Since 2004 the Japan Foundation has been bringing diverese lineups of finely programmed Japanese cinema to UK shores. Consisting mainly of contemporary works, with the odd anniversary screening and classic to enrichen the mix, this annual Touring Programme offers the best oppertunity for UK audiences to experience the latest movements in Japanese cinema.
This year's selection is based around the theme (Un)true Colours Secrets and Lies in Japanese Cinema and will "look at how the country’s filmmakers have been drawn to portraying the “(un)true” colours of human nature. The twists and turns of life portrayed in the programme are at times heart-rending, at other times hilarious, but always enthralling."
Under this banner is an eclectic range of offerings including recent blockbusters like Yu Irie's Fujiwara Tetsuya-starring Memoirs of a Murderer, Nakamura Yoshihiro's jidaigeki effort MUMON: The Land of Stealth, quirky East-meets-West comedy with Josh Hartnett Oh Lucy! and feudal era anime Sword of the Stranger - now celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Furthermore, there'll be guests in the form of actor Motoki Masahiro and screenwriter Mukai Kosuke. Motoki will be attending the London screening of Nishikawa Miwa's new drama The Long Excuse, in which he makes his first starring role since 2008's Academy Award-winning Departures. Mukai Kosuke is a celebrated screenwriter who comes to the UK having written the debut feature of director Ishikawa's crime mystery, Gukoroku: Traces of Sin, fresh from it's Venice premiere and will be present for the London, Bristol, and Stirling screenings of the film.
Running from 2 February to 28 March, the tour will begin at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts before heading to cities across the UK. Check the website for tour locations and further details.
Scroll through the gallery below for details on each of the titles in the programme.
Gukoroku: Traces of Sin
Dir. Kei Ishikawa, 2016
Synopsis: Tanaka, an investigative reporter who grew up in a troubled family, is going through a tough time trying to support his younger sister Mitsuko (Hikari Mitsushima), recently arrested and held in prison. Meanwhile, he immerses himself into a story about a shocking murder of the ‘perfect’ family – a successful businessman, a beautiful wife and an adorable child – who were brutally massacred the year before, with the case going cold and remaining unsolved. Through interviewing their friends and acquaintances, stories of their true nature unfold and it becomes apparent that the family was not the ideal it appeared to be. In turn, the interviewees unveil their own hidden natures, revealing a disturbing portrait of social elitism.
Room for Let
Dir. Yuzo Kawashima, 1957
Synopsis: When Yumiko Tsuyama, a potter by profession, enters an old mansion overlooking Osaka enquiring about a room to rent, she discovers a bizarre collection of characters dwelling in the humble abode. There’s a low-level gangster and panty thief, an old army sergeant and cabbage roll specialist, and a female illegal liquor vendor – to name a few. The leader of the menagerie is Yoda Goro, an eccentric jack of all trades; his simplicity and naivety, however, leave him susceptible to unscrupulous manipulators.
Dir. Yukihiko Tsutsumi, 2015
Synopsis: Portrayed in the classic music format of an “A-B sided cassette tape”, Initiation Love is a deceptive and entertaining love story with dark undertones set in late 1980s Japan. The story follows university student Suzuki (Shota Matsuda) and his life-changing meeting with Mayu (Atsuko Maeda), but the theme soon alters as it is flipped to side B. Suddenly Suzuki is transferred to Tokyo and the two are forced into a long distance relationship with many complications.
The Long Excuse
Dir. Miwa Nishikawa, 2016
Synopsis: Sachio (Masahiro Motoki), a celebrity novelist, discovers that his wife of many years has died in an accident but is unable to shed a tear. Having been with another woman at the time of his wife’s death, Sachio now discovers he must play the role of a grieving husband. Then, he meets Yoichi, the devastated widower of his wife’s friend who also died in the accident, leaving two young children behind. Without really knowing why, Sachio offers to look after them while their father is at work. With his newfound family, Sachio begins to come to terms with the void left by his wife.
Sing My Life
Dir. Nobuo Mizuta, 2016
Synopsis: Katsu (Mitsuko Baisho) is an eccentric and sharp-tongued grandmother who has worked hard throughout her life in order to make ends meet. Now 73, Katsu regrets being unable to live life to the fullest and not being able to pursue her dreams. One day, while taking a short walk seeking respite from her hectic family life, Katsu stumbles upon a mysterious photography studio – one which magically transforms her back into her 20-year-old self (Mikako Tabe). With newfound freedom and youthful energy, Katsu joins her oblivious grandson’s pop band as a singer and embarks on a journey to stardom.
MUMON: The Land of Stealth
Dir. Yoshihiro Nakamura, 2017
Synopsis: Mumon (Satoshi Ono) is an invincible shinobi of the Iga ninja clan. Despite his lazy nature he is eager to seek money to keep his wife Okuni (Satomi Ishihara) happy. In the deadly war against the imperious warlords, the Nobunaga clan, Mumon leads the Iga family to battle with a secret plan and some of the most cunning and unimaginable tactics.
