[1] All Japanese names are written in Japanese name order: family name followed by given name. [return to page 1 of essay]

[2] This is clearly not the case for U.S. film studies. E.g.

  • Barsam, Richard Meran. Looking at Movies: An Introduction to Film. New York: W.W. Norton, 2004.
  • Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.
  • Corrigan, Timothy, and Patricia White. The Film Experience: An Introduction. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.
  • Giannetti, Louis D. Understanding Movies. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972.
  • Nelmes, Jill. An Introduction to Film Studies. London: Routledge, 1996.
  • Pramaggiore, Maria, and Tom Wallis. Film: A Critical Introduction. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2008.
  • Prince, Stephen. Movies and Meaning: An Introduction to Film. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001.

[3] This is less the case for upper level seminars, in which case the students enrolled typically come with a background of knowledge in Japanese studies, film studies, or both.

[4] As purely an aside, this may not always be the case, particularly in regards to regional difference. I am noticing an increase in students who come to my particular university classes with a solid study of Japanese under their belt. It would seem that the proliferation of immersion schools and Japanese language offerings in secondary education, at least within the Pacific Northwest, is having a significant affect. However, this may not be sustainable or broadly applicable.

[5] E.g.

[7] E.g.

[8] E.g.

[9] E.g.

[10] The subject of Japanese Film Studies as field with a “use value” in relation to other national cinemas (historically and theoretically) was the topic of a Kinema Club Workshop in 1999. Yoshimoto and Nornes collaborated on a statement of “continuing/concluding thoughts” from the workshop; their summary can be found online at:
Several of the pressing issues they discuss as pertinent to the growth of the field overlap with the issues I have presented in regards to education, which is to be expected. They include: problems of communication between scholars working in Japanese cinema from within a variety of disciplines, a limited library of subtitled Japanese film that limits exhibition and study, and a paucity of translated scholarship between scholars globally (not just limited to English and Japanese).

[11] A number of cinema scholars, primarily film historians, have produced recent work from large historical revisions and definitive movements to explorative star and auteur studies. E.g.

  • Standish, Isolde. A New History of Japanese Cinema: A Century of Narrative Film. New York: Continuum, 2006.
  • Miyao, Daisuke. Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.
  • Russell, Catherine. The Cinema of Naruse Mikio: Women and Japanese Modernity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.
  • High, Peter B. The Imperial Screen: Japanese Film Culture in the Fifteen Years' War, 1931-1945. Wisconsin studies in film. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.
  • Gerow, Aaron Andrew. A Page of Madness: Cinema and Modernity in 1920s Japan. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, the University of Michigan, 2008.
  • Baskett, Michael. The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008.
  • Wada-Marciano, Mitsuyo. Nippon Modern: Japanese Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s. Honolulu: University of Hawai?i Press, 2008.
  • Nygren, Scott. Time Frames: Japanese Cinema and the Unfolding of History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
  • Yoshimoto, Mitsuhiro. Kurosawa: Film Studies and Japanese Cinema. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

[12] E.g.

  • Sharp, Jasper. Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema. Godalming, Surrey: FAB, 2008.
  • Nornes, Abé Markus. Japanese Documentary Film: The Meiji Era Through Hiroshima. Visible evidence, v. 15. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
  • Nornes, Abé Markus. Forest of Pressure: Ogawa Shinsuke and Postwar Japanese Documentary. Visible evidence, v. 18. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
  • McRoy, Jay. Nightmare Japan: Contemporary Japanese Horror Cinema. Contemporary cinema, 4. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008.
  • Balmain, Colette. Introduction to Japanese Horror Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008.
  • Thornton, Sybil Anne. The Japanese Period Film: A Critical Analysis. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co, 2008.

[13] They are:

[14] It should be noted that analysis of these syllabi is, I acknowledge, in a way divorced from context. What is unknown is how each respective professor delivers the content of the course through lecture, how the texts are used, and what kind of conversation the students engage in. It may be that the texts mentioned are used and questioned as reference material, but this seems unlikely in the classes in which they constitute as primary required texts. An extremely notable exception is Abé Mark Nornes’ syllabus for The History of Japanese Cinema, which, in addition to being exemplary in his incorporation of foundational texts with contemporary articles, specifically states as goals for the course:

  1. to survey of Japanese film history,
  2. to theorize history in relation to image analysis,
  3. to question the construct of a national cinema,
  4. to utilize auteur study, and
  5. to situate Japanese film solidly in relation to multiple other national cinemas.

