Tokyo has a lot to offer for both national and international filmmakers. The country has modern cityscapes, as well as a strong sense of history with many stunning feats of architecture, beautiful temples and a unique culture. So it will come as no surprise that there are so many wonderful movies set in Tokyo.
Although one can see the mix of the new and the old in many Asian cities, this fascinating phenomenon is most evident in the city of Tokyo.
Tokyo is Japan’s capital and the largest city in the country. It is also estimated to have the most populated metropolitan area in the world. Tokyo has a rich and ancient history, with some of the emblematic buildings from time past still standing, while others have been destroyed in natural catastrophes and wars. This is why the city is a perfect mixture of the old and the new. In Tokyo, conservative values and institutions mix with the hyper-modern and technological world. With its stunning architecture and constant buzzing, it is no wonder that it has become the setting for many stories, created by filmmakers all over the world.
Some of the films we will explore in this article are by Japanese directors and screenwriters, who masterfully showcase Tokyo like it were a postcard from each historical period. Others were created by foreign filmmakers attracted by the culture and atmosphere of the city to tell their stories.
Walking the streets of this ancient city is a surreal experience. Some of the most antique and beautiful buildings in the world lie just around the corner from some of the most modern shopping malls and apartment complexes.
The city is filled with nooks and crannies where one can observe its past. It isn’t just the past, though: the Japanese have become one of the most developed countries in the world, but they still preserve much of the traditions that were part of their culture before their westernization.
From an outside perspective, Tokyo seems to be a city of contrasts. Yet, if you were to ask a local, they would find that their way of living their history and culture is perfectly balanced.
What no one will deny is that Tokyo is a complex city, particularly for foreigners. This list of films will help you understand this gem of a place. It features both the voice of the locals, but also some perspectives that are not. Tokyo is such a vibrant city, that each person is bound to have a unique experience there.
These Japanese films have narratives that rely on their settings as much as their main protagonists, and as a result, spectators get a glimpse of this iconic country through the director’s eyes. To honor the concept of cinematic travel, we have also assembled lists of our favorite films shot in some of our all-time favorite travel destinations: Romania, Italy, Mexico, Ireland, Australia, Japan, Alaska, and Israel.
Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.
You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.
Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best.
While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.
- Stray Dog [野良犬] (1949)
- Funeral Parade of Roses [薔薇の葬列] (1969)
- Tokyo Story [東京物語] (1953)
- Tokyo Drifter [東京流れ者] (1966)
- Tokyo Godfathers [東京ゴッドファーザーズ] (2003)
- Like Someone in Love [ライク・サムワン・イン・ラブ] (2012)
- Cherry Blossoms [Kirschblüten – Hanami] (2008)
- Shoplifters [万引き家族] (2018)
- Enter the Void (2009)
- Tokyo! (2008)
- The Garden of Words [言の葉の庭] (2013)
- Your Name [君の名は] (2016)
- Tokyo Sonata (2008)
- Ikiru (1952)
- Adrift In Tokyo (2007)
- The Outsider (2018)
- The Last Samurai (2003)
- Kill Bill Vol 1. (2003)
- High And Low (1963)
- Babel (2006)
- Tampopo (1985)
- The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
- The Wind Rises (2013)
Stray Dog [野良犬] (1949)
What better way to start a list of the best movies set in Tokyo, than with the Japanese master of filmmaking himself, Akira Kurosawa.
Widely regarded as one of the best directors to ever live, Kurosawa’s films have influenced filmmakers worldwide. He was one of the first to truly explore how movement could be captured in cinema: films like Seven Samurai or Rashomon are filled with activity and action.
Like many of Kurosawa’s movies, Stray Dog holds a special place in cinema. It not only was one of the first detective films in Japan, but it is also considered to be the foundation for the buddy cop genre.
Even though over fifty years have passed since its release, the film still feels like a fresh take on the very genre it originated. That’s perhaps due to the genius of Kurosawa, whose movies all remain timeless.
Stray Dog takes place in post-war Tokyo and sees an inexperienced homicide detective, Murakami (Toshiro Mifune) chasing after a man who stole his police-issued pistol.
When the robber starts to commit crimes with the detective’s weapon, Murakami partners with the veteran Satō (Takeshi Shimura). The two of them will dive deep into the case, eventually finding out that the man they’re looking for is actually a disgruntled war veteran with ties with the yakuza.
