The encounter with Ozu's Tokyo Story had a particular significance in my life.
I was in the graduate school in the physics department of the University of Tokyo, and would pass by a rental video store as I went to give lectures at a preparatory school for the University entrance exams. I was teaching part time in that school to pay my fees. One day I went into the store and chanced upon Tokyo Story. At that time, I was quite influenced by Western culture, appreciating Tarkovsky and Visconti. Although I enjoyed going to the traditional Japanese drama theatre such as Kabuki and Noh, as far as films were concerned, I was not really expecting that something of such a magnitude as to shatter my soul into pieces would come out of the Japanese film genre. Kurosawa for me was too dramatic and explicit. So it was just with a whimsical twist that I took up Tokyo Story and brought it to the rental counter on that particular day.
The first time I saw it, I was under the impression that I had just experienced something quite new and profound, but I could not verbalize what my soul received. A few months passed, and I had a growing desire to see Tokyo Story again. I went into the rental video shop and checked it out. The second viewing was dynamite. I was particularly gripped by the Noriko character (played by the great Setsuko Hara). The last scenes shot in Onomichi (a seaside town in western Japan) seemed to depict a spiritual tranquility and beauty beyond description. I knew I had to go to Onomichi. One week after the second viewing, I took the Shinkansen train from Tokyo station and made my homage to the small town. Although many things had changed, I could still recognize some spots shown in the film. In particular, the boat quay was the same as in the film. (If you have seen the film, you would remember the poignant passage of scenes as morning dawns in the town of Onomichi after the old mother passed away). I spent two wonderful days wandering through the small streets in Onomichi. It was the time of the cherry blossoms, and the view from the Senkoji-park was beautiful beyond description. To this day. the trip to Onomichi inspired by Tokyo Story remains one of the most sentimental and memorable in my life.