August 9th 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and over 40,000 people were instantly killed including (as far as this film story is concerned) the husband and a few siblings of a woman who is now the grandmother of four children. Whether or not Akira Kurosawa made this film or not, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be forgotten but what is perhaps surprising in this film is that there’s no real antagonism towards the Americans and instead it’s a simple reminder to all humanity that the consequences of not respecting one another can be catastrophic.

The Japanese title of this film is ‘Hachi gatsu no kyoshikyoku‘ and interestingly the Hollywood star Richard Gere would go on to star in another Japanese related film starting with the same first word by way of ‘Hachi: A Dog’s Tale‘ (2009) telling the story of the iconic dog. Of course he’s way more famous for his other film roles (‘American Gigolo‘, ‘Pretty Woman‘, ‘An Officer and A Gentleman’ etc) and he does only feature in the final third of this movie but that’s more than enough to merit its inclusion in this Tokyo Fox series! It’s not the first time a Kurosawa movie has been reviewed here though as ‘Kagemusha‘ (1980) was also included for similarly vague reasons relating to the executive producers!

For once this is quite a short Kurosawa film (98 minutes) and it’s also not one about samurai warlords laden with symbolic references to Japanese society. Instead, we see his most humanistic film which is quite moving at times and is a poem against war and the scars it leaves on the minds of those who have suffered.

The main person to have endured agony here is an elderly woman called Kané who is  living a peaceful care free life close to nature in the Nagasaki countryside, but the memory of the disaster continues to haunt her and she is forever laden with heavy memories of the past. She is the most intriguing character and a convincing one at that. She displays a range of emotions including suffering, wisdom and forgiveness as embodied by the phrase “blame it on the war” which she continues to repeat throughout the movie. She tries to communicate this message to her four grandchildren who seem interested in their country’s sorrowful history and it is kind of through their eyes, as well as their naive words, that Kurosawa lets us in on the tragedy.

As the memorial day is approaching Kané learns that her only living brother is in Hawaii (having made his fortune in pineapples) and wants to see her before he dies but she is a little reluctant to go despite the grandkids urging her to. Next, the parents return from their very own Hawaii trip and, hoping to get in on the wealth of the Hawaiian family, they try to persuade Kané to go. However, when the son of Kané’s brother (Richard Gere), suddenly arrives in Nagasaki, the parents are sure it’s because he wants to end the proposed visit because they guess he must resent the idea that his own country caused the death of Kané’s husband a.k.a. his uncle.

There is a very nicely filmed scene in the latter part of the film where the four kids and their granny are sitting under a blue moonlight whilst the adults are just obsessed about the wealth of their distant relatives. ‘Rhapsody In August‘ has pretty much no soundtrack other than the natural sounds of wind, water, traffic and people as well as the old organ in the house which one of the older boys plays at opportune moments.

A range of themes are touched on throughout the film such as the effect of the atomic bomb on both nations, the attitudes of the three generations and the effect of American culture on the Japanese. The film moves along at a slow pace and I was a little disappointed that there was no conflict at any time. There are chances aplenty to make Clark (Gere) feel guilt for what his country did but he was let off and spared any real pain or discomfort as everyone bowed their heads, apologised and forgave one another.

The ending is a all a bit weird for me as a violent thunderstorm erupts over the village which Kané believes to be a new bomb fallen on Nagasaki leading her to run desperately for cover chased (eventually) by her entire family in a scene that is a little theatrical but one that has a lasting impact with the broken umbrella coming to represent a flower of peace or something like that!

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Tokyo Fox Rating 6/10

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