Although worldwide appreciation of Japanese cinema began with Kurosawa's multi award winning Rashomon, the industry had long established itself and directors such as Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu were already making distinguished films. 

During the 50s and 60s of the last century the level of Japanese film indeed reached a perfection which allowed critics to speak of a "golden age", pointing to the achievements of not only Mizoguchi, Ozu, and Kurosawa, but also directors such as Mikio Naruse, Keisuke Kinoshita, and Kon Ichikawa.

The challenge of television in the 70s and 80s may have resulted in the disappearance of a major audience but a sizeable number of film viewers remained to witness the emergence of young talent, now given the means to make films by the new freedoms within the industry itself. Susumu Hani, Nagisa Oshima, Shohei Imuamura-these young directors began the new wave of independent production units which still distinguishes Japanese film. 

In the 90s and into the twenty-first century more young directors took advantage of the independent production units , and of the marketing of VHS and DVD, turning TV itself into an ally. Hirokazu Kore'eda, Shiji Aoyama, Jun Ichikawa- these are just some of the directors now creating profiles as distinctive as those of Mizoguchi or a Kurosawa.

Simultaneosly, Japan perfected a new genre- the anime, distinct form of animated film, which resulted in films such as the Academy award winning Spirited Away of Hayao Miyasaki and the live action Avalon of Mamoru Oshi. Japanese film thus continues to speak with its own accent, to offer its own insights and to command international attention.

-- by Donald Richie      

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