Eye On

Shinjuku Tiger


Shinjuku, Tokyo’s leading entertainment district. From the 1960s to the 1970s, Shinjuku was the epicenter of social movement. Now, an old man people call “Shinjuku Tiger” exists there. Wearing a tiger mask and gaudy clothing, he can be seen walking all over Shinjuku each day. In 1972, when Shinjuku Tiger was 24-years-old, he determined to live as a “tiger” until he dies. What happened to him in 1972? Through interviews with the staff at a newspaper distributor where he works; personnel from Tower Records which used him in posters for the 1998 grand opening of Tower Records Shinjuku as well as the store’s renewal in in 2012; and shopkeepers in the Golden Gai district among others, the film uncovers the true purpose hidden underneath the tiger mask, and the important role the town of Shinjuku has played.

A graduate of the University of Southern California film school, director Sato Yoshinori has directed two independent movies which have played throughout Japan (at self-run, alternative venue screenings) and abroad. This is his first feature documentary which looks to uncover the identity of a local, folk celebrity of sorts and in so doing also reveals the layers of history defining one of Japan’s most well-known towns. The man’s relationship with Shinjuku, and vice-versa, is perhaps more symbiotic than may appear on the surface as is always the case with such “colorful characters” who enliven many places around the world. Both are less lively in the absence of the other. Narrated by Best Actress Silver Bear-winning and Independent Spirit Award-nominated Terajima Shinobu, Shinjuku Tiger made its world premiere at the 2019 Osaka Asian Film Festival’s Indie Forum section. Read my impressions of the movie at this link.