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The City of Tokyo in Cinema

From my very limited exposure to Japanese cinema, I’m fascinated with the city of Tokyo, as I’m sure many others are too. It seems to me that Tokyo looms larger in the Japanese consciousness (and films) than other capitals in their respective countries. You don’t see filmmakers communicating sentiments like "Ah, Seoul, the big time!" or "Beijing, it’s a hell of a town!" as much. There’s an excitement and charm that comes across, which is not just a matter of its size/scope.

Tokyo seems to be not just large as a city, but larger-than-life as a psychological destination. That is, there is a lot reference to it, or use of it, as a vessel of the ideas it represents — much like New York in the movies. Indeed, the sheer number of films with "Tokyo" in the title is impressive.

Would be great to read a piece about films that come to mind when you think of "Tokyo movies" — films that are memorable for having Tokyo as a ‘character,’ or films that couldn’t be set anywhere else, etc. I’m going to include animated films.

Obviously, film is a ‘place’ where ideas about places and cultural phenomena, and the environments and conditions of human life get discussed, digested, processed, interpreted, even celebrated… so this is what makes the representation of the big town on the big screen really significant.

  • It would also be interesting to analyze whether there is a difference in the depiction of Tokyo when the filmmakers are Japanese versus when they are not. – Amena Banu 7 years ago
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  • Very interesting topic. The legendary 'Tokyo Story' has to be included regardless in my opinion. When talking about Tokyo in movies, that has to be the first that comes to mind. – Justin Wu 7 years ago
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  • A newer addition, and one that could be shown as the western mixing in with the culture of Tokyo, is Big Hero 6. Disney didn't want the film to move away from it's Japanese beginnings and so it mixed the two cultures together. What is left of Tokyo in the film can be taken as representations of what they thought were important parts of the Tokyo lifestyle. – Tyler McPherson 7 years ago
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  • Yes i think this is a great idea! You could either look at it from a Western vrs Japanese perspective or a look through history and seeing if it changes in time and why? – Francesca Turauskis 7 years ago
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  • Great topic! I think Amena is definitely right in suggesting the comparison between Japanese and non Japanese filmmakers depicting Tokyo. In terms of Western filmmakers filming Tokyo, Babel and Lost in Translation come straight to my mind. The different Godzillas are other options. Maybe it would be interesting to see how this portrayal has evolved from early films up to today, and how the city has grown as well. – Rachel Elfassy Bitoun 7 years ago
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