Tokyo Sonata

Last updated
Tokyo Sonata
Tokyo Sonata Poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Written byKiyoshi Kurosawa
Max Mannix
Sachiko Tanaka
Starring Teruyuki Kagawa
Kyōko Koizumi
Yū Koyanagi
Kai Inowaki
Kanji Tsuda
Kōji Yakusho
Cinematography Akiko Ashizawa
Edited byKoichi Takahashi
Music by Kazumasa Hashimoto
Release date
  • September 27, 2008 (2008-09-27)
Running time
120 minutes
Budget$2,500,000 [1]
Box office$940,430 [2]

Tokyo Sonata (トウキョウソナタ, Tōkyō Sonata) is a 2008 Japanese film directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It won the award for Best Film at the 3rd Asian Film Awards and received 2008 Asia Pacific Screen Awards nominations for Achievement in Directing and Best Screenplay. At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival it won the Jury Prize of the Un Certain Regard section.



Tokyo Sonata is about a middle-class family in Tokyo, the Sasakis, which consists of Ryūhei Sasaki, his wife Megumi, and their two sons Takashi and Kenji.

Ryūhei has a good office job, but is suddenly fired because Chinese workers are cheaper. While attempting to find a new job, Ryūhei encounters an old classmate on the street, Kurosu, who has also recently been downsized. Kurosu uses a feature on his mobile phone that plays the ring tone periodically, so that it may fool others into believing he is still employed. This intrigues Ryūhei, who decides to hide the fact that he has been fired from his family. While the two men hopelessly try to find new work, Kurosu's wife slowly begins to suspect her husband's unemployment. Kurosu is later found dead together with his wife from gas poisoning in a double suicide, thought to be initiated by Kurosu.

Takashi, the oldest son, joins the US military and is deployed to war in the Middle East. Kenji, the younger son, wishes to learn to play the piano, even though his father refuses to allow him piano lessons. Kenji takes lessons secretly, and pays for them using his lunch money. Gradually, Kenji develops a strong relationship with his piano teacher, Miss Kaneko, who urges him to pursue his musical ambitions. When his parents find out about Kenji's secret piano lessons, Megumi, who is generally closer to the children, is supportive, but Ryūhei is so furious that he attacks his son, accidentally causing him a minor concussion.

One day, Megumi, while alone at home, is taken hostage by an unemployed man who broke in looking for money. The robber forces Megumi to drive a car he has stolen previously. After a long drive, he allows her leave the car to use the restroom where she has the opportunity to escape. However, she encounters her husband at the mall working in his secret job as a janitor and decides to return to her captor saying that she cannot return home.

That night, Megumi, Ryūhei, and Kenji all have experiences away from home in which they confront the full extent of their existential disquiet.

Kenji attempts to help a friend run away from home, but the latter is caught by his father. Kenji tries to leave town by sneaking onto a bus, but he is caught. Unwilling to answer the questions of the police, Kenji is charged as an adult and kept in a group cell overnight. He is released the following day when the charges are dismissed.

Megumi and the burglar drive to the beach together, where they spend the night in a wood shed. Megumi resigns to the robber's sexual advances, but he ultimately is unable to go through with the act itself. Megumi consoles the robber that he is not a failure, saying that he is the only person who can be himself. Later that night, as the robber sleeps, Megumi spots a strange light on the horizon over the sea. She goes out to look for the light and falls asleep on the beach. The next morning, the robber has driven the stolen car into the ocean, and Megumi returns home.

Meanwhile, as he cleans the bathrooms at the mall where he works, Ryūhei discovers an envelope stuffed with cash behind one of the toilets. He pockets it and encounters Megumi while fleeing the bathrooms, from whom he runs away. Ryūhei then despairingly wanders into the Tokyo night, is hit by a truck, and left for dead. He lies on the side of the street amid some leaves and sleeps there overnight, only to find himself waking up in the morning unharmed. He deposits the envelope of cash in a local lost-and-found bucket, and is the last to arrive back at the house, where the three family members share a meal together without mentioning the events of the previous night.

