(Return to Foreign Language Resource Center page.)
These movies qualify as full-length feature films
that can be used for the personal response paper requirement
for the Japanese 1L or 2L lab courses.
This is a list of materials available in the Foreign Language Center, to be used in the FLC by students enrolled in Japanese classes at Mission College. Keep in mind also that these are foreign films. Content of a violent or sexual nature may be different from American films with which you are familiar. For your information, the film's rating has been listed whenever possible.
The Burmese Harp An Imperial Japanese Army regiment surrenders to British forces in Burma at the close of World War II and finds harmony through song. A private, thought to be dead, disguises himself as a Buddhist monk and stumbles upon spiritual enlightenment. Magnificently shot in hushed black and white, Kon Ichikawa's The Burmese Harp is an eloquent meditation on beauty co-existing with death and remains one of Japanese cinema's most overwhelming antiwar statements, both tender and brutal in its grappling with Japan's wartime legacy. (DVD In Japanese and Burmese with English subtitles, 116 minutes, Not Rated.)
A Changing Heart Fifty years ago, most marriages in Japan were arranged by parents and matchmakers. A Changing Heart looks at how the Japanese, in only a century, have come to adopt love as a rationale for marriage. It examines the changing roles of women, the shape of families, the impact of World War II, industrialization, and the decline of tradition, also addressing the social consequences of this evolution. (DVD, in English, 50 minutes, Not Rated)
Chushingura The Loyal 47 Retainers tells of the personal conflicts that remained after the era of the Japanese civil wars, when the samurai warrior class lingered on despite the changes in Japanese society. The retainers of a humiliated and condemned Samurai warrior plan and wait patiently for their opportunity to avenge their dead master. (On two Videos, Parts 1 and 2, in Japanese with English subtitles, 207 minutes total, Not Rated)
Dreams Akira Kurosawa's Dreams is one of the most visionary, deeply personal works in the 60-year career of the film-making master. Composed of eight episodes rich in imagery and insight, it explores the costs of war, the perils of nuclear power and especially humankind's need to harmonize with nature. (DVD; In Japanese with English subtitles, 160 minutes, Rated R)
Firefly Dreams Naomi, a 17-year-old city brat from Nagoya, finds her world turned upside down after the breakup of her parents' marriage. Packed off to the country, she reluctantly works at her aunt's inn until being asked to care for Mrs. Koide, an aging relative with Alzheimer's disease. At first Naomi dislikes looking after the old woman but, over the course of the summer, the two develop an extraordinary friendship that transcends age and experience. (DVD In Japanese with English subtitles; 105 minutes, Not Rated.)
Fires on the Plain An agonizing portrait of desperate Japanese soldiers stranded in a strange land during World War II, Kon Ichikawa's Fires on the Plain is a compelling descent into psychological and physical oblivion. Denied hospital treatment for tuberculosis and cast off into the unknown, Private Tamura treks across an unfamiliar Philippine landscape, encountering an increasingly debased cross-section of Imperial Army soldiers, who eventually give in to the most terrifying craving of all. Grisly, yet poetic, Fires on the Plain is one of the most powerful works from one of Japanese cinema's most versatile filmmakers. (DVD In Japanese with English subtitles; 104 minutes, Not Rated.)
Floating Weeds and A Story of Floating Weeds In 1959, Yasujiro Ozu remade his 1934 silent classic, A Story of Floating Weeds in color with celebrated cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa. Setting his later version in a seaside location, Ozu otherwise preserves the details of his elegantly simple plot wherein an aging actor returns to a small town with his troupe and reunites with his former lover and illegitimate son, a scenario that enrages his current mistress and results in heartbreak for all. Together, the films offer a unique glimpse into the evolution of one of cinema's greatest directors. A Story of Floating Weeds finds Ozu in the midst of developing his mode of expression; Floating Weeds reveals his distinct style at its pinnacle. In each, the director captures the joy and sadness of everyday life. (2 DVDs: Floating Weeds (1959) 119 minutes, Color, In Japanese with optional English subtitles, Not Rated; A Story of Floating Weeds (1934) 105 minutes, Black & White, Japanese Intertitles with optional English subtitles, Not Rated.)
