Japanese Film Festival Online 2022
Monday, February 14 through Sunday, February 27
Japan Foundation, New York released its lineup for the Japanese Film Festival Online 2022. Sixteen films will be available to stream starting from Monday, February 14.
To view the films, please visit Japanese Film Festival Online 2022’s website and create an account. If you viewed the film festival’s pre-event in November 2021, you can log in using the same email address and password. From there, you can select your host country and view the available films.
Since the film festival is three weeks away, Japan Foundation created a portal through which viewers can catch up on the latest news about Japanese films and watch interviews with prominent directors and industry insiders. Immerse yourself and explore here!
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, people around the world have been facing tremendous uncertainty, loneliness, and grief. As a response to this, last year JFF launched an online film festival in hopes that Japanese films will provide some positivity and light into viewers’ lives, even if only a little.
By offering viewers a chance to enjoy different works showcasing the various facets of Japan—such as the beautiful, vibrant scenery and seasons; the colorful, appetizing Japanese food; a unique society where tradition and modernity co-exist—it is the Japan Foundation’s hope that viewers will feel revitalized and visit Japan again someday.
Yukiko Sode | 2021 | Drama | 2h 4m
Starring Mugi Kadowaki, Kiko Mizuhara, Kengo Kora
For Hanako, who is from a prestigious and wealthy family, it was her duty to marry a man of high social standing. Now in her late twenties, she has finally met her ideal suitor after continued arranged meetings with potential men. She was looking forward to a happy marriage until she learns that her future partner is involved with another woman. That woman is Miki, who hails from a regular family from rural Japan, working hard to survive in Tokyo. The lives of Hanako and Miki, who inhabit very different social environments, eventually begin to intersect.
Aristocrats is a humanistic drama that explores the lives of women in contemporary Japan through its vibrant depiction of class differences between a protagonist who hails from the upper class in Tokyo and another raised in rural Japan with a low-income class background. Japan’s rising star Mugi Kadowaki (Hanako) and Kiko Mizuhara (Miki), whose international successes have become increasingly visible, are a must-watch. The wonderful visuals also provide depth to the story.
Bread of Happiness
Yukiko Mishima | 2012 | Drama | 1hr 54m
Starring Tomoyo Harada, Yo Oizumi, Kanna Mori
Hokkaido is located in the northernmost part of Japan. A young couple has opened a new cafe in a place blessed with beautiful nature. The husband bakes bread; the wife brews coffee and prepares seasonal meals. All the customers carry emotional burdens: a heartbroken young woman, a girl upset over her parents’ divorce, and an elderly couple with their own problems. The couple warmly welcomes these people and quietly reaches out to them.
The beautiful and harsh four seasons of Hokkaido serve as a backdrop to this humanistic drama brimming with kindness. A variety of breads and dishes made with seasonal ingredients that heal the hearts of the wounded souls fills the film. Yo Oizumi, a popular star skilled at playing both comedic and serious roles, and Tomoyo Harada, who has been popular since her debut in the 1980s, play the warm-hearted couple.
The Chef of South Polar
Shuichi Okita | 2009 | Comedy | 2h 5m
Starring Masato Sakai, Katsuhisa Namase, Kitaro
In minus 54°C weather, where the environment is too harsh for even penguins to live, eight men are co-living at an observation base in the Antarctic. They must all spend over a year at the base, far away from their families. Their greatest pleasure is the three meals they eat together. Nishimura, who is in charge of the cooking, fills his teammates’ stomachs and hearts with all kinds of dishes, including Japanese, French, and Chinese cuisine. However, long-distance relationships are difficult for the young members, and the married members are worried that their families will be fed up with them. Everyone’s yearning feelings for Japan keep mounting.
A classic entry in the history of Japanese comedies, the film, with a mix of pathos and humor, depicts the daily lives of a group of unique men living in the polar region. The Chef of South Polar is an adaptation of a story based on the real-life experiences of a cook in the Antarctic. The joy that exudes from the men wholeheartedly enjoying their meals expresses a fundamental aspect of human existence.
