Genkina hito in Japan

Regular readers might know that I set up this blog to review Japanese films and track my journey to Japan. Nearly six years after starting out I have made it to Japan. I am on a working holiday and have been in the country since September 10th but I haven’t had the chance or motivation to write anything. Instead, I have been out and about exploring places, trying things out, eating new food, and making friends. I have travelled from Osaka to Tokyo to Yokohama to other places in Kanagawa and Gunma. I am only just getting started since I have around ten months left in my working holiday. I timed my working holiday to take in as many film festivals as I possibly could. The first film festival I went to was the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF).


The Tokyo International Film Festival was pretty awesome. I was there for four days and three films. It takes place in the rather upmarket area of Roppongi and the films I watched were in two locations – Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills and Ex Theater Roppongi. Both cinemas are earthquake-proof (as was constantly announced before film screenings) and look really cool – space-age structures of glass and steel and cool lighting.

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The seats are super comfortable and the cinemas are huge and can fit lots of people. There’s also a stage in front of the screen which is perfect for the Q&As that normally follow.

I saw three films at this festival:

Floating Clouds


Snow Woman

I would have seen more but tickets sold out quickly at many screenings so it’s a good idea t book online on the day they are released or go down to the box office early.

This festival is the best chance for people who don’t speak Japanese to watch films with subtitles since img_0973regular cinemas don’t do them. I have watched a couple of films without subs – Scoop! At the Kichijoji Odeon and Hana’s Miso Soup at the Tokyo Food Festival – and found that while fun and interesting, I missed he finer details. Not so with TIFF where subtitles and translators are on hand. The festival is staffed by an army of staff and volunteers (including English-language speakers) who make sure things run like clockwork. I think it’s a particularly Japanese thing where you have so many people sent to do all jobs conceivable including watching over festival-goers and guiding them, shouting our directions to ticket booths etc, This was vital for people who don’t speak top-tier Japanese.

Each of the screenings I went to catered to English-language speakers and there were staff members willing to speak English around which is vital for the Q&As. At one screening, a translator sat next to me and gave me the entire Q&A between Shunji Iwai and a film critic. At another screening I had an ear piece and a translator on stage did a fine job of conveying the conversation between the director Mipo Oh and another film academic.

I had hoped to take part as a volunteer but ended up going as an audience member and sitting with the press and watching the films on huge screens. This paid off because I got to sit close (oh so close!!!) to two of my favourite directors – Shunji Iwai, director of The Bride of Rip Van Winkle, and Mipo Oh, director of The Light Shines Only There. I was able to take photographs and record videos but due to the lighting the pictures I took are blown-out in areas. I have the memories at least and, more importantly, I made friends and now I have something special lined up for next year thanks to them.

This was my first film festival in Japan and it went smoothly for the most part especially since the majority of the festival always takes place in Roppongi. Here’s some travel advice. You can reach it via the Oedo and the Hibiya subway lines. These lines run through major stations like Tokyo, Ginza, and Shinjuku. You can also use other lines such as the Chiyoda and Marunouchi but you will have to transfer at Kasumigaseki or another station a couple of stops away. That’s what I had to do since I am in Asagaya.

Roppongi station has exits that lead directly out into Roppongi Hills via a large escalator or a street exit which is five minutes away from Ex Theater Roppongi. Like most JR and Tokyo Metro stations, there’s a lot of retail stores attached to the station.


The subway/railway system in Tokyo is extensive and easy to use so I recommend getting a Suica card. Suica is an IC card that works across the entirety of Japan and can be used to ride buses, trains, and subways systems and it can be used to pay for goods and services. It also has a cute penguin on it if you still need convincing! The only downside is that you will spend so much money on it because it is so convenient.

If you want to eat then you can try any of the restaurants or, if you want to play it safe, there’s are McDonald’s and Starbucks in the area. Both places offer free wi-fi.

Roppongi is a pretty lively place and the Hills tend to be the focus of many events such as parades and art exhibitions. I went there on my second day in Japan to view the Ghibli expo in the Mori Tower, a huge structure that acted as the HQ for the TIFF. You can get impressive views of the city from there.

I hope to have reviews of the films I saw released over the next couple of weeks. I just need to write them.

Here are some more pictures from the festival and Roppongi. Next up is Tokyo FILMeX.

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31 thoughts on “Genkina hito in Japan

    1. It was good. It was a powerful reminder of what Tokyo was like immediately after the war. I had a shock when I saw Sendagaya station! I had to laugh during the audience response of the Q&A when one young guy said he spent most of the film thinking the men were useless and wishing they would just die. I felt relieved I wasn’t the only one who disliked them. The Q&A was fantastic and I learned a lot about the Golden Age of Japanese cinema.