Four months later, Ryūhei appears to be engaged in his cleaning job. Takashi sends a letter home from the field, noting that he has realized that the U.S military is not the only right side and that he will stay in the Middle East to search for his happiness there. The final scene depicts Kenji performing "Clair de Lune" from the Suite bergamasque at his audition with Megumi, Ryūhei, and his piano teacher watching. His performance is flawless.


Record of awards and nominations

List of Accolades
Award / Film FestivalCategoryRecipient(s)Result
61st Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard - Jury PrizeTokyo SonataWon
44th Chicago International Film Festival Jury PrizeTokyo SonataWon
3rd Asian Film Awards Best FilmTokyo SonataWon
Best ScreenwriterKiyoshi Kurosawa, Max Mannix, Sachiko TanakaWon
30th Yokohama Film Festival Best CinematographerAkiko AshizawaWon
23rd Mar del Plata FestivalBest DirectorKiyoshi KurosawaWon
10th Arab Asian Film FestivalBest Asian FilmTokyo SonataWon
9th Utica Film FestivalBest Asian FilmTokyo SonataWon
4th Osaka Cinema FestivalBest FilmTokyo SonataWon
Best DirectorKiyoshi KurosawaWon
2nd Asia Pacific Screen Awards Achievement in DirectingKiyoshi KurosawaNominated
Best ScreenplayKiyoshi Kurosawa, Max Mannix, Sachiko TanakaNominated
33rd Hochi Film Awards Best Leading Actress Kyōko Koizumi Won
82nd Kinema Junpo AwardsBest Leading ActressKyōko KoizumiWon
Best New ActorKai InowakiWon
Cinema AwardBest Film in 2008Tokyo Sonata5th place


Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, [3] while Nick Schager of Slant Magazine gave it 3 out of 4 stars. [4]

Christopher Bourne of Meniscus Magazine said, "Kurosawa's latest film, Tokyo Sonata, is his best in quite a few years, a truly frightening work that achieves its effects without resorting to tired genre mechanics." He also wrote that "Debussy's 'Clair de Lune' may well have never been put to better use in a film." [5]

Meanwhile, Tom Mes of Midnight Eye said: "Tokyo Sonata is the ultimate expression of this quality of Kurosawa's cinema. As mentioned, it contains no supernatural elements, no ghosts, killers, or monstrous flora and fauna. Yet it is without doubt the most terrifying film Kiyoshi Kurosawa has ever made. It is terrifying because it is about us." [6]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kiyoshi Kurosawa</span> Japanese film director

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a Japanese film director, screenwriter, film critic and a professor at Tokyo University of the Arts. Although he has worked in a variety of genres, Kurosawa is best known for his many contributions to the Japanese horror genre, his honorific nicknamed "David Cronenberg of Japan".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Koji Yakusho</span> Japanese actor

Kōji Hashimoto, known professionally as Kōji Yakusho, is a Japanese actor. He is known for his starring roles in Shall We Dance? (1996), 13 Assassins (2010), The Third Murder (2017), The Blood of Wolves (2018) and Under the Open Sky (2020). He is best known internationally for his role as Takuro Yamashita in Shōhei Imamura's The Eel and as Yasujiro Wataya in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel (2006).

<i>Ikiru</i> 1952 Japanese film

Ikiru is a 1952 Japanese drama film directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa. The film examines the struggles of a terminally ill Tokyo bureaucrat and his final quest for meaning. The screenplay was partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's 1886 novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yakuza film</span> Film genre

Yakuza film is a popular film genre in Japanese cinema which focuses on the lives and dealings of yakuza, Japanese organized crime syndicates. In the silent film era, depictions of bakuto as sympathetic Robin Hood-like characters were common.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">East Asian cinema</span>

East Asian cinema is cinema produced in East Asia or by people from this region. It is part of Asian cinema, which in turn is part of world cinema.

<i>One Missed Call</i> (2003 film) 2003 Japanese film

One Missed Call is a 2003 Japanese horror film directed by Takashi Miike. The film is based on the novel Chakushin Ari by Yasushi Akimoto. The plot revolves around Yumi Nakamura, a young psychology student whose friend Yoko gets a strange voice message on her cell phone. The message is dated two days in the future and Yoko can hear herself screaming in it. After Yoko mysteriously dies, her death sets off a chain of events which leads Yumi to discover that this phenomenon has been occurring throughout Japan long before Yoko received an alarming call from her future self. When Yumi receives a call with the date and time of her death, she struggles to save herself and learn the truth behind the calls.

