Inabata Katsutaro (Inahata Katsutaro)

Japanese Lumière representative

Hailing from Kyoto, as a young man Inabata was sent on a scholarship to La Martinière technical school in Lyon, where he stayed from 1877 to 1885, studying muslin weaving and spinning, and making the acquaintance of Auguste Lumière, who was attending the same school. Establishing himself as a successful businessman on his return to Japan, he went back to France in 1896, and on his return was followed by François-Constant Girel, a Lumière Cinématographe, and fifty reels of film. On 15 February 1897, with Girel as operator, Inabata gave Japan its first projected film programme at the Nanchi Theatre in Osaka. According to Japanese sources Girel was not at ease with the machinery and nearly caused an explosion, but the show was a considerable success, and Inabata was soon moving to Kyoto and other cities. However, the Edison Vitascope had followed the Cinématographe exactly one week later at Osaka's Shinmachi Theatre, and the fastidious Inabata found the ensuing competition wearying and distasteful. He handed over the business to Yokota Einosuke and returned to the weaving and spinning business. This still exists as the multinational Inabata & Co, with interests in information technology, chemicals, plastics, housing materials and food. Among the films taken by Girel is one of the Inabata family taking a meal.

Luke McKernan (revised January 2004)