SAKANE, Tazuko

坂根田鶴子 (7 December 1904, Kyoto - 2 September 1975)

  • credited as the first female film director in Japan
  • daughter of an inventor in the Kyoto textile industry
  • her father took her often to the cinema as a child
  • graduated from Nikkatsu Uzumaki girls school (1929)
  • attended Doshisha Women's School
  • at age 20, while still a student, she entered into an arranged marriage with a doctor, but it quickly ended in divorce
  • was introduced to Kenji Mizoguchi by her father
  • impressed by Sakane's sensible character, Mizoguchi hired her as a script girl
  • joined Nikkatsu Studio in 1929
  • worked under Mizoguchi variously as an assistant director, editor, continuity editor, screenplay editor, and art director
  • ". . . under [Mizoguchi's] patronage, Sakane became Japan's firt and only female film director in the prewar period. Denied work after the war (on the ground that she had to have a college degree to be a director), she was forced, at age forty-two, to return to Mizoguchi as a script girl." (Anderson, 621)
  • Sakane cut her hair short and wore masculine clothing in order to fit into her "male" occupation
  • In 1936, at the age of 32, Sakane was given the opportunity to direct her first film
  • Sakane was harassed for being a female director and returned to work for Mizoguchi as an assistant director for a time
  • 1940 joined Riken Studio
  • joined the Motion Picture Association of Manchuria
  • during the war, she went to Manchuria for three years where she made 10 documentary films about the conditions in wartorn Northeastern China. Only one of these films is known to be extant.
  • returning to Japan after the war, she tried without success to get back into directing films and had to make do with being Mizoguchi's script girl/editor
  • retired from Shochiku Kyoto aged 46


  • archival records at the Museum of Kyoto
  • Douban Profile (JP)
  • Anderson, J.L. "The Challenge of Japan's Internationalization: Organization and Culture." The Journal of Asian Studies. 44.3 (May 1985), 621-623.
  • Laird, Colleen A. "Some Rather Widespread Confusion Regarding the Beloved Tanaka Kinuyo." Sea Change: On the Rising Tide of Female Directors in Japan. 23 June 2010.
  • Ikegawa, Reiko and Julian Ward. "Japanese Women Filmmakers in World War II: A Study of Sakane Tazuko, Suzuki Noriko and Atsugi Taka." in Gordon Daniels and Hiroko Tomida, eds., Japanese Women Emerging from Subservience, 1868-1945 , Women in Japanese History Series, Volume 1, Global Oriental, Folkestone, Kent, 2005, pp. 258-277.
  • Ikegawa, Reiko. "Japanese Female Director Sakane Tazuko, the Manchurian Film Association, and Archival Materials for Japanese Colonial Films." Columbia University Academic Commons, 2012.
  • Ikegawa, Reiko. Teikoku no eiga kantoku Sakane Tazuko. Tokyo: Yoshikawa, 2011.
  • McDonald, Keiko I. "Daring To Be First: The Japanese Woman Director Tazuko Sakane (1904-1971)." Asian Cinema. 18.2 (2007): 138-146.
  • McDonald, Keiko I. Cinema East: A Critical Study of Major Japanese Films. Cranbury, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1983.
  • Nornes, Mark Abe. Japanese Documentary Film: The Meiji Era through Hiroshima. U of Minnesota P, 2003.
  • Ōnishi, E. Mizoguchi Kenji o aishita onna: jōryū eiga kantoku dai ichi-gō, Sakane Tazuko no shōgai. Sanʼichi Shōbō, 1993.
SAKANE, Tazuko — List page from Classic Sites