Ohayo (Good Morning), 1959

Ohayo is a clever, humorous, and lighthearted glimpse into contemporary Japanese life, as seen through the eyes of the Hayashi brothers: Minoru (Koji Shidara) and Isamu (Masahiko Shimazu). In a close knit suburban village of 1950’s Japan, there is only one television set in the neighborhood, and the children religiously make an after school pilgrimage, often at the expense of their English lessons, to catch their daily dose of sumo wrestling. Returning home, their dinner conversations inevitably turn to incessant pleas and temper tantrums for their parents to buy them a television. But their father (Chishu Ryu) is against buying one, believing that its presence in the Japanese home will spawn “100 million idiots.” When the boys are ordered by their father to remain silent about their tireless campaign, they vow not to speak to anyone. However, their protest is mistaken for an intentional snub when a neighbor, Mrs. Haraguchi (Haruko Sugimura), assumes that their silence is associated with an earlier misunderstanding with Mrs. Hayashi (Kuniko Miyake) regarding payment of club dues. Soon, news of Mrs. Haraguchi’s “pettiness” over personal grudges spreads through the village, and the neighbors collectively take turns to visit Mrs. Hayashi and return all their borrowed items. Meanwhile, things prove to be equally difficult at school, as Isamu’s signal for permission to talk is construed by his teacher as a request to go to the bathroom, and Minoru is punished for refusing to read a passage aloud in class. When Minoru’s teacher stops by the Hayashi home after school to inquire about the boys’ refusal to talk, Minoru and Isamu decide to run away to avoid being scolded.

Yasujiro Ozu takes a whimsical and comic, yet socially astute commentary on formality, etiquette, and consumerism in Ohayo. Through the children’s perspective, polite conversation is a meaningless exercise in civility. Yet, through the course of the film, speech becomes an indispensable means for conveying thought, profound emotion, and resolving misunderstandings: the confusion over the misplaced club dues; the children’s inability to ask for lunch money; the English teacher’s affection for Aunt Setsuko (Yoshiki Kuga). Inevitably, communication proves to be the most effective means of social interaction – the indispensable, universal key to all human relationships.

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