Japan’s ‘Tora-san’ Director Yoji Yamada Returns to ‘Family’ Comedy

Yamada Yoji
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

TOKYO — After a gap of nearly two decades, veteran director Yamada Yoji is finally returning to comedy, the genre that made him famous.

The 83 year old Yamada is now making “Kazoku wa Tsurai yo” (literally, “It’s Tough Being a Family), with a title derived from his signature “Otoko wa Tsurai yo” (It’s Tough Being a Man) Tora-san series. The series’ 48 installments, from 1969 to 1995, not only set a Guinness record, but rang the gong consistently at the box office for the Shochiku studio.

Shochiku is producing the new film about a family facing a crisis when the wife (Kazuko Yoshiyuki) demands a divorce from her husband (Isao Hashizume) as their 50th wedding anniversary approaches, shocking their three grown children and their spouses. 

Yamada began shooting the new film on Sept. 19 and plans to wrap in November. The film will be completed in 2015 and released in 2016 with Shochiku distributing. 

“Being a man, a woman or a human being is difficult and tough, but somehow we have to live,” Yamada told his staff at the start of shooting. “That’s the reason I gave the title “It’s Tough Being a Man” to the Tora-san series that started in 1969 and that’s reason I gave the title ‘It’s Tough Being a Family’ to the new film.” 

In addition to the Tora-san series, Yamada became known internationally for his serious “samurai” trilogy, beginning with best foreign language film Oscar nominee “The Twilight Samurai” in 2002.  

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