Films of foreigners in Japan
February 18, 2005 9:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for quite recent (past 30/40 years) films of westerners who go to Japan and have a good time. Sort of the opposite to 'Lost in Translation.' The more recent, the better. Madame Butterfly need not apply.

I saw Lost in Translation but was disappointed in how often Japan took a back stage to the characters' own problems. A teacher friend showed LiT in a 'Japanese Culture' high school class, and immediately put off all the kids from visiting Japan. I was thinking that there must be films where westerners visit Japan and have a good experience - but I can't think of any.
posted by carter to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
Enlightenment Guaranteed
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:49 AM on February 18, 2005

posted by bryanzera at 9:52 AM on February 18, 2005

Well off the top of my head...

The Bad News Bears Go To Japan and Mr. Baseball.

I don't know why those came immediately to mind, I don't even like baseball.
posted by pwb503 at 9:56 AM on February 18, 2005

You Only Live Twice
posted by mischief at 10:05 AM on February 18, 2005

i think gung ho is a pretty good antithesis to lost in translation, but isn't set in japan
posted by mdpc98 at 10:15 AM on February 18, 2005

The best movie about a Westerner approaching Japan (and one of the best movies of all time) is a wonderful little gem of a film called "Sans Soleil." (Though the title and the director, Chris Marker, are French, it's in English.) The format is somewhat documentary-like, but much more poetic than any documentary I know of; letters written by a Westerner who is returning to Japan after many years are read over footage from around the world, but mainly from Japan. The images are remarkable and striking, and have something of a fleeting quality to them: an African girl pretending not to look at the camera, Dutch children playing on a hillside, the death of a giraffe. The focal point of all this is Japan, the Japanese sense of time and the sacred, as seen through the eyes of a Westerner who, having known Japan years ago, has just returned after travelling the world.

It was made in the mid-eighties; Japan seems to have changed somewhat since then. But what was remarkable to me was the breadth of Japan that I got from this movie; young video-game junkies alongside elderly people visiting a shrine for departed cats, for example, and dancing in late-night festivals as well as the neon lights of the city. He really seems to have embraced Japan and tried to see it for what it is.

(Chris Marker also did a thing called "La Jetee," a really pretty short from the '60s upon which Terry Gilliam's "Twelve Monkeys" is based.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:43 AM on February 18, 2005

Don't forget Jshames Bhond in You only Live Twice. (I know, it's a stretch, but Jshames does enjoy his killing).
posted by alana at 11:10 AM on February 18, 2005

I highly recommend Big Bird in Japan. It's excellent.

On this topic, what is that movie about 19th century British people discovering Japanese culture? All I can remember is a scene where there's some exposition in London or someplace, and a Japanese girl goes "two pence prease," to the amazement of some upper class Brits.
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:12 AM on February 18, 2005

Rhapsody in August has a subplot about an American traveling to Nagasaki to meet his Japanese relatives.
posted by Tenuki at 11:13 AM on February 18, 2005

On this topic, what is that movie about 19th century British people discovering Japanese culture?

Topsy Turvy?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:27 AM on February 18, 2005

Somehow I don't think The Grudge is what you're looking for.
posted by fleacircus at 12:19 PM on February 18, 2005

I love Wim Wenders' "Tokyo Ga" but I think it's hard to find.

There was an American mainstream feature from around 1990 called "Tokyo Pop" which might be what you're looking for.
posted by Rash at 1:34 PM on February 18, 2005

Just a thought: I would think that this sort of sentiment would be quite difficult to find because of the US and Japan's antagonistic relationship after WWII. Most films I have found deal with the conflicting emotions, and one of the things I liked about LiT was its absence. LiT also made me really love Tokyo, as someone who likes to get lost in a culture.

Really the only other film I have seen about a foreigner in Japan is Hiroshima mon amour.
posted by scazza at 2:21 PM on February 18, 2005

This probably isn't what you're looking for but there's an educational video series called Yan-san & The Japanese People. It's about the life and times of a foreigner (albeit with damn near fluent Japanese) in Japan named Yan-san, origin unknown. It's all in Japanese, but it's [in]famous among students of Japanese as a conversation practice video. It's probably available at your nearest four-year college campus' library or language lab.

Be sure to watch series one; series two is much more depressing (introduction of a love interest, some depression, etc.). And Yan-san gets even more corpulent.
posted by armage at 5:20 PM on February 18, 2005

Response by poster: Great suggestions, thanks everyone; they make a nice list to go down to the video store with!
posted by carter at 7:45 AM on February 19, 2005

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