Grave of the Fireflies In the aftermath of a World War II bombing, two orphaned children struggle to survive in the Japanese countryside. To Seita and his four-year-old sister, the helplessness and indifference of their countrymen is even more painful than the enemy raids. Through desperation, hunger and grief, these children's lives are as heartbreakingly fragile as their spirit and love are inspiring. Grave of the Fireflies is a tale of the true tragedy of war and innocence lost, not only of the abandoned young, but of an entire nation. Animated feature. (DVD In Japanese with English subtitles; 88 minutes, Not Rated/Contains violence.)
The Hidden Fortress acknowledged by George Lucas as his inspiration for Star Wars, Akira Kurosawa's medieval adventure unfolds against the landscape of the civil war, centered around a deposed princess, who has gone into hiding inside her father's secret fortress, and the brave general who guards the princess, waiting for a chance to escape with her into a neighboring province. (In Japanese with English subtitles, 139 minutes, Not Rated)
Ikiru is Akira Kurosawa's compassionate reflection on living life to the fullest. A lonely civil servant, learning that he is about to die of stomach cancer, realizes that he has never really lived. After trying alcohol and meaningless activities, he finally is inspired by an unselfish co-worker to find a meaningful way to help others, thereby helping to face his own death in peace. (Video; In Japanese with English subtitles, 143 minutes, Not Rated)
Japan: Samurai, Geisha, and Technology This DVD shows the magnificent beauty of Japan, a unique, intriguing country which has incredible cities, castles, landscapes, gardens, wildlife, festivals, and hot springs. (DVD, in English and Japanese, 60 minutes, Not Rated)
Japanese Education in Crisis This documentary explores sobering developments linked to Japan's emphasis on intense academic pressure and conformity: 2,000 teen suicides per year, a 60 per cent increase in crime since 1994, and the phenomenon of hikikomori children -- those who have collapsed emotionally and withdrawn from society. Gritty footage shot in chaotic classrooms and dysfunctional homes, combined with commentary from counselors, parents, and dispirited young people, depicts a nation unprepared for radical social change and, despite recent educational reforms, lacking a consensus on whether to crack down or loosen up. (DVD, in English and Japanese with English subtitles, 20 minutes, Not Rated)
The Japanese Nightmare: Women Who Don't Want to Marry In Japan, more and more young women are rebelling against the societal norm. They do not want to settle down, marry and have families. Instead, more have careers and live with their parents, enabling them to have disposable income which they spend for their own enjoyment. This documentary explores this break from the tradition in which women were subservient wives, examining the impact on the economy and on demographics. (DVD, in English, 28 minutes, Not Rated)
Japan's War Using never-before-seen footage, Japan's War tells a previously untold story.It recounts the history of the Second World War from a Japanese perspective, combining original color film with letters and diaries written by Japanese people. It tells the story of a nation at war from the diverse perspectives of those who lived through it: leaders and ordinary people, oppressors and victims, guilty and innocent. (DVD, in English and Japanese with English subtitles, 151 minutes, Not Rated, but contains some graphic war scenes)
Kagemusha In this late, color masterpiece, Akira Kurosawa returned to the samurai film and to a primary theme of his career -- the play between illusion and reality. Sumptuously reconstructing the splendor of feudal Japan and the pageantry of war, Kurosawa creates a historical epic that is also a meditation on the nature of power. A second disk contains supplements, including a "making of" documentary and interviews with directing greats George Lucas and Francis Fod Coppola, as they discuss Kurosawa. (DVD; In Japanese with English subtitles, 180 minutes, Not Rated)
Madadayo Akira Kurosawa's final film, follows the last two decaes in the life of Hyakken Uchida, a writer and teacher who retires in the war years of the early 1940s. His students venerate him in his old age, and join him and his family each year for a ritual birthday party asking, "Mahda-kai? (Are you ready?)," to which Uchida downs a big glass of beer and answers, "Madadayo! (Not yet!)," acknowledging that death may be near, but life still goes on. (DVD; In Japanese with English subtitles, 134 minutes, Not Rated)
