Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Ichi the Killer (2001)

Stylish, violent, depraved, funny - Ichi the Killer is seen by many as the definitive (if such a thing were possible) Takashi Miike film. It follows Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), a masochistic yakuza hitman, who is searching for his missing boss. His motivation is not so money, or revenge - it's that ...

Za Ginipiggu (The Guinea Pig films)

The Guinea Pig films make up one of the most infamous horror series ever. Made on a minimal budget, the seven films feature an innovative array of torture, gore, and death. The films are relatively short, each taking one repellant concept and stringing it out for as long as possible. Flower ...

Ken Watanabe

Ken (Kensuke) Watanabe, with his distinctive charm and physical presence, has been one of Japan's top actors for over 20 years. Although he's played a range of characters, he's most famous for his work with a sword, earning him a lead role alongside Tom Cruise in 'The Last Samurai'. His 2004 divorce ...

Ken Takakura

Ken Takakura (real name Goichi Oda) is Japan's Clint Eastwood, a likeable "tough-guy", best known as the gritty hero of yakuza movies. Although he has spent most of his career playing desperate criminals, he's a teetotaler and a graduate of the prestigious Meiji University. His Hollywood debut was in 1975, as a ...

Ringu (1998)

Ringu, in its time the highest grossing Japanese horror film ever, has spawned two sequels, a television series, a Hollywood remake, and a number of similar movies. It's the chilling story of a young journalist investigating a mysterious videotape that seems to be killing everyone who watches it. The film uses creepy, ...

Hayao Miyazaki

After his award-winning breakthrough, 'Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa' ('Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind'), he formed Studio Ghibli with producer Isao Takahata. The studio has been a massive success, notably producing international hits like 'Mononoke Hime' ('Princess Mononoke') and 'Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi' ('Spirited Away'). His work is remarkable ...

Takashi Miike

Director Takashi Miike is famous for two things: being highly prolific, and making highly bloody films. Since 1991, he has headed over 50 theatrical or television projects - 14 in 2001 and 2002 alone. Many of these films feature gruesome, cartoonish violence. His career started with TV productions. There are rumors ...

Akira Kurosawa

Japan's most famous ever film-maker, Akira Kurosawa made movies for over 50 years, right up to his death in 1998. His best known films are feudal-era epics, most notably 'Rashomon', 'The Seven Samurai' (remade into 'The Magnificent Seven'), 'Ran' and 'Throne of Blood' (based on 'King Lear' and 'Macbeth' respectively). In 1970, ...

Takeshi Kitano

Known in the West as a maverick indie director, "Beat" Takeshi is best known in his home country for small screen buffoonery. After dropping out of university, he worked as an MC in a strip club before forming part of a successful TV manzai duo ("The Two Beats"). He earned his fame ...

Ju-on (2000)

While 'Ringu' reintroduced the world to Japanese horror, the underground success of 'Ju-on' has proved that the industry is no one-hit-wonder. While trying to help a catatonic old lady, a volunteer care worker stumbles across the evil secret of the woman's house, and unleashes the malevolent spirit of a dead boy. Like ...

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