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HANAKO
Introduction Production notes Cast Crew
Story Special Notes Credit  
WMPREAL

Japan is no stranger to crazes, or "booms" as they are called here. Twenty years ago, when a wave of stories of ghost-sightings swept through the nation's school yards, one tale in particular, "Hanako, the ghost in the toilet" almost achieved the status of a national phenomena. For every child who cannot name the prime minister there are ten who have a "Hanako" story to tell. The stories, of course, are many and varied but every schoolchild in Japan, at one time or another, has stood in dread and anticipation as he or she ventured into the school toilet alone. Many of the strange and unexplained "Hanako" sightings were gathered together into one of 1993's biggest selling books. The subsequent series became a best-seller and the "Hanako boom" was born. The mass media couldn't give, nor get, enough of "Hanako, the ghost in the toilet" and the story was filmed in 1995. This first film depicted Hanako as a protective deity, in direct contrast with this current version's evil spirit which lures children through the door, past the portal and into the dark depths of torment from which there is no return.

After watching this chilling journey into the depths of horror, it will be a brave viewer who dares to peer into a night time mirror, much less a lonely school toilet. A curiosity towards things frightening is not a monopoly of early teens. Adults, too, will shiver in fright as the film draws them ever deeper into the supernatural maw.

Production notes

qMarch 25. Cloudyr
A week before filming began, the entire cast and crew gathered together at a shrine to pray for a safe and successful shoot. The cast were encouraged to exorcise any demons they may have had before getting down to the serious business of filming an actual Ouija board sequence. The lead actress, Ai Maeda, looked very serious during the exorcism and everyone hoped and prayed that no ill omen would mar the filming.

qApril 3. Rainr
The second day of shooting. Everything going well. The crew all met in Shinjuku at 6:30 that morning for a one and a half hour bus ride to a school in Sano city, Tochigi Pref. Ai Maeda was cheerful when she arrived and Maya Hamaoka joined the shoot today. The two girls are good friends off the set so it didn't take long for their cheerfulness to infect the entire crew. It was like a comedy show! Once the cameras started rolling, they and the crew became quite serious as the tension built. With film in the can, director Tsutsumi gave the OK to let their hair down. With the addition of Ayako, who joined the shoot later in the afternoon, the three of them became even noisier.

qApril 10. Clearr
A week has passed since shooting began and the crew are averaging three to four hours sleep at a time. Nevertheless, all are in a cheerful and cooperative mood. Mysterious things started to happen from this day. Lights suddenly went out, monitors stopped working and no one could turn off the water supply which continued to gush out. filming was stopped frequently because of mishaps and it wasn't until later that they found out the talisman had gone missing. The crew and cast were petrified, but fortunately nothing serious happened, probably because they were all protected by the exorcism carried out a week before filming began. The next three days were consumed shooting the climax of the film. Here, the paranormal teacher, Reiko Takashima, is pitted against the evil spirit. A gigantic fan, three meters in diameter, was brought in and the noise it made echoed through the long night. Shooting continued till dawn with another two more days of this chaotic struggle to finish.

qApril 19. Clearr
Yuka Nomura joined for her two-day stint of filming. She had worked with the other three girls (Ai, Maya, Ayako) before, so shooting was carried out in a cheerful mood. The four girls enjoyed chatting together during the lunch break, too. Strange how when they face the camera they are such professionals, but once the scene is over they're just like any other gang of ordinary, boisterous teenage girls.

qApril 29. Clearr
After three weeks of intensive location shooting the film was in the can. Despite a few minor glitches everything had gone very well and the crew in particular looked pleased with themselves. At 10 p.m. director Tsutsumi okayed the last shot, the entire cast and crew applauded the three teenage heroines as Tsutsumi walked over and handed them bouquets. Thanks girls, you've brought cheerfulness to the set and you've never once complained about the grueling schedule or the tense atmosphere. Good work everyone!

Cast

Excellent performances by young teenage actresses The heroines of this junior high school hit are Ai Maeda, Maya Asaoka, Ayako Omura and Yuka Nomura, whose well-seasoned performances indicate they all have brilliant futures awaiting them.