Minbo, or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion A feature-length comedy satire of the Japanese mob which so outraged the real-life "Yakuza" that the film's director was attacked by thugs. The film pits criminal buffoons against a fearless female lawyer. An accomplished blending of realism and farce. (Video; In Japanese with English subtitles, 123 minutes, Not Rated)
The Mystery of Rampo "Life is but an illusion, the dreams of night are real," wrote Hirai Taro (1894-1965), better known by his pseudonym Edogawa Rampo, a name inspired by his admiration for Edgar Allan Poe (edogaw-aram-po). The film starts with a murder story (told in a wonderful animation sequence) of Rampo's, which is banned by the government for being "injurious to public morality." He later reads in a newspaper of a real case identical to his story, tracks down the woman suspected of the murder, and she is the visual incarnation of how he imagined the protagonist of his story would be ... and fact and fiction start to intermingle, with the fiction creating the fact. (DVD; In Japanese with English subtitles, 101 minutes, Rated R)
Nobody Knows Based on events that shocked Japan, this story of abandoned siblings is a tender film featuring a performance by 12-year-old Yagira Yuya that won him the Best Actor Award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. A childlike mother of four sneaks her children into their new apartment as if it were a game. One of the game's rules is that only Akira, the oldest, can go outside. Their mother leaves, first for a month, then possibly forever. As the money runs out and the utilities are shut off, Akira struggles to take care of his brother and sisters, determined that they stay safe ... and together. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles, 129 minutes, Rated PG-13)
Ran Kurosawa's visually stunning epic, brilliantly and magically mixes the story of Shakespeare's King Lear, Japanese history and Kurosawa's own feelings about loyalty. (Video, In Japanese with English subtitles, 160 minutes, Rated R)
Rashomon is perhaps the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice, brimming with action while incisively examining the nature of truth. Through an ingenious use of camera and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals the complexity of human nature as four people recount different versions of the story of a man's murder and the rape of his wife. (DVD; In Japanese with English subtitles, 88 minutes, Not Rated)
Red Beard Akira Kurosawa's "monument to the goodness of man," chronicles the relationship that develops between a vain young doctor and a compassionate clinic director. The young intern, once disgusted to work at an impoverished clinic, learns a valuable lesson as he comes to cherish the lives of his destitute patients. Starring Toshiro Mifune, Red Beard captures the look and feel of 19th-century Japan. (On two Videos, In Japanese with English subtitles, Part One: 100 minutes, Part Two: 79 minutes. 179 minutes total, Not Rated)
Rhapsody in August The final film released in the U.S. by Japanese master Akira Kurosawa looks at the atomic blast at Nagasaki from a distance of more than 40 years, through the eyes of a woman who survived it -- and the Japanese-American grandchildren who are spending the summer with her. Though she tries not to think about it, the memory of the bombing is with her every day, in the family she lost and the scars she still carries. But the grandchildren insist on seeing the memorial, which truly brings it home to her -- and to us. Rhapsody in August is a story about family and about living in the present while never being allowed to forget the past. (DVD and Video, In Japanese with English subtitles, 98 minutes, Not Rated)
Ringu, the original Japanese spine-tingling thriller that inspired the making of The Ring, is considered even more frightening than the English version. A mysterious video has been linked to a number of deaths and, when an inquisitive journalist finds the tape and views it herself, she sets in motion a chain of events that puts her own life in danger. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles, 96 minutes, Not Rated)
Rising Sun A special liaison officer is called in to investigate the murder of a call-girl in the boardroom of a Japanese corporation, accompanied by a detective with unusual knowledge of the Japanese culture. The two men must unravel the mystery behind the murder by entering an underground "shadow world"of futuristic technology, ancient ways, and confusing loyalties. (DVD, In English; occasional Japanese dialogue is subtitled in English, 129 minutes, Rated R)
The Samurai Trilogy is based on a Japanese novel that has been called Japan's Gone with the Wind. It captures the Samurai warrior spirit in all its glory, relating the 17th-century exploits of Musashi Miyamoto, the most famed of all Japanese swordsmen, against the background of the turmoil of a devastating civil war.
