Japanese Films at Tokyo FILMeX 2021 (October 30th to November 07th)

Tokyo Filmex 2021 PosterTokyo FILMeX 2021 runs from October 30th to November 07th. It launches on the same day as the Tokyo International Film Festival but it is dedicated to showcasing arthouse films. This will be both an in-person in-theatre experience –  at Yurakacho Asahi Hall and Human Trust Cinema Yurakucho SCR2 – as well as an online one.

Anyway, the festival has quite a few titles from Japan or set in Japan that are worth checking out.

Words and images adapted from the fest. Click on a title to be taken to the festival page:

Opening Film

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy   Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy Film Poster 2

偶然と想像 Guzen to sozo

Release Date: March, 2021

Duration: 121 mins.

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Writer: Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Script), 

Starring: Kotone Furukawa, Hyunri, Ayumu Nakajima (segment “Magic (or Something Less Assuring”)), Shouma Kai, Katsuki Mori, Kiyohiko Shibukawa (segment “Door Wide Open”), Aoba Kawai, Fusako Urabe (segment “Once Again”),


Three short stories make up this omnibus film directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi who is famous for Happy Hour, which won a special mention for script and best actress at Locarno in 2015, and Asako I & II, which played at Cannes 2018 in the Competition section.  Each of the stories has the theme of “coincidence” and “imagination”.

Synopsis: Three stories of fate and fortune: In Magic (or Something Less Assuring), a woman realises that the man her best friend has talked about as “hitting on her” is a former boyfriend who broke up with her two years ago. Door Wide Open features a story of a student who failed to graduate planning to ruin a professor’s reputation by using a girl to trap him. Once Again sees two women who grew up together reunited in Sendai for the first time in 20 years. One shares feelings that they have held in their hearts since their high school days.

Competition Film


Graveyard of Youth

青春墓場 Seishun hakaba

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 96 mins.

Director: Yosuke Okuda

Writer: Yosuke Okudaa (Screenplay),

Starring: Yosuke Okuda

Synopsis: Storylines running parallel meet together. In the first, a man who works at a popular Chinese restaurant gets involved in the life of a female co-worker and her son who is being bullied at high school. In the second, an actress in a theatre troupe gets involved with a manga artist’s assistant and ends up living with him at his apartment…. 

A search for the title came up with a trailer from one of Okuda’s earlier projects:

Special Screenings

The World of You

麻希のいる世界 Maki no iru sekai

Release Date: January 29th, 2022

Duration: 89 mins.

Director: Akihiko Shiota

Writer: Akihiko Shiota (Screenplay),

Starring: Yuzumi Shintani, Marin Hidaka, Airu Kubozuka, Raiju Kamata, Yuuki Yagi,


Akihiko Shiota, director of Harmful Insect and Farewell Song, brings an original script based on the tried and tested formula of schoolgirls making rock bands. The festival assures that it does proceedings in a different way.

Synopsis: High school student Yuki has lost her hope for life due to a chronic disease but a renewal happens after she has a life-changing encounter with Aki, her destructive classmate with a beautiful singing voice. They decide to form a band with Yusuke who secretly has feelings for Yuki…. 

Made in Japan

Haruhara-san’s Recorder    Haruhara-san's Recorder Film Poster

春原さんのうた Haruhara-san no Uta

Release Date: January 08th, 2022

Duration: 120 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Sugita

Writer: Kiyoshi Sugita (Screenplay),

Starring: Chika Araki, Saho Ito, Takenori Kaneko, Mizuho Nojima, Misaki Kitamura, Ryo Anraku, DEG,


This film is based on a tanka poem which Tokyo Filmex has put up:

“Gazing on / The stamp of address unknown / The recorder / Played by Haruhara-san”

This is from author and poet Naoko Higashi’s first volume of poetry. The film had its world premiere at the International Film Festival Marseille where it won the Audience Award, Acting Award, and the Grand Prix.