Ai Maeda as Satomi Kurahashi
Born Oct. 4, 1983, in the Japanese capital of Tokyo. At the age of eleven Maeda began appearing in commercials, variety shows and television dramas.
Her boyish and friendly character, combined with a natural acting ability, has made Maeda a big hit with under twenty audiences. This is Maeda's second feature film and it ably demonstrates the strides this young actress has made over the years.

Maya Hamaoka as Kanae Sawaguchi
Born May 16, 1983, Tokyo. Hamaoka made her debut in TV soaps at the age of eight. Her varied talents have been demonstrated on the small screen, in TV commercials and in a wildly popular photo-book which featured this emerging and very pretty young character actress.

Ayako Omura as Etsuko Mamiya
Born Dec. 19, 1984, Tokyo. Omura made her debut in a TV commercial back in 1994. Immediately picked as an up-and-coming talent, she went on to act in several well-received dramas. This is Omura's third screen performance and her ability to carry the part of a young girl with psychic powers is nothing less than brilliant.

Yuka Nomura as Miyuki Anjo
Born March 20, 1984, Kanagawa Pref. Nomura began modeling at the age of three and is currently a favorite in teen magazines where she is regarded as a fashion leader of her generation. Nomura's early popularity led to the creation of the expression "chidol", a word designed to include the concepts of "child" and "idol." Nomura is much in demand, both on TV and the stage.

Hideyuki Kasahara as Kosuke Kashiwagi
Born April 29, 1983, Tokyo. Kasahara burst onto the scene in a very popular 1996 joint Sino-Japanese TV drama "Daichi no Ko". This is Kasahara's fourth movie and he is one of the most promising of the young Japanese male leads.

Hiroshi Nagano (V6) as Mr. Yabe, Class Teacher
Born Oct. 9, 1972, Kanagawa Pref. Nagano made his debut in a famous TBS schoolroom drama in 1988. After a string of successful TV and stage productions, Nagano made his debut as a vocalist for the band V6, in 1995. The band have enjoyed great popularity, particularly among junior and senior high school students, and have scored a number of national hit records. Veteran Nagano has also been well-received as the lead in the new Ultraman TV series.

Reiko Takashima as Reiko Kashima, Teacher
Born July 25, 1964, Kanagawa Pref. Takashima made her acting debut in a popular 1989 samurai series and her screen debut in 1993. In much demand on the local drama circuit, Takashima has been well-received by both male and female audiences. This is her first chance to play the role of a school teacher.

Crew

Realization of a most frightening combination
Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi is noted for his video clips and concerts of famous singers and groups such as Fumiya Fujii, V6 and Nanase Aikawa. He was also the lead director of a TV drama where the audience rating exceeded twenty percent. Tsutsumi is famous for his superb sense of imagery and his unconventional editing which provides superlative suspense. The screenwriter, Hiroshi Takahashi, is well-known in the business as one who continually 'delivers the goods.' The superb combination of this team has resulted in a fine film chockfull of para-psychological terror.

Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Born 1955, Aichi Pref. Tsutsumi is a multi-talented image creator, who has directed films, TV dramas, variety shows, information programs, commercial spots, music videos, concert performances and stage shows - when he's not writing novels! Tsutsumi made his cinematic debut in 1988. Since then he has made many films including the 1991 "Homeless", with Yoko Ono in the lead. His most recent movie is a detective story "Kindaichi Shonen" released during the 1998 end of year holidays.

Screenwriter, Hiroshi Takahashi
Born 1959, Chiba Pref. Takahashi made his screenwriting debut in 1990. With a focus on horror films, Takahashi has been praised for his skillful adoption of true stories into his work. After his record-making hit "The Ring", Takahashi is now widely recognized as one of the leading writers of the new wave of horror on TV and in the movies.

