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Burmese Harp (also known as The Burmese Harp) is a 1956 Nikkatsu film,Directed by Kon Ichikawa it is often called one of the greatest films of all time.



SPOILER WARNING: This section may contain major plot and/or ending details. Proceed at your own discretion.

In the summer of 1945, the defeated Japanese troops crossed the Burmese border and were trying to escape to Thailand, where they sang "Arajo no Tsuki" with a handmade musical instrument similar to Burmese platoon. There was an Inoue platoon to do. Pvt Mizushima was a master of the lyre, disguised himself as an indigenous people and fulfilled the mission of scouting, and proceeded safely with the sound of the lyre as a signal. Eventually, the platoon learned of the end of the war near the border and abandoned their weapons. They were sent to Mudon, far south, but only Mizushima disappeared while trying to persuade the Japanese troops to surrender, sticking to Sankakuyama and continuing to resist. On the other hand, the platoon that arrived in Mudon asked a saleswoman who went in and out of the camp to search for Mizushima, but it was not as clear as life or death. One day, the platoon who went to work saw two Burmese monks on Mizushima with a blue parrot on his shoulder and called out, but the monk ran away with his eyes down. Mizushima was alive. After the battle of Sankakuyama, he, in the form of a monk, saw the skeletonized corpses of countless Japanese soldiers on the rush road to Mudon and decided to stay here to comfort the spirits of his late compatriots. Captain Inouye, who took over the blue parrot, the younger brother of the parrot, who was sitting on the priest's shoulder from the seller, enthusiastically taught the words, "Mizushima, let's go back to Japan together." On the day he returned three days later, the captain asked the seller to hand over his younger brother Parrot to the monk. Then, the day before departure, Mizushima appeared in front of the camp and disappeared by playing "Look up and respect" with a lyre. The next day, a saleswoman brought a letter from Mizushima and a blue parrot. The parrot repeated with a singing voice, "Ah, Jibunhakaheruwakenihaikanai." Tears were shining in the eyes of the soldiers listening to it.


  • Mizushima Senior Soldier- Shoji Yasui
  • Captain Inouye- Rentaro Mikuni
  • Ito Gunso- Jun Hamamura
  • Kobayashi First Class-Taketoshi Naito
  • Baba First Class-Akira Nishimura
  • First Class Maki- Shunji Kasuga
  • Takagi First Class-Keishichi Nakahara
  • Okada Senior Soldier- Hiroshi Hijikata
  • Nakamura Senior Soldier- Nobuaki Hanamura
  • First Class Kawakami- Kyoji Chiyo
  • First Class Oyama- Tomio Aoki
  • First Class Hashimoto- Toshiaki Ito
  • First Class Shimizu- Takashi Koshiba
  • First Class Nagai- Tokuhei Miyahara
  • First Class Matsuda- Yoshiro Kato
  • Senior Soldier Abe- Sanpei Mine
  • Defense Commander of Triangle Mountain- Tatsuya Mihashi
  • Soldier 1- Shoki Fukae
  • Soldier 2- Masahiko Naruse
  • Soldier 3- Sojiro Amano
  • Soldier 4- Shojiro Ogasawara
  • Soldier 5- Satoshi Moritsuka
  • Deserter - Asao Sano
  • Old Burmese Monk- Eiji Nakamura
  • Old woman selling goods- Tanie Kitabayashi
  • The host- Kunitaro Sawamura
  • Village Head-Yunosuke Ito
  • Dancing girl-
  • Burmese monk in the village-
  • Young Burmese Monk-
  • Boy playing the lyre- Yoji Nagahama
  • British Army Officer at Mudon-
  • Mudon Garrison Interpreter-
  • British position officers--


  • Production: Masayuki Takagi
  • Original: Michio Takeyama ( Chuokoronsha version)
  • Screenplay: Natto Wada
  • Director: Kon Ichikawa
  • Photo: Minoru Yokoyama
  • Art: Takashi Matsuyama
  • Music: Akira Ifukube
  • Recording: Masakazu Kamiya
  • Lighting: Ko Fujibayashi , Kyosa Yoshida
  • Edited by: Masanori Tsujii
  • Choreography: Haruhi Yokoyama
  • Special photography: Nikkatsu Special Engineering Department
  • Assistant Director: Toshio Masuda
  • Steel: Koichi Saito
  • Production chief: Kei Nakai



In 1956 ( EN ), won the San Giorgio Award at the Venice International Film Festival . In 1957, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film . What is still in existence is the "omnibus" edited from "Part 1" and "Part 2".

According to Kon Ichikawa's description  , it was decided to release it in January 1956, but permission for Burmaloke was not easily obtained, so I hurriedly produced only the domestic shooting part as the first part of 63 minutes and released it. ..  Then, in January 1956, only Shoji Yasui, who played the role of Mizushima, accompanied him for a week's Burmaloke. Even now, you can still see the remnants of the time of shooting in Shwe Dagon Pagoda . The original promise of Ichikawa and Nikkatsu was to release the full version of the omnibus in February (of course, the contents partially overlap with the first part), but the company side said, "What is the positive of the first part already? It's a waste to bake ten bottles. " For this reason, at the time of the release, the screenings of "omnibus" and "part 1 + part 2" are mixed, "omnibus" is open to the public only in urban areas, and "part 1 + part 2" in other regions. It was a screening. It is said that Kon Ichikawa quit Nikkatsu because of this. This work was planned to be shot in color, but it was changed to monochrome because the equipment was not suitable for location.

