The Dawn of a New Era in Entertainment: Tailoring Cinema for Japan’s Youngest Generation
Recent data published by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare of Japan reveals a concerning trend: the total fertility rate of Japanese women dropped to 1.26 in 2022, tying the historical low of 2005. This marks the seventh consecutive year of declining birth rates, a trend exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has significantly reduced the number of marriages. Despite various government initiatives, three factors remain crucial for fostering a growth in birth rates: procreation, child-rearing, and education. The societal environment and its amenability to early childhood upbringing significantly influence the willingness of young parents to bear children.
In an innovative response to this challenge, a 40-minute film specifically designed for toddlers has emerged in Japan. In a break from tradition, tickets are priced uniformly at 1,000 yen, irrespective of the viewer’s age. The film’s producer, Kanako Iida, emphasizes, “These children and their parents are our stars.”
The film is an experience in itself, a complete departure from typical cinema norms. Instead of dim lighting and sudden explosions, the movie theater is filled with soft light and gentle sounds, providing a safe and enjoyable environment for young children to run around, laugh, cry, and even interact with the movie.
A prime example of this unique interaction can be seen with the two-year-old, Minaki, who mimics the main character’s phrases, moves freely around the theater, and actively engages in conversation with his father about the movie’s scenes. Minaki’s experience is a testament to the freeing nature of this film and how it is reshaping our traditional understanding of movie-going.
The movie in question is a theater adaptation of the 2020 Tokyo TV cartoon “Shinapushu”. Overseen by Professor Kai Ichifu of Tokyo University’s “Baby Lab”, it is recognized as the world’s first movie intended specifically for toddlers. From brighter lighting to softer sounds and engaging music, every aspect of the film has been meticulously crafted to cater to the needs of young children.