Legendary event at Hiroshima cafe will be brought to the screen

by Yoko Nitta, Staff Writer

The legend that music playing at a cafe in Hiroshima on the second New Year’s Eve after the end of World War II reportedly inspired courage in the city’s residents is being brought to the screen. Ippei Kobayashi, 61, a film producer and director from Kanagawa Prefecture whose grandfather experienced the atomic bombing, was moved by the story and so decided to base a movie on this event, which has been handed down in Hiroshima over the years. Mr. Kobayashi plans to premiere his film by August 6 of next year, the day the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

The setting of the story is snowy Enkobashi-cho, in the heart of Hiroshima, on New Year’s Eve. When records of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 were played on the gramophone at a local cafe, Cafe Musica, a large crowd gathered to listen. Some who were unable to squeeze into the building apparently listened to “Ode to Joy” from outside by pressing their ears against the frosty windowpanes and were moved to tears. The seven records played at the caf? that day were obtained by the late Yoshio Yanagawa, the owner of Cafe Musica, who traded rice for them on the black market.

Mr. Kobayashi visited Hiroshima this past August to talk about the A-bomb film “Hiroshima,” for which his late father had assisted the director. At the time, he happened to read a children’s book called “Ode to Joy” which was based on the legendary event at Cafe Musica.

In September, Mr. Kobayashi returned to Hiroshima for the showing of “Hiroshima” and went to Cafe Musica, now located in the Nishikaniya district and run by Tadataka, 65, Yoshio’s oldest son. Mr. Kobayashi spent two days there and, moved by the music that helped rouse the reconstruction efforts of Hiroshima and by Tadataka, who continues to play the seven records of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 every New Year’s Eve, he decided to make a movie about the event.

“I hope my film will convey the passion of Mr. Yanagawa and the vitality of Hiroshima citizens,” said Mr. Kobayashi. “Despite their struggles to survive, with little room to enjoy music, they felt a greater courage to live when they heard those records.” To make his movie, he will take advantage of his experience as a filmmaker working on such projects as “Flight of the Great Purple Emperor” and “The Story of the Black Current: A Gift from the Sea” for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.

The legendary event at Cafe Musica will be brought to life for the screen based on interviews with those familiar with the event as well as illustrations from the children’s book “Ode to Joy.” In line with the amount of music contained in the seven records, Mr. Kobayashi intends to produce a film that runs about 70 minutes. He is currently working on preparations to make the movie as well as raising funds for the project.

Tadataka Yanagawa, expressing keen appreciation for Mr. Kobayashi’s plan, said, “Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 has been played at Cafe Musica every New Year’s Eve since the end of World War II and continues to inspire the people of Hiroshima. I am eager to support Mr. Kobayashi’s quest to pass on this history by filming it for the next generation.”

(Originally published on November 17, 2008)