Great Movies and Documentaries to watch before visiting Japan
Japan: Earth’s Enchanted Islands 2015
A remarkable three-part BBC documentary series about the rich and diverse wildlife and landscapes of Japan’s Honshu, Hokkaido and the Southernmost Islands.
Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire 2004
A PBS documentary series about the history, society and isolation of Japan during the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled the country for nearly 250 years.
Joanna Lumley’s Japan 2016
A three-part TV series in which the Absolutely Fabulous star sets off on a 2000 miles’ journey from the top of Japan to the bottom, across its four main islands.
The Birth of Saké 2015
Documentary film about the daily life of a group of artisans who work at Yoshida Brewery, 144-year old saké brewery in northern Japan. The film reveals the process and the skills and passion required in the ancient art of saké making.
Spirited Away 2001
An epic animated fantasy and the largest grossing film in Japanese history. Spirited away tells a story of a ten-year-old Chihiro Ogino, who unwittingly enters a magic land of spirits and discovers the courage and strength she never knew she had.
An animated science fiction film based on manga of the same name. Set in the futuristic metropolis of Neo-Tokyo, Akira tells a story of Tetsuo, a teenage biker who after being kidnapped and experimented by the Japanese military government develops telekinetic powers.
Princess Mononoke 1997
A famous animated historical fantasy film by Hayao Miyazaki, and Studio Ghibli. Ashitaka, a young Emishi prince, after being cursed by a demon boar monster embarks on a journey to find a cure. On his quest, he gets involved in a struggle between the gods of the forest and Tatara, a mining colony.
Japanese drama that follows a young cellist Daigo Kobayashi, who after losing job in Tokyo orchestra, moves back with his wife to his hometown where he finds a job at a funeral house. Working as a nōkanshi, a traditional Japanese ritual mortician, Daigo faces ostracism due to the strong social taboos against people who deal with death.
Seven Samurai 1954
Akira Kurosawa’s epic tale that takes place in the 16th century Japan during the Sengoku Period. The story revolves around a village that hire seven ronin (unemployed samurai) to defend them from a group of bandits.
Flags of Our Fathers 2006
American war movie based on book by James Bradley and Ron Powers of the same name about the Battle of Iwo Jima fought between the United States and Imperial Japan during the WW2. The movie depicts the battle from the American point of view.
Letters from Iwo Jima 2006
A companion piece for Flags of Our Fathers. Letters from Iwo Jima depicts the same battle from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers.
Lost in translation 2003
An American comedy drama about an unlikely friendship between an aging actor Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlet Johansson) a young wife of a celebrity photographer who meet in a hotel bar when visiting Tokyo. Their relationship deepens as they spend more and more time with each other, experiencing Japanese nightlife and culture.
Shogun TV Series 1980
A popular American TV series starring Richard Chamberlain based on James Clavell’s epic novel by the same name. British sea pilot, John Blackthorne is shipwrecked on the coast of Japan and gets involved in local politics in feudal Japan in early 17th century.
The sea of trees 2015
An American drama film about a troubled scientist Arthur who travels to Aokigahara, Japan’s notorious “suicide forest”at the base of Mt. Fuji with intention to take his own life. There he meets a Japanese man who is there for the same reason. The two begin a spiritual journey of discovery and healing. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts.
Memoirs of a Geisha 2005
An American drama film based on the Arthur Golden’s bestselling novel by the same name. It tells a story of a nine year old Chiyo Sakamoto from a poor fishing village, who is sold to a geisha boarding house in the popular geisha district of Gion in Kyoto.