Reading Advisory at the Ames Public Library
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Reading Advisory at the Ames Public Library
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Japanese Films at Ames Public Library

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A-C  |  D-J  |  K-Q  |  R-Z

Ran (DVD FOREIGN RAN)  160 min.  1985. 

In 16th century Japan, a ruler attempts to divide his kingdom among his three sons, who turn against each other and betray their father, triggering events that shatter the kingdom, destroy the family, and drive their father insane. Based on Shakespeare's King Lear.

Rashomon (DVD FOREIGN RAS)  88 min.  1950. 

Set in the Middle Ages, the nature of truth and subjective reality are probed as a flashback technique is used to tell four different versions of what occurred during a man's murder and the rape of his wife by a bandit.

Red Beard (DVD FOREIGN RED)  185 min.  1965. 

A vain young doctor learns a valuable lesson from the dedicated director of a clinic for destitute patients.

Retribution (DVD FOREIGN RET)  104 min.  2006. 

Detective Yoshioka is investigating the drowning death of a woman in a red dress. Face down in a muddy puddle, her stomach is full of sea water. The detective’s fingerprints and personal items are found at the murder scene. As more bodies turn up that have been killed in the same way, even the detective wonders whether he himself may be the very murderer that he is pursuing.

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (DVD FOREIGN RID)  In Mandarin and Japanese, with English captions.  109 min.  2005. 

Takada is an aging Japanese fisherman who has been estranged from his son for years. When his son develops terminal cancer, his daughter-in-law Rie summons him. His son refuses to see him. Rie gives him a videotape of a documentary film his son was making in China's Yunnan province. Takada decides to go to China and complete his son's work, to develop an understanding of his son and to do something for him. Once in China, a series of obstacles and relationships bring him closer to comprehension.

Samurai Rebellion (DVD FOREIGN SAM)  121 min.  1967. 

A clan lord orders an aging swordsman to have his son marry the lord's mistress, but reverses his decision after the young couple falls in love.

Samurai Trilogy (DVD FOREIGN SAM)  300 min.  2004. 

One of the Japanese film industry's first successful exports, the Samurai Trilogy chronicles the life of Japan's greatest swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi.

Sanjuro (DVD FOREIGN SAN)  99 min.  1962. 

A skilled but slovenly ronin assists a group of naive young warriors fighting their corrupt clan leaders and keeps them out of trouble and alive in spite of their high ideals.

Sansho the Bailiff (DVD FOREIGN SAN)  124 min.  1954. 

When an idealistic governor disobeys the reigning feudal lord, he is cast into exile, his wife and children are left to fend for themselves and eventually wrenched apart by slave drivers. The film is based on the story Mori Ogai's "Sansho dayu," from 1915, a written form of an oral variation of the same tale, dating back to the fifteenth century.

The Sea is Watching (DVD FOREIGN SEA)  119 min.  2002. 

O-Shin, a geisha in 19th century Japan, meets a samurai named Fusanosuke, who is on the run for killing a man. She assists him by cutting his hair. Despite the protests of O-Shin's friend, the two fall in love. Eventually he leaves O-Shin, only to return later and reveal that he is engaged. O-Shin falls in love again with Ryosuke, who is also a samurai.

Seven Samurai (DVD FOREIGN SEV)  211 min.  1954. 

In 16th century Japan, desperate villagers with a dirty little secret hire seven warriors to defend them against a band of merciless, roaming bandits.

Shall We Dance? (DVD FOREIGN SHA)  119 min.  1996. 

A middle-aged businessman's dull life takes an interesting turn when he signs up for a ballroom dance class just to meet the beautiful dance instructor.

Still Walking (DVD FOREIGN STI)  114 min.  2011. 

A tribute to his parents, the film depicts one day in the life of the Yokoyamas, gathered for a celebratory ritual that gradually becomes clear. It portrays simple gestures and domestic routines (especially cooking) to evoke a family's entire life, its regrets and its joys.

A Story of Floating Weeds and Floating Weeds (DVD FOREIGN STO)  2 discs. 

  • A Story of Floating Weeds  86 min.  1934.  B&W silent film with Japanese intertitles and English captions.
  • Foating Weeds  119 min.  1959.  Color remake in Japanese with English captions.  Both films concern a troupe of travelling players visiting a remote town where the ex-mistress of the leading actor lives. She has a son by the leading actor, but hasn't told her child who his father is.

Stray Dog (DVD FOREIGN STR)  122 min.  1949. 

A bad day gets worse for rookie detective Murakami when a pickpocket steals his gun on a bus. Desperate to right the wrong, he goes undercover, scavenging Tokyo's streets for the thief, whose desperation has led him to a life of crime. The cop and the criminal's lives become more intertwined and the investigation becomes an examination of Murakami's own dark side.

The Sun (DVD FOREIGN SUN)  110 min.  2010. 

Here are the events leading up to Emperor Hirohito's momentous speech, the historic renunciation of his divine status, and his meetings with General Douglas MacArthur, the commander-in-chief of the occupying American forces, who advises his own president not to declare the Japanese leader a war criminal.