Part One: Musashi Miyamoto finds the hero's dreams of military glory ending in betrayal, defeat and a fugitive lifestyle. But he discovers salvation in the love of a woman and a cunning priest who guides him to the samurai path. (DVD only, In Japanese with English subtitles, 93 minutes, Not Rated)
Part Two: Duel at Ichijoji Temple recounts the education and transformation of young Musashi Miyamoto from a skilled neophyte into a subdued master warrior. In a legendary battle, Musashi is set upon by eighty samurai disciples -- orchestrated by the villainous Kojiro -- while the women who love him watch helplessly. (DVD and Video, In Japanese with English subtitles, 107 minutes, Not Rated)
Part Three: Duel at Ganryu Island completes the trilogy with the final showdown for Musashi Miyamoto and his archrival Kojiro Sasaki. (DVD and Video, In Japanese with English subtitles, 108 minutes, Not Rated)
Sanjuro Kurosawa's hilarious action-packed Samurai spoof, continues the story of the arrogant hero of Yojimbo. Sanjuro, a crude but highly skilled warrior, is teamed with nine hopelessly naïve samurai in a fight against clan corruption. (Video, In Japanese with English subtitles, 96 minutes, Not Rated)
Seven Samurai Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece, has been hailed by critics world-wide as one of the best films of all time. Set in 16th-century Japan, the plot revolves around seven mercenaries hired to defend a peasant community against marauding bandits. This classic is remembered for its spectacular fight scenes, but also for its timeless themes of personal bravery and the indomitability of the human spirit. (Video, In Japanese with English subtitles, 208 minutes, Not Rated)
Shall We Dance? is about a Japanese workaholic whose dull life takes a funny turn when he tries to attract the attentions of a sexy dance teacher by signing up for her ballroom dance class. Explores many Japanese social morés in the context of a great comedy film. (DVD and Video, In Japanese with English subtitles, 119 minutes, Not Rated)
Shogun. John Blackthorne, a 17th-century English navigator, is aboard a Dutch trading ship which runs aground off the coast of Japan during a storm. Japan is a divided country, locked in a power struggle between two warlords who would be Shogun. Blackthorne overcomes his initial cultural shock to beome a trusted ally of one of the warlords and eventually becomes completely assimilated into the Japanese culture. (5 DVDs, in English, Not Rated)
Spirited Away is the highly-acclaimed example of Japanese animated cinema from Hayao Miyazaki. It's a wondrous fantasy about a young girl trapped in a strange new world of spirits. When her parents undergo a mysterious transformation, she must call upon the courage she never knew she had to free herself and return her family to the outside world. Includes many bonus features. (DVD, In Japanese, French or English with subtitles, 125 minutes, Rated PG)
Spirits of the State: Japan's Yasukuni Shrine Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine honors and venerates the spirits of Japanese soldiers and officers -- including convicted and executed war criminals. This program explores the history of the Shinto shrine, the complexity of its functions, and the controversies generated when political leaders appear there. Interviews with visitors, an inside look at the shrine's adjacent museum of war memorabilia, and a discussion of what has become known as "state Shinto" create a context in which reverence for the enshrined may be understood. A rare view of Japanese nationalism and the political use of religious traditions, Spirits of the State offers valuable insight into the continuing and contested legacies of World War II. (DVD, in English, 28 minutes, Not Rated)
Tampopo is a comedic celebration of the role of food in Japanese culture. It is a delightful parody of "spaghetti westerns" and Japanese samurai films. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles,114 minutes, Not Rated)
A Taxing Woman is about Tokyo's hardest-working female tax inspector and her attempts to audit a man as clever as she is, the owner of one of Tokyo's busiest "love hotels." Winner of nine Japanese Academy Awards. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles, 127 minutes, Not Rated)
Ugetsu Kenji Mizoguchi's crowning achievement, Ugetsu tells the story of Genjuro, an ambitious potter haunted by a beautiful ghost, and Tobei, a farmer who dreams of becoming a samurai. Set in 16th-century Japan, a period of bloody civil conflict, the film offers a commentary on the delusions of lust and power and the folly of battle -- subjects with special resonance for the film's original post-war audience in 1953. Working with renowned cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, Mizoguchi seamlessly interweaves the supernatural with reality, creating one of the most beautiful films of all time. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles, 97 minutes, Not Rated)
Under the Flag of the Rising Sun is one of Kinji Fukasaku's most personal works. Sachiko Hidari gives a towering performance as the war widow who returns year after year to the Ministry of Welfare, trying to clear the name of her disgraced husband: a sargeant court-martialed and executed for desertion at the end of the war. Seeking out four survivors from her husband's garrison, she pursues the truth and uncovers a mystery conveyed with all the impact and rage one would expect from Kinji Fukasaku. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles, 96 minutes, Not Rated)
