Yoji Yamada (山田 洋次 Yamada Yōji, born September 13, 1931 in Toyonaka City, Osaka, Japan) is a Japanese director best known for his Tora-san series of films.
He was born in Osaka. But because of the work of his father, who was an engineer for the South Manchuria Railway, from the age of 2 he was brought up in Manchuria. Following the end of World War II, he came back to Japan and subsequently he lived in Yamagata Prefecture.
He has won many awards throughout his lengthy career and is well-respected in Japan and by critics throughout the world. He wrote his first screenplay in 1958, and directed his first movie in 1961. Yamada continues to make movies to this day.
Known in Japan under the title Otoko Wa Tsurai Yo (男はつらいよ, "It's tough being a man"), his Tora-san series features traveling merchant Torajirō, who is always unlucky in love. Since the lead role in every Tora-san movie was played by Kiyoshi Atsumi, his death in 1996 put an end to the series (although a 50th anniversary Milestone Celebration, Tora-san, Welcome Back, is due in 2019 featuring Kiyoshi Atsumi in posthumous footage) and Yamada moved on to other movies. Although Yamada is known for his long-running series of movies—4 films in the A Class to Remember (学校 Gakkō) series, 13 in the Free and Easy (釣りバカ日誌 Tsuribaka Nisshi) series—none have reached the prolific numbers of the Tora-san series. Over a period of about 25 years 48 Tora-san films were made, all of them starring Atsumi, and the majority written and directed by Yamada.
His movies have won the Best Picture award at the Japanese Academy Awards four times: in 1977 for The Yellow Handkerchief (幸福の黄色いハンカチ Shiawase no Kiiroi Hankachi), in 1991 for My Sons (息子 Musuko), in 1993 for A Class To Remember (学校 Gakkō), and in 2002 for The Twilight Samurai (たそがれ清兵衛 Tasogare Seibei). In 2003 The Twilight Samurai was nominated for the 76th Academy Awards' Best Foreign Language Film.
His 2004 film, The Hidden Blade (Kakushi Ken Oni No Tsume), was nominated for sixteen awards and won three.