JAPANESE PRODUCTION OF THE MOVIE
(this article appeared in the souvenir book of the movie published by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation in 1970)
The Japanese word for foreigner is "gaijin," and the idea of cooperating with the American "gaijin" on a multi-million dollar film was novel enough but the thought of working together in the making of the Pearl Harbor story, "the day of infamy," stunned Japanese in all walks of life.
Some businessmen were horrified and took the attitude of "why rake over old coals?" Retired military officers, veterans of the bitter war, looked on the idea with great suspicion, fearing Japan would once again be vilified before the entire world.
Yet, upon reflection people realized that many years had passed, the enemies were now friends ... and the momentary triumph of Pearl Harbor, that was turned into tragedy for the Japanese peoples, was a story that should be told as a primer in the dangers of militarism.
It was on the latter note that the concept of making "Tora! Tora! Tora!" was accepted by authorities and the joint effort proceeded ... with a mutual agreement that both screenplays would tell both stories as they happened, without embellishment.
Under direction of Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku, the Japanese sequences of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" were filmed at Ashiya and Kagoshima Bay, on the island of Kyushu; and in Tokyo for exteriors of the Imperial Palace and the United States Embassy. Interiors were filmed at Toei-Kyoto and Shochiku Studios, Kyoto; also in Osaka.
According to Japanese film trade publications, no other film in the history of the nation's industry received "such elaborate and meticulous research." Poring over government records, examining old photos, consulting with the family of the late Admiral Yamamoto, digging out the plans and specifications for the naval aircraft, tracing the marine architect's blueprints for the battleship Nagato and carrier Akagi, researchers delved into every possible facet of the period to meet official Tokyo demands that the motion picture be authentic.
The large and distinguished cast of 155 members was drawn from both film and theatrical performers, with many notables of the Kabuki, the Noh, and Shinkoku-geki represented. Their affiliations include such well-known dramatic groups as Haiyu-za, Seinen-za Shinjin-kai, Bungaku-za; actors usually associated with films were signed from Toho, Nikkatsu and Toei Studios. A number of active duty Japanse naval personnel were included for bit parts to afford maximum authenticity in "sea scenes."
The leading roles were assigned to veteran Soh Yamamura, portraying Admiral Yamamoto; to Takahiro Tamura, as Lt. Cdr. Mitsuo Fuchida, and to Tatsuya Mihashi as Cdr. Minoru Genda. The depth of talent in supporting roles is illustrated by the presence of such revered actors as Koreya Senda (Prince Konoye) and Eijiro Tono (Admiral Nagumo).
Cameras rolled on the bright morning of March 3,1969, at Ashiya Air Force Base, located midway between Fukuoka and Kokura on Kyushu. There, on beach sands, three-quarters of the 35,500 ton Japanese carrier Akagi, Admiral Nagumo's flagship for the Pearl Harbor attack, had been reconstructed full scale. Parallel and two thousand yards away, the full-sized battleship Nagato, flagship of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, loomed against low mountains, her prow to the sea.
The original Akagi, converted from a battle cruiser hull, was sunk by American naval aircraft during the battle of Midway in 1942. The 39,000 ton Nagato survived World War II, but was sunk at Bikini in 1946 as the result of atomic bomb tests.
Scenes filmed on Akagi's deck included pre-dawn preparations for take-off to bomb Pearl Harbor, with her complement of aircraft revved up; her plane handlers screaming "Banzai" over the roar of exhausts. Return of her triumphant pilots after the strike was also recorded by the Panavision cameras.
The Akagi became the focal point for massive scenes involving Admiral Yamamoto's change of command ceremony on relieving Admiral Zengo Yoshida as Commander In Chief of The Imperial Fleet. She saw many other days of filming.
On Nagato's quarterdeck, Yamamoto argued for his plan to attack and destroy the United States Pacific fleet; on her foredeck, Yamamoto watched his torpedo planes carry out exercises in the summer of 1941; at her rail, staring out to sea, the admiral came to realize what destruction he was soon to unleash.
