In Competition for the Mulberry Award for Best Screenplay


湯道 (Yudo)

Japan, 2023, 126’, Japanese
Directed by: Suzuki Masayuki 
Screenplay: Koyama Kundo
Photography (color): Ehara Shoji
Editing: Taguchi Takuya
Art Direction: Abeki Yoji
Music: Sato Naoki
Executive Producer: Mori Kensei
Cast: Hamada Gaku, Hashimoto Kanna, Ikuta Toma, Terajima Susumu, Emoto Akira

Date of First Release in Territory: February 23rd, 2023 

The Japanese onsen (hot springs) experience has long been a subject of fascination for non-natives, from tourists who need advice on the fraught subject of tattoos to cognoscenti who pen onsen guides. 
The humble sento (public bath) gets less attention, though. Once found in every urban neighborhood, they underwent a sharp decline in the 1970s, when private baths became standard in apartments and houses. 
Suzuki Masayuki’s heartwarming comedy Yudo is a love letter to the sento, while offering viewers a soak in a warm bath of nostalgia, though the action is set in the present. 
Based on an original script by Koyama Kundo, whose credits include the Oscar-winning Departures, the story holds few surprises, but that is not really the point. It’s a pleasure to visually luxuriate in the film’s sento, a gem of Showa-era (1926-1989) bathhouse architecture that Suzuki’s camera explores in loving detail, from its wood-fueled furnace to the small glass bottles of milk its patrons guzzle.  
Similar to Thermae Romae, a 2012 time-travel comedy that sent an earnest bathhouse architect from ancient Rome to modern-day Japan to learn the secrets of its advanced, by Roman standards, bath culture, the film unfolds in a gently ditzy alternative reality where yudo (“the way of the bath”) is a discipline handed down by generations of “masters” who have plumbed the aesthetic and spiritual depths of soaking in the ofuro (bath).      
The story, however, centers on the Marukin, a sento in an unnamed picturesque town run by the sincere, unsmiling Goro (Hamada Gaku) with the assistance of the chipper and capable Izumi (Hashimoto Kanna). They cater to a small group of just-folks regulars, whose quirks are milked for laughs. 
A disruptor arrives in the form of Goro’s older brother Shiro (Ikuta Toma), a failing Tokyo architect. As a co-inheritor of the sento, following his father’s death two months earlier (and whose funeral he did not attend), Shiro plans to tear it down and built condos. 
Goro is opposed – he feeds Shiro’s plan into the sento fire – while Izumi and the regulars take down this arrogant city slicker a peg or two, from a gray-haired chef (Terajima Susumu) gruffly refusing him service at his noodle restaurant to an old hermit (Emoto Akira), who supplies the sento with wood, cryptically schooling him on the techniques and mysteries of the bath. 
Little is black and white or hard and fast in this film, however, including Goro’s reluctance to sell: The sento, he knows, is bleeding money and the future is grim. But when he changes his mind, an outraged Izumi, who loves the sento, up and leaves – and the brothers soon learn who was really keeping it going. How to lure her back?
Ikuta, Hamada and Hashimoto are all gifted comedians, as is much of the supporting cast, particularly Kohinata Fumiyo as a super-sincere yudo disciple. 
Yudo is how Izumi feelingly describes the sento: A place to make beautiful (and stress-reducing) memories. 
Suzuki Masayuki 

Born in Tokyo in 1968, Suzuki Masayuki made his feature film debut in 1999 with the manga adaptation GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, backed by the Fuji TV network. Among the hit TV series he directed for Fuji are Long Vacation (1994), The King’s Restaurant (1995), Shomuni (1998) and Furuhata Nosaburo (1999). He has continued to work for Fuji TV as both a director and executive while making films, mostly derived from hit network series. Among them are the legal drama Hero (2007) and the mystery Masquerade Hotel (2019). His first film to screen at Udine FEFF, Yudo, is based on an original script by Koyama Kundo.


1999 – GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka
2007 – Hero
2011 – Princess Toyotomi
2019 – Masquerade Hotel 
2021 – Masquerade Night
2022 – Yudo

Mark Schilling
Film director: SUZUKI Masayuki
Year: 2023
Running time: 126'
Country: Japan
25/04 - 4:50 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
25-04-2023 16:50 25-04-2023 18:56Europe/Rome Yudo Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org
ONLINE in Italy on Friday, April 28, 2022 from 8:00 pm to 11:59 pm (cest)