The Floating Castle
Isshin Inudo, Shinji Higuchi | 2012 | Action, History, Period Drama | 2h 24m
Starring Mansai Nomura, Nana Eikura, Koichi Sato
Approximately 400 years ago in Japan, after continued battles among the samurai class, the overwhelmingly powerful Hideyoshi Toyotomi is on the verge of unifying the country. He orders his men to attack a small castle, the last remaining resistance. The men of the castle debate whether to surrender, but the young lord, who always seems to be in a daze, chooses to fight. Is the lord of the castle a reckless fool or a genius?
The Floating Castle is a riveting historical spectacle about those who stand up for their dignity as samurai, armed with their wisdom, courage, and love for their people. Lead actor Mansai Nomura, who captivates with his comical performance, is originally a performer of Kyogen, a traditional Japanese theater genre. He puts his specialized skills in movement and dance to great effect in performing the role of the eccentric lord of the castle. A huge hit upon its release in Japan, the intensity of the fight scenes and the battle of wits became the talk of the town.
The God of Ramen
Takashi Innami | 2013 | Documentary | 1h 30m
Starring Kazuo Yamagishi
There used to be a ramen shop called Taishoken in Ikebukuro, near central Tokyo. Every day, there were long lines of people waiting to get in, and in four hours they would serve up ramen to 200 people. The number of regulars who became captivated by the taste of Taishoken were countless, and even other ramen shop owners came to learn at the eatery.
This documentary depicts the life of Kazuo Yamagishi, the founder of Taishoken who had an immense influence on the Japanese ramen industry. Yamagishi’s passion for making ramen went uninterrupted for 40 years. He readily accepted many apprentices and generously taught them his techniques while also delighting his customers. The source of Yamagishi’s passion was his wife, who passed away at an early age, and the film tells the story of his love for her as well as his love for delicious ramen. This uniquely moving film is a record of Yamagishi’s uncompromising attitude.
Shinobu Yaguchi | 2008 | Comedy | 1h, 43m
Starring Seiichi Tanabe, Saburou Tokito, Haruka Ayase
An international flight from Tokyo to Honolulu, Hawaii. A new pilot boards as an assistant to a more experienced senior pilot, and a new cabin attendant joins the team of a purser who has a reputation for being strict. The ground staff is struggling with bookings, the staff in the control tower are on alert about the weather and birds, and the mechanics are pouring their hearts and souls into accomplishing speed and precision in their work. With the combined efforts of all the workers, the flight finally takes off, but they are soon faced with trouble.
Through episodes related to the work involved in operating large commercial passenger flights, the film spins an entertaining tale that shows the growth of new staff members with both humor and suspense. The film exudes a sense of realism through the meticulous research that went into learning about the work of in-flight and on-the-ground flight staff and how they solve problems. An ensemble of top actors in Japan including Haruka Ayase, one of Japan’s most popular female actors, raises the film to higher planes.
Her Love Boils Bathwater
Ryota Nakano | 2016 | Drama | 2h 5m
Starring Rie Miyazawa, Hana Sugisaki, Joe Odagiri
After the disappearance of her husband, Futaba takes a break from the family business of running a public bathhouse to work part-time and raise her daughter, Azumi. With her characteristic strength and cheerfulness, Futaba cheers on Azumi, who is having problems at school. However, Futaba is diagnosed with an illness with only a short time left to live. In the time that she has left, Futaba decides on what she must do and begins to make it happen. That is, to get rid of all of the secrets in her family.
Her Love Boils Bathwater is a deeply moving story about Futaba’s fair and passionate love toward everyone around her and her bond with her children and others who are close to her. The daughter’s earnestness to inherit her mother’s strength overflows from the story. The unexpected ending of the film inspires a zest for life. Rie Miyazawa, one of Japan’s star actors, gives a wonderful performance as the powerful Futaba, and Hana Sugisaki as Azumi gives a true-to-life performance that makes holding back tears a difficult task.
