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Directed byAkira Kurosawa
Screenplay byAkira Kurosawa
Hideo Oguni
Shinobu Hashimoto
Based onDodes'ka-den
by Shūgorō Yamamoto
StarringYoshitaka Zushi
Kin Sugai
Toshiyuki Tonomura
Music byTōru Takemitsu
CinematographyYasumichi Fukuzawa
Takao Saitô
Edited byReiko Kaneko
Toho Studios
Yonki no Kai Productions
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • October 31, 1970 (1970-10-31)
Running time
140 minutes

Dodes'ka-den (どですかでん, Dodesukaden, onomatopoeia term equivalent to "Clickety-clack") is a 1970 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa, based on a book by Shūgorō Yamamoto. It was Kurosawa's first film in color.

Film title[edit]

The film title "Dodeska-den" are the playacting "words" uttered by the boy character to mimick the sound of his imaginary tram (trolley car) in motion. It is not a commonly used onomatopoeic word in the Japanese vocabulary, but was invented by author Shūgorō Yamamoto in Kisetsu no nai machi [ja] (A Town Without Seasons), the original novel on which the film was based.

In standard Japanese language, this sound would be described as gatan goton, equivalent to "clickity-clack" in English.[a][2]


The film is an anthology of overlapping vignettes exploring the lives of a variety of characters who live in a suburban shantytown atop a rubbish dump.[3] The first to be introduced is the boy Roku-chan, who lives in a fantasy world in which he is a tram (trolley) driver. In his fantasy world, he drives his tram along a set route and schedule through the dump, reciting the refrain "Dodeska-den", "clickety-clack", mimicking the sound of his vehicle. His dedication to the fantasy is fanatical. Roku-chan is called "trolley fool" (densha baka) by locals and by children who are outsiders.[4][5] His mother is shown as being concerned that Roku-chan is genuinely mentally-challenged.[6][7] (Roku-chan has earned the label in several cinematographic writings.[b])

Ryotaro, a hairbrush maker by trade, is saddled with supporting many children whom his unfaithful wife Misao[c] has conceived in different adulterous affairs, but is wholeheartedly devoted to them.[10][3] There also appear a pair of drunken day laborers (Masuda and Kawaguchi) who engage in wife-swapping, only to return to their own wives the next day as though nothing has happened.[3][11] A stoic, bleak man named Hei is frequented by Ochō who appears to be his ex-wife, and he watches emotionless as she takes care of his domestic chores.[11][12] At the opposite end of the spectrum is Shima-san. Shima, the man with the tic, is always defending his outwardly unpleasant and bullying wife, and flies into a rage when friends criticize her.[13][14] A beggar and his son live in a derelict car, a Citroen 2CV. While the father is preoccupied with daydreams of owning a magnificent home, the boy dies tragically of food poisoning.[15][16] A girl (Katsuko) is raped by her alcoholic uncle and becomes pregnant, and in a fit of irrationality stabs a boy at the liquor shop who has tender feelings for her not having any other way to vent her emotional turmoil.[16][17] When her uncle is confronted as a suspect for this abusive act, he decides to gather his meager belongings and flee from the town barely one step ahead of the investigation. Tamba-san the chasework silversmith is a sage figure, who disarms a youth swinging the katana sword, and allows burglars to rob him of his money.[9][18]

After exploring the set-backs and anguish which surrounds many of the families in this indigent community, along with the dreams of escape which many of them support to maintain at least a superficial level of calm, the film comes full circle returning to Roku-chan. As the film ends Roku-chan is again seen preparing to board his imaginary train tram and serve his community of passengers as best he can.



Five years elapsed between the release of Red Beard and Dodes'ka-den. The latter film was only made with the cooperation and co-producing of three other Japanese directors, Keisuke Kinoshita, Masaki Kobayashi, and Kon Ichikawa.[19] Dodes'ka-den marks a stylistic departure from Kurosawa's previous works. It was the director's first color film, and very few of the actors from Kurosawa's stock company of previous decades were in it. Most cast members were relatively unknown.

