Category Archives: Movies

Silent Movie Screening at The Toy Film Museum, Kyoto; 12th September 2015

There will be another silent movie screening at the Toy Film Museum on September 12th, with (Japanese) narration from regular 活弁士 (katsubenshi), Kataoka Ichiro. Three films will be shown starring the legendary Matsunosuke Onoe who was Japan’s first big movie star. This particular event is being held to celebrate the 140th anniversary of his birth.

The show starts at 3pm and costs 1700 for entry.


The Toy Film Museum – おもちゃ映画ミュージアム

IMG_0262 (Medium)

Kyoto’s newest museum, the Toy Film Museum,  opened on May 18th 2015 on a tiny little side street just off Koin Doori in the Mibu area. I ventured down there shortly after it opened to see what it was like. My general feeling after visiting is that the place has a lot of potential, but if you are not fluent in Japanese and/or super interested in old movies then this place isn’t really for you. I am interested in old movies, so I really liked the place, but I would understand if it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, they will be holding events, talks and movie screenings there, which may be of more general interest. More about the events later. First here’s what I found when I visited:

* It’s in a cute old machiya building, but at present only a small part of that building contains exhibits.
* The main exhibits are antique cameras and home movie projectors. These are not individually labelled with information.
* I was given a print about the contents of the museum and there is some information on the surrounding walls about movie history but naturally this is all in Japanese.
* Likewise the staff only speak Japanese, but they are super friendly, and they very kindly gave me a cup of coffee and a biscuit!
* There are some toys and toy projectors you can play with, but by themselves they are probably not enough to warrant the 500 yen entry fee.
* They also have some old silent movies on show on a TV screen hooked up to a computer. These seemed to be mostly swashbuckling samurai chambara movies, which back in the golden age of Japanese movie making were as popular as Hollywood westerns.

Some of those old timey projectors.

Some of those old timey projectors.

I rather enjoyed talking with the people at the museum who were very happy to talk about old movies with me. It’s also nice to see this aspect of Kyoto’s heritage being celebrated. Kyoto has a long historical connection with the movie industry, Japanese movie making was basically born here, and during Kyoto’s movie-making heyday in the 1930s the local studios at Uzumasa were knocking out 4 movies a month. Remember, in those days, people didn’t have TV, so movies were the most popular form of entertainment and showings were always packed.


Some of the exhibits at the Toy Film Museum.

During the silent movie era, Japan had a rather unique way of presenting movies. In addition to musical accompaniment, there was also a narrator, called a 活弁士 (katsubenshi). Like the very best storytellers, this narrator wouldn’t just explain the action on screen but would give voice to the characters and really bring the movie to life. Some of these narrators were extremely popular in their own right and people would go as much to enjoy the katsuben performance as to see the movie itself.

Now this brings me to an upcoming event at the Toy Film Museum which presents a unique opportunity to enjoy a silent movie screening in an old-timey Japanese style. As I wrote above, the organizers of the museum are planning to hold some talks and old movie screenings at the venue and there is a special movie screening coming up this Sunday on June 14th. The movie is called 僕らの弟 (Our Little Brother), a 1933 movie by celebrated screenwriter Yoshitaka Yoda, and it will be narrated live by expert movie narrator, Kataoka Ichiro. You can read more about the movie in the flyers which I shall post below. The fee for entry is 1,700 yen and the doors open at 18.30 for a 19.00 screening. Of course the whole event is in Japanese, but if your language skills are up to scratch this could be a really entertaining event. And if they aren’t up to scratch, well it’ll be good practice for you. Here are those (clickable) event flyers.

僕らの弟_表 僕らの弟_裏

Location: The Toy Film Museum is on a tiny side street on the east side of Koin Doori: the diagonal street that runs betwen Shijo Omiya Station and Nijo Station. The side street is easy to miss but there’s a shop with a sign reading “National Bicycle” just opposite and a Toy Film Museum sign to point the way. You can find a map here: MAP.
Address: 〒604‐8805
Telephone Number: 075(803)0033

Many thanks to Akira Yamamoto for posting about the Toy Film Museum on the Deep Kyoto Facebook Page, and to the folks at the Toy Film Museum for keeping me posted on events.

Parasophia: A Major Festival of Art & Culture in Kyoto Starts this Week!


Well, this looks interesting, doesn’t it?

Parasophia: Kyoto International Festival of Contemporary Culture 2015
March 7–May 10, 2015

Parasophia: Kyoto International Festival of Contemporary Culture 2015 is the first large-scale international exhibition of contemporary art to be held in Kyoto.  Approximately 40 artists from around the world will participate in the two-month exhibition at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, the Museum of Kyoto, and other locations. Many of these artists will also have taken part in the 700 days before the exhibition, making extended visits to Kyoto for site visits, collaborations, and other research for new works that will be presented at the first exhibition in 2015.