Birds Without Names
Dir. Kazuya Shiraishi, 2017
Synopsis: Towako lives with Jinji, 15 years her senior, an uncouth man she doesn’t love. Despite Jinji’s selfless devotion Towako never gives anything in return. Instead, Towako cannot forget her ex-boyfriend Kurosakai (Yutaka Takenouchi) and even sleeps with other men who evoke memories of him. One day a policeman arrives at her door, revealing that Kurosaki has been missing for five years.
Joy of Man's Desiring
Dir. Masakazu Sugita, 2014
Synopsis: After a huge earthquake strikes Japan, young siblings Haruna (Ayane Omori) and Shota (Riku Ohishi) are left orphaned and homeless. Haruna is left traumatised by witnessing her parents’ death, while younger Shota is oblivious to the fact that they are no longer coming back. Soon Haruna and Shota are taken in by a relative, but even with a new house and new family, little can fill the void left by the parents and no one, including Haruna, can tell Shota the awful truth.
Dir. Atsuko Hirayanagi, 2017
Synopsis: Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) is a 55-year-old office drone, depressed, lovelorn and chain-smoking her way to an early grave. One day, Setsuko finds salvation in the form of John, a teacher in a run-down Tokyo English school who has a rather unorthodox approach to education which includes giving Setsuko the English name “Lucy”. Knowing that John has abruptly left Tokyo to return home, Setsuko sets off to the States on a journey of discovery…
The Mole Song- Undercover Agent Reiji
Dir. Takashi Miike, 2013
Synopsis: Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta) is an inept rookie cop with a strong sense of justice. Fired for trying to arrest a city councillor caught molesting a teenage girl, he is secretly re-hired as an undercover agent and sent on a mission to infiltrate Sukiya-kai, Japan’s most notorious Yakuza clan. Suffering various hardships along the way, Reiji fights to survive the ruthless yakuza world by becoming a sworn brother to the senior member, Crazy Papillon (Shinichi Tsutsumi), whilst acting as an informer to the police.
Shabondama / Where I Belong
Dir. Shinji Azuma, 2017
Synopsis: Izumi (Kento Hayashi), a lowlife thief cowardly targeting women and the elderly, goes on the run and finds himself stranded in the mountains of Miyazaki in southern Japan. Along one of the remote roads Izumi encounters an injured elderly woman, Suma (Etsuko Ichihara), and reluctantly comes to her aid. Indebted to Izumi for saving her life, Izumi takes in the homeless ‘good Samaritan’ and treats him like her own grandson, uninterested in his true identity. Can Izumi settle into a new life in the village, or will his secret wrongdoings in the past catch up with him?
Memoirs of a Murderer
Dir. Yu Irie, 2017
Synopsis: When a legal loophole allows a string of unsolved brutal murders to pass the statute of limitations, the fame-hungry killer, known as the Tokyo strangler (Tatsuya Fujiwara), suddenly emerges in public spotlight, announcing the release of his “tell-all” book confessing to the unsolved brutal murders committed decades ago. Watching the media frenzy unfold is detective Makimura (Hideaki Ito), wracked by his failure to crack the case years ago. However, a series of lingering questions leads Makimura to delve deeper in search of closure.
Dir. Kenji Uchida, 2008
Synopsis: Jinno (Yo Oizumi) is a middle school teacher whose friend Kimura (Masato Sakai) and his wife are expecting a baby. However, on the day of the baby’s delivery, Kimura suddenly goes missing. Meanwhile a seedy private detective (Kuranosuke Sasaki) hired by a black company seeks the whereabouts of Kimura. Before long, unknown shocking facts about Kimura are revealed and the situation turns to the course nobody would expect.
Japanese Girls Never Die
Dir. Daigo Matsui, 2016
Synopsis: A multi-stranded drama surrounding the disappearance of Haruko Azumi (Yu Aoi), a 27-year-old unmarried woman stuck in a dead-end job who goes missing without a trace. When Haruko’s missing person’s poster attracts the attention of two wannabe graffiti artists, her image soon becomes the unwitting face behind a pop phenomenon. Meanwhile, a mysterious group of high school girls begin attacking men at random around town. Are these events all connected to Haruko’s disappearance?
The Dark Maidens
Dir. Saiji Yakumo, 2017
Synopsis: Set in an academy for daughters of the rich and powerful, this murder mystery involves six girls with a dark secret. Literature club chairman Itsumi Shiraishi (Marie Iitoyo), has fallen to her death from the school roof. Rumours soon circulate that one of the members of the literature club is the culprit. New chairman and friend of the victim, Sayuri Sumikawa (Fumika Shimizu), holds a meeting and asks each member to recount their whereabouts at the time of Itsumi’s death. Who is telling a lie and what really happened to Itsumi?
Sword of the Stranger
Dir. Masahiro Ando, 2007
Synopsis: In feudal era Japan, young Kotaro is pursued by the royal army of China’s Ming Dynasty. When his loyal dog Tobimaru is injured in an ambush, Kotaru reluctantly recruits a mysterious, nameless samurai as his bodyguard. However, “No-name” has a guilty past and his own inner demons to battle.