Funeral Parade of Roses [薔薇の葬列] (1969)
Funeral Parade of Roses, by Toshio Matsumoto, was a revolutionary film. Not only due to its use of experimental and arthouse techniques when filming and editing, but also due to its subject matter.
It’s no surprise, since Matsumoto is now known for his forward-thinking style and activism.
Most of the film takes place in the, at the time, very famous Tokyo hostess clubs. These kinds of nightclubs were known for an all-female staff that was there to provide conversation and entertainment to male guests.
While it wasn’t common for Japanese films to show this aspect of the nightlife, Matsumoto took it a step further by telling the story of a transgender woman trying to make a life for herself working as a hostess.
Funeral Parade of Roses (a play on words about the fact that the protagonist is transgender) follows Eddie, a transgender woman working at Genet, a gay bar in Tokyo.
The film tells her story in a non-linear fashion and features some truly gruesome scenes. This is because, although it may be shocking to hear, the film is actually a loose adaptation of the quintessential Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex.
Tokyo Story [東京物語] (1953)
The film magazine Sight & Sound runs a poll each year where filmmakers all over the world vote for the greatest film of all time. In 2012, the winner was Tokyo Story by Yasujirō Ozu.
The film captures much about Japan’s cultural climate during the post-war period. It shows how Japan became the capitalist and developed nation that it is today, and the difficult readaptation of its culture, practices, and values to fit Western standards.
Of course, these changes had much impact on Japan and its people. Stories can be derived from many issues and struggles from that era. Tokyo Story tells a single story, but one that could be seen as representative of many other real-life stories that took place during this time.
The film begins with Shukishi (Chishu Ryu) and his wife Tomi (Chieko Higashiyama), who live in a seaside village in the West of Japan. We see the quiet and traditional lives they lead, before they go to Tokyo in order to visit their children.
Yet as they arrive in the big city, we also see that their children don’t seem to have much time for them. Instead, they spend most of their time working. This disrespect breaks the elderly couple’s hearts.
Their only consolation is Noriko, their daughter-in-law who became a widow when their son died in the war. This won’t be enough, though, and the consequences of their trip to Tokyo will turn their lives around.
Tokyo Drifter [東京流れ者] (1966)
Tokyo Drifter is part of the genre of “Yakuza” films, meaning films that deal with the lives of yakuzas, members of the biggest crime syndicate in Japan.
The film’s director, Seijun Suzuki, is widely known for being a pioneer in the genre, with this film being regarded as his best work
. Even though his films are considered B-movies, he has influenced great directors from Japan (like Takeshi Kitano) and outside of Japan (like Quentin Tarantino).
The film follows a yakuza who, after his boss disbanded their gang, can’t find a place for himself in society. Still, what Tetsu (Tetsuya Watari) didn’t expect was for the rival gang to offer him a job with them.
When he refuses, the old world of crime comes back to haunt him, with the rival gang members sending a skilled hitman after Tetsu.
Tokyo Drifter will see Tetsu becoming just that, a drifter living in the streets of Tokyo trying to avoid the notice of the hitman. As he explores Tokyo, so does the viewer.
The city takes on a marvelous nature when seen through Suzuki’s particular style. More than an accurate depiction, the film manages to capture the feeling of being lost in the enormous and wonderful city of Tokyo.
Tokyo Godfathers [東京ゴッドファーザーズ] (2003)
From the anime director, Satoshi Kon comes this beautifully animated portrayal of Tokyo. Those unaware should know that Kon is regarded as one of the masters of Japanese animation, making some of the greatest films in the genre.
From Perfect Blue to Paprika, his stories reflect on the beautiful and the dark things about Japanese societies. Sadly, there aren’t many movies directed by him due to his untimely death when he was only forty-six years old.
Tokyo Godfathers is a wonderful melodrama told through comedy. Set during Christmas Eve, it tells the story of three homeless people who happen to find an abandoned newborn baby in a dumpster. The three of them decide to take the baby and find their parents.
To do so, they take on the role of being the baby’s family for the night. The film will see them wander the beautifully snowy streets of Tokyo as they look for clues about the baby’s parent’s identity.
