Born 1938 in Onomichi, Hiroshima prefecture, Japan.

35 features films (1975 to 2014)
11 TV movies (6 given theatrical release)
10 shorts (1960s, 8mm & 16mm)
+2000 TV commercials (1960’s & 1970’s)

35th feature film to be released in May 2014. It was filmed on location in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island.

No retrospective ever held in or outside Japan.

Starting with “House” (1977), most films are produced by his company PSC. Producer is wife Kyôko Obayashi. PSC also retains the distribution rights of many of his films.

Writes and edits most of his films.

Recurring themes: death, a sense of loss and nostalgia, the importance of memories, of keeping the link between past and present alive, how to accept past tragedies and go on living in the present.

A typical Obayashi plot structure sees a protagonist travel to a provincial town for personal or professional reasons, but the trip unexpectedly reconnects him/her with the past and revives past tragedies. Even his coming-of-age fantasies are imbued with a feeling of melancholy, as if the freedom of youth were but a momentary dream soon to be broken.

Due to the importance of location in his stories, funding often involves city or regional governments. Ordinary citizens of towns and villages where the film is shot are actively involved in the production.

Obayashi’s birthplace Onomichi is a picturesque seaside town made famous as the hometown of the elderly couple in Ozu’s “Tokyo story” (1953). It is used as a setting in 6 films known as the Onomichi trilogies:

1st Onomichi trilogy:                                                       New Onomichi Trilogy:
ob_miki_hausuExchange students (1982)                                            –Chizuko’s younger sister (1991)
The little girl who conquered time (1983)                     -Goodbye for tomorrow (1995)
Lonelyheart (1985)                                                        –One summer’s day (1999)

Before the success of his 1st feature “House” (1977), Obayashi had acquired a reputation as a wildly innovative director of TV commercials. In the 1960’s, he helped establish the foundations of this new form, in part by continuing and expanding the techniques he experimented with in his short films.

Nicknamed “OB” by Charles Bronson who couldn’t pronounce his name correctly. Bronson starred in a series of commercials Obayashi directed in the 1970’s.

An accomplished pianist, Obayashi participates in the composition and performance of his soundtracks. The piano features prominently in many of his films.

5 writing collaborations with Hisashi Yamanaka, Japan’s renowned author of children literature:
Exchange students (1982), Lonelyheart (1985), Haruka nostalgia (1993), One summer’s day (1999), Switching, goodbye me (2007).

Most awarded films:
Chizuko’s younger sister (1991)
The Rocking Horsemen (1992)
The discarnates (1988)
Lonelyheart (1985)
Exchange students (1982)
The little girl who conquered time (1983)

Author of several books about the craft of filmmaking, his youth in Onomichi and social problems in contemporary Japan.

Is a visiting Professor in the Arts&Media department of two Japanese universities.

Is a supporter and jury member of the annual Tokyo Video Festival, a citizen-based non-profit organization that trains non-professionals in the craft of filmmaking.

A woman’s director and discoverer of new talent, Obayashi helped launch the career of 3 young actresses:


Tomoyo Harada
(The little girl who conquered time)


Yasuko Tomita


Hikari Ishida
(Chizuko’s Younger Sister)

Obayashi’s pool of regular performers:


Wakaba Irie (22 films)


Toru Minegishi (21 films)


Toshinori Omi (14 films)


Ittoru Kishibe (13 films)


Bengaru (11 films)

〈 Introduction                                                                                                                                                                      The Retrospective 〉