Category Archives: MOVIES

3 Must-Watch Japanese Dramas

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When learning a new language the biggest challenge one could face is improving their listening skills. Especially when they are not living in that country.

I have seen students buy listening practice materials and books for the choukai (聴解) section of the JLPT. There is no doubt that JLPT choukai (聴解) books will familiarise you with the question patterns, but I believe there is a much better way to improve your Japanese listening skills. Watching Japanese films (映画 eiga), dramas (ドラマ dorama) or anime (アニメ) series is not only interesting, it also improves you choukai (聴解) skills.

Many Japanese dramas (ドラマ dorama) are live-action adaptations of manga (漫画). In this post I am going to introduce you to 3 of my favourite Japanese dramas (ドラマ dorama). Hope you like them!

Oshin おしん

Years: 1983, 1984 Genre: Life

It is a rags to riches story of a self-made girl who was born into a poor family of a farmer in Yamagata prefecture (山形県 Yamagata-ken) of Japan. With too many mouths to feed in the household, Oshin was sent away at a young age to work as a maid, by her father.

The drama tells the life story of Oshin, her struggles and determination, as she makes her way towards becoming a strong and independent woman. Since this story is set during pre and post World War 2 (第二次世界大戦 Dainijisekaitaisen), you can get an idea about Japan’s social (社会的 shakaiteki) and economic (経済的 keizaiteki) conditions during those days.

Gokusen ごくせん

Years: 2002, 2005, 2008 Genre: Comedy

Granddaughter of a powerful gangster (ヤクザ yakuza), Kumiko Yamaguchi becomes a high school homeroom teacher (担任の先生 tanin no sensei) after she graduated. The drama shows how she manages a classroom of unruly and stubborn kids. She bonds with her students and saves them from dangers. …continue reading


Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2017


It’s a grey day in Osaka and pretty cold but I’m staying indoors for most of it since I am cleaning video game consoles. Anyway, The Rotterdam International Film Festival starts later this month and it features a plethora films from Japan that range from the familiar to the new, plus there’s some interesting little shorts. It’s a programme packed with Japanese films but actually using the website to find them was irritating due to the search options, the way information was hidden and the overall look. I’m not a fan. I searched for it so you don’t have to.

Enough of my whining, there are many great films on offer from Roman Porno to yakuza comedy and this is another great year for Rotterdam.

Here’s what’s on offer (click on the titles to be taken to pages with more information):



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Running Time: 85 mins.

Director: Sora Hokimoto

Writer: Sora Hokimoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Yota Kawase, Lily, Min Tanaka, Ryuto Iwata, Keisuke Yamamoto,

Website IMDB

One of the most frustrating things about my time in Japan (and there have been few frustrations) has been my lack of Japanese practice and my lack of movie-watching. I just haven’t done much of either and there’s so many great things going on that I am missing out on such as this film which came out in December and was screened in Tokyo when I was still there. I’m now in Osaka and I haven’t watched it but people in Rotterdam are getting the chance to see it. The film looks great, genuinely interesting and beautiful based on what is shown in the trailer.

It’s …continue reading


The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2017 Line-Up


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The good folks at The Japan Foundation announced the titles that will be screened across the UK in their Touring Film Programme for 2017 and it’s an eclectic bunch of films connected by the theme of odd obsessions! The idea is to look at Japan through movies that depict desires, hopes and impulses and these cinematic delights stretch across many mediums and genres from anime romances to a documentary on a fish market.

Audiences across England, Scotland, and Ireland will get the chance to see all of this at various points from February 03rd to March 29th as the tour takes in fifteen cities with events kicking off in London at the ICA (see below for the full list of venues).

The programme is stacked with interesting titles which I will detail below:

Flying Colours

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Biri Gal Film Poster

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Biri Gal Film Poster

ビリギャル  「Biri Gyaru

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Nobuhiro Doi

Writer: Hiroshi Hashimoto (Screenplay), Nobutaka Tsubota (Original Novel),

Starring: Kasumi Arimura, Atsushi Ito, Shuhei Nomura, Rie Minemura, Ken Yasuda, Airi Matsui, Yo Yoshida, Tetsushi Tanaka,

Website IMDB

The film is based on the bestselling book “Gakunen Biri no Gyaru ga 1 nen de Hensachi o 40 Agete Keio Daigaku ni Geneki Gokaku Shita Hanashi” (How a Teen Girl Went From Academic Absurdity to an Elite University in One Amazing Year) by Nobutaka Tsubota, this is the true story of how the author Nobutaka Tsubota, who runs a cram school, helped his student Sayaka Kobayashi go from …continue reading


Japan Foundation Film Talk – The Legacy of Composer Toru Takemitsu on January 22nd

Toru Takemitsu was a self-taught musician and composer who contributed the scores to many highly-regarded, even classic, films from the 1960s and beyond. More than ninety films received his work such as many New Wave titles like Hiroshi Teshigahara’s most important films (Pitfall, Woman in the Dunes, The Face of Another) and Masaki Kobayashi’s Kaidan and Harakiri. Not only those, he worked with Akira Kurosawa (Ran), Shohei Imamura (Black Rain), and Nagisa Oshima (Empire of Passion). Here’s an example of his work:

His work melded Eastern and Western influences and his inspirations ranged from Debussy to John Cage. His work became highly regarded around the world and he won many awards. Here’s an interesting article on The Guardian website from 2013.

On Sunday, January 22nd, the Japan Foundation is hosting an event that looks over his legacy, which comes ahead of a special event where NHK Symphony Orchestra will perform his work at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in March. The talk will take place at King’s Place, Hall Two, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG.

Here’s the information on the Japan Foundation event plus a link to the NHK concert which was sent out by the organisers:


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Toru Takemitsu is among the most important composers in the history of Japanese music. Almost entirely self-taught, Takemitsu went on to compose several hundred independent works and score over ninety films. The first composer to be fully recognised in the West, Takemitsu achieved international renown for his distinctive style. Combining elements of the Occident and the Orient, Takemitsu created music that was sensuous yet accessible.

Takemitsu’s daughter and music producer, will examine the significance of Takemitsu’s work …continue reading


5 biggest mistakes in Star Wars

One of this year’s most anticipated films is undoubtedly the new Star Wars installment, but the existing films feature a fair few mistakes that you may not have spotted – like these five.

1.) The wacky jacket

The scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Princess Leia tells Han Solo “I love you”, before Han replies “I know” has become one of the most famous sequences in the original trilogy. However, what a lot of people don’t notice is that before Leia says her line Han is wearing a t-shirt with no jacket, while when the camera is one him while she delivers the line, he suddenly has his jacket on. It’s a pretty remarkable continuity error for such a big film to miss, but maybe someone used the force to get the jacket onto Han’s back mid scene.

2.) The neck effect

We see Darth Vader’s ruthlessness when he throttles a rebel for refusing to reveal where the Death Star plans are kept, before subsequently snapping his neck. You would think the combination of the two would guarantee death, but when Vader goes on to throw him against a wall, it’s a mystery why said rebel puts up his hands to protect his beautiful face. Clearly he’s okay with neck-breaking, but doesn’t want his cheek scratched. No one noticed this at the time, but it’s been spotted by fans in years since. Many people believe this was Darth Vader’s most common way to kill. However there’s only a 1 in 17,000 chance of being force choked by Darth Vader. So keep an eye out for the storm troopers!

3.) Stormtrooper blooper

The scene in the original film where an Imperial Stormtrooper bangs his head on a door while they are marching into a room, has gone down in Star …continue reading