To Japan, With Love

Japanese cinema's been around for more than 100 years, landing it a well-deserved spot as one of the oldest and largest film industries in the world with directing greats Kurosawa Akira, Miyazaki Hayao, and Oshima Nagisa, to name a few.

As the country currently works to stabilize, strengthen, and rebuild its cities and communities, we offer a cinematographic love letter in five classic (and classically beautiful) Japanese films.

1. Spirited Away (2001)

While moving to the suburbs with her parents, 10-year-old Chihiro Ogino discovers a magical, abandoned amusement park ruled by magical forces, with which she's forced to fight in order to free her parents. When the animated film was released in 2001, it was an instant success and remains the most successful film in Japanese history.

2. Lost in Translation (2006)

Many a Tokyo visitor can relate to Bill Murray's character in Lost in Translation, who between working as an actor, must navigate modern Japanese customs, and sensory overload in Tokyo. The film captures daily life in the big city, while giving a tour of Tokyo's major streets, venues as well as smaller neighborhoods and corners.

3. Udon (2006)
Udon Trailer by vvava
Note: this film should not be watched while hungry. The plot follows Kosuke Matsui, a failed comedian forced to return to his small town life in the southern Kagawa prefecture of Japan. Matsui's town is known for its udon noodles, which take center stage in the form of delicious food cinematography.

4. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

The charming animated feature is another Japanese favorite for children and adults that follows two young sisters and their adventures with wood spirits in postwar, rural Japan.

5. Seven Samurai

The black-and-white film released in 1954 is a samurai classic -- "the best Japanese movie ever made," according to the trailer. While plenty of samurai movies have been made since, Seven Samurai is still noted for its action scenes and classic Japanese backdrop.

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