Kawaura Ken'ichi Kawaura Kenichi

Japanese producer

Kawaura Ken'ichi was a wealthy businessman running the Yoshizawa Company (a family firm that he had acquired through marriage) with numerous interests, including the selling of pictures and lantern slides and the organisation of widespread lantern shows. Through his contact with an Italian advisor to the Japanese army, Cipione Braccialini, Kawaura somehow acquired a Lumière Cinématographe in January 1897, and he was able to launch his first film show at Yokohama's Minato theatre on 9 March 1897. Kawaura's Yoshizawa company was destined to become a major force in early Japanese exhibition, importing Lumière and then Georges Méliès titles and opening a London office in 1902. Kawaura went to the 1904 St. Louis International Exposition, where he showed films of the Russo-Japanese war as well as scenes of everyday Japanese life. He then journeyed throughout the United States, visiting the Edison and Lubin studios, and on his return to Japan in 1907 he had Japan's first film studio constructed at Mejuro, on lines very similar to what he had seen at Edison. The Yoshizawa Company was one of the four major Japanese firms (another was that run by Yokota Einosuke) which, in imitation of the Motion Picture Patents Company in America combined in 1909, when Kawaura sold out and retired from the business. The combine became Nikkatsu in 1912, Japan's most enduring film company.

Luke McKernan