Kiyoshi Kurosawa´s Tokyo Sonata: Family Values in an Increasingly Modern Japan

Kiyoshi Kurosawa´s Tokyo Sonata: Family Values in an Increasingly Modern Japan

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In Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata, the four members of the Sasaki family are intimately followed after a tragic event affects the father early in the film. Due to the catastrophic nature of the event, the audience is quickly exposed to the individual secrets of the Sasaki family and how a family’s values could be perceived as decomposing in modern Japan. As the story progresses, each family member encounters or exposes their own obstacles in life, leading to a conclusion which, is ultimately left open to the viewer’s perception.
Within minutes of opening, the father, Ryuhei, walks away from his job rather than be laid off in the immediate future (due to the growing practice of outsourcing). In order to avoid the dishonor of this event, Ryuhei cleverly covers up and hides his unemployment from the family. Ryuhei is seen leaving for work each day in a suit and tie and returns late in the evening, just as he would have previously. Yet, the truth is an attempt to overcome his unemployment and the potential for disgrace in the eyes of his family and community. Even when the problem of unemployment is resolved, Ryuhei continues to avoid the truth. As a former director in a large company, Ryuhei expects more meaningful employment, yet struggles with accepting his fate as a simple mall janitor. All of these obstacles take their toll on the character as observed in his attitude towards the family, whether it is with his wife, or with his sons. A horrible consequence of Ryuhei’s rage presents itself when the family receives a letter from their younger son’s (Kenji) teacher asking for them to allow him to attend music school. Kenji ultimately ends up in the hospital due to his father’s overwhelming rage. This situation only further increas...


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...or Kenji, his path to overcome his father’s disapproval for playing piano is a bit more creative. Kenji, who receives an allowance for lunch, decides to take his lunch money and use it to pay for secret piano lessons. These lessons eventually pay off as Kenji is apparently a budding pianist and appears to gain his father’s approval as the film concludes during a piano recital.
In Tokyo Sonata, all four members of the Sasaki family are presented with interesting obstacles that each must overcome or resolve in their own ways. The values of the Sasaki family are challenged in a way that most definitely describes a growing trend in our world, where family values are slowly disintegrating and people are accepting individual values over family values. In closing, the Sasaki’s appear to be on the right track towards unifying again, yet the reality is not clearly laid out.

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