Nagato, six hundred sixty feet in length, and ten stories high, constructed from the original plans, the largest film set ever built in Japan, figured in seven weeks of filming.
Weather conditions were severe during most of the Kyushu location, and cherry blossoms were a little late in appearance. Rain and snow often pelted the huge ship sets and on many days the company was forced inside into the inner hull of Akagi where several "cover" sets had been built. Uniquely, one cover set was a Shinto shrine. Pilots aboard the real Akagi had prayed before such a shrine in the predawn hours, December 7th, 1941.
Morning after morning, busses bearing college students ground over the sandy road from Ashiya to the ship sets. The students were drawn from campuses throughout Kyushu to portray sailors and junior officers of Nagato and Akagi. Filming in "The Year of The Hip," it was necessary to pay some of the students a bonus in order to crop long hair. Concern over the shears soon vanished as the extras, clad in summer whites, were assaulted by cold winds from the Hibiki Sea.
The production complex at Ashiya included a mess hall for the feeding of upward of twelve hundred extras a day; a wardrobe building to costume officers, enlisted men and pilots in 1940-period uniforms; a small production building to house director Masuda's staff, and a storage and maintenance area for the twenty-one aircraft of Akagi and Soryu. It was a crude and hibachi-heated but practical studio far away from headquarters in Kyoto.
Near the complex was still another set, an interior duplicating Akagi's hangar deck. Enroute Hawaiian waters from Hitokappu Bay, pilots and bombardiers of the carriers practiced dummy bombing runs by dragging rubber sheets beneath bomb sights. Targets were painted on the sheets. Twelve full-sized aircraft became the "set decoration" for this unusual interior.
The "Tora" filming village became a major tourist attraction in the spring weeks of 1969. An estimated five thousand visitors arrived each weekend, some traveling as much as five hundred miles, to see the huge ship sets and watch the activity on the beach. Few had ever glimpsed a "World War II" capital ship of the Japanese fleet or a "Zero".
The man chosen to be technical advisor for the Japanese sequences of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" was the very man who brilliantly planned the air strike on Pearl Harbor Minoru Genda! In 1941, with the rank of naval commander, Genda was staff officer in charge of planning for Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, commander in chief of the Central Pacific Area, Imperial Fleet. Genda already had a reputation as a strategist before Yamamoto approved his selection to be the raid's architect. His plan was considered all but foolproof: "... Northern route ... attack soon after dawn ... Zero fighters for cover... torpedo planes ... high-level bombers ... dive bombers ..." Now a member of the upper house of the Diet, Japan's legislative body, Genda became chief of staff of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force following World War II. In 1962 he was awarded the United States Legion of Merit for his post-war efforts in rebuilding Japanese-American relations and in establishing Japanese forces sharing in Asian defense.
Rear Admiral Yasuji Watanabe, Ret., and Rear Admiral Shigeru Fukutomi, Ret., both ex-chiefs of staff to Commander-in-Chief, Imperial Navy.
Kanoe Sonokawa, a former Zero pilot, who led the strike forces that sank the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse off Malaya.
Kuranosuke Isoda, member of Admiral Yamamoto's staff, was on the bridge of the Nagato December 8th, 1941, when Yamamoto was notified of the raid's success. He advised on naval authenticity for film while shooting in Ashiya and Kyoto.
Otto Lang, veteran feature film and television producer and director, first became associated with the industry and with 20th Century-Fox after supervising action segments of the highly successful Sonja Henie films. At the time, Lang was an internationally known skier and skiing instructor.
After working in many phases of film-making, Lang produced such films as "Northside 777," and "Five Fingers." He entered direction and among his many credits is the Cinerama hit, "Search For Paradise." In television, he has produced and directed both dramatic and documentary types. He was executive producer of the General Electric Hour, and among his TV specials, as a director, is the highly lauded ABC Beethoven special, "Ordeal and Triumph."
The making of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" is an historical "first" in the annals of international filmmaking . . . being the first time two former warring nations brought together the talents of their motion picture industries to make a film centered on the first battle in the war they had fought against each other.- END-
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