The film was shot in twenty-eight days and Kurosawa said that he wanted to show younger film-makers that it did not need to cost a lot of money to make a movie.[20]


Dodes'ka-den was Kurosawa's first film in color.[9] Domestically, it was both a commercial and critical failure upon its initial release.[21] Abroad, however, the film gained an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film in the 44th Academy Awards.[22] Its Japanese reception, among other things, sent Kurosawa into a deep depression, and in 1971 he attempted suicide.[23]

Despite continuing to draw mixed responses,[24] Dodes'ka-den received votes from two artists – Sion Sono and the Dardenne brothers – in the British Film Institute's 2012 Sight & Sound polls of the world's greatest films.[25]


The film won the Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association.


A significant short 36-minute documentary was made by Toho Masterworks concerning this film by Kurosawa:

  • Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create (Toho Masterworks, 2002)

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ More specifically, it is the sound that the trolley makes as it passes over the joints in the rail.[1]
  2. ^ Such as Kurosawa's assistant Hiromichi Horikawa [ja][8] or film theorist Noël Burch.[9]
  3. ^ Misao means "Chastity".


  1. ^ Yamamoto, Shūgoro (1969) [1962], "Kisetsu no nai machi", Yamamoto Shugoro shosetsu zenshu (collected works) (in Japanese), 17, p. 13
  2. ^ Mellen (1972), p. 20.
  3. ^ a b c Crist, Judith (1971-10-11). "Movies: Uneasy Rider". New York Magazine: 67.
  4. ^ a b Yoshimoto (2000), p. 339.
  5. ^ Wild, Peter (2014), Akira Kurosawa, Reaktion Books, p. 150, ISBN 9781780233802
  6. ^ In Yamamoto's novel it is stated "it has been repeatedly demonstrated by [expert] doctors that he is neither imbecile nor mentally deficient".[4]
  7. ^ Yamamoto (1969), p. 12.
  8. ^ Horikawa, Hiromichi (堀川弘通) (2000), Hyōden Kurosawa Akira (in Japanese), Mainichi Shimbun sha, p. 293, ISBN 9784620314709, 六ちゃんという知的障害児 (mentally disabled child named Roku-chan)
  9. ^ a b c Burch, Noël (1979), To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in the Japanese Cinema, University of California Press, p. 321, ISBN 9780520038776
  10. ^ Yoshimoto (2000), p. 340.
  11. ^ a b Yamada (1999), p. 162.
  12. ^ Mellen (1972), p. 19.
  13. ^ Mellen (1972), pp. 20, 22Mellen refers to Hei as Hira-san
  14. ^ Yamada (1999), p. 163.
  15. ^ Wilson, Flannery; Correia, Jane Ramey (2011), Intermingled Fascinations: Migration, Displacement and Translation in World Cinema, p. 105
  16. ^ a b Mellen (1972), pp. 20, 21.
  17. ^ Wilson & Correia (2011), p. 123.
  18. ^ Kusakabe, Kyūshirō (草壁久四郎) (1985), Kurosawa Akira no zenbō, Gendai Engeki Kyokai, p. 108, ISBN 9784924609129
  19. ^ "Dodes'ka-den". Criterion. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  20. ^ "Shuns Fests, But Kurosawa To Russ". Variety. August 11, 1971. p. 2.
  21. ^ Sharp, Jasper (November 14, 2016). "Akira Kurosawa: 10 essential films". British Film Institute. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  22. ^ "The 44th Academy Awards (1972) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  23. ^ Anderson, Joseph L.; Richie, Donald; The Japanese Film: Art and Industry, p.460
  24. ^ "Clickety-Clack (Dodes'ka-den) - Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  25. ^ "Votes for DODES'KA-DEN (1970)". British Film Institute. Retrieved January 1, 2017.


External links[edit]