Otoko wa Tsurai yo (男はつらいよ, "It's Tough Being a Man") is a Japanese film series starring Kiyoshi Atsumi as Tora-san (寅さん), a kind-hearted vagabond who is always unlucky in love. The series itself is often referred to as "Tora-san" by its fans.[1] Spanning 48 installments released between 1969 and 1995,[2] all of the Otoko wa Tsurai yo films except episodes 3 (Azuma Morisaki) and 4 (Shun'ichi Kobayashi) were directed by Yōji Yamada, who also wrote (or co-wrote) all the screenplays.

Otoko wa Tsurai yo
Poster for the 18th film, Tora's Pure Love (1976)
Directed byYoji Yamada
Written by
CinematographyTetsuo Takaba
Music byNaozumi Yamamoto
Distributed byShochiku (Japan)
Release date
Running time
110–140 minutes

Each film featured a different leading lady, called a Madonna, and a different region of Japan. (There were also episodes that featured scenes in Arizona and Vienna.) Two films were usually made each year between 1969 and 1989, one for summer and one for New Year release. From 1990 to 1995 only one film was made each year, for New Year release. AnimEigo released a box-set of the first four films in the United States in 2009 under the title "Tora-san".[3] The series holds the Guinness World Record for the longest-running movie series starring a single actor.[4]

The film series had presumed to have ended with Atsumi's declining health and death from lung cancer at age 68, without Tora-san ever settling down and finding domestic happiness. Atsumi was so identified with the Tora-san character that his death was also considered by fans to be the death of Tora-san. Director Yamada had decided at the time not to continue the series after Atsumi's death, but reworked a Tora-san script stuck in development as Niji wo Tsukamu Otoko starring Nishida Toshiyuki as a traveling cinema operator. Although Niji was a tribute to movies in general, the final scenes were Yamada's touching, loving posthumous tribute to the Tora-san series and to Atsumi Kiyoshi. Almost all of the principal actors from Otoko wa Tsurai yo have cameos in the Niji film, and the Tora-san character even makes a surprise cameo appearance near the end of the movie. The film ends with a dedication to Atsumi Kiyoshi.

However, the 50th Tora-san film, Tora-san, Wish You Were Here, was released in Japan on December 27, 2019.[5] Atsumi appears throughout the film as flashbacks, using footage from his dozens of performances as Tora-san in the previous films, with the cast members in contemporary Tokyo recalling his presence in their lives.

Basic plot edit

Torajirō Kuruma (Tora-san) is a traveling salesman whose sole possessions are the contents of a small suitcase, the clothes on his back and some pocket money. He wanders from town to town peddling his wares. He yearns to return to his home in Shibamata, Katsushika, Tokyo.

His family members include Sakura (his kind-hearted half-sister), Hiroshi (Sakura's husband), Mitsuo (Sakura and Hiroshi's son), Tatsuzō (Tora-san's elderly uncle), and Tsune (Tora-san's elderly aunt). Tatsuzō and Tsune run a traditional sweet (dango) shop in Shibamata. The film often begins with Tora-san dreaming of doing grand deeds, anxious to be worthy of his family, usually resulting in disappointment and subsequent awakening.

Tora-san unexpectedly drops in on his family. While they are glad to see him, Tora-san's stay eventually causes some kind of ruckus and usually a violent family argument ensues. He then storms off with his belongings just as suddenly as he arrived.

In each film he falls in love with a "Madonna," an attractive woman, but he invariably ends up heartbroken.

Origin of the series edit

Preceding the first theatrical film of Otoko wa Tsurai yo, a teledrama version was broadcast from 1968 to 1969. It was originally titled "Gukei (or "Gukyō")-Kenmai" (愚兄賢妹), meaning "Goofy Brother and Wise Sister." The name comes from the final subtitle of Naite tamaruka (泣いてたまるか). (The star of Naite tamaruka is also Atsumi Kiyoshi.)

Kobayashi Shun'ichi renamed the show Otoko wa Tsurai yo. In the final episode of the TV series, Torajirō dies of a snakebite. This denouement made the audience angry and a film version of Otoko wa Tsurai yo followed.

Initially, Shochiku, the distributing agency, was not enthusiastic about the film's prospects but Yōji Yamada's persuasiveness ultimately prevailed. The film series went on to become a huge success with films released every summer and New Years. The series became part of Japanese pop culture. With the exception of Morikawa Shin, the supporting cast of the television version did not reprise their roles in the film series – though Sato Gajiro appears in most of the films as "Gen-chan," Nagayama Aiko is the Madonna in the 6th film and Hisashi Igawa is her suitor.