Sword of Doom (DVD FOREIGN SWO)  121 min.  1965. 

Ryunosuke is a sociopathic samurai. When he is scheduled for an exhibition match at his fencing school, the wife of his opponent begs Ryunosuke to throw the match, offering her own virtue in trade.

Tampopo (DVD FOREIGN TAM)  114 min.  1986. 

A young widow who runs a small noodle restaurant in Tokyo and Goro, a cowboy-hat-wearing truck driver, attempt to devise the perfect bowl of top ramen.

A Taxing Woman (DVD FOREIGN TAX)  127 min.  1987. 

A subtly hilarious tale of Ryoko, Tokyo's hardest working female tax inspector.  The diligence of this innocent looking heroine is matched only by the intricate deceptions of Gondo, tax cheater extraordinaire.

13 Assassins (DVD FOREIGN THI)  126 min.  2010. 

Thirteen brave samurai must face overwhelming odds in an epic battle against a sadistic lord and his army of 200 to prevent him from plunging Japan into war.

Throne of Blood (DVD FOREIGN THR)  109 min.  1957. 

This adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, set in feudal Japan, tells the story of a Samurai lord who kills his master and usurps his power in fulfillment of a witch's prophecy.

Tokyo Drifter (DVD FOREIGN TOK)  83 min.  1966. 

A gangster is hunted by rival mobsters and his own bosses.

Tokyo Sonata (DVD FOREIGN TOK)  119 min.  2008. 

A contemporary Japanese family is torn apart after its patriarch unexpectedly loses his job. Ashamed, he keeps this a secret, but as he grows more despondent, his family resorts to drastic measures to break away from their fractured lives.

Tokyo Story (DVD FOREIGN TOK)  136 min.  1953. 

When an aging couple journeys to visit with their adult children and family, they find they are an intrusion on the younger generation's lifestyle.

Tokyo Streets  (952 DVD TOK)  Neither English dialog nor captions in any language.  80 min.  2008. 

See for yourself the lifestyle of the residents of Tokyo. The images gathered over a month's stay in Tokyo are the basis of this DVD entirely dedicated to urban fashion trends of the Japanese.

Twenty-Four Eyes (DVD FOREIGN TWE)  156 min.  1954. 

This elegant, emotional chronicle of a teacher's unwavering commitment to her students, her profession, and her sense of morality takes a simultaneously sober and sentimental look at the epic themes of aging, war, and death.

24 Hours after Hiroshima (940.5425 DVD TWE)  In English.  50 min.  2010. 

On August 6th, 1945, a new weapon was unleashed on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Four days later, the Japanese surrendered, having been subjected to horrors and devastation. A team from the Manhattan Project was ordered by President Truman to investigate the facts of what really happened in those first 24 hours when the atomic bomb exploded.

Ugetsu (DVD FOREIGN UGE)  97 min.  1953. 

Set in 16th century Japan, a period of bloody civil war, the film is rooted in the postwar psyche of 1950s Japan.  It focuses on an ambitious potter haunted by a beautiful ghost and a farmer who dreams of becoming a samurai.

United Red Army (DVD FOREIGN UNI)  190 min.  2007. 

Interspersed with archival footage relating the origins of the 1960s political unrest, the film introduces the young people who will become militant activists seeking to overthrow the established world order. As the United Red Army (URA) heads to the mountainous training camp, ideology devolves into despotism, and the URA's leaders begin to persecute their own followers.

Vengeance is Mine (DVD FOREIGN VEN)  140 min.  1979. 

This is a true crime story about Iwao Enokizu, self-styled “king of criminals.”  Director Imamura turns this fact-based story of the seventy-eight day killing spree of a remorseless man ─ from a devoutly Catholic family ─ into a cold, perverse, and at times funny tale of the primitive coexisting with the modern.

Who’s Camus Anyway? (DVD FOREIGN WHO)  115 min.  2006. 

The drama, unfolded around the filming activities on the campus of a Tokyo university, presents the modern youth of Japan, their personal life and love.

Yoidore Tenshi (Drunken Angel) (DVD FOREIGN DRU)  98 min.  1948. 

Dr. Sanada is an alcoholic, in part due to the despair that assails him as he tries to keep the inhabitants of a post-World War II Tokyo slum as healthy as possible. Food and medical supplies are scarce, the neighborhood surrounds an open sewer, and the only place to buy medicines is the black market, controlled by the Yakuza. Matsunaga, a young yakuza with a bad temper, seeks Sanada's help to remove a bullet, but Matsunaga's cough catches the doctor's attention. A wrestling match for Matsunaga's life follows. Will he make a good decision, or will the yakuza code of honor destroy him?

Yojimbo (DVD FOREIGN YOJ)  110 min.  1961. 

In this humorous parody of a classic western set in 1860, two warring clans vying for power bid for the services of a wandering samurai-for-hire.  In this satire on greed, violence, paranoia, and human weakness, he becomes embroiled in the dispute and orchestrates the town's self-destruction.


There are many Anime films in our library that are in Japanese but not on this list.  You can find them in the ANIME DVD or video collection.