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The First Timers (2000) More at IMDbPro »Ichigensan (original title)


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Release Date:
29 January 2000 (Japan) See more »
User Reviews:
Brief background to Ichigensan See more (1 total) »


  (in credits order)

Directed by
Isao Morimoto 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Isao Morimoto 

Cinematography by
Peter Borosh (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Isao Morimoto 

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Ichigensan" - Japan (original title)
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Japan:122 min


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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful.
Brief background to Ichigensan, 10 July 2002
Author: Bradley Temperley from Canberra, Australia

I used to work as an MC at Side-On, a small theatre in Sydney that specialises in independent and short films. ( I was lucky enough to see Ichigensan before it was even released in Japan and discuss the film with the Director and the Cinematographer. Ichigensan had been shown at the Kyoto Film Festival and then at the Melbourne Film Festival in 1999. As the Cinematographer was a friend of Side-On, we managed to get the film before it returned to Japan.

Ichigensan is the story of a Swiss student (Edward Atterton, English) studying Japanese literature in Japan. As a gaijin (foreigner) he encounters a mixture of fascination and confusion, as everyone assumes that he is American, can speak English and can't speak Japanese. When he holidays in Hokkaido the locals everywhere assume that he is lost (why else would he be there?) and try to help him to the nearest railway station.

In fact, his Japanese reading, writing and speaking are excellent. I confirmed this with several Japanese friends who were in the audience.

To assist with his studies he takes up an offer to read books for a blind woman. She is annoyed at the selection of braille books available; everything from mathematics to law. She asks him to read somewhat more interesting material. Over the many months and many volumes their relationship changes, develops and follows a narrative set in part by the books he is asked to read.

To some viewers it felt as though the Director was trying very hard to convince you that the gaijin was almost Japanese. For western viewers this might seem a bit heavy-handed to see scene after scene of proof that the gaijin can speak, write and can eat noodles like a local? The Director explained that the film was intended for domestic release only and that this approach was necessary for Japanese audiences. He wanted audiences to stop seeing the male character as in any way foreign so that the rest of the story could progress. He needed the audience to be sympathetic towards the character for the right reasons; respect as a student rather than sympathy for someone far from home.

Shot in Kyoto, the film shows the beauty of the old parts of the city, as well as the ugly side of sharing a flat with other students. :) The Cinematographer was Peter Borosh, an Australian and the only non-Japanese speaker on the crew.

I rated Ichigensan as 8. It is an off-beat romance and subtle comedy that also looks at what is meant by nationality.

Trivia: This was the last film by the female lead before retiring to have a family.

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