Japanese documentaries: help me find more!
December 11, 2012 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Japanese documentaries: help me find more!

I have recently watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Quill: Life of a Guide Dog, and although I enjoyed the subject material, for me they shared something else. These films were an insight into what everyday Japanese life is like. so, help me find similar documentary-style or nonfiction Japanese films.

I don't mind Japanese language films as long as subtitles are available. I'm not all that concerned with what the subject matter is, since I'll watch documentaries about almost anything. I really just don't know where to start looking. help me, metafilterers!
posted by ninjew to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I found this list:


Not sure if it's really what you're looking for.
posted by commitment at 9:13 AM on December 11, 2012

I'm a big fan of, "The great happiness space." Which is about the subculture and business of Host Clubs, where women spend a lot of money to hang out with pretty, stylish, and very manipulative men.
posted by bswinburn at 9:31 AM on December 11, 2012

Godspeed You Black Emperor, about Japanese biker gangs of the '70s.

Reddit's r/documentaries is a great resource.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 10:23 AM on December 11, 2012

Sans Soleil by Chris Marker? There's an incredible obituary thread about Marker from several months back, on the blue.
posted by tapir-whorf at 10:25 AM on December 11, 2012

You might be interested in Nobody Knows. It's not a documentary, but it is based on a true story, presented in a very realistic manner. It shows the day-to-day life of 4 children figuring out how to survive on their own after their parents have abandoned them.
posted by Corvid at 12:35 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Cats of Mirikitani is a lovely film. Filmed in New York, but I think it fits the bill.
posted by krix at 12:55 PM on December 11, 2012

Watch out for Nobody Knows, it gets very sad (but is a really excellent movie, and the details are fascinating).
posted by thylacinthine at 1:40 PM on December 11, 2012

You can find quite a few episodes of Soko ga shiritai on YouTube, which should be exactly what you're looking for.

Soko ga shirtai was a long running Japanese documentary series which were re-broadcast in the US (I believe) with English subtitles. The episodes are in a way quite "mellow", and not as noisy as newer Japanese docutainment series tend to be. Topics range from "hair and haircuts" to "mobile phone trends". There is a list of episodes here, but that might just be the episodes broadcast in the US.
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 4:30 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in Nobody Knows.

The director, Hirokazu Kore'eda, shoots (mostly) in a social realist style, and his movies over a glimpse (through a keyhole) of everyday life in Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:07 PM on December 11, 2012

I have bookmarked some documentaries about Japan in Japanese with no subtitles on YouTube. Happy to post some links here if you think it is worth it.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:08 PM on December 11, 2012

Seconding Soko ga shiritai on youtube! I'm in love with it, I think you will be, too. Hoping someone suggests a newer (but hopefully low on flashiness) series here, as it's quite dated.
posted by Sayuri. at 7:33 PM on December 11, 2012

Sayuri, the show that fits your description is Begin Japanology with Peter Barakan. Favourite episodes include The Shikoku pilgrimage, wasabi, and sushi.

Japanorama with Jonathan Ross is another recent series that shows off the quirky side of Japanese pop culture.
posted by FissionChips at 10:08 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of my absolute favorite doc films is Kazuo Hara's The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On. It's in a sweet spot of "moving/thought-provoking/strange/novel/important" and scratches those itches like few other films can. A quick synopsis from wikipedia:
The documentary centers on 62-year-old veteran of Japan's Second World War campaign in New Guinea, Kenzo Okuzaki, and follows him around as he searches out those responsible for the unexplained deaths of two soldiers in his old unit.
Errol Morris lists it as one of his "5 favorite documentaries" in a lot of places. For what it's worth, I agree with him. I watch it every few years or so and think about it obsessively for weeks afterwards.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2012

i really like Satoyama: Japan’s Secret Watergarden and Satoyama 2
posted by Infernarl at 9:01 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thank you everyone..

I just came across I Wish in AV Club's year end movie list, and although it isn't a documentary I think it fits. But some of you mentioned his other film Nobody Knows.
posted by ninjew at 9:21 AM on December 19, 2012

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