In the scene where Inoue Corps entered the pagoda pagoda, the film taken locally was synthesized by a screen process. In addition, in the second half of the climax nirvana image rang the harp Mizushima is lurking in the, scene Inoue Corps notice is, of art Takashi Matsuyama has produced a Buddha (Daigazo), it was shot in Odawara of the park.


The original story by Michio Takeyama was adapted by Natto Wada of "Ghost Story of Youth (1955 Kon Ichikawa)", directed by Kon Ichikawa of "Kokoro", and photographed by Minoru Yokoyama of "Ginza 24 Chou". The main stars are Rentaro Mikuni and Yunosuke Ito in "Evil Reward", Shoji Yasui in "Sue for Young Things", and Tanie Kitabayashi in "Adoration (1955)". Part of it is on location in Burma.



Michio Takeyama's novel The Burmese Harp was popular, and director Kon Ichikawa was intrigued by the narrative, but was more interested in transforming the fairy tale tone to a realistic film, and secured Takeyama's permission. Ichikawa likened his desire to make the film to "a call from the heavens".

Ichikawa met with Takeyama to discuss the story, and was surprised when Takeyama revealed he had never been to Burma, having fought in China during the war. Takeyama explained he planned to write about China, but the music he referenced in his story was not commonly found there. For a screenplay, Ichikawa turned to his wife Natto Wada, who wrote it alone and at a fast pace, but based on her husband's concepts.


Ichikawa hoped to make the film in color, but color cameras were too big, and thus costly, to be moved to Burma. Much of the film was shot in Yasui, Hakone and the Izu Peninsula in Japan.

Ichikawa rigorously followed his storyboards in shooting the film. Ichikawa also told Shoji Yasui to lose weight to portray the underfed character. The harp featured in the film is a prop, rather than a true instrument, with the song used in the film being "Home! Sweet Home!", adapted in Japan as "Hanyo no yado".


Buddhism is a major theme in the film, with a monk saying "Burma is Buddha's country." Author Catherine Russell writes Mizushima, initially stealing a monk's robes and disingenuously posing as a Buddhist monk, becomes more devout. However, Russell argues Mizushima's Buddhism, in his salute of graves and use of distinctly Japanese boxes, remains a form of Japanese nationalism. Professor Ronald Green argues Mizushima's mission as a monk to bury Japanese soldiers is a pilgrimage, in which his mounds resemble Buddhist stupas, and his practice of saluting the graves is reminiscent of Buddhist rituals at stupas. The film's visuals also communicate Buddhist messages, with the panoramas in land, and then the ocean at the end of the film, showing the "broadness" of Mizushima's messages. Shots of full moons invoke Buddhist symbols of awakening.

Music is also used in the film to represent the unity between cultural groups and enemies. Singing improves the spirits in Inouye's group, with Inouye trained in music while Mizushima is self-taught in the Burmese harp, an instrument particularly associated with Burma. The group learns the war is over when Mizushima plays "Hanyo no yado", with the British joining in by singing "Home! Sweet Home!"


In Japan, Nikkatsu, the studio that commissioned the film, released the first part of the film on 21 January 1956, running 63 minutes. The second part, running 80 minutes, was released on 12 February, with both parts as double features screened with B movies. It was screened at the Venice International Film Festival in August 1956, where it received an ovation.

It was Ichikawa's first film released internationally, but the 143-minute film was condensed to 116 minutes, reputedly at Ichikawa's objection. Its release in English language countries came before the novel was first translated to English. The film was released on DVD in Region 1 by The Criterion Collection in March 2007.


Critical reception[]

The film's initial release was met with positive reviews. In 1993, film scholar Audie Bock praised Ichikawa's use of "the Burmese landscape and the eerie power of its Buddhist statuary and architecture to sustain the mood of Mizushima's conversion and the mystification of his Japanese comrades." Bock also emphasized the friendship between the soldiers. In 1996, Kevin Thomas of The Los Angeles Times hailed it as "one of the great anti-war films".

In 2002, the BBC commented The Burmese Harp was "one of the first films to portray the decimating effects of World War II from the point of view of the Japanese army". In 2007, Dave Kehr wrote in The New York Times that despite appearing sentimental, the film "has a clarity of purpose and a simplicity of execution that make it still appealing". That year, film critic Tony Rayns called it the "first real landmark in his career". He wrote it would be impossible for Ichikawa to know about the scale of Japanese war crimes soldiers inflicted in countries such as Burma, with academic Joan Mellen accusing the film of whitewashing. However, Rayns noted the film shows some Japanese soldiers were indeed extremists. Dr. John Henry Smihula further argued the quote "Burma is Buddha's country" could mean that Japanese imperialism is at the root of the suffering of all characters in the film, as Burma belongs only to Buddha and neither Japan nor Britain. In his 2013 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave the film three and a half stars, calling it an "extraordinary antiwar drama".


29th Academy Awards (1957)[3]


Foreign Language Film Award


This is a list of references for The Burmese Harp (1956). These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
  2. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
  3. https://eiga.com/movie/39111/