<i>Half Human</i> 1965 Japanese film

Half Human is a 1955 Japanese science fiction horror film directed by Ishirō Honda, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. The film stars Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akemi Negishi, Sachio Sakai, and Nobuo Nakamura, with Sanshiro Sagara as the Abominable Snowman.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tak Sakaguchi</span>

Tak Sakaguchi is a Japanese actor, director, fight choreographer, stuntman and martial artist. He is best known for his role in Ryuhei Kitamura's cult film, Versus. Since his debut, Sakaguchi has worked with Kitamura several times, often appearing alongside fellow Kitamura staple Hideo Sakaki. He has also worked with frequent Kitamura collaborators Yudai Yamaguchi and Yuji Shimomura. Sakaguchi is a talented martial artist, and most often appears in films featuring copious fight scenes, usually performing all of his own stunts. He is purportedly skilled in Bajiquan, Shorinji Kempo, Boxing, Kickboxing, and while recently filming Re:Born learned the tactical martial art Zero Range Combat developed by Yoshitaka Inagawa.

Kanji Tsuda is a Japanese actor.

<i>The iDol</i> (2006 film) 2006 Japanese film

The iDol is a 2006 film made and produced by independent filmmaker, Norman England. A science fiction satire, filmed entirely in Japan, The iDol tells the story of a Japanese collector who comes into possession of a figure with origins not of this world. It is a satirical look at the world of "otaku" and the mass marketing of media culture, so prevalent in Japan, that creates these legion of obsessed fans. The iDol was a small production which did not receive worldwide attention due to its limited budget of $25,000.

Takashi Tsukamoto is a Japanese actor, singer, and model.

<i>Memories of Matsuko</i> 2006 Japanese film

Memories of Matsuko is a 2006 Japanese musical film written and directed by Tetsuya Nakashima. It is based on a Japanese novel by Muneki Yamada.

Mikadoroid is a 1991 Japanese science fiction horror film co-produced by Toho, Tohokushinsha, and Tsuburaya Video, and directed by Tomoo Haraguchi. The film was released to Japanese home video on November 8, 1991.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daiei Film</span> Film company

Daiei Film Co. Ltd. was a Japanese film studio. Founded in 1942 as Dai Nippon Film Co., Ltd., it was one of the major studios during the postwar Golden Age of Japanese cinema, producing not only artistic masterpieces, such as Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) and Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu (1953), but also launching several film series, such as Gamera, Zatoichi and Yokai Monsters, and making the three Daimajin films (1966). It declared bankruptcy in 1971 and was acquired by Kadokawa Pictures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nobuo Kaneko</span> Japanese actor

Nobuo Kaneko was a Japanese actor. His wife was actress Yatsuko Tanami. He appeared in more than 200 films between 1946 and 1993.

The 18th Japan Film Professional Awards (第18回日本映画プロフェッショナル大賞) is the 18th edition of the Japan Film Professional Awards. It awarded the best of 2008 in film. The ceremony did not take place in this year.

Jōji Ohara was a pioneering Japanese cinematographer.

<i>To the Ends of the Earth</i> (2019 film) 2019 Japanese drama film

To the Ends of the Earth is a 2019 drama film written and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It stars Atsuko Maeda, Shota Sometani, Tokio Emoto, Adiz Rajabov, and Ryo Kase. It was released in Japan on 14 June 2019. It screened as the closing film at the 72nd Locarno Film Festival on 17 August 2019.


  1. "Tokyo Sonata (2008) - IMDb". IMDb .
  2. "Tokyo Sonata (2009)". Box Office Mojo.
  3. Bradshaw, Peter (January 30, 2009). "Film review: Tokyo Sonata". The Guardian.
  4. Schager, Nick (October 13, 2008). "Tokyo Sonata - Film Review". Slant Magazine.
  5. Bourne, Christopher (September 29, 2008). "Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Tokyo Sonata" – 2008 New York Film Festival Review". Meniscus Magazine.
  6. Mes, Tom (May 17, 2008). "Tokyo Sonata". Midnight Eye.