Village of Dreams is an enchanting hymn to the joys and mysteries of childhood. Identical twin brothers, now successful artists, recall the summer of 1948 when they were eight years old and their Japanese village was a place full of wonder and magic. "The brats," as they are known, spend their days skinny-dipping, fishing for eels, and chasing birds in the woods -- when they're not busy causing mischief at home or at school. The film follows their adventures with humor and Zen-like clarity. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles, 112 minutes, Not Rated)
Yojimbo radiates Kurosawa's love for the American Western and his flair for action and dark humor. This plot was remade in the United States as A Fistful of Dollars. (Video, In Japanese with English subtitles, 110 minutes, Not Rated)
Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman
A four-DVD series, Zatoichi is a series of tales that tell the story of a low-ranking blind masseur who lives by the yakuza code and answers his foes with a deadly cane sword. One of Japanese cinema's most time-honored screen personas, Zatoichi is the ultimate anti-hero and champion of the common man,
Episode 1: The Tale of Zatoichi Practicing his trade as a masseur in a small province, Zatoichi finds himself caught in a turf war between rival yakuza gangs. Aware of Zatoichi's reputation as an undefeatable swordsman, yakuza leader Sukejoro tries to hire him -- unsuccessfully -- as a mercenary. The other gang leader, Shigezo, hires a warrior with an equally-fierce reputation to challenge Zatoichi. The legend of Zatoichi begins. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles, 96 minutes, Not Rated)
Episode 2: The Tale of Zatoichi Continues When Zatoichi discovers that the lord who hired him suffers from a madness that, if made public, would bring ruin to his empire and the livelihood of the samurai warriors he employs, the blind masseur becomes a wanted man for the secret he now possesses. Attacked at every turn by the crazed lord's samurais and hired yakuza thugs, Zatoichi manages to escape relatively unscathed. But in a final duel, masseur Ichi must face his old foe, the infamous one-armed samurai. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles, 72 minutes, Not Rated)
Episode 3: New Tale of Zatoichi In the first color episode of the series, masseur Ichi returns to his home village to discover that his former teacher has been hiring out his swordsmanship skills to a ruthless gang of kidnappers. Meanwhile, the mentor's sister offers herself in marriage to Zatoichi, who must decline because of the danger it would bring to any woman Ichi was known to love. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles, 91 minutes, Not Rated)
Episode 4: The Fugitive In this episode, Zatoichi seeks bloody revenge on a ruthless gang and a powerful ronin. Arriving in the village Zof Shimonita, Ichi learns that a local gang has placed a bounty on his head. A powerful hired ronin attacks Ichi and nearly claims his life. Then, when a defenseless woman is slain by the assassin, Ichi can no longer control his rage. After laying waste to the entire gang, Ichi's final duel becomes a deadly meeting of the samurai's superior swordsmanship and the blind masseur's unbridled rage. (DVD, In Japanese with English subtitles, 86 minutes, Not Rated)
OTHER DVDs/VIDEOS AVAILABLE
(These materials are of interest for culture, travel or grammar, but not to be used for the personal response paper requirement for the Japanese 1L or 2L lab courses. They DO, however, count toward your 24-hour requirement.)
FOREIGN LANGUAGE CENTER
The Beauty of Haiku Poetry
A short video which explores samples of Japan's best-known form of poetry, Haiku. (18 minutes, Not Rated.)
Dream Window: Reflections on the Japanese Garden
Produced by the Smithsonian Institution, this breathtaking film introduces the viewer to the stunning beauty and tranquility of such famous Japanese gardens as those of the Moss Temple of Saiho-ji, Tenryu-ji, Shugakuin, and the Katsura Imperial Villa. The esthetic prnciples behind Japanese gardens are explained by Japanese experts as Japanese gardens are shown. (57 min)
Extreme Engineering: City in a Pyramid
One of the most crowded cities in the world – and also one of the shortest on available land area – Tokyo, Japan is a city bursting at the seams. Hoping to relieve the stress of alarming overpopulation, the city's construction industry has trained its sights on the only vacant lot around – the waters of Tokyo Bay. Witness the impossible dream of city planners: to build a massive pyramid over the water, with skyscrapers suspended like peapods within its enormous frame. Called the Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid, it would stand a kilometer tall and provide housing for up to 750,000 people. Even more amazing, the entire construction process may proceed without the work of a single human builder. With the invention of new super-lightweight materials, humanoid robots and self-assembling structures, the pyramid might be the first city in the world to build itself! But troubling questions linger. Can scientists feed this hungry giant enough electrical power? And, can engineers protect it from one of nature's most terrifying forces – deadly native tidal waves called tsunamis? Follow top builders and scientists in the U.S., Japan, Canada, Scotland and Wales hard at work tackling these and other problems as they set the stage for the construction of one of the most daring feats of engineering ever attempted. (DVD, In English, 50 minutes, Not Rated.)