As they get involved in a mysterious plot by the organized crime family of the Yakuza, the three of them will get to know each other, revealing their sad backstories to the audience.
But don’t worry, Tokyo Godfathers is a charming and uplifting film that shows that even in the biggest city one can find the best of people.
Like Someone in Love [ライク・サムワン・イン・ラブ] (2012)
Like Someone in Love is one of the last films to be directed by the acclaimed Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. It is also one of the two films (together with Certified Copy) that he filmed outside Iran.
Like many of his films, it’s a concise story that captures the culture of the place it’s set in. In this case, Japan.
The film follows the life of a young woman named Akiko (Rin Takanashi). We’re shown that she’s a brilliant student progressing on her degree in sociology at the University of Japan. But our assumptions about her are quickly challenged when we also see that she works as a prostitute, albeit a very luxurious one.
One night she meets a client who is out of the ordinary. Takashi (Tadashi Okuno) is an old man who used to teach at the same university she goes to. But he isn’t interested in having sex with her. All he want’s is her company. The two of them have a pleasant evening and another day, he drives her back to the university.
The thing is, Akiko has a very jealous boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryō Kase), who has the feeling that something is up with her undisclosed work. When he sees Akiko get out of Takashi’s car, Noriaki mistakes him for her grandfather. This will lead Noriaki to get in the car with him and spend the whole morning talking with the man.
Cherry Blossoms [Kirschblüten – Hanami] (2008)
Cherry Blossoms, by German director Doris Dörrie, is a beautiful dramatic film that shines a light on some of the most interesting traditions and places in Japan.
It tells a heart-wrenching story about losing someone you love, but it also shows that grief is something important that we all have to go through and that happiness can still be found in the end.
An elderly couple lives in a remote town in Germany. All their children have left the family home, with one of them going away to work in Tokyo. The wife, Trudi (Hannelore Elsner) has long been wanting to visit him, particularly since she became interested in Japanese culture, but her husband, Rudi (Elmar Wepper), isn’t interested.
When Trudi learns that Rudi has only a few weeks left to live, she chooses not to tell him and takes him to visit their children in Berlin. Cherry Blossoms has an upsetting twist that will take the movie’s focus to Tokyo, and the Japanese ritual dance of Butoh will take center stage in the story.
Many see some resemblances in the plot of this movie to that of Tokyo Story. If it’s truly an homage, Dörrie has decided to put the story on its head.
Cherry Blossoms doesn’t tell us how Japan became more like the West. Rather, its message has more to do with the fact that people from the West have a lot to learn from Japanese culture and traditions.
Shoplifters [万引き家族] (2018)
It’s often hard for directors with long and successful careers to outdo their previous work. But when it happens, it’s usually with movies that are too good to be true. This is the case with Hirozaku Kore-eda and Shoplifters.
A key voice in Japanese cinema, Kore-eda has spent the last twenty years producing some of the most interesting films set in the country (the tragic Nobody Knows and the beautiful Like Father, Like Son, to name a few).
With Shoplifters, he showed that even after all these years, he still has the talent to make a groundbreaking film. At its core, it’s a film about family. But not just any family: Kore-eda explores the life of poor families and how they get by.
He won several awards for his work on this film, including the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
The film tells the story of a patchwork family of five who all lie together in a house on the outskirts of Tokyo. Focusing on the married couple that is part of this “family”, the film shows a common practice amongst poor Japanese people: shoplifting.
The philosophy of many is that stealing from stores isn’t as bad since the things don’t belong to anyone in particular. The film sees them adopting a girl who has run away from her abusive household, even when the police are searching for her.
Enter the Void (2009)
Gaspar Noé has to be one of the most interesting directors out there. Recently, his movie Climax shocked and awed audiences and critics alike. Although he has made many great films before and after, Enter the Void remains his best.
The film offers a psychedelic exploration of Tokyo’s underworld and nightlife, told through the eyes of a man in drugs who is recalling his life as he faces his death.
It’s an incredible experience that shows the city of Tokyo like no other. It may not be the most charming depiction of the city, but it’s one that you’ll want to experience, at least once in your life.
Enter the Void is told and shot, through the eyes of Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), an American drug dealer living in Tokyo. While first, we see how Oscar deals drugs in some of the most bizarre nightclubs in the city, it comes a time when he arrives at a bar called The Void.
