Two Great Movies That Transport Me Back to Japan

I love to travel but there are times when I have to be home, to take care of life, to see family and friends, and to make money so I can go on my next trip. From home I love to travel back to the places I have been (and occasionally some I have yet to visit) by way of books, food, music, but my favorite way to travel from home is in the movies.

Movies can convey so much of a place – the way the environment looks, the music, the sound of the speech and language, and the very culture at its heart. These two movies transport me back to Japan a place I loved visiting and wish I could have stayed longer in. They both encapsulate so well the experiences I felt while I was in Japan and sitting in my house or on a plane they transport me and leave me as affected as my time and experiences in the country itself.

DEPARTURES: I saw this movie after returning from Japan. I had heard about it for some time, it won the Oscar in 2009 for Best Foreign Language Film. My mother had raved about it when it was first out in the US (but at that time I rolled my eyes and thought it was not for me, how wrong could I be, and as usual how on point my mother was). This past summer my father and Suzanne both encouraged me to rent the movie waxing on about how much they thought I would like it. I finally caved in and I am so glad I did. The film is stunning! It has some of the most beautiful landscapes from Japan and cello music that is haunting and inspiring at once. The story seems simpler than the film and yet the film is one of those small odes to the much greater mystery of life and death. It is filled with the feeling and atmosphere of rural Japan – from scenes in the Onsan to views inside many families, town life, ceremonies, and rituals. But like any good piece of art it transcends distance and place and is relevant and moving and identifiable to everyone who experiences life and the eventual moment of departure.


RINCO’S RESTAURANT: I saw this movie on my flight to Japan, it felt like a nice way to slowly melt into the atmosphere of the destination but it became so much more than a simple welcome to Japan and my time there. The film is one part Amalie, one part Like Water for Chocolate, and one part its very own distinct and utterly Japanese film. At times it might seem bizarre and strange but that was part of the appeal to me. The film is filled with whimsy and fantasy and some really great imaginative and other quirky moments. It is about a young woman who loses her voice after her heart is broken. She moves back to her small town with her mother and begins to cook but her meals have strange powers over those who she serves them to. It is delightful and fun. I won’t say it isn’t without some really odd moments but that is part of the sheer enjoyment of the film, kind of like the moments when language and culture just don’t entirely cross over and you really get the true flavor and taste with all of its eccentricities for a place. It left me smiling and more than that it left me open to the wonderful, if at times unexpected world of Japan.

Rinco's Restaurant

Both of these films are available on Netflix and carry you away to Japan with out ever needing to brush off your passport or pack a bag. So I recommend ordering in some sushi and tempura, making a pot of crisp green tea, sipping some sake, and sinking into the marvelous world with these two movies that I loved!

Happy Viewing,


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11 2010

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  1. Jason #

    Adding to my Netflix now. Thanks!

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