While most of us think of movies as entertaining, they can also teach us.

There are a lot of great movies about Japan, but this selection of five are not only very entertaining, they’ll teach you about Japan without even trying.

Lost in Translation (Focus Features)

This dark comedy was described as director Sofia Coppola’s love letter to Japan. The movie follows an aging movie star (Bill Murray) and recent college graduate unsure of her life’s direction (Scarlett Johansson). The two find common ground in their marital woes and explore the city of Tokyo together.

Why it’s great: The movie shows Japan’s quirky side, as well as the unique beauty of the culture and country.

Black Rain (Paramount Pictures)

This action flick stars Michael Douglas as a jaded NYC cop who has a run-in with Japan’s mafia, the Yakuza. He and his partner (played by Andy Garcia) have to take a captured Yakuza member to Japan for extradition. After the prisoner escapes, Douglas and Garcia have to navigate the complexities of Japanese culture to try and recapture the bad guy by working with a by-the-book local cop (Ken Takakura).

Why it’s great: The non-stop action takes you through the seedy underworld of Japan most people don’t get to see. It also highlights differences between American and Japanese culture.

Cowboy Bebop (Sunrise Inc.)

This movie is based on a Japanese anime series of the same name. The storyline throws a group of rebels together, each with their own quirks and flaws, who travel through space making deliveries. The group has regular run-ins with pirates and their past.

Why it’s great: While animated, the storyline is edgy and entertaining, and the sci-fi element is an escape from the everyday.  Japan is known for its anime, and this is one of the best.


Memoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures)

This drama follows the life of Chiyo Sakamoto, a young Japanese girl torn from her country home and thrown into a world of sex, materialism and war. Viewers follow her struggles and triumphs in a sort of Cinderella story.

Why it’s great: The movie is beautifully done, and focuses on a still-controversial aspect of Japanese history. The scenery and costumes will leave you feeling like you’re there.

The 47 Ronin (1941 version)

This classic movie chronicles the historical Ako Incident, in which 47 ronin (leaderless samurai) seek to  avenge the death of their master and restore his honor. The movie is set in the 1700’s and chronicles the struggles and selflessness of each ronin, highlighting the samurai brotherhood and code of honor. While the Japanese language version is awesome, watch with subtitles to really get into the story.

Why it’s great: Samurai movies are hugely popular in Japan, and The 47 Ronin will show you why. It’s a true samurai movie, with raw action scenes and gritty dialogue, and reveals much of the basis for modern Japanese culture.

So if you want to learn about Japan, movies are a great way to do it. And with Lost in Translation, Black Rain, Cowboy Bebop, Memoirs of a Geisha, and The 47 Ronin, you have 5 different genres to choose from. Hopefully these films pique your interest and inspire you to travel to Japan like they did for me. Now get watching (and get traveling)!

To learn more about the hotel Lost in Translation was filmed in, check out http://japanalytic.com/2016/10/15/hotel-review-park-hyatt-tokyo/


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