Satoko Yokohama | 2021 | Drama | 1h 56m
Starring Ren Komai, Etsushi Toyokawa, Mei Kurokawa
Ito, a high school student living with her father and grandmother in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan, is very introverted and has few friends. She has not touched her shamisen, a family instrument that had been passed down from generation to generation and was handed down to her after her mother’s death. In the spur of the moment, she applies for a part-time job at a “maid cafe.” The senior employees there are all full of character and individuality, including an older single mother and an aspiring manga artist. Ito gradually opens herself up to the strange yet charming regular customers. Then, one day, an opportunity to perform the shamisen, which she had kept locked up, arises…
Ito is a fresh and moving tale about a young woman growing out of her shell and about the preciousness of familial bonds. The film juxtaposes the contemporary and specific “maid café” culture from Tokyo with the traditional shamisen music of Aomori, giving insight into the uniqueness and breadth of Japanese culture.
It’s a Summer Film!
Soushi Matsumoto | 2021 | Drama | 1h 37m
Starring Marika Ito, Daichi Kaneko, Yuumi Kawai, Kilala Inori
High schooler Hadashi is obsessed with old Japanese samurai films. When her film club rejects her samurai film project, she decides to gather her friends and craft the film on her own terms. She convinces a reluctant young man to play the lead and begin their shoot, but they face one problem after another. Will they be able to finish the film? What’s more is that this young man might be from the future.
An innovative coming-of-age masterpiece that incorporates elements of science fiction while providing a fresh look at young people who are serious about filmmaking. Packed with action, romance, and suspense, this film exudes so much passion toward the movies that it is bound to excite any film fan. Marika Ito, a former member of a famous idol group who is also active as an artist, plays the dynamic Hadashi, and her charm shines in the film. Wait for the emotional final scene!
Hisashi Kimura | 2020 | Thriller | 1h 54m
Starring Kentaro Sakaguchi, Mei Nagano
Hayami, a doctor, takes a midnight shift at a where he works hospital for the first time. Suddenly, a supermarket robber brings in a woman he shot during his getaway. The robber holes himself up in the hospital and prowls inside the building. Hayami tries to find out what the robber wants, but there’s something suspicious about the hospital itself. The director and nurses do not feel trustworthy—it is as if everyone is operating behind a mask. Hiding from the robber, Hayami begins to investigate the hospital and discovers patients who are not on the records and an operating room that should not exist. The revelations eventually lead him to a surprising truth.
A tense mystery set in the eerie confines of a hospital, Masked Ward is a chilling psychological battle that eventually leads to a chain of surprising twists. The film is an adaptation of a bestselling book written by a real-life doctor and features two of Japan’s leading young actors, Kentaro Sakaguchi and Mei Nagano.
Haruki Kadokawa | 2020| Period Drama | 2h 11m
Starring Honoka Matsumoto, Nao
After a catastrophic flood, a young girl named Mio leaves her hometown of Osaka to work in a restaurant in Edo. Although she is quite talented, the difference in taste between Osaka and Edo troubles her, so toils to find a solution. Meanwhile, her best friend, Noe, is in Edo, but she is rarely allowed to see her because of her lowly status.
Set in Japan about 200 years ago, this entertaining period drama refreshingly portrays the bond between Mio, who stakes her life on cooking, and Noe, who has become a courtesan (high-class geisha) in Yoshiwara, Japan’s largest red-light district. The Edo period (which spanned 200 years from 17th to 19th century) was a time of relative peace and cultural maturity in Japan, and the meticulously prepared dishes in the film seem to represent the “iki” spirit of Japanese culture.