Cast edit

TV series edit

Films edit

Anime edit

Film series edit

Number Title Japan release date US release date
1 It's Tough Being a Man
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo")
August 27, 1969 July 18, 1974
2 Tora-san's Cherished Mother
("Zoku Otoko wa Tsurai yo")
November 15, 1969 July 1, 1970
3 Tora-san, His Tender Love
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Fuuten no Tora")
男はつらいよ フーテンの寅
January 15, 1970 October 20, 1973
4 Tora-san's Grand Scheme
("Shin Otoko wa Tsurai yo")
February 27, 1970 July 25, 1973
5 Tora-san's Runaway
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Bōkyō hen")
男はつらいよ 望郷篇
August 25, 1970 May 28, 1971
6 Tora-san's Shattered Romance
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Junjō hen")
男はつらいよ 純情篇
January 15, 1971 September 1, 1971
7 Tora-san, the Good Samaritan
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Funtō hen")
男はつらいよ 奮闘篇
April 28, 1971 June 25, 1975
8 Tora-san's Love Call
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō koiuta")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎恋歌
December 29, 1971 April 14, 1973
9 Tora-san's Dear Old Home
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Shibamata bojō")
男はつらいよ 柴又慕情
August 5, 1972 March 10, 1974
10 Tora-san's Dream-Come-True
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō yumemakura")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎夢枕
December 29, 1972 May 1973
11 Tora-san's Forget Me Not
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō wasurenagusa")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎忘れな草
August 4, 1973 January 4, 1974
12 Tora-san Loves an Artist
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Watashi no tora-san")
男はつらいよ 私の寅さん
December 26, 1973 May 22, 1974
13 Tora-san's Lovesick
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Koiyatsure")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎恋やつれ
August 10, 1974
14 Tora-san's Lullaby
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Komoriuta")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎子守唄
December 28, 1974 December 1975
15 Tora-san's Rise and Fall
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Aiaigasa")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎相合い傘
August 2, 1975 June 12, 1977
16 Tora-san, the Intellectual
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Katsushika Risshihen")
男はつらいよ 葛飾立志篇
December 27, 1975 December 31, 1976
17 Tora-san's Sunrise and Sunset
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Yūyake Koyake")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎夕焼け小焼け
(仮タイトルは「男はつらいよ 柴又の伊達男」)
July 24, 1976 May 6, 1977
18 Tora's Pure Love
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Junjōshishū")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎純情詩集
December 25, 1976
19 Tora-san Meets His Lordship
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō to Tonosama")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎と殿様
August 6, 1977 August 25, 1978
20 Tora-san Plays Cupid
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Gambare!")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎頑張れ!
December 24, 1977
21 Stage-Struck Tora-san
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Wagamichi o Yuku")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎わが道をゆく
August 5, 1978
22 Talk of the Town Tora-san
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Uwasa no Torajirō")
男はつらいよ 噂の寅次郎
December 27, 1978 September 28, 1979
23 Tora-san, the Matchmaker
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Tonderu Torajirō")
男はつらいよ 翔んでる寅次郎
August 4, 1979 May 1980
24 Tora-san's Dream of Spring
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Haru no Yume")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎春の夢
December 28, 1979 June 1, 1980
25 Tora-san's Tropical Fever
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Haibisukasu no Hana")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎ハイビスカスの花
August 2, 1980 December 26, 1980
26 Foster Daddy, Tora!
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Kamome Uta")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎かもめ歌
December 28, 1980
27 Tora-san's Love in Osaka
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Naniwa no Koi no Torajirō")
男はつらいよ 浪花の恋の寅次郎
August 8, 1981 January 1, 1982
28 Tora-san's Promise
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Kamifūsen")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎紙風船
December 29, 1981 June 1982
29 Hearts and Flowers for Tora-san
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Ajisai no Koi")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎あじさいの恋
August 7, 1982 December 24, 1982
30 Tora-san, the Expert
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Hana mo Arashi mo Torajirō")
男はつらいよ 花も嵐も寅次郎
December 28, 1982
31 Tora-san's Song of Love
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Tabi to Onna to Torajirō")
男はつらいよ 旅と女と寅次郎
August 6, 1983 January 20, 1984
32 Tora-san Goes Religious?
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Kuchibue o Fuku Torajirō")
男はつらいよ 口笛を吹く寅次郎
December 28, 1983 June 29, 1984
33 Marriage Counselor Tora-san
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Yogiri ni Musebu Torajirō")
男はつらいよ 夜霧にむせぶ寅次郎
August 4, 1984 December 21, 1984
34 Tora-san's Forbidden Love
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Shinjitsu Ichiro")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎真実一路
December 28, 1984 May 1985
35 Tora-san, the Go-Between
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Ren'aijuku")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎恋愛塾
August 3, 1985
36 Tora-san's Island Encounter
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Shibamata yori Ai o Komete")
男はつらいよ 柴又より愛をこめて
December 28, 1985
37 Tora-san's Bluebird Fantasy
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Shiawase no Aoi Tori")
男はつらいよ 幸福の青い鳥
December 20, 1986 June 1987
38 Tora-san Goes North
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Shiretoko Bojō")
男はつらいよ 知床慕情
August 15, 1987 January 11, 1990
39 Tora-san Plays Daddy
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Monogatari")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎物語
December 26, 1987
40 Tora-san's Salad-Day Memorial
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Sarada Kinenbi")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎サラダ記念日
December 24, 1988
41 Tora-san Goes to Vienna
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Kokoro no Tabiji")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎心の旅路
August 5, 1989 November 1989
42 Tora-san, My Uncle
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Boku no Ojisan")
男はつらいよ ぼくの伯父さん
December 27, 1989 January 11, 1990
43 Tora-san Takes a Vacation
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō no Kyūjitsu")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎の休日
December 22, 1990
44 Tora-san Confesses
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō no Kokuhaku")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎の告白
December 21, 1991 March 1992
45 Tora-san Makes Excuses
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō no Seishun")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎の青春
December 26, 1992
46 Tora-san's Matchmaker
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō no Endan")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎の縁談
December 25, 1993
47 Tora-san's Easy Advice
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Haikei, Kuruma Torajirō-sama")
男はつらいよ 拝啓車寅次郎様
December 23, 1994
48 Tora-san to the Rescue
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Kurenai no Hana")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎紅の花
December 23, 1995
49 Tora-san's Tropical Fever Special Edition
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Haibisukasu no Hana Tokubetsuhen")
男はつらいよ 寅次郎ハイビスカスの花 特別篇
November 22, 1997
50 Tora-san, Wish You Were Here
("Otoko wa Tsurai yo 50: Okaeri, Torasan")
男はつらいよ50 おかえり、寅さん
December 27, 2019

