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Some of the best films set in Japan

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Japan is a country I have yet to visit, but it is high on my list. The country has had such an influence on Western culture over the years. From food, manga, fashion, video games, and of course films it has had a huge impact and rightly so.

I am sure I will get there at some point and I do have friends who live over there. It is always great to hear their tales of wandering around Tokyo, cycling down city streets, popping into those tiny bars, trying out a new restaurant, visiting the beautiful temples, grabbing a game of pachinko or having a dabble in a casino (check out some Japan casino reviews)

Until I get there I will have to keep diving into the many incredible films that have originated there. Japan has one of the oldest and largest film industries in the world; as of 2010, it was the fourth-largest by number of feature films produced. That means this list could be immense. Therefore, I will try and narrow it down to five of my favourite films. That means there are bound to be some not mentioned that you feel should be on here. If that’s the case then post them in the comments so we can all take a look at them.

Seven Samurai

To be honest, this list could have all been films by Akira Kurosawa, but I will include Seven Samurai (with Yojimbo just to one side). The tale of a small village hiring a group of warriors to fight off bandits has been copied and homaged in so many other films, TV shows and cartoons (The Magnificent Seven, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Battle Beyond The Stars) that some people still don’t realise that this is where it all began back in 1954.

It is a wonderful tale that is beautifully told, with brilliant characters, memorable moments, incredible battles and the long-running time just flies by. If you have yet to see it, then do your self a favour and watch it as soon as you can.

Akira

This list could have also just been anime movies, but I have again just picked one (which means no Studio Ghibli films or Your Name on this list although they are all fantastic). This time it is 1988’s Akira. This has been my favourite anime since I saw it back on grainy VHS and it just sucked me in to the dystopian world of biker gangs, psychic powers, government conspiracies and two friends repeatedly shouting their names at each other during a fateful final battle.

The visuals are just stunning, the soundtrack is beautiful and the story is epic (go and read the manga though to get the whole experience). I have been lucky to see it on the big screen a few years back and it just made it even better.

Tampopo

Japanese food is the true star in this 1985 comedy film written and directed by Juzo Itami. The main story deals with a truck driver helping Tampopo make her noodle soup shop more successful, but the film is full of vignettes of people talking, making and consuming all types of food.

A small story told extremely well that will make you laugh and smile and leave you feeling rather hungry!

Lost in Translation

Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson gives a more western perspective on the country as we follow the two lost souls as they connect and help each other. The city of Tokyo also looks absolutely gorgeous as we take in the karaoke bars, the Shibuya Crossing and other places that frame the story.

Beautiful and understated performances from the two leads make this an intimate slice of life that stays with you.

Godzilla

Godzilla vs Kong is dominating the 2021 box office and it can be easy to forget that the big guy has been around since 1954 and he has the longest-running film franchise in the world. As technology has improved Godzilla’s appearance has changed a few times (2016’s excellent Shin Godzilla had a few different looks in one film) and his first appearance can be considered a little funny looking when compared to today’s standards.

However, I strongly urge you to watch the original film as it is a stone-cold classic. Godzilla is a true force of nature in this one and it does play out more like a horror film, especially when compared to some of the other entries in the Godzilla movie series.

There you have it. Just a small selection of some of my favourite films set in Japan. There are so many others out there that are also well worth checking out – Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Ran, Battle Royale, Tokyo Story, Stray Dog, House of Bamboo, Tokyo Sonata – so dive in and see where it takes you.

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