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Original Japanese poster
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Produced by Sojiro Motoki
Written by Shinobu Hashimoto
Akira Kurosawa
Hideo Oguni
Starring Takashi Shimura
Distributed by Toho
Release date(s) October 9 1952
Running time 143 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Ikiru (生きる "To Live"?) is a 1952 Japanese film co-written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film examines the struggles of a minor Tokyo bureaucrat and his final quest for meaning. The film stars Takashi Shimura as Kanji Watanabe.



Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) is a middle-aged man who has worked in the same monotonous bureaucratic position for thirty years. Furthermore, his relationship with his son has become strained, as his son and daughter-in-law seem to care mainly about Watanabe's pension and their future inheritance.

After learning he has stomach cancer and has less than a year to live, Watanabe attempts to come to terms with his impending death. He plans to tell his son about the cancer, but decides against it when his son does not pay attention to him. He then tries to find escape in the pleasures of Tokyo's nightlife, but after one night he realizes this is not the solution. In a night club, Watanabe requests a song from the piano player, and he sings "Gondola no Uta" with great sadness. His singing greatly affects those watching him. The song is a ballad encouraging young women to find love while they are still young and beautiful, for life is short.

The following day, a chance encounter with one of his former subordinates leads him to pursue a different solution. Watanabe is attracted to her joyous love of life and enthusiasm. He opens up to her by saying he just wants to live one day in such a carefree, youthful way like she does. She reveals that her happiness comes from her new job, making toys, which makes her feel like she is friends with all the children of Japan.

Inspired by her example, Watanabe dedicates his remaining time to accomplishing one worthwhile achievement before his life ends; through his persistent will, he is able to overcome the inertia of bureaucracy and turn a mosquito-infested cesspool into a children's playground.

The last third of the film takes place during Watanabe's wake, as his former co-workers try to figure out what caused such a dramatic change in his behavior. His transformation from listless bureaucrat to passionate advocate puzzled them. As the co-workers drink, they slowly realize that Watanabe must have known he was dying. They drunkenly vow to live their lives with the same dedication and passion as he did. They soon find themselves buried under the same meaningless busy-work they had vowed to fight.

An iconic scene from the film is from the last few moments in Watanabe's life, as he sits on the swing at the park he built. As the snow falls, we see Watanabe gazing lovingly over the playground, at peace with himself and the world. He again starts singing "Gondola no Uta".

Takashi Shimura (left) in Ikiru.



The film has an 100% positive rating based on 30 reviews from critics at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.[1]

Ikiru ranks 459th on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[2]

Roger Ebert included it in his Great Movies reviews in 1996 saying "Over the years I have seen Ikiru every five years or so, and each time it has moved me, and made me think. And the older I get, the less Watanabe seems like a pathetic old man, and the more he seems like every one of us."[3] In his Great Movies review of Seven Samurai Ebert called it Kurosawa's greatest film.[4]




  • Ikiru was remade as a television drama that debuted on TV Asahi on September 9, 2007, and it starred the famous kabuki actor Matsumoto Kōshirō IX. Set in 2007, some characters and plot lines were changed.


External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Ikiru is a 1952 film by famed director Akira Kurosawa. The title Ikiru translates to "to live" in English. The film examines the struggles of a dying Tokyo bureaucrat and his final quest for life's meaning.


Kanji Watanabe

  • I can't afford to hate anyone. I don't have that kind of time.
  • [singing] Life is brief, fall in love, maidens...Before the crimson bloom fades from your lips...Before the tides of passion cools within you...For those of you who know no tomorrow...Life is brief, fall in love, maidens...Before our raven tresses begin to fade...Before the flames in your hearts flicker and die...For those to whom today will never return...


  • You're not supposed to do anything there. Doing anything but nothing is radical.
  • The public worry about bribes and 40,000 cars, but that is just fart compared to this massive, colossal waste of time [in government]

See also

External links

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