Tokyo Sonata

Tôkyô Sonata, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, focuses on the impact of Japan’s lagging economy, which has produced increasing unemployment, officially 4.4 percent in March 2009 but nearer 25 percent if the underemployed are counted. On several occasions, there is a scene of unemployed males camped out together, seeking free food. Some are dressed in business suits. The film initially focuses on two such families, but when one commits suicide, the focus shifts to the dysfunctional Sasaki family. When the film begins, father Ryûhei (played by Teruyuki Kagawa) works in an administrative job, but he is fired because his boss decides to downsize. He applies for various jobs but lacks specific skills and ends up as a janitor in a shopping mall. His unemployed eighteen-year-old son Takashi (Yû Koyanagi) decides to join the U.S. army, one of nearly two hundred in the country to do so, though later he returns home with second thoughts. His middle school son Kenji (played by Inowaki Kai) has a sharp tongue at school but he uses his lunch money to take secret piano lessons—secret because his father disapproves. His wife Megumi (played by Kyôko Koizumi) is the one reliable member of the family, cleaning, preparing meals, and giving moral support to others. Yet one day, after she discovers to her surprise that her husband is a janitor, she is held hostage by another out-of-work male who orders her to drive to the seashore, an adventure that she enjoys. Meanwhile, her husband runs away from the mall in a panic and is nearly killed in an auto accident. But the family is happily reunited after all the disparate journeys. Just how is the joy of the ending, to which the film’s title is a hint. MH