He was supposed to deal drugs with a friend there, but it turns out that that friend betrayed him and quickly the police arrive.
The altercation ends with Oscar being shot, yet that’s not the film’s end: we see through Oscar’s eyes as his spirit leaves his body and he floats through the city of Tokyo, exploring both the past and the future.
Enter the Void is a mesmerizing film that is sure to show you sights you’ve never seen before.
Tokyo! is an anthology film comprised of three short films about the Japanese city.
What’s most interesting about the film is that these shorts are not made by Japanese filmmakers but are directed by foreigners who offer their outside perspective about Tokyo. The premise brings lots of originality through these artists’ interpretation of the city.
The first segment was directed by Michel Gondry (whose work you may know from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). It sees a young couple whose prospects couldn’t be better: Akira (Ryō Kase) is about to debut his first film, and Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani) has gotten them an apartment. But as time goes by Hiroko realizes that nothing is as good as it seems.
The second segment was directed Léos Caraz (who did Boy Meets Girl, among other French films) and tells the story of a chaotic creature living in the sewers of Tokyo. The creature, played by Denis Lavant, speaks a language no one can understand. This segment deals with the place of immigrants in the big city.
The third and final segment was directed by Bong Joon-ho (who recently got lots of praise for his movie Parasite). This one is a love story between a hikikomori (a shut-in played by Teruyuki Kagawa) and a pizza delivery woman. Among the shakes of the earthquakes that plague Tokyo, the shut-in will gain the strength to go outside and find his soulmate.
The Garden of Words [言の葉の庭] (2013)
The Garden of Words, by Makoto Shinkai, is a love letter to the city of Tokyo and one of the sweetest movies you’ll ever see.
The film tells the story of a young boy who wants to become a shoemaker. He’s so passionate about this dream that he skips classes to design shoes, which he likes to do in a rainy garden in the city.
He constantly sees a lonely woman who is sitting in the garden. One day he decides to approach her. The two of them become friends, eventually finding in each other the thing each of them needed to keep on going.
The film wouldn’t be the same without the titular garden. Although the film is animated, the director bases his locations on those of Tokyo in order to achieve a more realistic depiction of the city. In this case, the garden is the Shinjuku Gyoen National Park.
This beautiful park served as the inspiration for the film, since it’s where many people go either to spend time with their loved ones or just to feel less alone.
Your Name [君の名は] (2016)
One could say that Makoto Shinkai garnered much success with The Garden of Words, but it wasn’t until Your Name that he became the critically acclaimed director he is today.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this film was a total phenomenon. It was praised by audiences and critics worldwide, and it ended up becoming the most successful anime film of all time (surpassing Hideo Miyazaki’s 2001 hit, Spirited Away).
The story follows a boy and a girl who suddenly switch bodies. There’s Mitsuha, who lives in a rural town a couple of hours away from Tokyo called Itomori, and then there’s Taki, a student in Tokyo.
The two of them are, at first, really annoyed about what’s happening to them. But, with time, they start to learn things about each other. The film sees Taki going to Mitsuha’s town in order to meet her (up next comes an important spoiler, so be warned).
However, Taki doesn’t find what he had hoped for. Mitsuha’s town was destroyed in 2013, when a meteorite hit Earth right in the center of Itomori.
So, Taki is living in 2016, but he’s been communicating and taking part in the life of someone who died three years ago. He then decides to do whatever he can to prevent the accident and save Mitsuha’s life.
Tokyo Sonata (2008)
Tokyo Sonata, by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, is a social drama about the daily struggles of middle-class families in Japan. It won several awards, including Best Flim at the Asia film Awards and the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
The main characters are the members of the Sakasi family. The father, Ryuhei, is suddenly fired from his job and decides to lie to his wife about his unemployment. In order to conceal the truth, he gets a job as a janitor in the mall, but doesn’t tell anyone. His older son, Takashi, has joined the US military and is fighting in the middle east. The younger son, Kenji, wants to take piano lessons, but his father won’t allow it. To fulfill his dreams, he uses his lunch money to pay for his own lessons. The mother, Megumi, is supposed to be the glue that holds them all together. However, this proves to be harder and harder as the lies between them grow.