To find out more about the schedule and location of events and exhibitions please visit the official Parasophia site.

Parasophia is also on, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.

People & Nature in SouthEast Asia: A January Screening @ Kyoto University

via Mario Lopez,

On January 14th 2015, there will be a film forum at Kyoto University to screen five documentaries by independent, young film-makers from Southeast Asia on the topic of people and nature. All of the films are subtitled in both English and Japanese.

poster (Medium) (Medium)

Click to download this poster.

From the sky to the mountains, forests to mangroves, fields to orchards and animals to insects,what is the relationship between people and nature in Southeast Asia? How do people connect with their environments? In what ways do they think about, feel, touch, speak and share their surroundings in their societies, and through their cultures? This year, the visual documentary project presents five short documentaries, by young Southeast Asian filmmakers in the region,selected by an international committee for screening in Japan.

Date: January 14th, 2015
Time: 13:30 – 18:00
Participation: Free to All
Venue: Kyoto University Clock Tower Centennial Hall
Language: Japanese/English [with Interpreter]
Organizer: Center for Southeast Asia Studies
Co-organizer: Japan Foundation Asia Center

For more details and information on the lineup of documentaries please visit the official website here: Visual Documentary Project 2014

REBELDOM 31st EDITION 〜尊芯塾 × DAM (from Palestine) @ Club Metro

This event at Club Metro on Thursday October 9th features the award-winning Slingshot Hip Hop film, a short discussion about current conditions in Gaza & the West Bank, and a rocking live performance by DAM, Palestine’s first and foremost hiphop group.
RebeldomDate: Thursday October 9th 2014
Part 1

19:00: Doors Open
19:30 Movie: Slingshot Hip Hop
21:00 -21:30: Discussion

Part 2
REBEL SOUNDS:DAM (from Palestine) / RITTO (from 琉球) / 志人 / STINKY SCIZA (BONG BROS.) / DR.HASEGAWA
/ DJ PLANT (尊芯塾)

Tickets for Part 1 OR Part 2: 2000 yen for advance tickets / 2500 yen on the door
Tickets for Part 1 AND Part 2: 3000 yen
All tickets include one drink.
Order advance tickets here: ticket[at]
Access: Club Metro sits beside the Kamo river on Kawabata Dori, below cafe etw and above Marutamachi Station. Take Exit 2 from the station to find it. Here is a map:
Check this page for details:

Rebeldom reverse

Hafu the Film is Coming to Kyoto!

From Megumi Nishikura,

““Hafu” is the unfolding journey of discovery into the intricacies of mixed-race Japanese and their multicultural experience in modern day Japan. The film follows the lives of five “hafus”–the Japanese term for people who are half-Japanese–as they explore what it means to be multiracial and multicultural in a nation that once proudly proclaimed itself as the mono-ethnic nation. For some of these hafus Japan is the only home they know, for some living in Japan is an entirely new experience, and others are caught somewhere between two different worlds.”

HAFU_poster_smallHafu the film will receive its theatrical release in Kyoto from March 29th to April 4th.
Showings are at 8:45pm each day at the Kyoto Miniami Kaikan Cinema (京都みなみ会館)
Address: Nishikujō Higashihieijōchō Minami-ku, Kyōto-shi (京都市南区西九条東比永城町7979)
Location: South from Kyoto Station, on the south side of Kujo Street, a short walk west of Kintetsu Tōji Station.
Click here for the SCHEDULE.
Click here for a MAP.

“According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, one in forty-nine babies born in Japan today are born into families with one non-Japanese parent. This newly emerging minority in Japan is under-documented and under-explored in both literature and media. The feature-length HD documentary film, “Hafu – the mixed-race experience in Japan” seeks to open this increasingly important dialogue. The film explores race, diversity, multiculturalism, nationality, and identity within the mixed-race community of Japan. And through this exploration, it seeks to answer the following questions: What does it mean to be hafu?; What does it mean to be Japanese?; and ultimately, What does all of this mean for Japan?”

See also:

Buddhism after the Tsunami – Free Movie Screening at Chion-in

buddhism afterFrom Souls of Zen via Jean Downey:

“We are delighted to announce that Chion-in, the head temple of Jodo (Pure Land) Buddhism in Japan will show Buddhism after the Tsunami this March in Kyoto!”

From Ten Thousand Things: Souls of Zen – Buddhism, Ancestors, and the 2011 Tsunami in Japan follows the “greatest religious mobilization in Japan´s postwar history.” Filmed from March to December 2011, the documentary by Tim Graf, a graduate student at Tohoku University, and director/cinematographer Jakob Montrasio  explored  the everyday lives of Buddhist professionals in the disaster zone, and Japan’s tradition of ancestor veneration in the wake of 3/11, focusing on Soto Zen and Jodo Pure Land Buddhism.

