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Japanese Movies Abroad: Were These 3 Famous Films Shot in Your Hometown?

Not all Japanese movies are set in Japan!

When we think of Japanese movies, we often assume that they’re filmed in Japan with an all-Japan cast. But did you know there are many Japanese movies that take place in other countries too?

Check out these three movies filmed abroad — do you recognize any of the locations?

1. The Man from the Sea (海を駆ける), 2018

Director Koji Fukada is a young, up-and-coming director with an already impressive resumé that draws on his interest in international films and themes. He cast an American woman in the sci-fi flick Sayonara (さようなら), 2015 and was inspired by France for the titles of other films, including Au Revoir L’Été (ほとりの朔子), 2013. It was only a matter of time before he took his movies abroad. Man from the Sea (海を駆ける), 2018 was filmed in Banda Aceh in Indonesia’s Aceh Province and features an international cast of both Japanese and Indonesian actors.

The film takes place in post-tsunami Indonesia, where Takako, a Japanese woman, is helping with disaster recovery. She receives news about a mysterious man (played by multitalented Dean Fujioka) who appears to have washed up on the shore and collapsed there. His identity and nationality remain a mystery as he seems to only speak broken Japanese and Indonesian, but Takako takes him in and names him Laut, the Indonesian word for sea. It turns out there’s more to Laut than first meets the eye as strange things begin happening in his presence…

Location: Indonesia
Cast: Dean Fujioka, Taiga, Junko Abe, Mayu Tsuruta
Director: Koji Fukada

2. We Can’t Change the World. But, We Wanna Build a School in Cambodia (僕たちは世界を変えることができない。), 2011

Based on a true story, We Can’t Change the World. But, We Wanna Build a School in Cambodia tells the tale of Kota Hada, a young medical student with big dreams and hopes for the world. Despite his studies, he feels he doesn’t really have a purpose in life. That is until he finds a pamphlet advertising the need for volunteers to build a school in Cambodia. This seems to be the perfect solution and he enthusiastically gets his friends involved. However, there’s a catch: they have to raise 1.5 million yen for the school themselves. The group goes through many hardships as they learn that the world isn’t as simple as they’d previously thought, and how different things are from Japan. Will Kota and his friends persevere to accomplish their goal of building a school, or will they drop out halfway through? You’ll have to watch to find out!

Location: Cambodia
Cast: Osamu Mukai, Tori Matsuzaka, Tasuku Emoto, Masataka Kubota
Director: Kenta Fukasaku

3. Pool (プール), 2009

Headed by an internationally-minded crew, many of the staff that worked on Pool, also filmed Kamome Diner (かもめ食堂), 2006, which was set in Finland’s capital, Helsinki. Pool is set halfway across the world from there, in beautiful Chiang Mai in Thailand and the story takes place over the course of just 6 days. Kyoko, who has been living in Thailand for 4 years, runs a guesthouse. Her daughter, Sayo, comes to visit her but is in for a few surprises. It turns out that her expectations of her mother were wrong, and there are a few other interesting people added to the mix. It’s a fascinating tale of love and relationships, and how things can change in just 6 days.

Location: Thailand
Cast: Satomi Kobayashi, Ryo Kase, Kana, Masako Motai
Director: Mika Omori

These are just three of many Japanese movies set abroad, with many more on the horizon in the future!

Text by Lisa Wallin

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