Obituary: Kashiko Kawakita

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The Independent Online
IN THE MID-1950s, when I was covering my first Cannes Film Festival, writes Alexander Walker (further to the obituary of Kashiko Kawakita by James Kirkup, 4 August), I was taking the last of the afternoon sun on the beach when I saw two figures paddling out of the sun in my direction. They were Nagamasa Kawakita and his wife Kashiko, he with his trousers rolled up like a Blackpool holidaymaker, she holding up the light kimono she habitually wore.

I knew them to be the most important distributors of Western 'art' films in Japan: we had met only the day before. They advanced politely up the sand, bowed to my recumbent form, then started to question me courteously, but closely, about the virtues (or otherwise) of recent British films they were being offered. They spent 10 minutes or so doing this, then, with smiles and bobs, retreated into the sea and I monitored their sedate progress through the shallows towards the next English-speaking critic they could locate.

They were exceptionally sweet-tempered but penetratingly shrewd Japanese. I tried to dissuade them from taking the city tour when we met years later at the Manila Film Festival, for I knew what they would be in for when the subject of Japanese inhumanities came up. They listened, but went. Mr Kawakita said nothing on his return; Mrs Kawakita observed, 'Very humbling.' They were both people of exquisite taste and manners who never denied the unpleasant realities of history or let themselves be deterred from their undemonstrative pursuit of art.