5 Alternative Movies To Get You Excited About Going To Japan:

A enormous part of what has inspired me to travel to Japan are Japanese films. I absolutely think you can good get a taste of the culture you will be visiting watching films created by and for that culture. There are a few Japanese movies widely known to a worldwide audience, yet these few well known ones barely scratch the surface. Here are five of my top alternative recommendations for digging deeper into Japanese cinema.

1. The Bad Sleep Well (1960)

The Bad Sleep Well is a film directed by Akira Kurosawa, starring Toshiro Mifune. The story is set late in 50s Japan, and follows Koichi Nishi, a man trying to take down the corrupt company who had his father killed. The story of this film is roughly based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, but changes it up enough keep it fresh and thrilling. You will especially love this movie if enjoy film noir, or if you enjoyed Seven Samurai but would rather not watch a 3 hour and 27 minute film.

2. Millennium Actress (2001)

The Millennium Actress an animated film about and aged actress recounting her life story for a documentary crew, as she tells her tale the life she led and the roles she played become harder to tell apart. This dramedy was directed by Satoshi Kon, a filmmaker who greatly inspired Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky (it could be said the Millennium Actress shares much with Aronofsky’s later film The Fountain. While Kon is more famous for films like Paprika, and Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress is an underappreciated classic that deserves a watch.

3. The Wind Rises (2013)

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This may be the most well known film on this list, yet it often seems to have gone under the radar for some. The film is a fictional retelling of the of life story of Jiro Horikoshi, an aircraft designer. The film is set in pre world war 2 Japan and is filled with quiet romance and cursed dreams. Another reason I love this film is that if feels like one of Miyazaki’s most personal films, as his father manufactured parts for the planes the real Horikoshi designed. The film manages to be soaring and beautiful and still grounded, something that only comes with mastery of the craft. If you don’t watch any other film on this list please watch this one. 

4. An Autumn Afternoon (1962)

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I am an unabashed fan of Yasujirō Ozu, I find his cinematographic style mesmerizing, and his tales of family life gently heartbreaking. An Autumn Afternoon is no exception. The film is a slice of life about ageing businessmen, marriage, and the breakdown of family structure due to changing times. It is one of Ozu’s masterpieces, a deft study of human nature with a hint of existential despair. Please do not be put off by the style or relative mundanity of this film, just give it a chance, trust me it will be worth it.

5. Tampopo (1985)

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Tampopo is a film that can be quite hard to describe, but in a good way. If I were to put it in a conventional genre would have to say absurd comedy, but I definitely prefer the term “Ramen Western” which they used to promote the film. The main story is about two truckers who try to help a single mother make her ramen shop successful. The side story consists of a number of strange comedic interludes, exploring connections between food, eroticism, and death. This film is definitely stranger than most, but it is definitely one the most enjoyable comedies I have seen in a long time.

Hope you enjoyed my list, have fun watching!

Matthew Panio