Where are the Japanese films

Japan in 10 films

This contribution was made with financial support from the JNTO.


Japan, with its different locations, which are sometimes exciting and sometimes very calm, has often landed a leading role in the film. So we can easily dream about film images to the Far East until the next trip to Japan and at the same time note all the highlights that we would like to experience live.

Here is a colorful list of 10 films that are set in Japan, were shot there, or of course both - travel tips included:


1) The geisha

The 2005 film drama "The Geisha" by director Rob Marshall is based on the novel of the same name by Arthur Golden and tells the story of a young girl who, after her mother's death in 1929, was sold to a geisha house and eventually trained to become a respected geisha becomes.

The district of Gion in today's Kyoto, in which the plot in the novel takes place, looked too modern for the film, which is why a historical district was built as a set for the shooting. But also in the old imperial city of Kyoto some scenes were created in which the temples Kiyomizu-dera and Yoshimine-dera as well as the tunnel-like Fushimi Inari shrine can be seen.



The Kiyomizu-dera Temple is located on a small mountain in the east of Kyoto. When you have reached this after a steep climb, you have a beautiful view of the city from the 13 meter high terrace of the temple.



At the Jishu Shrine behind the main hall, you can pray for happiness in love on the occasion.



2) Godzilla (1954)

One of the most famous film characters in Japan is the mythical primal reptile Godzilla, who first appeared on the screen in 1954 in the film "Godzilla" by director Ishiro Honda.

Over the decades, dozens of other Godzilla films were made, including American productions such as that of the master of the disaster films, Roland Emmerich, who unleashed Godzilla on New York in 1998. But to this day, nobody can hold a candle to the Japanese original. The mother film is set entirely in Japan and was also shot there.



Odo Island, where Godzilla appears for the very first time, is fictional, but the filming locations are in the vicinity of the city of Toba and the Ise-Shima National Park in southwestern Japan. The Ise Jingu Shrine there is considered the highest Shinto shrine in Japan.

Instead of dinosaur-like lizards, you can watch numerous sea birds in the national park.



For a good quarter of an hour of the film, Godzilla raged in Tokyo and destroyed well-known buildings there such as the House of Representatives, the Kachidoki Bridge, the Tokyo Marion Building, the bell tower of the Wako Building in Ginza and the Shinagawa Station in the south of the city or their miniature models, the for the filming at Toho Studios.

Despite its destructiveness, Tokyo loves its movie monsters and so there are small and large Godzilla statues all over the city. Among the most famous is the Godzilla bust on the roof of the Toho Cinema in Shinjuku and the three-meter-high statue in front of the Tokyo Midtown Hibiya office and shopping tower, which is based on the film "Godzilla Resurgence".



On her 50th birthday, the film character also received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles in 2004.



3) Skyfall

In the 007 flick “Skyfall”, James Bond (Daniel Craig) has to deal with the vengeful ex-agent Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). The Bond villain has set up his headquarters on a deserted island off Macau. However, the Japanese island of Hashima served as a real template for this location.



It is also known as Gunkanjima, in English Warship Island, as it resembles the silhouette of a warship with its high protective wall at dusk. In contrast to the film, in which the inhabitants left the island because of a faked contamination, they actually moved to the mainland because of the closure of the coal works in 1974.



Japanese films have also been shot on Hashima, such as “Battle Royale” from 2000. Boat tours to the island are offered from Nagasaki. However, if you want, you can also explore the island from home using Google Streetview.



4) Wolverine: Way of the Warrior

In the second "Wolverine" offshoot of the X-Men series, Japan becomes an important location for the tough superhero. Right at the beginning of the film, the prisoner of war Logan (Hugh Jackman) alias Wolverine saves the life of the Japanese officer Ichiro Yashida (Ken Yamamura) during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945.

Those who want to better understand the devastating effects of the bomb and Nagasaki's post-war history should visit the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. In the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park, a black column still marks the point above which the bomb exploded.



In the city's Peace Park, a statue with outstretched arms warns of the dangers of nuclear weapons and points to a more peaceful future.

When Logan returned to Japan many years later in the film, he said goodbye to Yashida at the Zojoji Temple. In truth, this is where the graves of six Tokugawa shoguns are located. Right behind the temple is the red and white striped Tokyo Tower, which offers great views over the city.



Another striking building that gets a role in the film is the Nakagin Capsule Tower. However, this is not in Hiroshima, but in the Ginza district of Tokyo.



5) Last samurai

The historical film "Last Samurai" by Edward Zwick takes viewers to the Japanese Empire at the time of the uprisings of the former Bushi around 1870. In it, civil war hero Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is supposed to train the Japanese army with modern firearms to defeat the samurai under the leadership of the To attack regional prince Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe).

But although they are only equipped with swords and bows and arrows, they defeat the army and Nathan is captured. There he learned the philosophy of the samurai and befriends Katsumoto.

