Tokyo Story

If you want a nice movie to watch tonight, this is the one.  Tokyo Story (1953), directed by the great Yasujirō Ozu, is one of the top two or three of my favorite foreign films (Ikiru from 1952 is another). Somehow the movie is free on YouTube with English subtitles. I provide it for your delectation, and you should not miss this if you haven’t seen it. I’m surprised you can watch it for free, but do so immediately! If you have a big 30 inch computer screen like I do, so much the better. Or maybe you can even watch it on a big flat-screen t.v.

You’re welcome.

It gets a prized 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and here’s the summary:

Originally Tokyo Monogatari, Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story centers on a provincial Japanese family. The elderly parents and youngest daughter journey to Tokyo to visit their doctor son and his brood. Too busy for this onslaught of relatives, the callous, insensitive doctor packs his parents and sibling off to a resort, where they are unable to enjoy themselves due to the noise of the other tourists. The aging father locates some old drinking cronies, while the mother seeks out new friends. And so it goes, in Ozu’s inimitable anecdotal fashion, until the tragic finale. A sensitive study of the frustrations and disillusionments accompanying the onslaught of old age (Ozu, incidentally, was only 51 at the time), Tokyo Story was completed in 1953, but not released in the U.S. until 1972.


  1. Posted December 1, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I love this film. “An Autumn Afternoon” is a lovely film of his too. I have not seen much of his work from before the war (he was making films in the late 20s!). He was an inspiration for the next generation of great Japanese filmmakers.

    I’m a great fan of Shohei Imamura films from roughly the same era (mid 50s – 1960s). “Pigs and Battleships” and “Insect Woman” are probably the best from the time, though later “A Man Vanishes” and “The Eel” are superb too. But few can compare with Kurosawa, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. His interpretation of Macbeth in “Throne of Blood” is sublime.

    thanks for reminding me!

  2. mfdempsey1946
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” is indeed one of world cinema’s top-level masterworks, a heart-breaking, beautifully simple that repays any number of viewings with fresh discoveries and profound perceptions coaxed from might seem to be the simplest, most unassuming scenes and characters.

    Every Ozu movie that I’ve been able to see has something special to offer as well, even minor works or those whose available prints survive in less than pristine condition.

    Other titles particularly worth discovering if you are new to his work are “Late Spring,” “The End of Summer,” “Floating Weeds” (the black-and-white original and the color remake,”An Autumn Afternoon” (his final film), and the hilarious silent “I Was Born, But…”

    But, after watching “Tokyo Story,” just plunge in anywhere. Fine rewards await you.

    • Posted December 1, 2017 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      I was Born, But… is included on the BFI Good Morning blu-ray.

    • Martin Levin
      Posted December 2, 2017 at 1:24 am | Permalink

      I could not agree more strongly. ‘Tokyo Story’ is one of the greatest fims ever made, tout court. It’s a profound, deeply moving exploration of culture gaps between generations, with a full range of human emotions. Add the exquisite craftsmanship, with Ozu’s trademark low angles, the world observed from ground level. Masterpiece.

  3. artbacchant
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m extremely fond of Ozu as well. Tokyo Story is him at his best – flawless.

  4. davidintoronto
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink


    In the last BFI Greatest Films of All Time list (2012), “Tokyo Story” came in 3rd.

    And as selected by big shot directors, it was 1st.

  5. BJ
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m a huge fan of Japanese cinema, and Ozu in particular. Tokyo Story is my favorite film of his and Good Morning is a close second.

  6. rickflick
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I saw the film a couple of years ago, borrowed from the library. I immediately gave it an enthusiastic two thumps up. Best foreign film ever is right. It’s sentimental as are most of Ozu’s films, but so richly presented that you simply can’t forget it. All of his late films are superb so if you like this one, you should check out the others. Several have the same theme and in some cases the same actors, but each is a gem.

  7. Adam M.
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    It’s a good movie, but I think its source inspiration – Make Way for Tomorrow, which was also mentioned by Jerry on this site – might be better.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the info. I’ll be sure and see that one too.

  8. Darren Garrison
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    “Somehow the movie is free on YouTube with English subtitles.”

    The “somehow” is that it is in the public domain. You can also download it at



    (the unsubbed version has a Spanish subtitle file available on the page–you will be able to find English (and probably other languages) versions available on the net if you look.)

    There are other Ozu movies available, too:

    Pssst: Youtube has some movies that aren’t public domain, too. You really should give this more recent one a try, Jerry:

    (Remove the underscore between “you” and “tube” to watch–I put that there so that it wouldn’t embed.)

  9. Don Mackay
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    ..and,then, for those who might be wanting to move from the Tokyo suburbs to the Siberian Taiga, may I suggest Kurosawa’s wonderful ‘Derzu Uzala’. I am one of those, and wondering if there is an upload out there somewhere!

  10. Posted December 1, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if they are region locked but BFI have brought out a superb line Ozu blu-rays including Tokyo Story as well as most of Kurosawa’s masterpieces.

    The equally marvellous Eureka! have released a lot of Shohei Imamura’s films.

    This is a great time to be a film buff. A few year’s back you’d never get to see these films let alone own them.

  11. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Re: Ikiru

    Although I’ve been aware of director Akiru Kurasawa for over 40 years, over which I’ve caught a great deal of his work, I nonetheless did not see Ikiru till only a few years ago.

    It is indeed marvelous.

  12. Posted December 2, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I second the raves about the Kurosawa films mentioned (Ikiru and Dersu Uzala) but Ozu’s a different story. Tokyo Story leaves me cold – as does the American film on which it was based, Make Way for Tomorrow.

    Ozu’s 1930s films are (as a general rule) the only ones I have any time for, made when he had more energy and less affectation. After that he ossified, and made identikit movies consisting of subtly different rearrangements of the same footage of middle-class people smiling politely at one another and drinking tea. (From 1958 on we get to see this footage in colour; now and then it’s varied with shots of businessmen in a bar looking woebegone as they drink sake.) Tokyo Story is a bit different from most of his later output, but the chief difference I notice about it is that it’s longer, and feels longer still.

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