Madonnas edit

Each movie had a female guest star with whom Tora-san would usually fall head over heels (or, in the later movies, play a surrogate father figure). These characters were referred to as "Madonnas". Each Madonna was played by an ingenue who was popular at the time of the movie's release.

Movie No. Actress Role
1 Sachiko Mitsumoto Fuyuko, the Taishaku-ten Priest's daughter
2 Orie Sato Natsuko Tsubouchi, the English teacher's daughter
3 Michiyo Aratama O-Shizu, the ryokan kamisan
4 Komaki Kurihara Haruko Usami, the kindergarten teacher
5 Aiko Nagayama Setsuko, the fried tofu shopkeeper's daughter
6 Ayako Wakao Yuko Akashi, the niece of Tsune's cousin's husband
7 Rumi Sakakibara Hanako Ota, the disabled school assistant from Aomori
8 Junko Ikeuchi Takako Rokuhara, the coffee shop owner
9 Sayuri Yoshinaga Utako, the tourist / writer's daughter
10 Kaoru Yachigusa Chiyo, the barber
11 Ruriko Asaoka Lily, the lounge singer
12 Keiko Kishi Ritsuko, the artist
13 Sayuri Yoshinaga Utako, the writer's daughter
14 Yukiyo Toake Kyoko, the nurse
15 Ruriko Asaoka Lily, the lounge singer
16 Fumie Kashiyama Reiko, the grad student / instructor of archeology
17 Kiwako Taichi Botan, the geisha
18 Machiko Kyō Aya Yagyu, Mitsuo's teacher's mother
19 Kyōko Maya Mariko, the lordship's daughter in law
20 Shiho Fujimura Fujiko, the electrician's sister
21 Nana Kinomi Nanako, the SKD revue dancer
22 Reiko Ohara Sanae, the divorcee
23 Kaori Momoi Hitomi, the runaway bride
24 Kyōko Kagawa Keiko, the English teacher's mother
25 Ruriko Asaoka Lily, the lounge singer
26 Ran Ito Sumire, the school dropout
27 Keiko Matsuzaka Fumi, the Osaka geisha
28 Mikiko Otonashi Mitsue, the tekiya's widow
29 Ayumi Ishida Kagari, the maid
30 Yūko Tanaka Keiko Ogawa, the tourist / department store worker
31 Harumi Miyako Harumi Kyo, the enka singer
32 Keiko Takeshita Tomoko, the Rendai-ji priest's daughter
33 Rie Nakahara Fuuko, the hairdresser
34 Reiko Ohara Fujiko, the missing salaryman's wife
35 Kanako Higuchi Wakana Egami, the Catholic lady's granddaughter
36 Komaki Kurihara Machiko, the junior high school teacher
37 Etsuko Shihomi Miho, the Kabuki actor's daughter
38 Keiko Takeshita Rinko, the veterinarian's daughter
39 Kumiko Akiyoshi Takako Takai
40 Yoshiko Mita Machiko, the doctor
41 Keiko Takeshita Kumiko, the tourguide
42 Kumiko Goto/
Fumi Dan
Izumi Oikawa, Mitsuo's girlfriend; Izumi's mother
43 Kumiko Goto/
Mari Natsuki
Oikawa Izumi, Mitsuo's girlfriend
44 Kumiko Goto/
Hideko Yoshida
Oikawa Izumi, Mitsuo's girlfriend
45 Kumiko Goto/
Jun Fubuki
Oikawa Izumi, Mitsuo's girlfriend
46 Keiko Matsuzaka Sakaide Yoko
47 Rino Katase Miya Noriko, the photographer
48 Ruriko Asaoka Lily, the lounge singer
49 Ruriko Asaoka Lily, the lounge singer

References edit

  • "Yoji Yamada's Films at IMDb". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-05-25.

Further reading edit

  • "Tora-san" in Schilling, Mark. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. New York: Weatherhill, 1997, pp. 268–272. ISBN 978-0-8348-0380-0.