Extreme Engineering: Tokyo's Sky City
With land area shrinking and population growing, Japan has decided to take its urban development strategy to the next level. Welcome to Sky City – the most massive super-building on earth and certainly one of the most daring feats of engineering ever attempted.With its 14 steel, concrete and glass "plateaus," each 40 stories high and stacked on top of each other, Sky City will rise a full mile into space – more than twice the height of any existing building! The towering, vertical city will house more than 100,000 people and provide for every aspect of modern life with parks, schools, homes, offices and shops all housed within the "city's" ample walls. Only one problem: No one knows for sure if it can really be built! Join leading engineers from Japan, Taiwan and Canada as they try to tackle the immense mechanical, structural and logistical issues behind such an enormous project. Architects have drawn up plans for a truly majestic edifice, but can they protect the city from earthquakes, typhoons and the very worst disaster that can strike a tall building – a raging inferno? (DVD, In English, 50 minutes, Not Rated.)
The Inland Sea
Donald Ritchie, one of the foremost Western authorities on Japanese cinema and culture, juxtaposes the ongoing conflict between traditional and modern values with the serene beauty of the area known as the Inland Sea. The result is a rewarding personal journey for the heart, the mind, and the senses. Enhanced by the breathtaking cinematography of Hiro Narita and the music of famed composer Toru Takemitsu, "The Inland Sea" documents a centuries-old way of life that is rapidly disappearing. (DVD; In Japanese with English subtitles, 56 minutes, Not Rated)
An insightful four-part video series which portrays Japanese society, culture, and economic muscle in light of ancient traditions of family life, religion, art, Samurai warfare, and Shogun philosophy. Each part is 55 minutes.
1. The Electronic Tribe focuses on the contrasts between the present-day life of factory workers and the inherited religious and rural customs still found in the ordinary home.
2. The Sword and the Chrysanthemum takes a close look at what the West sees as a paradox in Japanese society, as represented by the Samurai warrior, who combined an appreciation of beauty and high culture with fighting aggression.
3. Legacy of the Shogun looks at the continuing effect of the 17th century Shogun philosophy of hard work, discipline and hierarchy. It also explores the law-abiding nature of contemporary Japan where Tokyo has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
4. A Proper Place in the World looks at Japan's intervention on the world's stage during the 20th century and its likely future as a world economic superpower. It explores the reason why Japan went to such lengths during World War II to win respect and ward off encroaching imperialism. The role of women and their economic power is also explored.
Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire
Commanding shoguns and samurai warriors, exotic geisha and exquisite artisans -- all were part of the Japanese "renaissance" -- a period betweeen the 16th and 19th centuries when Japan went from chaos and violence to a land of ritual refinement and peace. This film brings to life the unknown story of a mysterious empire, its relationship with the West, and the forging of a nation that would emerge as one of the most important countries in the world. From the PBS Home Video Series. (160 minutes)
Discover the fascinating make-up of Japan -- from bullet trains, neon lights, and mobile phones to ancient temples, kimonos, and cherry blossoms. Japanese culture embraces the old and the new and emphasizes the importance of nature and the seasons. Japan Revealed chronicles these facets, while introducing you to a host of residents, including an apprentice geisha, a tuna fisherman, a tattoo artist, school girls, and a robot-designing family. In their own ways, these unique individuals demonstrate how the Japanese are masters of the future and guardians of the past.
Japanese Society/Culture Documentaries:
1. Geisha This video provides a fascinating look at the life of Japan's geisha. It features candid interviews with geishas, apprentice geishas, and their male clients. (51 minutes)
2. Godfather of Kyoto
The Japanese Version
From the Discovery Channel, May 1992.
Modern Japanese are enamored with American pop culture. The producers of this film -- Louis Awarez and Andrew Kolker -- presents a delightfully entertaining study on how the American pop culture undergoes a uniquely Japanese transformation when it arrives in Japan. The video presents aspects of Japanese culture that have not been widely seen abroad, including love hotels, wedding palaces, and quiz shows. Each resembles some Western equivalent, but they have been changed in fundamental ways from the originals. These insights into less-publicized aspects of life in Japan reveal much about how the Japanese view America and themselves as Japanese. (58 minutes)
Japanland with Karin Muller. An action-packed and entertaining journey into the side of Japan that few outsiders get to see. Follow Karin Muller as she delves deep into the world of the geisha, mountain cults, samurai, taiko, sword-making, sumo, and much more. (Two DVDs, approximately 225 minutes total, In English, Rated: NR)
Disk One: 1. Suburban Samurai. 2. Spiritland.
