Gama no Abura /Toad's Oil (2009)
Koji Yakusho ... Takuro Yazawa
Satomi Kobayashi .. Terumi Yazawa & Oteru
Eita ... Takuya Yazawa
Kaoru Yachigusa ... Tiyo Arai
Toru Masuoka ... Koutaro
Fumi Nikaidﾃｴ ... Hikari Horie
Junichi Sawayashiki ... Saburo Akiba
Ryo Iwamatsu ... A policeman (Kita-ibaragi)
Takanori Hamachika ... A policeman (Tokyo)
Yuya Takagawa ... A gardener
Tokio Emoto ... Young man (Shibuya)
Hajime Inoue ... A crematory man
Kenji Kawahara ... A policeman (Fukusima)
Directed by Koji Yakusho
Original idea:Koji Yakush0
Companies:Phantom Film, Pyramid Film
Release date: June 6, 2009
Created on June 20, 2008
Updated on July 10, 2010
Tokyograph (June 19, 2008): Koji Yakusho becomes a director
Veteran actor Koji Yakusho is directing and starring in a new film titled "Gama no Abura." The movie, which has been shooting for the
past month, marks Yakusho's first time in the director's chair. He was also the one who came up with the original plan for the film
roughly two years ago.
The story is a human drama revolving around a day trader (Yakusho), his wife, his son who was injured in an accident, and his son's
lover. Yakusho himself was in charge of appointing the cast and crew, and he chose Eita to take on the role of the son, while Satomi
Kobayashi plays the wife. Also appearing are K-1 fighter Junichi Sawayashiki and child model Fumi Nikaido, who will be making her big
screen debut with this picture.
Yakusho plans to wrap up filming by the end of this month. The movie already attracted some interest from buyers at the Cannes film
market this year. Producers are aiming to have the completed work make its premiere at next year's Cannes.
July 10, 2010
"Toad's Oil will be shown during the 9th Annual Asian Film Festival of Dallas (July 23-29) on July 25.
The following review is quite heartwarming.
The dull blade is the work of the gods!
Actor Koji Yakusho's directorial debut, TOAD's OIL is a delicate portrait of an extended family
handling of loss and grief. Yakusho successfully balances whimsy, humor and powerful emotional
drama in such a way that it never feels overly-sentimental or melodramatic.
Day trader Takuro Yazawa (Yakusho, who also co-wrote the story) is surrounded by wealth and
grounded in his daily, near-maniacal wins and losses (his favorite response how me the money! is
usually followed by a round of pellet-gun fire). But his time spent amassing a wonderful life has left
him uncertain how to deal with death. When teenage son Takuya (Eita) is struck by a car and ends up
in the hospital, Takuro sets off on an emotional and spiritual journey with Takuya's childhood friend
Akiba (Junichi Sawayashiki), while simultaneously carrying on an awkward series of long-distance
conversations with Takuya's girlfriend Hikari (Fumi Nikaido), who doesn yet know of Takuya's
Yakusho is exhilarating on screen, and leads a strong cast of seasoned actors with a few impressive
newcomers; Sawayashiki is a former champion K-1 fighter who had never acted before, yet he brings a
suitably solemn presence to the screen as Akiba.
The film's title comes from Takuro's childhood memory of a husband and wife team of toad's oil
salesmen; the man makes a wildly boisterous presentation for a healing salve while the woman sits
nearby, the picture of beauty and calm. Young Takuro is enthralled, though mostly by the woman. In
the present, Takuro and Akiba encounter the pair again. Neither their age nor their sales pitch have
changed. Yakusho makes such moments of fantasy feel perfectly reasonable.
TOAD's OIL should not be missed."
Here is the timetable of the 10th Nippon Connection. "Gama no Abura" is due to be shown
twice during the Festival; on April 16th and 17th.
"Toad's Oil" will be shown during the 10th Nippon Connection, Japan Film Festival from April 14 - 18
at Frankfurt, Germany.
February 11, 2010
"Toad's Oil was shown during the 39th International Film Festival Rotteredam for "Bright Future".
Twitch film net review:
Koji Yakusho is arguably one of the best actors of his generation, and now, with Toad's Oil, he's
decided he wants to direct. The man has acted in some of Japan's greatest films, with some of its finest
filmmakers. So how does he stack up in his behind-the-camera debut?
Giving himself the lead role, but not in a way that comes off as remotely vain, Yakusho--who has
brooded with the best of them in the past--opts to make a heartwarming comedy. He plays Takuro
Yazawa, a goofy millionaire who's been able to avoid ever having a real job by making his fortune via
online stock trading. He lives in a Western-style mansion with his wife and son, Takuya, where they
await a visit from Takuya's childhood friend, Akiba. Things start to fall apart for the family when
Takuya is hit by a car and falls into a coma on his way to retrieve Akiba from reform school.
With no grasp of the situation's severity, Takuro continues about his daily life without worrying too
much about his son. He even plays along when Takuya's girlfriend mistakes his voice to be her
boyfriend's on the phone. While he means no harm, Takuro's behaviour is certainly a little alarming,
and more than a little immature. Thankfully, the makeshift relationship never turns icky. This just isn't
that kind of movie--it doesn't have a sinister bone in its body.
When things quickly go from bad to worse for Takuro's family, he embarks on a mini spiritual journey
by way of caravan. The path of the film, from here on out, is a very whimsical and humorous one, even
delving into the fantastical when Takuro takes on a CGI bear in the forest and stumbles upon a
travelling couple who sell Toad's Oil. The oil itself is sort of the Japanese equivalent of snake oil: an
old wives' tale product peddled by shiesty salemen that may or may not actually work. In this case the
salesman and his wife appear to be vaguely mystical--not aging a day since Takuro first saw them as a
child. He finds their presence to be somewhat of a life affirmation, and (naturally) returns to turn over
a new leaf, hoping that it's never too late to do just that. The whole arc, aside from a few crazy
incidents including the aforementioned bear one, is predictable. That doesn't make it any less
So yes, ultimately, the movie is a delightful and poignant experience even if it never quite transcends
that. Yakusho, who helped devise the film's story, had also recorded an intro specifically for the
Vancouver festival. To paraphrase, he said he hoped the audience would be able to relate to the themes
of love, loss, and remembering those we care about. In that regard, he succeeds completely. With his
confident camera skills and surplus of heart, humour, and mischief, Yakusho should have no trouble
flourishing in this new career path. Not to mention, he's got access to one of Japan's greatest thespians
whenever he needs it, and that will always make his movies worth watching.
Review by Teresa Nieman
The program note for "Toad's Oil" on the Pusan International Film Festival website is worth reading!
Yakusho Koji, a popular Japanese actor who has worked with directors such as Imamura Shohei, Suo
Masayuki, and Kurosawa Kiyoshi, is the director and an actor in this film. Kojiﾂｨs debut film brings a
fantastic, comical, and somehow warm atmosphere to the screen. This film shows us the mysterious
and strange world of Yahkusho (imagine Imamura Shoheiﾂｨs film without the eroticism). Confused
and shaken by an unconscious son who had a sudden car accident, Taguro (Takuro) answers his
sonﾂｨs phone call from the sonﾂｨs girlfriend and pretends he is his son. Afterward, he has strange
experience of meeting a toadﾂｨs oil salesman whom he met when he was young. By casting experienced
actors and new faces in the right places and meticulously portraying in every detail, this film proves
how diligentely and truthfully it was made. Impressive music played by ancient musical instruments
flowing all through the film is also notable. When it comes to understaing of the meaning of Taguroﾂｨs
(Takuro's) line, �ｾA person dies twice,�｣ will bring deep emotional sensation and tears. (Shion YANG)
"Gama no Abura / Toad's Oil" DVD will be on sale on November 26, 2009.
"Gama no Abura" will be shown during the Pusan International Film Festival (A window on Asian
Cinema) on October 10th and 13th. Koji Yakusho's official site announces that Koji is due to greet the
audience when the film is shown.
After screening of "Gama no Abura" at the Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto J-Film POW-
Wow gave an excellent review on "Gama no Abura" .
I'm sure that Koji Yakusho will be delighted to read this review!
Koji Yakusho is one of Japan's best known actors, having performed in films as diverse as Juzo
Itami's "Tampopo," Masayuki Suo's international megahit "Shall We Dance?," Shohei Imamura's
Palme d'Or-winning "The Eel" and Alejandro Gonzalez Inrritu's "Babel." In 2009, he sat in the
director's chair for the first time to make the fascinatingly unique "Toad's Oil," which I was lucky
enough to catch at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.
Yakusho stars as Takuro Yazawa, a lively man who makes his living as a day trader, constantly
checking his rows of computer screens to keep himself updated on the millions of yen he can gain or
lose within a day. He lives in a giant, mostly empty mansion with his wife Erumi (Satomi Kobayashi)
and son Takuya (Eita), who has his heart set on becoming an astronaut. The family is joined by Saburo
Akiba, a gentle-natured young man who comes to live with them after leaving a juvenile correction
facility. Their peaceful lives are suddenly disrupted when Takuya is hit by a car and goes into a coma,
initiating a period of change and self-discovery for all of them.
One of the most remarkable things about "Toad's Oil" is the fine balance between comedy and drama
that it gracefully maintains throughout its duration. Despite the grim turn of events that the plot veers
towards, the overall tone of the film is light and engaging, helped considerably by Yakusho's onscreen
energy as the constantly entertaining Takuro, who often plays with his impressive arsenal of BB guns
and screams with glee whenever he loses (yes, loses) money in his business ventures. One interesting
storyline involves Takuya�ｽs girlfriend Hikari, who frequently calls and e-mails him. After he goes
into a coma, Takuro happens upon his cell phone and, posing as his son, simply keeps the
correspondence going. The split-screened phone conversations between Takuro and the unsuspecting
Hikari have a certain sweetness to them as the two teasingly banter and make up codenames for each
other (astoundingly, these scenes never feel creepy in any way), but beneath each one lurks the
devastating truth and potential disaster of discovery. The result is an unusual sort of screen suspense
that makes it clear just how much Yakusho and co-writers Hideko Nakata and Urara make you care
about the characters and their emotional well being.
When discussing the film after the screening, chief Pow-Wow editor Chris MaGee and I agreed that it
has the same messy quality that Shohei Imamura's films and Haruki Murakami's novels are known
for. As in those works, the storyline doesn't proceed on a straight course so much as wanders in
various directions, following the characters as they adapt in their individual ways to the changes
brought about by Takuya�ｽs accident. The viewers are consequently treated to a jumble of scenes
running the gamut from funny to contemplative, including a piggy-backed walk through a peaceful
forest, a lunch in front of Mount Fuji and a prolonged fight with a black bear. Interspersed through
the film are scenes featuring a man and his wife from Takuro's youth who represent a more traditional
and fulfilling way of life, merrily entertaining children and hawking toad's oil, a supposedly magical
"Toad's Oil" proves to be an accomplished demonstration of Yakusho's newfound directorial talents.
He makes great use of his talented assortment of actors, which include newcomers Fumi Nikaido as the
spirited Hikari and K-1 champion fighter Junichi Sawayashiki as Saburo. The cinematography by
Toyomichi Kurita is amazingly crisp and clear, filling the film with gorgeous color. Also, Yakusho
manages to harness a refreshing vitality every step of the way, and while he uses some elements that
could be considered indie movie cliches (such as a cross-country trek undertaken in a square-shaped
mobile home), they miraculously never feel borrowed or contrived. Some additional cutting in the
editing room would probably help it, but in its current form Toad's Oil still very much succeeds as an
entertaining, offbeat and heart-felt debut for what will hopefully be a productive filmmaking career for
The description about "Toad's Oil" at the Vancouver International Film Festival is quite interesting!:
Toad's oil is the Japanese equivalent of snake oil, the kind of patent cure-all remedy hawked by quack
doctors in travelling shows in days gone by. It survives as a childhood memory in the mind of stock
market day-trader Yazawa Takuro, whose already chaotic life is turned upside-down when his beloved
son Takuya is knocked down in a traffic accident. As Takuya lies in a coma, his hopelessly immature
father finds himself cast as a surrogate dad to Takuya's hulking buddy Saburo, fresh out of borstal--
and as surrogate lover to Takuya's girlfriend Hikari, who takes his telephone voice for Takuya
Subsequent complications include a roadtrip to Osore-zan (Mount Fear in Aomori, home of spirits,
demons and four-leaf clovers, and several imaginary encounters with an old-time travelling medicine
show. There is a lot of emotional hurt for this Toad's Oil to cure...
Renowned as an actor, Yakusho Koji now directs himself in a sprawling and magical fantasia (he and
Imamura/Kitano scriptwriter Fukuda Hanako are credited with the story idea) about irresponsible
fathers, old-fashioned sons and truth/lies in relationships. As you might expect, it gives a range of
meaty roles to its cast, which includes hugely popular new star Eita as the son Takuya; more
surprisingly, it is also very sophisticated visually (cinematographer Kurita has worked with Alan
Rudolph and Robert Altman in Hollywood and has shot films for Oshima and Miike in Japan) and
finesses a real emotional kick in its closing scenes. The overall atmosphere is carnivalesque, which
makes the climax at a Buddhist festival both fitting and very satisfying.
The description about "Toad's Oil" at the Toronto Film Festival is really impressive:
"The magnetic, versatile and award-winning actor Koji Yakusho has worked with some of Japan's
most celebrated directors. Well-known both at home and abroad, he has lent his charismatic persona
to many unforgettable roles, such as the salary man in Masayuki Suo's Shall We Dance?; the betrayed
husband and ex-convict in Shohei Imamura's The Eel;and the father of a hearing-impaired teenager in
Alejandro Gonzﾃ｡lez Iﾃｱﾃ｡rritu's Babel. With Toad's Oil,he puts his talent to work behind the
camera, directing newcomers, rising stars, established performers and himself in an original and
fascinating debut. Inspired by Japanese folk tales and memories from Yakusho's own childhood, the
film is an unusual human drama as well as an offbeat meditation on loss and death.
At the boundary between this world and the afterlife live the toad oil salesman and his wife. They are
shabby angels peddling a powerful ointment that can cure all illness and pain, and they inhabit a
magical space of timeless memories. Their world is far removed from the materialistic sphere of wealth
and trade occupied by Takuro (Yakusho), whose days seem to revolve around the many computer
screens scattered about the sumptuous mansion where he resides with his family. His life is regulated
by a myriad of incoming emails announcing the loss or gain of huge sums of money. But his untidy
daily routine is one day unexpectedly subverted when his son, Takuya (Eita), is seriously injured in a
Based on an original idea by Yakusho and Hideko Nakada, Toad's Oil has a unique personality that
mirrors the creative energy of its director and cast. Particularly fresh and compelling are the model
Fumi Nikaido and champion K-1 fighter Junichi Sawayashiki, who both make their onscreen debuts.
An affectionate portrait of ordinary lives during difficult times, the film has a contemporary fantastical
aspect and novel visual appeal that mark the solid beginning of a new career path for Yakusho.
Both Koji's office and the Toad's Oil official website have announced that "Toad's Oil" will also be
shown at Vancouver International Film Festival at the Dragon & Tiger Section (October 1-15) and UK
Premiere Japan (October 9-11). (Here's the program for Premiere Japan 08)
On August 5 Koji commented on his official website, "saying, "I feel like it a dream that some
overseas film festivals have given opportunities to show "Gama no abura / Toad's Oil". I am looking
forward to seeing how foreign audiences will view this film. I am greatly impressed and appreciative."
"Gama no Abura / Toad's Oil" wll be shown at the 2009 TORONTO International Film Festival
(September 10 - 19) at the "Discovery" section.
"Gama no Abura" was released on June 6 in nearly 95 movie theaters in Japan.
Koji Yakusho, Satomi Kobayashi, Eita, Toru Masuoka, junichi Sawayashiki and Fumi Nikaido greeted
on the stage at Marunouchi Toei 2, Ginza, Tokyo. Here is the article.
Here is the Japan Times film critic Mark Schilling's review of "Gama no Abura (Toad Oil) in today's
issue of the Japan Times. He quotes some interesting remark by Koji Yakusho.
Here are two websites for interviews with Koji Yakusho and Eita concerning "Toad Oil":
honeyee. com and Gafeglobe. com
If you click here, you can watch the trailer for "Toad's Oil" with English subtitles.
The premiere showing of "Gama no Abura" was held in Tokyo on May 10. Koji Yakusho, Satomi
Kobayashi and Eita gave speech to the audience after the showing.
The Asahi Weekly English language newspaper put the interview with Koji Yakusho under the title of
'Actor Yakusho sees life from the director's chair'. Here is the site for it.
I have set up a page on my site for this Asahi Weekly interview.
Nippon Cinema has put the three kinds of trailers for "Gama no Abura/Toad's Oil": full trailer, teaser
trailer and TV spot. If you click here, you can see a photo of Koji Yakusho
as the film director.
The official website for "Gama no Abura" has been updated with lots of photos.
I found the image of "Gama no Abura" poster on AianMediaWiki.
The "Gama no Abura" blog has now posted some photos from the program for this film. Each photo
is quite interesting!
Twitchfilm has posted the teaser trailer for "Gama no Abura" with some comment:
Japanese leading man Koji Yakusho - westerners know him from Babel, Japanophiles from most of
Kiyoshi Kurosawa's films and a slew of others - would be enough to generate a whole lot of notice.
That it actually looks really damn good doesn hurt, either. In production for years now - Yakusho's a
busy guy - the film has finally wrapped up and tells the story of a stock trader (Yakusho) trying to hold
together a relationship with his son following a tragedy. Which makes it sounds like dark, serious stuff
but not so much ... the freshly released trailer plays far more like a goofy comedy, albeit a very smart
one, somewhat along the line of a Koki Mitani film.
This is only the first teaser trailer. Let's wait and see the second or the final trailer.
For your reference, Satomi Kobayashi, who plays the role of Koji Yakusho's wife in this film is
married to Koki Mitani. Her married name is Satomi Mitani.
At last the teaser trailer for "Gama no Abura" is available on the film's official site.
It looks and sounds so funny!.
You can see some scene photos from this film on this site.
For some more details about this film, click this J Film POW-WOW site.
Somebody who saw "Gama no Abura" has commented on her blog that this film has somehow
reminded her of Shohei Imamura's "Unagi" . I am not sure about the detailed story of this film yet but
one of these scene photos (at the bottom on the left) has immediately reminded me of that famous
scene in "Unagi, i.e. where Takuro Yamashita (Koji Yakusho) walks with Keiko (Misa Shimizu) along
a country road. Koji Yakusho's role name in "Gama no Abura" is also TAKURO (Yazawa).
These sites are for those peiole who can read Japanese:
Here's the report about the press conference. I'm going to translate what each cast member has
The press conference for "Gama no Abura" was held today at a hotel in Tokyo with the presence of
Koji Yakusho, Satomi Kobayashi, Eita, Toru Masuoka, Kaoru Yachigusa,
Fumi Nikaido and Jun-ichi Sawayashiki. Here is another photo taken at the time of the press
The "Gama no Abura" official site has been updated. We can now read the introduction and the brief
synopsis. The role of Kaoru Yachigusa is that of grandmother of
On the Phantom Film site we can now see one fantastic scene photo from "Gama no Abura".
January 6, 2009
The first screening of "Gama no Abura" for the benefit of those involved in the film-making seems to
have been done in the middle of December, 2008. I learned this through a blog by somebody who saw
this film on that occasion. He commented briefly,on his blog, that it was a very impressive and
December 29, 2008
Y.K Office site has announced that "Gama no Abura" will be released nationwide in Japan on June 6,
The Phantom Film site has announced that "Gama no Abura" will be released nationwide in Japan in
The official website for "Gama no Abura" has just opened!.
Koji Yakusho's official website was updated today to tell that "Gama no Abura" was wrapped up
early in the morning on July 1. You will see the two photos of Koji here . He looks so happy.
If you would like to know the traditional sale's talk of Gama no abura peddlers, here is an English
translation. The sale's talk used for the film seems to be a simplified version.
June 20, 2008
Here's Mr. Jason Gray's report on "Gama no Abura"
Gama no Abura poster & flyer
Gama no Abura flyer (Front & Back)