13 March 2014 @ 13:30
14 March 2014 @ 13:30
15 March 2014 @ 16:30

Chion-in Wajun Kaikan, B2 Floor, Wajun Hall
Free and open to the public!
Details in Japanese at the LINK

Buddhism after the Tsunami – The Souls of Zen 3/11 Japan Special (Classroom Edition) – Trailer from Tim Graf on Vimeo.

See also: Souls of Zen

CSEAS Visual Documentary Project: “Plural Co-existence in Southeast Asia”

From Mario Lopez,

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), Kyoto University is
proud to announce that it will host a film forum to show five selected
documentaries by independent, young film-makers from Southeast Asia on
the topic of plural co-existence. This is an OPEN forum and we invite
anyone who is interested to participate.

Date and Time: March 11 (Tuesday), starts from 13.00

Venue: Large Conference Room (Room 330), Inamori Foundation Building 3rd floor (MAP)

Southeast Asia is a place of rich diversity and home to over 600
million people. This diversity, a product of centuries of social,
cultural, political and religious development, is at the heart of
Southeast Asian societies. Migration, work opportunities, and the flow
of cultural goods all create opportunities for people across to the
region to meet each other with people living side by side. In this
process they contribute to the creation of different groupings known
as “plural societies.” This forum hopes to stimulate, and raise
awareness of how Southeast Asian filmmakers consider the plurality in
their societies and visually document it.

This year we have a selection of short films from Thailand, Vietnam,
Cambodia, and the Philippines.

For any inquiries contact Mario Lopez marioivanlopez[at]

Mario Lopez

Double click on the image below to view it in a larger size.

Japanese Film Screenings with English Subtitles at KICH

Kyoto International Community House has a series of FREE Japanese film screenings with English subtitles now ongoing. This would be a wonderful opportunity for movie fans if it weren’t for the awkward scheduling during weekday office hours. Why not an evening or weekend showing? Well, if you are free at these times, then these are the films up-coming: Continue reading

A Life in Japan

Film-maker Petri Storlöpare answers questions at Urbanguild.

On Monday evening I attended the premiere of Petri Storlöpare’s documentary movie “A Life in Japan” at Urbanguild. In the movie, footage from all over Japan is accompanied by excerpts from interviews with 19 foreign residents of Japan. According to the film-maker, the objective is to let the viewer have a glimpse of Japanese life through foreign eyes. The participants explain how they first came to Japan, why they stayed, the problems they have encountered, the things they have learned, their loves, their hates, their hopes and their regrets. The movie lasts for 77  minutes, and though it is essentially just people talking, it is both entertaining and thought provoking. Alejandro Peña Flores from Mexico, speaks of how Japan has taught him something about honesty.  Duduzile Sibanyoni speaks of police harassment and how that resurrected for her memories of apartheid in her native South Africa. Canadian Micah Gampel relates his disappointment at being unable to save his favorite machiya townhouse from destruction at the hands of developers… For me, as a long time resident in Japan, there were many experiences I recognized and related to. But I think that “A Life in Japan” would be most useful for people who are considering moving here from abroad, or for Japanese who might be interested in getting a fresh perspective on their own country (the movie has Japanese subtitles).
Now, this movie received quite a lot of flak on Facebook recently, before anyone had even seen it, on the grounds that it wasn’t representative enough. Some people who viewed the trailer were concerned that the movie didn’t have enough women in it. Others accused the movie of being Orientalist, and being only concerned with the opinions of white men from developed countries. Well, having seen the movie for myself I can state that these fears were misplaced. At no point during the screening did I feel that the movie felt culturally or gender biased. Seven of the nineteen participants are women, and though they are slightly fewer in number than the men, it’s not something you would notice in terms of screen time. It should also be remembered that Petri Storlöpare made this movie by himself, at his own expense over a three year period, with no funding or sponsorship, so making a movie that was perfectly representative of the expat population here was not something he could ever have possibly done. By his own admission he wasn’t really trying to do that anyway.

The intention was not to try to give an objective all encompassing picture of Japan, but to let you experience it through personal opinions and experiences of different people. The interviewees had the chance to speak freely, within loose frames, about the topics of their choice.
From the website A Life in Japan

I asked Petri how he chose the participants, and he told me that he began by interviewing friends in Kyoto, and then friends of friends and then after he had been doing that for a year he realized he didn’t have enough women in the movie. So he cast his net further and traveled as far as Tottori and Kyushu in a deliberate effort to make a more balanced movie. As for the ethnicity of the participants, there are people from twelve different countries and six different continents. I think for one man’s individual project, that’s not a bad balance at all!

Well, I hope I have laid those concerns to rest. The movie should stand on its own merits. I enjoyed it myself, and most of the people who saw it with me on Monday seemed to respond positively. I would happily recommend it to anyone who is curious about life in Japan, or perhaps even as an educational tool. If you are curious about the movie, you can learn more about it and download it here.

Here’s that controversial trailer: