Cinema on the planet

003 – Mariko Tsujimoto

Short trip to Takada



そんなある日、遅まきながら気がついた。映画を観るために旅に出れば、旅も映画も楽しめて一石二鳥では?!  2月の週末、東京駅から北陸新幹線に乗った。

In the movie-metropolis Tokyo, film festivals and special screenings are held every week as if every day is a special day. Therefore, even though I wish to go on a trip, I often stay inside of Yamanote-line, the center of Tokyo, for months.

One day, I finally realized. If I go on a trip to see a movie, I can fulfill my desire to go on a trip and watch a movie at the same time! On the weekend in February, I got on Hokuriku-bullet train from Tokyo station, to the north.



I transferred at Joetsu-Myoko Station to the local line with a cute name, Echigo-Tokimeki line. I bought a paper-printed train ticket first time in a while, then I stepped out to the platform…


目の前にどーんと冬山! のんびりしたスピードの2両編成の電車で2駅。

There’s snow covered mountains right in front of my eyes! The ride was on two-car train in relaxed speed, only 2 stations away.



Arrived at Takada Station in Joetsu City, Niigata prefecture. The station is a hybrid of “castle town” and “Tokyo Station building” designs.



Though I was afraid of the words like “February” and “Niigata”, only one more layer was added on my regular wardrobe in Tokyo. I was relieved as it was a nice day. Many snow lanterns on the street.



It was only 10 minutes walk from station. I imagined snow would be a major obstacle to walk, but it was somewhat a letdown. Street was empty and lonely, so I took a photo of a cat in front of a pharmacy. Walk straight from station and turn at a corner.


到着! 日本最古級の映画館、高田世界館。エジプシャン・シアターもびっくりのSince1911 !

Arrived! The oldest movie theater in Japan, Takada Sekaikan (means “Takada World Theater”), open since 1911, even older than the Egyptian Theatre.


とっておきの映画がかかる時に行こうと決めていた、とっておきの映画がかかった! 濱口竜介監督『ハッピーアワー』3部構成、休憩含め6時間も高田世界館の中にいられる!

I determined to come here when special movie is screened, and the time has come! Happy Hour directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, all its 3 parts will be played so I can stay in this theater for over 6 hours including intermissions!



Go inside. Due to my habit of buying ticket early in Tokyo, I got there 1 hour before the screening time, and noticed that I was the 3rd person to be there. Woops, too early.


上映までの時間、商店街をぶらぶら。亀田冷菓店、気になる。アイスクリーム屋? かき氷?

Until screening, I strolled around the arcade. Kameda frozen dessert… I wonder, ice cream or shaved ice?



Almost no other people was in sight, then I found a flyer for a tour of vacant retail spaces.



The arcade with snow cover is called Gangi, a well known in deep snow area.



Time was approaching, so I went back to Takada Sekaikan. I found a trace of “Takada Nikkatsu” letters on the front. Originally opened as a playhouse, Takada Sekaikan became a permanent movie theater. It survived through operation changes by different studios such as Toho, Shochiku, and Nikkatsu – then eventually closed its door. Later, Machinaka Movie Theater Restoration Committee was formed and approved as NPO, contributing reopen effort and has kept operation to this day.



The two-story western style wooden building was qualified as a registered tangible cultural property and heritage industrial modernization.



Screening room’s door is now open!



There are two big heaters near the entrance. It’s so warm…



Theater design is far from being gorgeous and worn out as expected, but heavy red velour and humbly placed curves have quaint beauty. The reason why many audience sit in the back, is simply to be close to the heaters. I learned my lesson later on…


特筆すべきは木組みの天井! 八角形は末広がりを意識してのデザインだろうか。直線と曲線が混じり和洋折衷の趣あり。

Notable detail is the ceiling with wooden framework! I wonder if octagon design is for lucky number 8 to increase success (traditional meaning). The combination of straight lines and curves seem to be a cross between Japanese and Western styles.


