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15 Movies about Japan that you should watch before visiting

15 Movies about Japan that you should watch before visiting

If you’ve been reading my other posts about Japan, I’m sure you know how much I love it and the Japanese culture. I have watched many movies about Japan and they always inspire me to explore more of the country.

In the beginning, these movies about Japan also gave me the chance to understand Japanese society and some of the differences and similarities with Western countries.

So, no matter if you’re a first-time visitor or a Japan-lover like me, here are some of the best movies about Japan that you should watch before visiting!

Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name)

Hands down, Kimi No Na Wa is one of the best movies I’ve seen in my life. It’s a heartwarming story about a couple living in a Japanese village who meet in quite an unusual way.

The English name of the film is “Your Name” and it has become one of the most famous anime movies about Japan of all times.

Release year: 2016

Lost in Translation

This is a real classic movie about Japan featuring a young Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray as the main characters.

It’s a non-japanese film which is set in Tokyo, and while it was released in 2003, it’s still interesting to watch this before you travel to Japan

Release year: 2003


Tokyo Idols

This is one of the newer films about Japan on this list, and it explains the fascination of the so-called idols and Japanese girl-bands, which is a huge part of the Japanese music culture and everyday life for the younger generations. 

The Japanese pop trend took off in the ’90s and has grown exponentially since. 

Release year: 2017

Seven Samurai

If you’re into classic movies and want to see a legendary film by Akira Kurosawa, you should definitely watch Seven Samurai, which follows the life of a samurai and his recruits.

It’s a long movie though, and it’s quite slow since it was made in the ’50s. However, if you enjoy cinematic oldies, and want to see more about the Samurai times in Japan, it’s a great choice. 

Release year: 1954

The Ramen Girl

Starring Brittany Murphy, this movie follows a foreign girl’s way into Japanese society after moving to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend. He leaves for Osaka, and she wants to stay in Tokyo, but she barely speaks any Japanese, and she’s miserable. 

However, suddenly she stumbles across a local Ramen shop of an aging Master chef, and she decides to become his apprentice. It’s a fun movie about Japan, especially as a foreigner. 

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is the highest-grossing anime film of all time, and it was produced by the renowned Hayao Miyazaki. It’s a great movie about Japan to watch with your kids. 

The story follows a 10-year old girl who walks into a seemingly abandoned amusement park. 

Release year: 2001

Battle Royale

Battle Royale is a Japanese thriller where 42 teenagers are sent to a deserted island by force due to legislation. They’re given a map, food, and weapons with a mission to kill each other and be the last one surviving. 

Release year: 2000


Most westerners have probably seen The Ring, which was released in 2002. That film was basically a western makeover of the original Ringu, which is one of the most epic Japanese horror movies. 

If you have seen the remake from Hollywood, you already know the story, but I can assure you that the Japanese version will give you the chills.

Release year: 1998


Tokyo Story

If you want to see some old movies about Japan, this is a great choice. Tokyo Story follows an elderly couple who travel from Hiroshima to Tokyo to visit their children, only to discover that their kids don’t have time for their elderly parents. 

It’s a rather slow movie, but you’ll probably appreciate it if you like oldies.

Release year: 1953

Memoirs of a Geisha

This is one of the most internationally renowned movies about Japan, and it tells a first-person story of the life of a Geisha in Kyoto.

The period of the movie is set before the second world war and after the war as well. 

Release year: 2005

Adrift in Tokyo

This movie is based on a novel by Yoshinaga Fujita, and it follows a Japanese student who owes a lot of money.

One day, a debt collector comes to collect the money, and from there a new journey of the two lonely men begins.


Last but not least, one of the most iconic movies about Japan and Ramen noodles, Tampopo, by the director Juzo Itami.

The main story of this humorous film follows a single mum and her journey to become the greatest Ramen chef in all of Tokyo. 

Release year: 1985

Other Famous Movies about Japan

  • Akira 
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  • The Garden Of Words

Movies about Japan for kids

If you’re traveling to Japan with kids and want to see a movie about Japan together with them, I can recommend the iconic movie: My Neighbor Totoro.

Some other great films about Japan are Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service that you can watch together as a family.

movies about Japan for kids

Watch movies about Japan online

Now that you know about these movies about Japan, it’s time to find where you can watch them online. Many of these films are available via Amazon where you can rent them for a few dollars, and some can be watched on services like Netflix or Youtube.

Do you want more tips on movies about Japan? Leave a comment below!