Theme Song "Tomorrow", by aiko
The theme song, "Ashita", meaning tomorrow, is released by Pony Canyon as aiko's debut song. aiko (who always spells her name in the lower case) has won first prizes in many contests and she has three regular programs on radio in Osaka. The theme song is a dance tune made by arranging progressive elements.

Story

The merry music of a brass band marks the entrance ceremony for freshmen at the Midoridai Junior High school. Satomi Kurahashi, a new student at Midoridai, takes her seat with all the hope of a freshman. Her friends, Kanae Sawaguchi and Kosuke Kashiwagi, have also been assigned to the same class. Satomi's parents, Takeo and Eiko, learn that Mr. Asaoka is in charge of the junior year. All three look back to an incident that took place eleven years ago in the old school building. Satomi had a sister, Kaori, who was a student at Midoridai at that time. But Kaori suddenly disappeared and in spite of an intensive investigation, no trace was ever found of her. Rumors abounded - she'd been kidnapped or spirited away by unknown malevolence. As the first day of school draws to a close, the friends are walking in the school grounds when they come across an old shrine at the back of the school. It is the same shrine Satomi noticed in a photo of Kaori which was taken just before her disappearance. As Satomi stares at the rusty lock on the shrine she hears a voice whispering her name. After that many strange incidents begin to occur. Satomi, Kanae, and their teacher, Mr. Yabe, all collapse after an encounter through a mirror in the upstairs' toilet. Before long the school yard rings with stories of "Hanako, the ghost in the toilet." As Satomi investigates Kaori's disappearance by looking through old school records, she can't help but note the name Reiko Kashima keeps reappearing throughout the narrative.
One of Satomi's friends, Etsuko, suggests to Satomi and Kanae that they consult the Ouija board. Wary at first, Satomi's curiosity finally wins over and they begin trying to contact the spirit world.
Terror strikes the girls when a spirit does indeed reply. Kanae collapses to the floor, her eyes rolling back in her head. The doors to the shrine slowly creak open and strange noises come from overhead. The wave of horrific experiences continue to mount as the evil which had lain dormant for eleven years returns with a chilling fury that will change their lives forever.

Special Notes

Kokkuri-san (Ouija board)
The Japanese "Kokkuri-san" is very similar to the western "Ouija board." It's worth noting that twenty years ago a "Ouija boom" swept Japanese schools and children across the land eagerly asked questions about their futures. The craze continued unabated until adults decided that too many children had been adversely affected, and the practice of holding "Kokkuri-san" at school was outlawed.

Hanako, the ghost in the toilet
Not too many years ago Japanese school toilets were foul pits in the ground, and it didn't take too much imagination to assign them a dark, evil, spiritual cast. A "ghost in the toilet" is as familiar to a generation of Japanese as a "haunted house" is to their western counterparts.

Credit

Crew:

Director: Yukihiko TSUTSUMI
Producer: Akio NANJO, Toshiya NOMURA, Norio WATANABE
Executive Producer: Man ITO
Associate Producer: Katsunori ARAI
Screenplay: Hiroshi TAKAHASHI
Music: Akira MITAKE
Theme Song: TOMORROW performed by "aiko", Pony Canyon
Cinematographer: Satoru KARASAWA
Lighting: Mitsuhiro ENDO
Sound: Munekazu INOUE
Art Designer: Takao INAGAKI
Editor: Masahiro OHNAGA
Chief Assistant Director: Manabu ASOU

Cast:

  • Ai MAEDA as Satomi Kurahashi
  • Maya HAMAOKA as Kanae Sawaguchi
  • Ayako OHMURA as Etsuko Mamiya
  • Yuka NOMURA as Miyuki Anjo
  • SARUGANSEKI as Teachers
  • Hideyuki KASAHARA as Kosuke Kashiwagi
  • Shinichi OGISHIMA as Asaoka Hiroshi
  • NAGANO (V6) as Yabe
  • Reiko TAKASHIMA as Reiko Kashima

Based on the best selling novel "Toire no HANAKO-SAN"

Toei, Pony Canyon and Arcadia Pictures Present A Times In Production

(C)PONYCANYON