[15] For example, this phrase is used for publicity in Canby, Vincent. “Experimental Shorts From Japan at New Cinema Playhouse.” New York Times. May 3, 1968. [return to page 2]

[16] Familiar faces, each of them with considerable star status within the field of Japanese Cinema, such as Kitano Takeshi, Miike Takashi, Miyazaki Hayao, Satoshi Kon, Shinya Tsukamoto, Nakata Hideo, and Kurosawa Kiyoshi.

[17] See Gray, Jason. “Departures tops Japanese box office following Oscar win.” ScreenDaily.com. February 27, 2009 (accessed December 26, 2009)

[18] Many contemporary directors either started out in television, were trained in television studios, or worked as television directors early in their careers such as Kitano “Beat” Takeshi, Miike Takashi, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Itami Juzo, Rintaro Mayuzumi, Higuchinsky (a.k.a. Akihiro Higuchi), Ishii Katsuhito, Takada Masahiro, Motohiro Katsuyuki, and Kiriya Kazuaki.

[19]     E.g.

  • 1996. Awards of the Japanese Academy: Popularity Award for Most Popular Performer—Etsushi Toyokawa. Love Letter.
  • 1996. Kinema Junpo Reader’s Choice Awards: Best Film. Love Letter
  • 1997. Awards of the Japanese Academy: Popularity Award for Most Popular Performer—Asano Tadanobu. Pikunikku.
  • 1997. Awards of the Japanese Academy: Popularity Award for Most Popular Film. Swaroteiru.
  • 1998. Pusan International Film Festival: Audience Award. Shigatsu monogatari.
  • 2002. Shanghai International Film Festival: Special Jury Award. Riri shu shu no subete.
    [return to page 3]

[20] To put that number into an culturally specific industry context, the more well known (to Western viewers) Shall We Dance (1996)—winner of that same year’s Best Film award from the Japanese Academy—brought in Y1.6 billion ($17 million U.S.D.) The top selling film of the year, Godzilla Vs. Destroyer earned Y2 billion ($21 million) (Kawasaki, 157).

Works cited

Aoki Shinya. “Kawai Shinya intabyu.” Kinema Junpo. No. 1214 February, 1996, pp. 45-47.

Bingham, Adam. "The romance of certain old clothes or they don't make 'em like that anymore; Honor de Cavalleria and art cinema's last stand." CineAction 75 (Winter 2008): 34(13).

Bordwell, David. Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema BFI Publishing, 1988

Brother. Internet Movie Database.

Burch, Noel. To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in the Japanese Cinema. University of California Press, 1979

Cure. Internet Movie Database.

Gerow, Aaron. “Recognizing “Others” in a New Japanese Cinema.” Japan Foundation Newsletter. 14:2 (January 2002)

-----. “Homelessness of Style and the Problems of Studying Miike Takashi.” Canadian Journal of Film Studies. (Spring 2009)

-----. “Consuming Asia, Consuming Japan: The New Neonationalistic Revisionism in Japan.” In Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States. Ed. Hein, Laura Elizabeth, and Mark Selden. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2000.

Kawasaki Yasuo; Kawachi Mei. “1996 Nendo nihon eiga gaikoku edia sankai gyokai sokessan.” Kinema Junpo. No. 1214 February, 1997.

Ko, M. “The break-up of the national body: Cosmetic multiculturalism and films of Miike Takashi,” New Cinemas 2: 1 (2004), pp. 29–39

Leung, William. “Misogyny as radical commentary—Rashomon retold in Takashi Miike’s Masters of Horror: Imprint.” Jump Cut. n.51 (Spring 2009)

Mes, Tom, and Jasper Sharp. The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film. Berkeley, Calif: Stone Bridge Press, 2005.

-------. “Review: Princess in an Iron Helmet” Midnight Eye: The Latest and Best in Japanese Cinema September 29, 2006

Odishon. Internet Movie Database.

Onitsuka Daisuke quoted in Havis, Richard James. “A Poetical Sensibility for Silver Screen” South China Morning Post 17 August p. 4

Richie, Donald; Anderson, Joseph. The Japanese Film: Art and Industry Princeton University Press, 1960

-------. A Hundred Years of Japanese Cinema Tokyo: Kodansha International Press, 2005.

-------. