Ofuna Garden City: “New Kamakura” and the “Hollywood of the East” 大船田園都市と「東洋のハリウッド」

Ofuna 大船 is a city in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, a place that came to my attention while researching an earlier post; during that research I learned that Ofuna became, for many years, a home of the Shochiku movie company 松竹株式会社.

Early 1920’s: Ofuna garden city planning 大船田園都市計画

In 1921, the Ofuna Denentoshi Co. Ltd. 大船田園都市株式会社, founded by Rokuro Watanabe 渡辺六郎, began buying land for the “Shin-Kamakura” (New Kamakura) 新鎌倉 a housing project; according to the abstract of an academic paper (PDF),  the purpose and motivation of the project is not clear. The following is a 1922 plan titled Ofuna Garden City 大船田園都市 / オオフナ ガーデン シテイ; following the place name Ofuna 大船 is the word 田園都市 (‘garden city’); the first two kanji here are 田園 Denen, which means garden / countryside / rural”; this is the same kanji used in 田園調布 Denenchofu, another garden city in Tokyo. (Note: the words in the poster are read from right to left, per the old way of reading horizontal kanji.)

From what I understand, most or all of this version of the plan was never realized, as the company became bankrupt halfway through construction. It seems that the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake may also have been a negative factor. One structure from this project remains: the Koike Residence 小池邸 (1927), which is located in Ofuna 2-chome 大船二丁目 (map), to the east of Ofuna Station (source 1 / source 2). (The first photo appears to be several years old; the stone fence has since been replaced.)

Until recently there was also the Tsushima House 対馬邸 (source), which neighbored the Koike Residence and is now (I believe) a parking lot:

The following post (in Japanese)  has some great information, including a site plan: 消えた「新鎌倉」 神奈川・大船、幻の田園都市計画 Disappeared “New Kamakura” Ofuna, Kanagawa: Phantom country garden city plan. Some excellent photographs are also included in a post from the Shonan Monorail website: 大船―小さな歴史を聞く 銀杏並木と桜並木編. In the top line in the box, the plan is titled 大船田園都市計画地 (read “backwards” as  地画計市都園田船大)

Another view of the proposal: 理想的住宅地新鎌倉案内(大船田園都市株式会社/1922) Ideal residential area New Kamakura guide (Ofuna Japan Garden City Corporation / 1922) (source 1 /source 2)

Shochiku 1930s: ‘Hollywood of the East’ 「東洋のハリウッド」

The Shochiku movie company acquired the land in 1934 and would go on to build its Ofuna studio 松竹(大船撮影所)in 1935. The following poster is titled 松竹大船分譲地 (Shochiku Ofuna Subdivision). Ofuna Station is to the left; Shochiku Studios is the right; Mt. Fuji is in the distance. The broad avenue that runs from the station to the studio is clearly visible today.

The new studio gave rise to visions of an ‘Oriental Hollywood’ 「東洋のハリウッド」 (source). Although the Shochiku movie company continues to make movies, the Ofuna studio ceased operations in 2000 and never rivaled Hollywood in terms of size or stature. The site is now home to Kamakura Women’s University, Junior College (Ofuna campus) 鎌倉女子大学・短期大学部 大船キャンパス.

Here’s the studio’s location circa 1945-1950; Ofuna Station is just out of the picture, towards to left (west):

 See also:

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