いつもの癖で3列目通路寄りに座ると、通路脇にヒーターがあった。さすが北国の気遣い! けれど古い木造建築ならではの肌寒さ、ヒーターでは暖まりきらず終始コートを毛布代わりにしながら観た。チケットはアメリカンレトロなデザイン。手書きの新聞でラインナップを観ると、東京ではミニシアターでかかりそうなタイトルばかり。

As a habit I sit in the end of third row, and found a heater on the aisle. That’s the kindness of snow country. But still very chilly, distinctive of the wooden architecture, so I used my coat as a blanket the whole time I was watching. Ticket is American retro style. I checked the hand-written flyer, the programming is similar to that of small arthouse theaters in Tokyo.



Exploration in lobby during second intermission. Strange mixture of arthouse theater and nostalgia.



A classic arcade game machine is used as a table!



This was my third time watching Happy Hour. Reunion with the characters resembled to running into old classmate by chance on a trip; forget about sightseeing and talk for hours at coffee shop, then notice it’s dark outside and say goodbye in a rush, wish for each other’s best of luck for rest of our lives. When I went outside, coming back from the story, Takada Sekaikan’s snow cover’s lights were on. Temperature has gone down, reminded me that I’m in north.



It was too late to go back to Tokyo. When I woke up next day, the sky was gray as if yesterday’s blue sky was a dream.



I walked to Takada park. The modest-sized Takada castle seemed to be very new, which I learned that it was rebuilt in 1995 after the original burned down. Because of that, it was like a plastic model more than a castle.



For someone not familiar with snow, fluffy snow in the park was more exciting than castle. Since Takada is famous with cherry blossom, spring might be the best season to visit.



I enjoyed watching snow protection. Rabbit seems very brave here.



Traditional Japanese restaurant “Ukiyo” is in the area surrounded by Izakaya and hostess bars. Opened in Edo period, it has more than 150 years of history thus could be felt too prestigious, but lunch is more accessible.



By the window, looking at the view.


蟹釜飯、炊きたて! 米どころ、美味しくないはずがない。隣席の上越マダムたちが映画の前売りを買うかどうか話しあっているのが聞こえてくる。高田世界館はミニシアターのラインナップだけれど、他にシネコンもあるのだろうか。

I had crab Kamameshi, the rice cooked in a pot with crab. This area is famous rice producing region, so of course it’s good! I hear local ladies’ conversation from next table, discussing whether or not buying advance tickets. Takada Sekaikan programs arthouse type of movies, so there may be multi-plex near by.



After I paid my bill, I looked behind my shoulder and found painting with many bodhidharma. I learned Takada was a shooting location for the movie Epitome (1953) directed by Kaneto Shindo, and this restaurant “Ukiyo” was also used. It was screened at Takada Sekaikan few years ago. If I could watch a movie shot in that location when I travel, that would be just fantastic.



Go straight to station, and say goodbye to Takada.


上越妙高駅で発見した小竹の笹だんごパン。米粉配合パンの中に、笹だんごが丸ごと入ってる! 小竹のパンは上越ご当地パンなのか、高田世界館でも売られてた。パンダのパッケージが可愛く、お土産にもぴったり。


This is the local specialty I found at Joetsu-Myoko station, called Kotake’s Sasadango bread. Inside of rice flour bread, the whole sasadango (mugwort rice cake with sweet bean inside) is in it! Kotake’s bread was also sold at Takada Sekaikan, so it must be a popular local bakery. Cute package with panda is perfect for a souvenir.

Takada is a cozy little castle town, easy to walk around. Watching a movie here, then move to Kanazawa for night out, might also be a good route. I’d like to revisit this town in different season, to watch a special movie again.




Takada Sekaikan

4-21 6cho-me Hon-cho Joetsu-shi Niigata

text & photo

Mariko Tsujimoto
Owner of Cinema Studio 28 Tokyo
I can’t believe “A Brighter Summer Day” will be played in theater this March!
Hope it’s not a dream!

Cinema Studio 28 Tokyo 主宰

english translation

Cinema Studio 28 Tokyo Los Angeles branch
Just watched Claire Denis “Beau Travail”, and can’t stop thinking about
Denis Lavant dancing…!

Cinema Studio 28 Tokyo Los Angeles支部