2011 Tokyo Screening Review

Australian Embassy, Tokyo

Documentary film “Tanaka-san Will Not Do Calisthenics”

Starting 2 July 2011

If one person can change the world, it is Tanaka Testuro, now 63 years old, who was fired from his job at a major electrical company for refusing to do morning calisthenics thirty years ago. Tanaka has been singing as a form of protest, every morning at the entrance to the company factory ever since. In his signature cowboy hat and guitar, with no mobile phone, internet or facebook, Tanaka continues his struggle and demands an apology and re-instatement every year.

25 years since his dismissal, Australian director Maree Delofski discovered Tanaka’s activities by accident on-line, and came to Japan with the express purpose of making a documentary about him. With full houses and ovations in international festivals (Yamagata Documentary Festival 2009, Istanbul International Documentary Festival 2009, Cork Film Festival 2008, best in festival prize, Canadian Labour International Festival 2009).


Tanaka-san Will Not Do Calisthenics presents a less-familiar view of an idiosyncratic Japanese nonconformist.

On the 29 June 1981 Tetsuro Tanaka, an engineer, was sacked by his employer, a large electronics company in Tokyo. One reason is that Tanaka san refused to re-locate to a factory far away from his home and family. Another reason is that as president of the company’s mandolin club, Tanaka-san had  supported 1350 workers who were made redundant and had refused to participate in group calisthenics. Despite being ostracised, losing members of his mandolin club and receiving lower wages, he continued to protest the company’s labour policies and ran against company-endorsed candidates in elections to the workplace union. The day after he was dismissed, Tanaka began a picket outside the entrance gate which has become the longest one-man protest in Japan’s history. The film meets the veteran campaigner for the 25th anniversary of his campaign, along with his comrades, Nezu Kimiko, a domestic science teacher who refuses to stand up and sing the now mandatory wartime anthem kimigayo in school, Ueda Yoshihiro, a retiree, and Tomayo, a young music student of Tanaka who is afraid to go to school.

Maree Delofski

Maree Delofski is a documentary maker who began filmmaking in London with the radical filmmaking workshop Cinema Action, and has now made several including The Trouble with Merle (2002), a documentary exploring the mysterious origins of the legendary film star Merle Oberon, A Calcutta Christmas (1998), a documentary portraying elderly Anglo-Indians living in a home in Calcutta, and Philippines my Philippines (1989), a feature length documentary. She currently teaches at Macquarie University in Sydney.

Tanaka Tetsuro

Tanaka Tetsuro, born 1948, Fukuoka prefecture, he graduated from Ube highschool in 1969 and gained employment at the Oki Electrical LSI management section. Head of the mandolin club, Tanaka was dismissed from the company in 1981 for refusing to move to a regional department. From that day on he has protested outside the Hachioji factory entrance, by singing songs against bullying. In 1987 he entered formal reconciliation with company representatives, who refused to acknowledge guilt or provide remuneration for lost income. In 1992, he was unsuccessful in his bid as an independent for a seat in local government in the 16th Tokyo municipal elections. In 1995 he lost at the highest court of appeal for unfair dismissal.  In 2005, he was awarded the Taka Yoko anti-authority human rights prize. He actively continues as a singer songwriter, runs a guitar shop and teaches music.