Takafumi Hatano | 2018 | Drama | 1h 45m
Starring Haru, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Amane Okayama
Kurumi gets a job at a first-class hotel but is assigned to an affiliated amusement park in Kumamoto Prefecture, far west of Tokyo. She gets along well with her boss, who is nicknamed “The Wizard” for his outstanding abilities, and her colorful new co-workers, but she is tasked with only menial jobs. She suggests new projects, but after no one takes her seriously, she begins to spend her days complaining about wanting to go back to Tokyo. Eventually, she learns that she can go back to Tokyo if she becomes the Outstanding Employee of the Year, which motivates her until…
This is the tale of one woman’s growth as she gradually begins to understand the significance of her work. With a humorous and light-hearted touch, the film conveys the joy of working at an amusement park—a place of dreams—and draws the audience into the happiness experienced by the protagonist. Haru, who plays Kurumi, is a popular actor who has starred in many films in recent years, and her co-star Hidetoshi Nishijima is one of Japan’s top actors who is active in a wide variety of genres.
Takeshi Furusawa | 2017 | Drama | 1h 59m
Starring Taishi Nakagawa, Yuna Taira
27-year-old Arata has no jobs or goals, and he spends his days in the doldrums. When he is recruited into the “ReLIFE” project, which promises to let him re-do a year of his high school days, he is suspicious but takes the rejuvenating potion anyway and transforms back into a 17-year-old. Thus, begins his high school life with a limit of one year. Despite his plans to stay inconspicuous, he finds himself making friends and eventually falling in love with a very shy girl named Hishiro. However, this season full of happiness passes by in a flash, and Arata’s remaining time begins to dwindle.
This refreshing and touching love story suggests that living out one’s youth to the fullest can affect the direction one’s life can take. A big surprise awaits at the end.
SUMODO ~ The Successors of Samurai ~
Eiji Sakata | 2020 | Documentary | 1h 44m
Starring Hideaki Sakaigawa, Katsumi Takadagawa, Gotaro Goeido
Sumo wrestling has a more than one-thousand-year history in Japan and is still a nationally popular event today. Sumo wrestlers (rikishi), who boast huge physiques, not only compete in physical matches but also serve in Shinto rituals. This film closely follows famous sumo wrestlers to show how they live, train, and how they feel when they step onto the ring.
There is no other sport in the world where two wrestlers weighing 440 pounds collide head-on without protective gear. Sumo wrestlers are always at risk of injury, but no matter the amount of pain, they never use it as an excuse in the stoic “way of sumo” and “way of the samurai.” This is an invaluable record of the lives of these modern-day samurai, up close and personal. The excitement of live sumo tournaments is also palpable.
Time of EVE the Movie
Yasuhiro Yoshiura | 2010 | Anime | 1h 46m
Starring Jun Fukuyama, Kenji Nojima, Rie Tanaka
Set in a time where humanoids have practical applications, many households are using androids/robots to do the housework. Most humans treat their androids poorly, including high-schooler Rikuo, who is cold to his female android at home. One day, while he surveils her actions, he ends up at a cafe. The rule at this cafe is that no distinctions are made between humans and androids. Rikuo cannot help but wonder what the customers hope to get out of being there. Eventually, through the people and robots he meets in the cafe, he begins to understand what having a real soul might look like.
A string of episodes in which the customers share their sorrows of enduring discrimination, Time of EVE the Movie is a moving animation that creates social commentary around the existence of an ethics committee that calls for caution against dependence on androids and issues of dumping old robots as garbage.
Until the Break of Dawn
Yuichiro Hirakawa | 2012 | Drama | 2h 9m
Starring Tori Matsuzaka, Kirin Kiki, Ryuta Sato
High-schooler Ayumi is an orphan who lives with his grandmother. His grandmother has inherited an ability called “tsunagu,” which allows her to summon the dead and reunite them with the living for one time only. Ayumi helps his grandmother as an apprentice and interacts with visitors who wish to be reunited with the dead. One day, he receives a request from a girl in his class who is devastated by the loss of her best friend to a rather unique situation.
A spiritual and humanistic drama that depicts the inner conflicts of those who, for various reasons, seek contact with the dead, Until the Break of Dawn reveals unexpected truths one after another. Tori Matsuzaka is one of the most acclaimed young actors in Japan, and the late Kirin Kiki, who plays the grandmother, was the star of numerous prominent films.