Most of the film was shot in New Zealand, but some Japanese locations are also used:

The Chion-in Temple in Kyoto takes on the role of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. And the temple where Nathan and Katsumoto talk about General Custer's last stand is the Engyō-ji temple on the slope of Mount Shosha in the north of the city of Himeji, west of Kobe.



As a movie fan you shouldn't miss Himeji Castle from the 17th century, also known as the "White Heron Castle".



It has often been used as a film location, for example as the headquarters of the Japanese secret police in the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice" or as Osaka Castle in the television series "Shogun". And the film "Ran" by the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was also made there.



6) Lost in Translation

In the movie “Lost in Translation” by Sofia Coppola, two strangers meet in Tokyo: the aging film star Bob Harris (Bill Murray), who is supposed to be in front of the camera for a whiskey commercial, and the young Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who accompanies her husband on a business trip, but remains alone in the hotel most of the time.

Since both suffer from insomnia, their paths cross one night in the New York Bar on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku. In addition to the hotel as the most important location, you can still visit other locations where the film was shot.



This includes, for example, the karaoke Kan in Shibuya, in which Bob sings the song “More than this”.

Just around the corner, Bob and Charlotte have dinner in the Shabu-Shabu restaurant and it is only a five-minute walk to the busy intersection at the train station, which can also be seen in the films "Babel" and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift".



Of course, you can still feel “lost” in bustling Tokyo, but a lot has changed a lot since the 2003 film and you can get by in the city nowadays without knowing Japanese.



7) Kill Bill - Volume 1

Iconic images of Tokyo were also created by Quentin Tarantino's “Kill Bill - Volume 1” with Uma Thurman, who is in a bright yellow suit on a motorcycle through the city's neon lights. As a bride on the vengeance campaign, she is looking for O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), who she finally finds in the "House of Blue Leaves".



The showdown with the martial arts scenes was created on a set that is modeled on the real Gonpachi restaurant in Tokyo's Roppongi entertainment district.



Kill Bill fans are very welcome there: A photo of Quentin Tarantino, who had visited the restaurant, as well as some memorabilia from the film point to the cinematic importance of the place. However, you should hand in your Hattori Hanzo sword at the entrance.



8) Black Rain

American and Japanese cultures collide in the 1989 action thriller "Black Rain" by director Ridley Scott when New York cops Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) and Charlie Vincent (Andy García) recreate the murderer of a Yakuza boss Osaka are to be transferred to Japan.

After they accidentally hand it over to their own people, they hunt the fugitive together with the Japanese inspector Masa (Ken Takakura).



A fascinating setting for the film is the Dotonbori entertainment mile in Osaka, which looks like something from another world. Here you can just drift along, follow smells and noises.
Those who already have tired feet can start a small boat tour on the Dotonbori River from the Dazaemon Bridge and watch the hustle and bustle from the water.



9) Your Name - Yesterday, Today and Forever

The coming-of-age film “Your Name” by the Japanese director Makoto Shinkai is the world's most successful anime film and in 2016 replaced the previous number 1 “Spirited Away”.

The story is about Mitsuha, a high school student from the small town of Itomori in Hida Province, who would like to swap rural life for hectic city life in Tokyo. One day she actually finds herself in the body of the student Taki, who lives in Tokyo, and he in turn slips into the role of Mitsuha.



While most of the settings in Tokyo are real, the city of Itomori is fictional. However, real locations such as the city of Hida in Gifu Prefecture and its city library served as a template.

Lake Itomori is based on Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture. The lake is known for a rare natural spectacle, as there is a thermal spring under its surface, which allows the deep water to circulate even when the surface is frozen and pushes the ice cover upwards.



In addition, Lake Matsubara in director Shinkai's home town of Minamisaku served as the inspiration for the Itomori film images. Did he dream of a life in Tokyo as a schoolboy?



10) cherry blossom hanami

In Doris Dörrie's film drama “Cherry Blossoms - Hanami”, Rudi (Elmar Wepper) travels to Japan after the unexpected death of his wife (Hannelore Elsner) in order to catch up on her unfulfilled dreams.

During the cherry blossom season he met the young Japanese girl Yu (Aya Irizuki) in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, who dances the Japanese expressive dance butoh there every day, a secret passion of his wife. Together they visit the sacred Mount Fuji and wait for the clouds to reveal a view.



The lake at the foot of Mount Fuji, where they spend the night in the traditional Japanese guesthouse "Maruya-sō" at the end of the film, is Lake Kawaguchi in Yamanashi Prefecture.

There are many thermal hotels here, where you can bathe in an onsen, a hot spring, as well as the Itchikua Kubota Art Museum with a large collection of kimono and traditional-style gardens. The nicest thing about the area: On a clear day, Mount Fuji is reflected in the lake.



If you can think of any other films about Japan, please add them in the comments.

You can find more information about Japan here.