Akira Kurosawa's final resting place in Anyoin Temple. Photo by Brett Homenick.
One of the places I'd wanted to visit in Japan for some time was Akira Kurosawa's grave in Kamakura. Kurosawa, of course, is the famed Toho director who brought such classics as Rashomon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954), and Ran (1985) to the big screen. He is the most famous film director Japan has ever produced.
Actor Shigeo Kato offers a gift to director Kurosawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Given that retired actor Shigeo Kato lives in the area, I phoned him up and set up a meeting. When I arrived in Kamakura, I asked him about going to Anyoin Temple to visit Kurosawa's grave. Kato-san knew exactly where to go, so off we went.
Shigeo Kato worked with Akira Kurosawa numerous times. He has a speaking role in Ikiru (1952) as a government bureaucrat, and he appears as a farmer in Seven Samurai (1954). He even appears in Kurosawa's final film, Madadayo (1993) as the stationmaster.
Shigeo Kato speaks with a visitor to the cemetery. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Along the way, Kato-san suggested that we purchase flowers to leave as a gift. I thought that was a great idea. We stopped at a local flower shop and each picked some up (which I dutifully paid for). We kept walking until we arrived at the temple.
Shigeo Kato at Akira Kurosawa's final resting place. Photo by Brett Homenick.
When we arrived at the temple's cemetery (which is in a slightly different location from the temple proper), we placed the flowers in the appropriate place. Then we each offered our prayers to the late director.
Interestingly, while Kato-san and I were there, we happened to be joined by another American movie fan who also wanted to see Kurosawa's grave. Even more interestingly, he recognized me from my various writings on Japanese movies. I introduced him to Kato-san, and we all took our requisite photos.
After visiting Kurosawa's grave, Kato-san and I went to a coffee shop for some refreshments. I asked him about his small role in Battle in Outer Space (1959) as one of the conductors on the doomed train that crashes when the Natal aliens lift up the bridge. As it turns out, Kato-san doesn't remember the film at all! Otherwise, we talked about Kato-san's favorite directors, among whom are Kurosawa, Ishiro Honda, Yasuki Chiba, and Shiro Moritani, and also about which Japanese directors and actors were famous in the U.S.
Thank you very much, Kato-san, for making the day one I'll never forget! (Thank you also for the birthday card!)