Tokyo Sonata is a beautiful and raw movie that shows what everyday life can be like for most of the Japanese population. By using real locations, the film manages to create a realistic environment. Many scenes were filmed in Meguro, a special ward in Tokyo. This neighborhood is mainly filled with residential houses and offices.
The movie features places such as Todaimae Shopping Street and the Keio Inokashira Line. You can also visit the detached house in Komaba-todaime which was used as the main setting for the movie.
Ikiru is a dramatic film by Akira Kurosawa. Its title can be translated to “To live”. It is one of Japan’s most acclaimed films and it has won several international awards. The story is loosely based on Tolstoy’s story “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”.
Ikiru’s protagonist is Kanji Watanabe, an old bureaucrat, who lives a dull life, not doing anything besides work. His wife has died and so he lives with his son and daughter-in-law, who seem to be apathetic towards the old man and are only interested in their inheritance. However, he doesn’t see or feel the emptiness in his life, until he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. As he realizes he may not have much time left he begins a search for meaning. When he meets a young girl named Toyo whose love for life is evident, he decides to stick with her and try to learn what he can while he is still alive.
Ikiru is a classic of Japanese cinema. It has a sweet message about living life to the fullest and it reflects the state of bureaucracy in the country in the post-war period. It is definitely a must-watch for all nipophiles.
Adrift In Tokyo (2007)
Adrift in Tokyo is a dramatic comedy directed by Satoshi Miki. It is based on the namesake novel by Yoshinaga Fujita.
The story follows Takemura, a young man who lives alone. He doesn’t have friends and his parents left him when he was little. On top of that, he is deeply in debt after having taken student loans for university. One day, a man named Fukuhara appears, sent by the loan sharks to collect the money, which Takemura doesn’t have. The man, however, decides to pay for the loan himself if he accompanies him walking around Tokyo for a while. Takemura agrees and so a night of wandering through the city begins.
Their itinerary is not straightforward. While there is a clear final destination where Fukuhara wants to go, they visit many of Tokyo’s landmarks and iconic buildings. During their walk, they stop by the Tokyo Tower, which you may know as a smaller-scale Eiffel Tower; Shinjuku Central Park, where the man playing guitar shows up in the film; the Jindai temple, which is the second oldest temple in Tokyo; Ueno Zoo, where they stop by before going on the rollercoaster; and their final stop: the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Station.
This movie presents us with important topics such as guilt and facing the consequences of one’s actions. If you enjoy films such as Before Sunrise, where the characters seem to drift aimlessly, having interesting conversations and meeting different people, then this is definitely the film for you.
The Outsider (2018)
Directed by Danish filmmaker Martin Zandvliet, The Outsider is an action thriller about an American soldier (Jared Leto) imprisoned in Japan, nine years after the Pacific War. This is one of those movies in which the tension builds up exponentially with each minute passing and will keep you hooked to the screen wanting to know more.
Nick Lowell is the only non-Japanese prisoner in an Osaka facility. While he is imprisoned, he saves another inmate life named Kiyoshi, who happens to be a member of the yakuza (the Japanese mafia). Kiyoshi’s clan then arranges for Nick’s release and they offer him a deal to work with them. The clan has been trying to negotiate with Anthony Panetti, an American businessman, but Panetti hates the Japanese and will not make deals with them. That’s where Nick comes in. From this point on we follow his descent into the criminal world and his immersion in the yakuza culture.
While the film doesn’t display the most touristic locations, it has stunning cinematography that showcases the beauty of Tokyo at night. It also provides insight into the criminal world of the city, which, while being fictionalized and glamorized for the purposes of the story, continues to be very real in this day and age. At the same time, it recreates a Tokyo long gone from the 1950s, building with the sets and locations chosen with a melancholic atmosphere.
The Last Samurai (2003)
The Last Samurai, by Edward Zwick, is an action-drama film starring Ken Watanabe and Tom Cruise. Upon its release, it was a box-office success, and it was met with high praises for both Cruise’s and Watanabe’s acting. The film sparked some controversy because of its depiction of samurais since the portrayal of the character met some of the stereotypes created by the Western imagination. In spite of this, it is considered a very good movie, and it was even nominated for four Academy Awards.
