Japan had a great year at the Oscars last year thanks to Yōjirō Takita’s Departures (おくりびと , 2008) and Kunio Katō’s La maison en petits cubes (つみきのいえ, 2008). In fact, compared with other non-English-speaking countries, Japan has actually won many Oscars over the years rivaled only by Italy, France, Germany and Sweden. Although no Japanese films are in the running for the big awards this year, despite another great year for animation in Japan, I thought I’d celebrate past winners in the run up to the Oscars. Today’s focus is costume design.
1954 27th Academy Awards
Sanzo Wada (和田 三造, 1883-1967)
Teinosuke Kunugasa’s Gate of Hell (Jigokumon/地獄門, 1953) is famous for having won the first Palme d’Or (Cannes) and the second Oscar for a Japanese film. In addition to the Special Honorary Award (predecessor to the Best Foreign Film Category) given to Kinugasa, Sanzo Wada received an Oscar for Costume Design. Wada graduated from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts where he specialized in Western-style painting (Yōga/洋画). After studying for many years in Europe, he travelled throughout Asia eventually returning to Japan to teach at his old alma mater in 1927. Read about Wada’s career as an artist with beautiful scans of his woodblock prints at the Ohmi Gallery.
1986 58th Academy Awards
Emi Wada (ワダ・エミ / 和田惠美, b. 1937)
Kyoto-born Wada (no relation to Sanzo Wada) won the 1986 Oscar for Costume Design for Akira Kurosawa’s Ran (乱, 1985). She has also designed costumes for Dreams (Akira Kurosawa, 1990), Prospero’s Books (Peter Greenaway, 1991), Gohatto (Nagisa Oshima, 1999) as well as many Chinese, Hong Kong, and Korean films. In 2006, she designed costumes for the Metropolitan Opera’s 2006 staging of Tai Dun’s The First Emperor starring Placido Domingo. Wada is a graduate of Kyoto City University of Arts, where she majored in Western-style art (Yōga/洋画). Wada’s husband Ben Wada (和田勉, b. 1930) was a producer at the NHK and despite having officially retired in 1987, he still keeps active as a freelance director/producer. You can visit Eiko Wada's official site here.
1993 65th Academy Awards
Eiko Ishioka (石岡 瑛子, b. 1939)
Ishioka won the Oscar for her costume design in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992). Along with the composer Philip Glass and the cinematographer John Bailey, Isioka was awarded for Best Artistic Contribution at the Cannes Film Festival in 1985 for their work on Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. She has also designed costumes for Broadway shows, opera, and Cirque du Soleil. Ishioka even designed costumes for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Her work is displayed in galleries around the world including MOMA in New York. She has published a book about her design aesthetic.