Working title:

The Ghost Cat Does Not Have 9 Lives and the Mysterious Shamisen Does Not Have 9 Strings”

The Ghost Cat And The Mysterious Shamisen Kiyohiko Ushihara Sumiko Suzuki, Shizuko Mori, Kinue Utagawa, Shinbachiro Asaka, Mitsoku Mori

Film:  The Ghost Cat And The Mysterious Shamisen

         (Kaibyō nazo no shamisen / 怪猫謎の三味線)

Year:  1938

Director:  Kiyohiko Ushihara


Sumiko Suzuki

Shizuko Mori

Kinue Utagawa

Shinbachiro Asaka

Mitsoku Mori

Running time:  74 minutes

Other Info: 

  • Shown as part of Zipangu Fest

Further Info: 

Zipangu Fest (ジパング・フェスト) is the first UK-wide festival devoted to Japanese film, introducing works new and old, many previously unseen by mainstream UK film audiences, to demonstrate the many identities of Japan as depicted by some of the country’s most exciting and revered talents.

Official Festival Website



The Ghost Cat And The Mysterious Shamisen Kiyohiko Ushihara Sumiko Suzuki, Shizuko Mori, Kinue Utagawa, Tun Shwe, Fei Phoon & Jasper Sharp

Following a nice intro by the very knowledgable Jasper Sharp we’re confronted by an understandably shaky picture.  This introduces us to various artists.  One of these such artists is known for his Shamisen playing.

The film also introduces us to a slightly dangerous romance.

It’s not long after, and once all major players [literally, considering their vocations as characters!] are set-up, everyone’s love for a certain feline is displayed.

This doesn’t stop a certain female’s almost monstrous use of a traditional Japanese hairpin.  After this, the cat has seemingly disappeared, much to all’s disappointment.

Speaking of a hairpin, a fight involving such an item and a Shaminen itself takes place.  A brilliantly amusing mini Samurai-style one, you could say.  Or perhaps more fittingly, a “Sham-urai” style fight.

What ensues is a connection between ‘that darn cat’ and the “guitar man” – yeah I know, a play on both a film and song there.  That’s enough sitar… I mean, satire.

The Ghost Cat And The Mysterious Shamisen Kiyohiko Ushihara Sumiko Suzuki Shizuko Mori Kinue Utagawa Tun Shwe Fei Phoon & Jasper Sharp

Indeed, every time the Shamisen is played you just know it spells trouble.  This comes across comically but presumably unintentional.  It’s smile-inducing however you read these moments though.

it’s perhaps interesting to note that although this is 1938 there are a few ‘jams’ on the shamisen, mainly by a female character.  This stringed jamming sparks memories of sounds now reminiscent of such legends as Buddy Holly or The Beatles.  I suppose this is thanks to the sound of the strings, but spooky also, especially as those artists would not have been around for another 20+ years later.  I’d like to think that this film, or at least the instrument itself had some inspiration on those artists and similar rock stars.

I’d also like to think that a humorous scene or two, and I mean intentionally funny, had an inspiration on later comedy writers.

An example, which has been used in a variation many times since:  The guitar-like object – due to it’s bad luck on those who come in contact with it  – is discarded at various places, and almost given away or literally thrown away… And then?  Well, many an audience laugh is raised when a passer by tries to return to it’s owner, whilst another character doesn’t fall for it being replaced for another Shaminem.  Indeed, we have seen versions of this pun a few times, but come on…! This is 1938!! Genius.

The Ghost Cat And The Mysterious Shamisen Kiyohiko Ushihara Sumiko Suzuki Shizuko Mori Kinue Utagawa Tun Shwe Fei Phoon & Jasper Sharp

Many a now-laughable effect later and the (very long) climax is now upon us.  It’s ‘staged’ very well… Take that meaning how you like… *wink wink*

Yep, Jasper [Sharp] was right about this climactic segment [And yes, it does seem to last for 20 minutes!] when he referred to it in his introduction.  Indeed, the quality and effects ARE being best at this part of the film.  Although, its not just the visual and special effects which are good, but also the set-up itself, choreography and camera shots.  Plus, the effects are not only good, but good for 1938.

Unfortunately, this was to be the last night of the London leg of the Zipangu Festival, and not least thanks to Mr Sharp himself.

There was more than one film on this day but artistically, and for it’s era, The Ghost Cat & The Mysterious Shaminen pulled all the right ‘strings’.

A taster?

Well, this movie is a rarity and very old & as such no trailer is readily available.  Instead, an Ident for Zipangu Fest:

“Little Little London”

Find this following Mini Mini Movie (i.e. Trailer; Ident) & other Mini-er Movies at:


Snippets of info taken from the very informative Zipangu Fest site:

The Ghost Cat and the Mysterious Shamisen


Director:  Kiyohiko Ushihara 74min DigiBeta 1938 Horror

Producer:  Masaichi Nagata  /  Cinematographer:  Takenori Takahashi  /  Scriptwriter:  Kenji Hata

Music:  Moriyoshi Kure  /  Distributor:  National Film Center of Tokyo

“Director Kiyohiko Ushihara employs an arsenal of dark double exposures, slow motion sequences and specially-developed lenses to convey this dark, uncanny tale.”

London Trafalgar Square Korean Japanese Asian Zipangu LKFF Foreign