Japanese Films at the Berlin International Film Festival 2023

The 72nd Berlin International Film Festival will be taking place from February 16 to 26.

What are the Japanese films programmed so far?

Competition Section

Suzume no Tojimari Suzume no Tojimari Film Poster

すずめの戸締まり Suzume no Tojimari

Release Date: November 11th, 2022

Duration: 121 mins

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Writer: Makoto Shinkai (Screenplay/Original Creator)

Starring: Hokuto Matsumura (Sota Munakata), Nanoka Hara (Suzume Iwato), Ann Yamane (Daijin), Eri Fukatsu (Tamaki Iwato), Sairi Ito (Rumi Ninomiya), Ryunosuke Kamiki (Tomoya Serizawa), Kana Hanazawa (Tsubame Iwato),

Animation Production: CoMix Wave Films

Website  ANN  MAL

This is the latest from Your Name director Makoto Shinkai. Anime News Network report that Crunchyroll, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Wild Bunch International will release the film worldwide except in Asia in early 2023. There’s a glowing review on the Japan Times website.

Synopsis: 17-year-old Suzume lives a quiet life in a town in Kyushu but all of that changes when she meets a young man named Sota who tells her “I’m looking for a door.” She follows after him and discovers that he seals doors that, if opened, can allow disasters to occur. They find a weathered door in a set of ruins in the mountains and, as if drawn by something, Suzume reaches for the door and she is able to seal it but this sparks a potentially bigger disaster when a keystone turns into a cat and begins to wreak havoc. 

Also in the Competition section is PAST LIVES which I have read glowing reviews of.

Berlinale Special

#Manhole    #Manhole Film Poster R

#マンホール #Manho-ru

Release Date: February 10th, 2023

Duration: 99 mins.

Director: Kazuyishi Kumakiri

Writer: Michitaka Okada (Screenplay), 

Starring: Yuto Nakajima, Nao, Kento Nagayama,

Website IMDB

Kazuyishi Kumakiri (My Man, Hole in the Sky) works with pop star Yuto Nakajima and rising actress Nao (The Sound of Grass, My Broken Mariko) to deliver this odd-looking story of a man trapped down a manhole.

Synopsis: Shunsuke Kawamura is surely on the path to success. He is the top agent at the real estate company he works at and he’s about to marry his boss’ daughter. When we meet him, people are throwing him a party in Shibuya on the night before the wedding. Drunk when he leaves the occasion, he walks home and ends up falling down a manhole. When he wakes up, he realises a few things: it is still night time, he’s hurt, he’s trapped and his wedding is imminent. Trying to raise people on his phone proves hard, especially as the GPS isn’t working, so Kawamura starts a “manhole woman” account on social media and asks netizens to locate him and rescue him. 


Remembering Every Night

すべての夜を思いだす Subete no Yoru o Omoidasu

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 116 mins.

Director: Yui Kiyohara

Writer: Yui Kiyohara (Screenplay), 

Starring: Kumi Hyodo, Minami Oba, Ai Mikami. Guama Uchida. Tadashi Okuno, Mizuho Nojima,


Yui Kiyohara won Pia Film Festival 2017’s Grand Prize with the film Our House and took part in the anthology film Made in Yamato (2021). This is her latest work and you can find a press kit on Dropbox for a trailer and photos and director’s comments on how the Covid-19 pandemic influenced her to make a film about her childhood hometown.

Remembering-06_SDIM1939-Ai Mikami and GuamaUchida R

Synopsis: The film takes place in Tama New Town, a satellite city off the edge of Tokyo where newbuilds promote uniformity. We watch women living there over the course of a day. One is unemployed 44-year-old Chizu who discovers a postcard from an old friend and goes hunting for the address on the postcard. Another is 33-year-old gas company meter inspector Sanae. She spots Chizu in a predicament but soon gets involved in the rescue of a senile elderly man who has wandered off. Then there is 22-year-old university student Natsu who practices her dance steps while Chizu follows along at a distance. Natsu meets the mother of a childhood friend on the anniversary of his death and ends up with a roll of of undeveloped photographs. 

Ishi ga Aru / There is a Stone    There is a Stone Film Poster

石がある Ishi ga Aru

Release Date: February 10th, 2023

Duration: 116 mins.

Director: Tatsunari Ota

Writer: Tatsunari Ota (Screenplay), 

Starring: An Ogawa, Tsuchi Kano,


Tatsunari Ota is a graduate from the Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts (where Kiyoshi Kurosawa teaches) and he made his first feature film in 2016 with BUNDESLIGA. This is his second film and it played at last year’s TOKYO FILMeX. It stars An Ogawa (For Rei).

Ishi ga Aru R

Synopsis: Yoshikawa has travelled to a suburban railway town named Yamakita for research as part of her job as a travel agent. The once-prosperous town is almost deserted when she gets there and the shotengai is mostly shuttered. When she walks along a riverbank, she meets a man named Doi who is skimming stones. He persuades her to go looking for stones and start skimming them and she gets into the game. Gradually, the two become absorbed in the games that they play and time passes by quickly.

Forum Expanded Edition

Time Tunnel: Takahiko Iimura at Kino Arsenal, 18. April 1973 by Takahiko Iimura (IMDB)

As a preview of the 60th founding Anniversary of the Freunde der deutschen Kinemathek (today: Arsenal), the installation of videos by Japanese-American avant-garde video and film pioneer Takahiko Iimura, who died in July 2022, commemorates a screening at the Arsenal cinema on Welserstraße, on April 18, 1973.

Retrospective 2023

Cruel Story of Youth    Cruel Story of Youth Film Poster R

青春残酷物語 Seishun Zankoku Monogatari

Release Date: June 03rd, 1960

Duration: 96 mins.

Director: Nagisa Oshima

Writer: Nagisa Oshima (Screenplay), 

Starring: Yusuke Kawazu, Miyuki Kuwano, Yoshiko Kuga, Fumio Watanabe, Shinji Tanaka, Toshiko Kobayashi,


Synopsis: When Kiyoshi Fuji saves a young hitchhiking woman named Makoto Shinjo from a driver trying to molest her, it kicks off a bad relationship that includes watching the Anpo Protests against the US-Japan Security Treaty, a rape, and extortion as Kiyoshi uses Makoto to seduce middle-class men… 

Berlinale Classics 23

Undercurrent    Undercurrent Film Poster

夜の河 Yoru no Kawa

Release Date: September 12th, 1956

Duration: 104 mins.

Director: Kozaburo Yoshimura

Writer: Sumie Tanaka (Screenplay), Hisao Sawano (Original Story),

Starring: Fujiko Yamamoto, Ken Uehara, Eitaro Ozawa, Michiko Ai, Eijiro Tono,


Synopsis: Kiwa Funaki is a young successful kimono designer working at her family’s Kyoto-based business. She has no shortage of admirers, from a painter to a family business partner, but she falls for a scientist. He is, however, already married… 

Here is past coverage I have offered on the festival:

Berlin Film Festival 2022

Berlin Film Festival 2021

Berlin Film Festival 2020

Berlin Film Festival 2019

Berlin Film Festival 2018

Berlin Film Festival 2017

Berlin Film Festival 2016

Berlin Film Festival 2015

Berlin Film Festival 2014

Berlin Film Festival 2013

Berlin Film Festival 2012 Competition Results

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