Disk Two: 3. Mountain Gods and Businessmen. 4. The Final Test.
Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Film Director
This documentary offers an extraordinary look into the director's 30-year career, from his beginnings in the silent era to his international success with such films as Ugetsu and Sansho the Bailiff. Director Kaneto Shindo presents nearly forty interviews with Mizoguchi's friends and key collaborators, including his muse Kinuyo Tanaka, cinematographers Kazuo Miyagawa, and longtime producer Masaichi Nagata. What emerges is a portrait of a privately troubled by perfectionist director whose reputation for toughness was eclipsed by the enduring beauty of his films. (DVD; In Japanese with English subtitles, 150 minutes, Not Rated)
KODO: Live at the Acropolis and KODO: The One-Earth Tour Special
Kodo is an ensemble of Japanese performance artists who play traditional, and more contemporary, Japanese drum music. These two concert DVDs offer their performances as well as background information about Kodo and about the tradition of Japanese drumming.
A series of videotapes that feature rare glimpses of Japan as it truly exists and captures the stunning and spectacular images of the land's scenery and culture.
1. For the Japanese, the heart is the center, the soul of life. It is called Kokoro, the heart within. Part 1: Nihon No Kokoro The Heart Within gives an overview of the traditions and cultural aspects of Japan, and a discovery of the deeper values and motivations which distinguish the land and its people. Part 2: Hiroshima City of Peace presents the events of August 6 factually and graphically, with intercuts of present-day reminders of the effects of the atom bomb.
2. As nature is the giver of blessings, the seas provide the greatest gift ... the gift of life. Part 3: Nature Giver of Blessings shows the stunning beauty of Japan and its spectacular natural resources. The harmony with nature and the goal to become one with it are visually illustrated in this breath-taking segment. Part 4: Oceans Lifeblood of Japan shows the ocean as a primary source of food, employment, and beauty. For Japan, the oceans are living waters, and a central theme in art, literature, song, and worship.
3. Those who die for honor's sake, who put duty ahead of self, these have become national heroes. Part 5: Bushido Way of the Warrior explores this strict code of honor and duty between the samurai and his lord. Part 6: Makato Sincerity discusses the concept that sincerity is often more important than the success of an effort.
4. To understand that which motivates decisions in today's economically-based world, one must look deep into Japan's philosophical and spiritual history. Part 7: Religion Spiritual Heritage discusses the beginnings of Buddhism and how it was brought to Japan as a means of introducing foreign ideas and cultures. Part 8: Shinto Way of the Gods explores the mythological creation of Japan, the use of shrines for worship and some of the fundamental values and teachings of Shinto.
5. Acting upon one's feelings .... this is seen time and time again in the people's constant appeals to the heart, to oneness, to harmony. Part 9: Tradition Inner Harmony explores the concept of finding peace and tranquillity in simple everyday acts, such as the Tea Ceremony, Ikebana flower arranging, garden design, food preparation, and the martial arts. Part 10: Heritage Pride of Japan highlights the many social and cultural aspects that are unique to Japan. Stereotypes are discussed. The video also takes us on a tour of some of the national and natural treasures of Japan, such as Mount Fuji and the Tancho cranes.