Tom Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren, a soldier who took part in both the American Civil War and the Indian War. He deals with guilt and trauma from his involvement in the Native American massacre. After his retirement as a soldier, he is asked to help the new Meiji Restoration government to create an army, similar to the ones in the West. However, he soon gets captured in battle by a samurai named Katsumoto. The samurai are trying to fight back against the westernization of Japan. Algren becomes persuaded by their cause and agrees to help them instead.
While the film is not fully an accurate historical representation, it is a good way to learn about Japanese history and the many changes the country went through during the Meiji period. Katsumoto’s character bears some resemblance to the real samurai Saigō Takamori, who led the Satsuma Rebellion against the Meiji Government. The Last Samurai is certainly a recommended watch for anyone interested in Japanese culture and the history of samurai. Though much of it was filmed in New Zealand with Mt. Taranaki being a stand-in for Mt. Fuji…
Kill Bill Vol 1. (2003)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is an action American movie written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. As the title indicates, it is the first installment of a two-part story about Beatrix Dido or “the Bride” (played by Uma Thurman).
The Bride used to be a member of an assassin squad. After leaving the criminal life behind to get married and start a family, her old teammates show up at the church where the wedding is about to take place and try to kill her. Beatrix, who was also pregnant, ends up in a coma for several years after the murder attempt. The story begins when she wakes up and discovers she’s no longer pregnant. The Bride then decides to take revenge on her old team, killing them one by one.
One of the squad members was an American-Japanese woman named O-Ren Ishii (played by Lucy Liu). O-Ren, who has a traumatic backstory that also involves revenge, has become head of the Yakuza in Tokyo. The Bride manages to track her down to the House of Blue Leaves, a Tokyo restaurant, from where she operates. There, one of the most iconic scenes takes place, as Beatrix fights the Crazy 88, an elite squad of fighters, in order to get to O-Ren.
While the House of Blue Leaves is not a real place, it is inspired by a real restaurant in Tokyo called Gonpachi. The interior looks very similar to the one in the film, since Tarantino got the inspiration for the set while dining there. It is close to the Roppongi station. The food there is certainly delicious and the staff is very friendly and open to help with recommendations. It is definitely the place to visit if you are a Tarantino fan.
High And Low (1963)
High and Low is a noir film directed by Akira Kurosawa, a director mostly known for his samurai films. Toshiro Mifune stars as Gondo, a successful businessman who works at a shoe company. The film is considered to be one of the best thrillers ever made, and it was nominated for several international awards, including the Emmy for Best Foreign Film.
Gondo is about to close an important deal for the company when he receives the news that his son, Jun, has been kidnapped. To get him back, he needs to deliver a sum of money, which would be available to him, only he needs that same money for the negotiation that would put him in control of the company.
The movie explores the moral dilemma in which the main character finds himself since it is not only a matter of choosing to save either his son or his career, but it is also a matter of honor, work ethic and reputation. Kurosawa explores the whole social spectrum with this story, as the plot moves from the world of the mega-rich to the lives of the poor and desperate.
Tokyo becomes the scene of the crime as detective Tokura and his men try to find out what happened to Jun. While maintaining it’s distinct aesthetic and geography, the city becomes more like the LA of Raymond Chandler than the stereotypical image of Tokyo we are used to seeing. Overall, this is a great film for those who enjoy a good detective story or an exploration of human psychology under pressure.
Babel is a dramatic film, directed by Mexican filmmaker, Alejandro González Iñárritu. What is special about this movie is that it tells several different stories about characters all over the world, that are somehow connected. It stars renowned actors such as Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.
There are main four stories which we can divide by countries: Morocco, the United States, Mexico and Japan. The story in Japan follows Chieko Wataya, a deaf teenage girl who wants to experience her sexuality and make human connections, but faces the difficulties of being disabled and trying to communicate with her peers, especially when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex. At the same time, she is dealing with her mother’s suicide and her father being investigated by the police. Like most of the stories in this movie, Cheiko’s journey is about looking for empathy and understanding from other people.
In the film, we can see the streets of Tokyo. There are several night shots in which we can see the impressive billboards and lights in the city, as well as the iconic Shibuya Scramble Crossing, which is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world.
This film is known as the first “ramen western” and, while you may be skeptical at first, it makes sense once you watch it. Tampopo, directed by Juzo Itami, takes one of the Western film’s tropes, two rough men show up to help a widow, but twists it with humor and a distinctly Japanese plot.