Synopsis: After losing her boyfriend, Sachi seeks to start afresh and quits her job at a gallery and starts working part-time at a café. One of the regulars at the café suggests moving into an apartment, which she does but the memory of her partner whom she’ll never meet again remains in her heart…. 

Dawning on Us

夜明けの夫婦 Yoake no fufu

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 135 mins.

Director: Kenji Yamauchi

Writer: Kenji Yamauchi (Screenplay),

Starring: Nao Yoshigai

Kenji Yamauchi, actor in Hospitalité and director of delicious comedy of manners At the Terrace, is back with a film that takes Covid-19 as the catalyst for a family drama.

Synopsis: With the Covid-19 pandemic easing up, Sara and her husband Kosuke are finding themselves having to get back into their old lives after having lived together with Kosuke’s parents for a while. Kosuke is getting a transfer to Kobe and Sara is being called back into work and there is the expectation from her in-laws that she will conceive a child but she knows that Kosuke is having an affair, and living with her in-laws has put a dampener on their sex-life. Still, Sara’s mother-in-law who deeply longs for a grandchild takes this opportunity to further badger Sara…. 

Made in Yamato    Made in Yamato Film Poster

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 120 mins.

Director: Masanori Tominaga, Yui Kiyohara, Akira Yamamoto, Risa Takeuchi, Daisuke Miyzaki,

Writer: N/A (Screenplay),

Starring: N/A

This project is an omnibus film that was made in response to the cancellation of the Yamato Film Festival and the children’s film classes held every year in Yamato due to Covid-19. The directors have all be associated with Yamato and children’s film classes and with this film they hope to bring the joy of filmmaking and the potential of local cities to the public.

Directors include:

Masanori Tominaga (Vengeance Can Wait, Rolling, Dynamite Graffiti

Yui Kiyohara (Our House, winner of a Pia Film Festival award)

Daisuke Miyzaki (VideophobiaTourism, Yamato (California))

Synopsis:  That Day, This Day, One Day (dir: Akira Yamamoto) portrays various city office workers recording a video letter for a colleague who’s about to retire. In

The Fourth Lie (dir: Masanori Tominaga), a father meets his daughter whom he lives apart from and is perplexed when he’s introduced to her stepfather.

Makie’s Adventure (dir: Risa Takeuchi) depicts the daily life and miniature journey of a woman who works at a municipal sports complex.

Eri and Kumi’s Long and Mediocre Day (dir: Daisuke Miyazaki) follows the journey of the titular girls as they head into a forest to bury a time capsule.

The Light of March (dir: Yui Kiyohara) is about a young pregnant woman wandering on the outskirts of town who comes across an odd biker gang.

Ring Wandering    Ring Wandering Film Poster

リング・ワンダリング Ringu Wanderingu

Release Date: February 2022

Duration: 103 mins.

Director: Masakazu Kaneko

Writer: Masakazu Kaneko, Genki Yoshimura (Screenplay),

Starring: Sho Kasamatsu, Junko Abe, Reiko Kataoka, Toru Shinagawa, Ken Yasuda, Yoji Tanaka, Hatsunori Hasegawa,

Website IMDB

Sho Kasamatsu, lead actor in glossy hip-hop saga Flowers and Rain, goes arthouse in his portrayal of a manga artist looking for inspiration. He has a strong supporting cast including Reiko Kataoka and Ken Yasuda. The film is set in an older area of Tokyo that is being re-developed and it mixes past and present in a magical realist way. The film had its world premiere in the International Competition of the Warsaw Film Festival.

Synopsis: Sosuke aims to be a Manga artist but his story of a hunter’s battle with a Japanese wolf is hard to realise since he struggles to draw a believable wolf figure. He supports himself as a dayworker and it is a fateful discovery of an animal skull on a construction site that leads him into an artistic and physical journey aided by a mysterious girl…. 

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