      1. Hayley

        Men in Naruse movies are generally a bit rubbish now that I think of it 🤔 but then everything is just generally quite rubbish I suppose. His films are more about learning to accept the world’s rubbishness as best you can 🤔

        Would love to see Snow Woman! It’s such a sad story though 😢

  1. I’m so glad you’re having a fantastic time…. but I still think you need to be more daring with your photographs. Get closer! Let us feel your experience fully!

    1. Haha, I don’t want girls to think I’m a pervert. I have asked Japanese people I have talked to if I could take pictures and the general response is no. Sometimes I get a yes and those people are usually the truly friendly and wonderful ones.

      1. Hi Denny.

        Thanks for taking the time to comment. You’re meant to be on a break so I appreciate the visit. I passed the AKB48 theatre and restaurant and thought of you. I’ll take pictures next time I go which will be soon because Final Fantasy XV is launching in November and there are special events in Akihabara!

        I’m making the most of this experience by exploring places and meeting people. As for the ladies… I’m busy adventuring at the moment. Who knows if I will meet someone who likes me enough but it’s best to just go with the flow and be a gentleman at every moment!

  2. humbledaisy1

    I’ve been enjoying your travel commentary as well as the films. My husband was in Japan for graduate school and his stories aren’t half as fun!

    1. Thanks for keeping track of my bizarre adventure. I’m sure your husband probably did a good job with his schooling. I should be learning Japanese but I’m currently watching a variety show where Hard Gay Man is battling a guy shoving lobsters down his pants in order to amuse kids.

      This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I have been given by a good guy who is my boss at work so I am making the most of it by diving deep into Japan and Japanese culture.

      1. Yeah, live lobsters. I wasn’t impressed but the kids on the show loved it. I wouldn’t recommend using that on anyone.

        Before that there was a music show with that pen pineapple guy who revealed a new song and dance.

        The news is on now and big headlines are TPP, the crisis in Korean politics, Trump vs Clinton and a ten hour delay at a train station after a mouse bit a wire.

        The pleasures of Japanese television…

    1. Thanks for the comment! There are lots of things I want to do. I’ve already done Akihabara for video games a couple of times and I’ve crossed off numerous museums and a couple of events. I’m meant to be over here to learn Japanese so I can’t be a tourist every day. I feel like I’m going beyond the tourist world and getting in deeper wit the country.

      You’ll probably get to Japan soon enough and I hope my articles prove to be of some help.

      1. They are not only source of info but quite entertaining too! I am starting my savings fund drive LOL so that I can get ready and attend the next TIFF. I hope it can happen. I may ask you more questions later on, but for now, I am just happy reading your posts!

        Cheers and take care and have lots of fun there!

  3. Pingback: Genkina hito in Japan | Otaku Updates

    1. I am In Japan for a whole year or thereabouts. This will be my first Christmas away from home. I haven’t felt homesick but I am starting to think fondly of those lukewarm grey winter days that the UK specialises in. I’m going to miss lots of Christmas movies as well… I’m sure I will find something to occupy me in Japan, though 😉

    1. I’m pretty thankful for this trip every day I am here and I try and make the most of my opportunities and not be a stick in the mud. That written, I really enjoy Tokyo so I have only travelled to surrounding cities and only once ventured out to a place with next to no foreigners. That will change soon enough. Meanwhile, I’ve got a couple of special things lined up and they are film related

  4. akb48fan

    I’m so happy that you’ve finally made it to Japan. I’m sure you’ll thoroughly immerse yourself in the country’s culture and have a whale of a time. You really do have to go to an onsen at some point. Such a relaxing experience. Do you have a cinema in your neck of the woods or do you have to travel to Nakano or Shinjuku?

    1. Thanks for taking the time to reply! It has been a long time since I last saw you.

      I will be immersing myself in the culture by going to Gunma this weekend and possibly going to an onsen and a kabuki theatre.

      There’s a small cinema where I am based in Asagaya but since it doesn’t screen films with English subs I don’t go there. I have been to other cinemas and watched films without subs but I spend most of my time walking around Tokyo and taking pictures.I plan on going to Kyoto for a couple of days during the middle of the month and then I’ll be moving to Osaka.

  5. Fun! Happy for you for finally be there. Maybe it’s about time. Does it feel like home? Can’t see all the pics since it requires JavaScript and I am using phone

    1. Hi Andina!

      It has been fun so far and I feel like I could make a home here but I have spent so much time as a tourist and not really touched on real life with a job so maybe my attitude might change when that moment comes!

      I have had lots of adventures but I have been slow getting them posted. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Jason – well done! I’m really happy for you. You’re achieving your goals and this is such a wonderful opportunity. I really look forward to reading more of your adventures.
    Lynn 😀

    1. Thanks Lynn! I have a couple of round-ups for some brief city-hopping adventures and then one for Christmas in Tokyo and then I’ll leave for Osaka in the new year. I hope it all goes well!

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