Two truck drivers, Goro and Gun, stop at a rundown noodle shop. The owner is an old lady named Tampopo. She serves them noodles, but, unfortunately, they are not very good. The truck drivers decide to help her to improve her recipe and give her shop a chance. Goro and Gun begin a crusade, going around all of the noodle shops that represent Tampopo’s competition and recognizing their strength and weaknesses. Without the other owner’s noticing, they manage to steal some of their secrets.
As the story progresses, we are thrown into the lives of different characters. All of their stories involve food in some way or another, like the woman who teaches the proper way to eat spaghetti or the family who has one last meal with their dying father. There is also a very interesting subplot about a young man who happens to be involved with the mafia and his lover, who explore their sexual life through food. Most of the film is shot in distinctly Western-style shots and pays homage to some of the common tropes found in this genre.
If you are curious about Japan’s cuisine and want to take a behind-the-scenes look at its culinary world, then you should watch Tampopo. It is a beautiful film about love for food and human connection. It will make you want to jump on the next flight to Tokyo and order a hot plate of noodles.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
If you like science fiction and female lead movies, this is the film for you. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, by Mamoru Hosoda, is a loose sequel to the 1967 novel by the same name. The story centers on Makoto Konno, a seventeen-year-old high school student at Kuranose High School in Tokyo. Makoto is at a crucial point in her life, when she must decide what she wants to do with her life. Most of her classmates are moving abroad to study, but she has no idea what she would like to do. She also has a best friend, who seems to be interested in being more than friends, a thought that Makoto can’t handle.
One day, she discovers a strange object shaped like a walnut. This object gives her the power to travel through time, but what she doesn’t realize at first is that she only has a limited amount of jumps. As she uses this new power, she will grow up and learn more about herself and the world that surrounds her.
The film features many exterior shots and one can really appreciate the work put into the making of the environment. The streets of Tokyo come to life in this animation, with emblematic places such as the Tokyo National Museum being featured, a place that is central to the plot. The building itself is a sight to behold. It is the oldest national museum in Japan, existing since the Meiji Era, when it displayed imperial artwork and scientific specimens. Nowadays, it mainly holds Japanese art exhibitions from different historical periods.
The Wind Rises (2013)
Possibly one of the best movies produced by Studio Ghibli, The Wind Rises, by Hayao Miyazaki, is a fictionalized biographical film about Jiro Horikoshi, the inventor of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter aircraft. It was highly praised by critics and nominated for multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
The story begins with a young Jiro dreaming of being a pilot. However, his bad eyesight wouldn’t allow it, so instead, he decides to become an engineer and build airplanes himself. Years later, we see him traveling to Tokyo, on his way to Tokyo Imperial University. On the train, he meets a girl, Naoko Satomi, and her maid. This is both the beginning of his successful career and his love story with Naoko, but both aspects of his life will make him suffer greatly.
Jiro dreams of building beautiful machines that will allow men to fly higher and better than ever before, but his inventions end up being used in World War II. His love for Naoko will end up in tragedy as well since early on in her life she contracts tuberculosis. As with most Miyazaki films, the main characters learn to love life despite all the bad things that happen in the world and to enjoy the precious time they have together.
The film shows the changes that occurred in Japan during the first half of the twentieth century, particularly in Tokyo. Both the earthquake and the war drastically altered Tokyo’s geography and infrastructure, and, in The Wind Rises, we get a glimpse of life in pre-war Japan.
Further Things To Consider Before Any Adventure
Now you're all set and prepared to explore our big wide world, why not sort out everything else out all in one go? If necessary for your travel plans make sure you have brought proper travel insurance, protected your privacy by getting a secure VPN, compared all the top hotel booking sites to find just what you're after, reserved an unbeatable rental car price and - of course - booked the best flight deals!
Or maybe just forget it all and go for a last-minute cruise or effortless tour instead?
Many budget travelers (including me) indulge in worldwide airport lounge access, so we can experience luxury while still slumming it in economy. Naturally, we would never leave home without a more general travel guide since we couldn’t possibly cover everything here!
Just add an adventurous attitude and plenty of smiles - they go a long way - and that about covers it all! Now go out, find your own path and don't forget to share your best inspiration stories with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram...I'd love to hear from you!