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Film / Castle of Sand

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Castle of Sand is a 1974 mystery film from Japan, directed by Yoshitaro Nomura.

Inspector Imanishi and his younger colleague Detective Yoshimura are part of a task force investigating a mysterious murder. A man in his sixties has been found dead at a railway station, his head caved in. The body has no ID. The only clue is a witness at a bar who overheard the cryptic phrases "Kameda did this" and "Kameda doesn't change." The detectives make little headway until a man responds to the missing persons report and identifies the dead man as his adoptive father, Kenichi Miki. Miki is revealed to be a former provincial police officer who had no enemies, never had to investigate serious crimes in his small village, and was beloved by everybody. Imanishi is at first quite puzzled, but dogged detective work yields a connection to well-known music conductor and composer Eiryo Waga, who has something to hide.


An adaptation of a novel, Inspector Imanishi Investigates.


  • As You Know: Rieko says somewhat randomly that Waga's parents were killed in an air raid During the War. It's plot relevant later—as it turns out to not be true.
  • Dark Secret: Eiryo Waga created a new identity for himself by giving false witness after the relevant papers were burned up in an American air raid. He was born Hideo Motoura, and after his father contracted leprosy, they were reduced to homeless beggars.
  • Death by Childbirth: A variant in death by miscarriage, as Rieko dies after bleeding and collapsing in miscarriage.
  • The Film of the Book: Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seicho Matsumoto.
  • Flashback: The sad story of Hideo and his leprous father Chiyokichi as desperate wandering beggars, ended by Miki taking custody of the boy and sending the father to a hospital, is told in a series of flashbacks.
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  • Going by the Matchbook: The only clue found by the body was a matchbook to an establishment called Bar "Ron". This leads to the witness who saw the dead man with another man, and recalls the mysterious mentions of "Kameda".
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Waga is determined that Reiko should get one but she refuses. She winds up miscarrying and dying anyway.
  • Intro Dump: The detectives just happen to see Waga and Sachiko Tadoro on the train, and a passenger identifies them as respectively the famous composer and the daughter of the ex-finance minister.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Some children in a village jump on young Hideo and beat him, then throw rocks at Hideo and his father.
  • Kubrick Stare: More than once from Hideo as Kenichi, with the best of intentions, separates Hideo from his father and sends the father to a leper hospital.
  • Match Cut: From young Hideo raising his stick to strike one of the bullying children to Eiryo raising his hand as he conducts the orchestra.
  • Morning Sickness: Waga's girlfriend Rieko has to get up from bed to vomit. She's pregnant.
  • Parental Abandonment: Waga's mother abandoned the family when he was small, after his father was diagnosed with leprosy.
  • The Runaway: Hideo runs away from Miki's home, eventually finding work with the Wagas, and passing himself off as their son.
  • Tearjerker: In-Universe, as Imanishi breaks down and cries towards the end of recounting the sad story of Hideo and his father.
  • That Man Is Dead: Basically Hideo/Eiryo's reaction when he fabricates a new identity for himself and refuses to see his father, who is still alive and in a leper hospital. Miki's discovery of Eiryo and insistence that Eiryo go see his father is what leads Eiryo to murder Miki.
  • The "The" Title Confusion: For the English-language title anyway. The Other Wiki calls 砂の器 Castle of Sand while The Internet Movie Database calls it The Castle of Sand.
  • Traumatic Haircut: When Miki cuts Hideo's filthy, matted hair. It isn't meant to be, as Miki has the best of intentions, but Hideo hates Miki for separating him from his father.

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