Kurosawa: A Documentary on the Acclaimed Director
From Rashomom (1950) to Madadayo (1991), Akira Kurosawa set new boundaries for world cinema. His extraordinary career spanned one of Japan's most dramatic centureis and produced a string of masterpieces unrivaled in motion picture history. This documentary includes interviews with the director, his family and his colleagues, as well as extensive clips from the director's greatest films. (DVD; In English and Japanese with English subtitles, 215 minutes, Not Rated)
Living Treasures of Japan takes you into the homes and workshops of the remarkable people who quietly keep Japan's most precious creative traditions alive. The honorable title, "Living National Treasure," is the highest award that can be achieved in the Japanese arts. Some seventy master craftsmen and performers are bestowed this title and are charged with passing on the country's artistic heritage to future generations. This documentary by the National Geographic Society demonstrates how a reverence for age, custom and tradition endures in Japanese culture, amid the clamor of technological and economic success. (In English, 58 minutes, Not Rated)
Music of Japan From the Our Musical Heritage series, this video explores Japanese music, which is divided into five tones as opposed to the seven-toned western music. Japanese music frequently tries to reflect the beauty of natures and is integrated with dramatic movement and dance.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (116 minutes, Not Rated)
PBS Documentaries on Japan
1. "American Game; Japanese Rules" -- This documentary emphasizes how the Japanese differ in their attitude and actual practice of "American (actually, Occidental) rules" in the corporate and personal world. Can America succeed in Japan? "Frontline" paints an intimate portrait of Americans living and working in Japan: baseball players, businessmen, and an American bride, all confronting a society that looks Western, but operates by a very different set of rules. This episode of "Frontline" was orginally aired in April 1988. Virtually all of the perspectives on the topics regarding the American working and living in Japan still apply now. (60 minutes)
2. "60 Seconds That Will Shake the World"
This video focuses on an impending world-class cataclysmic event predicted by international experts of seismologists -- a gigantic, world-shaking earthquake to the immediate south of Tokyo. Experts have studied three major tectonic plates rapidly coming together just off the coast of Tokyo Bay. Visiting seismologists discuss the huge human toll it will take on the citizens and businesses in the greater Tokyo region. A much more frightening and mightier result will occur after the quake, according to world economists and financiers -- the Japanese government will recall its billions of dollars it has invested in all major countries around the world to help finance the re-building of Japan after the earthquake's devastation. (55 minutes)
Ripples of Change
Expatriate Nanako Kurihara returns to Japan in 1993 to examine the fate of participants in the short-lived "Women's Lib" movement of the early 1970's. Kurihara's interviews vividly demonstrate the difficulty of non-conformity in a traditionally-bound conformist society, but she concludes on the hopeful note that the liberation movement created "ripples of change" that are making a gradual impact on the role of women in Japanese society. (57 min)
Samurai Japan.From their ascension to power in the 13th century to the unconditional surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, the Samurai, with their code of virtue and discipline, created a society that prized one's honor over one's own life. In this program, scholars discuss the unique influence that this created and the impact of the Samurai on Japan's institutions and history, including the role of women in political alliances. Also discussed is Japans shift from feudalism to a bureaucratic and cosmopolitan society, symbolically ruled by the emperor and administered by shoguns. (In English, 47 minutes)
Struggle and Success: The African-American Experience in Japan
This video features compelling interviews with African-Americans in which they reveal the trials and the rewards of living and working in Japan. Despite frustrations, some find Japanese culture in some ways quite tolerant when compared to their lives and what they're accustomed to in America. Much insight is provided into the social and cutural dynamics of contemporary Japan. (95 minutes)
Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness
In the fall of 1939, Hitler's muderous wave was sweeping through Eastern Europe. In the face of Nazi onslaught, Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara made a decision that would change his life and thousands of others. With no possible hope for reward and at great risk to his family and career, Sugihara acted on his innermost beliefs and used his diplomatic power to rescue desperate Jewish refugees. As Japanese Consul to Lithuania, Sugihara defied Tokyo authorities by writing transit visas that were the sole remaining hope of Jews facing extermination, allowing hundreds of families to flee Europe through Russia to Japan and safe havens abroad. (82 min)
Time of Fear
In World War II, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes and relocate to military camps dotted across the western United States. Time of Fear tells the story of the 16,000 men, women and children who were sent to two relocation camps in southeast Arkansas -- one of the poorest and most racially-segregated places in America. It also explores the reactions of the native Arkansans who watched in bewilderment as their tiny towns were overwhelmed by the influx of outsiders. (DVD in English, 60 minutes, Not Rated)
Working with Japan
A six-part (seven tapes) video series which helps to bridge the cultural gap between Japan and the United States for those involved in business relationships. An international training tool for businesses working in the Pacific Rim.
Working with Japan 1: Preparation
Working with Japan 2: First Meeting
Working with Japan 3A: Negotiating (A)
Working with Japan 3B: Negotiating (B)
Working with Japan 4: Business Entertaining
Working with Japan 5: Women in Business
Working with Japan 6: Managing the Relationship
Return to Foreign Language Resource Center page.