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The Sands of Kurobe (1968)

Kurobe no taiyo (original title)
Kitagawa is an engineer charged with construction of a gigantic tunnel through the Japan Alps for the transportation of equipment in the building of the massive Kurobe Dam. The tunnel ... See full summary »


Kei Kumai
1 win. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Toshirô Mifune ... Kitagawa
Yûjirô Ishihara ... Iwaoka
Osamu Takizawa Osamu Takizawa ... Otagaki
Takashi Shimura ... Ashimura
Shûji Sano ... Hirata
Jûkichi Uno Jûkichi Uno ... Mori
Ryutaro Tatsumi Ryutaro Tatsumi ... Genzo
Isao Tamagawa Isao Tamagawa ... Sayama
Takeshi Katô ... Kunikida
Sumio Takatsu Sumio Takatsu ... Ono
Eijirô Yanagi ... Fujimura
Akira Yamauchi Akira Yamauchi ... Tsukamoto
Akira Terao Akira Terao ... Kenichi
Eimei Nitani Eimei Nitani ... Odagiri
Masahiko Naruse Masahiko Naruse ... Kumada
Learn more

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Kitagawa is an engineer charged with construction of a gigantic tunnel through the Japan Alps for the transportation of equipment in the building of the massive Kurobe Dam. The tunnel crosses an earthquake fault and Kitagawa is beleaguered not only by cave-ins and flooding, but by strife between management and the workers's union. Adding to Kitagawa's stress is the knowledge that as his attention is pulled inexorably toward the tunnel construction, his youngest daughter is dying from leukemia. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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Did You Know?


Official submission of Japan for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' category of the 41st Academy Awards in 1969. See more »

User Reviews

Kumai's epic honors the history of civil engineering
9 December 2019 | by topitimo-829-270459See all my reviews

Only a few Japanese films come to mind that are as grandiose in scope as Kumai Kei's "Kurobe no taiyo" (The Sands of Kurobe, 1968). The spectacular film, that clocks in 3 hours and 16 minutes, was made to honor the generation that rebuilt Japan in the 1950's after the devastating experience of war. We are talking about building in the literal sense, as the film deals with the construction of a large tunnel under the Japanese alps. This tunnel is very difficult to build, as the area is located on a seismic zone where earthquakes can be caused by the smallest of mistakes by the building crew. Yet it's necessary, because the Japanese need to build a huge dam on the other side, and the tunnel is the only way to get the material to the construction site.

Some will naturally see this as a film that drags on, especially in the middle, which largely takes place in the dark tunnel. But for myself Kumai's diligent determination to depict every detail of the operation was something to admire and gaze in awe. You as the viewer can come in knowing nothing about how tunnels are built under mountains, and afterwards you know so much, that you can go make one yourself. There is narration, maps, time jumps and a large amount of characters, all because this film wants to be a half documentary, even while it sports the look of a large scale disaster movie.

Mifune Toshiro plays the engineer who is responsible for one of the sites, and Ishihara Yujiro is there too. As a side plot, Mifune's daughter is dying of leukemia. Ishihara has a troubled relationship with his own father, who is going insane, but used to be known as "the best tunnel digger in Japan". All over the film there are big emotions, since this film just refuses to tone things down. The characters are alright, though for me their operation was far more interesting.

"Kurobe no taiyo", which ended up being the Japanese submission for the Oscar race that year, is a film that demands your concentration, but also rewards it. The cinematography is gorgeous and the film has some fantastic aerial photography of the mountain range. You can practically breath the fresh mountain air while viewing this beautiful scenery. The tunnel on the other hand feels crowded and uncomfortable, as it is supposed to. The score for the film is also grand, and even catchy.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy epic 1960's films, maybe David Lean fans for instance. This is an uplifting narrative that will really hook some people in, like it did me.

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Release Date:

2 October 1968 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Chikadô no taiyô made See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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