04 November 2010

Ten Things I Know About Shinobu Muraki (村木忍)

The Makioka Sisters (Ichikawa, 1983)
It seems only fair to shine a spotlight on the Oscar-winning art director Shinobu Muraki (村木忍, 1923-1997) after shining it on her husband Yoshiro Muraki (村木与四郎, 1924-2006) yesterday. Because Yoshiro Muraki was part of Akira Kurosawa’s inner circle of trusted collaborators, his name is more likely to be recognized outside of Japan, but Shinobu Muraki had an equally illustrious career. Unfortunately for us in the west, the vast majority of the films she worked on have not been widely distrusted outside of Japan. Muraki worked on over 95 films in a career that spanned more than 40 years. She is particularly known for working on the films of Kon Ichikawa as well as the popular Toho comedy series of the 60s and 70s with directors such as Toshio Sugie (15 films) and Shūe Matsubayashi (11 films). In 1993, Muraki was awarded the Order of Purple Ribbon for her contributions to Japanese culture.

Here are ten more things that I know about her:

1. Maiden name
Shinobu Nagaoka (長岡忍)

2. Education

Graduate of Joshibi University of Art and Design (女子美術大学)

3. First Job

Muraki was hired by Toho in 1946 to work as an assistant to Takashi Matsuyama. She was promoted to the role of art director / production designer in 1953 and would stay at Toho until 1989.

4. Art Director for Kon Ichikawa (市川 崑, 1915–2008)

Muraki’s first job as a an art director was for the young director Kon Ichikawa on his feature film Blue Revolution (Aoiro kakumei, 1953) followed by The Lover (Aijin, 1953). She also worked on his films To Love Again (Ai futatabe, 1971), The Devil’s Island (Akuma no temari-uta, 1977), Gokuman-to (1977), Lonely Heart (Kofuku, 1981), The Makioka Sisters (Sasame-yuki, 1983), Ohan (1984), Rokumeikan (1986), Actress (Eiga Joyu, 1987), Princess from the Moon (Taketori Monogatari, 1987), Tenkawa densetsu satsuji jiken (1991), and Kaettekite Kogarashi Monjiro (1993). She received many accolades for her work on Ichikawa’s films (see below).  These films are all on my wish list for Criterion releases.


5. Working with her husband
The Murakis
Muraki is credited as having worked with her husband on four pictures: One-chan sandai-ki (Masanori Kakei, 1963), Zoko shachō yōkōki (Toshio Sugie, 1962), Dodes’kaden (Kurosawa, 1970) and Ran
(Kurosawa, 1985).


6. The Young Guy Series (Wakadaishō Series/若大将シリーズ)

This popular film series of the 1960s and 70s starred Yūzō Kayama (加山 雄三, b. 1937) as Yuichi Tanuma (田沼雄一). A mix of screwball comedy and romance, the series shot in exotic locals (Rio, Hawaii, the Alps, New Zealand) and was a part of the youth culture of the times. Music plays an important role in the films with Kayama singing and playing the electric guitar. The biggest musical influence on the films were The Ventures, who were wildly popular in Japan in the 60s and continue to draw audiences there whenever they tour. there As genre films, they are comparable to Hollywood fare of the day like the Gidget films or Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in the Beach Party film series. Muraki worked on 5 films in this series.


University Young Guy (Daigaku no Wakadaishō, Toshio Sugie, 1961)
Japan’s Number One Guy (Nihon-ichi no Wakadaishō, Jun Fukuda, 1962)
Young Guy at Sea (Umi no Wakadaishō, Kengo Furusawa, 1965)
Young Guy in Rio (Rio no Wakadaishō, Katsuki Iwauchi, 1968)
Clash! Young Guy! (Gekitotsu! Wakadaisho, Susei Kotani, 1976)

7. The Company President Series (Shachō Series/続社長シリーズ)

A Toho comedy series starring Hisaya Morishige (森繁久彌, 1913 –2009), Daisuke Katō (加東 大介, 1910-1975), Keiju Kobayashi (小林桂樹, 1923-2010), and Norihei Miki (三木のり平, 1924-1999). Like the Young Guy series, this series had a core cast of characters – this time all salarymen – who appear ias regulars in the films. Muraki worked on 11 films in this series.


dir. Toshio Sugie (杉江敏男, 1913 –1996)
1962 Zoko shachō yōkōki
1963 Shachō manyūki 

dir. Shūe Matsubayashi (松林宗, 1920 –2009)
1963 Zoku Shachō manyūki
1963 Shachō gaiyūki
1963 Zoku shachō gaiyūki
1965 Shachō ninpōchō
1965 Zoku shachō ninpōchō
1966. Shachō gyōjōki 
1966 Zoku shachō gyōjōki
1967 Shachō senchiya
1967 Zoku shachō senchiya

8. Oscar winner
Muraki won an Oscar with her husband for their art direction and set decoration on Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)

9. Mainichi Film Concours

She won for Best Art Direction three times for Ohan (Kon Ichikawa, 1984), The Makioka Sisters (Sasame-yuki , Kon Ichikawa, 1983), and Shinobu-ito (Masanobu Deme, 1973)

10. Japanese Academy Awards

She was nominated four times for Best Art Direction and won it three times for Tatetori monogatari (Kon Ichikawa, 1987), Romukeikan (Kon Ichikawa, 1986) and Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985).

Shinobu Muraki's Filmography is a work-in-progress on the wiki Japanese Women Behind the Scenes

Most of the films mentioned in this blog post are 
available on DVD in Japan including these Ichikawa films:

Ohan / Japanese Movie
Eiga Jyou (The Actress) / Japanese Movie

This blog entry is a part of the Japanese Film Blogathon 2010.

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2010

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