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Tora-san, A Japanese Hero

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Otoko wa Tsurai yo (It’s Hard Being a Man) has the distinction of being the longest running film series in the history of international film. It is a series that became possible only through the meeting of two men: Yamada Yoji, the noted director, and Atsumi Kiyoshi, the actor. This essay is dedicated to Atsumi Kiyoshi, an exceptionally talented performer with unparalleled integrity, who passed away on August 4, 1996.1 In what follows, I explore the keys to the popularity of the Tora-san films and suggest pedagogical applications.