Movies have a history in Japan that spans more than 100 years. It’s said that the first films shown in Japan were released in the late 19th century. Toho Company, the biggest theater operator and movie distributor in the country, was established in 1932. Today, Japan stands as one of the top five largest film industries in the world. Over the years, this expansive growth has cultivated generations of passionate moviegoers in the country. Likewise, the international film community has been fascinated with the history, culture and visuals of Japan, leading to numerous movies being set here. But do you know which ones were actually shot in the country? Check out these famous movies that were actually filmed in Japan.
Lost in Translation
It would be difficult to make this list without mentioning Lost in Translation, directed by Sofia Coppola. This award-winning romantic comedy starring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray is one of the most well-known movies shot in Japan. The story revolves around a relationship between two people who feel a cultural displacement with their surroundings. Tokyo residents will recognize the different parts of Shinjuku in the background, with the main set being the Park Hyatt Hotel.
The Last Samurai
Although much of this movie’s filming was in New Zealand, it was also partly shot around the Engyoji Temple near Kobe. Several of the buildings were used to shoot different scenes, and serve as the set for the temple where we meet Ken Watanabe’s character, Katsumoto. The scenes depicting the Imperial Palace in Tokyo were set at Chion-in Temple in Kyoto.
A sequel in the Wolverine series of X-Men movies, The Wolverine follows the story of Logan, a mutant, who seeks the cure to his immortality in Japan. This movie is perhaps the most popular Western film to use several real locations in Japan for filming. Shooting on-site in Japan can often be challenging due to the difficulty in receiving permission. This results in many Japanese places being recreated as set pieces overseas. However, The Wolverine was filmed in several locations in Tokyo, such as Zojoji Temple in Minato-ku, Akihabara, Shinjuku, and Ueno, as well as in other prefectures like Hiroshima and Ehime.
You Only Live Twice
You Only Live Twice is the fifth installment of the Sean Connery James Bond movies. In this film, the spy finds himself in various locations across Japan. Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture famously served as the ninja training facility for Bond in the film. Hotel New Otani Tokyo was used as the headquarters of the fictional Osato Chemicals and Engineering. Whether you are a fan of Sean Connery’s Bond or not, the film locations definitely make this depiction of him memorable.
Hollywood directors do their best to keep the genuine feeling and visuals of Japan in their movies, but it isn’t always possible. Sometimes, the rules and regulations just don’t allow the real locations to be used. Despite this, a few directors and production teams have managed to recreate movies reflecting the Japanese culture in a way that captivated Western audiences.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is one of Quentin Tarantino’s most famous movies. The action scenes from this film are still referenced frequently in popular culture, especially the fight scene in a “Tokyo restaurant.” In reality, none of the movie was shot in Tokyo. The restaurant, a set built in Beijing, was actually inspired by a restaurant in Roppongi called Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is a fan favorite among car enthusiasts and followers of the series. The street-racing action film used overhead shots of Shibuya in the movie, but most driving and action scenes were actually filmed in Southern California.
Silence is an Academy Award-nominated film by Martin Scorsese that follows the story of two Catholic missionaries on a search for their mentor during the period of Christian persecution in Japan. It was filmed in Taiwan, but portrays various places around Nagasaki.
In the future, we may start to see more real places around Japan on the silver screen. There are rumors of Japan easing restrictions, so the beautiful places around the country will one day see an even greater opportunity to be introduced to audiences around the world.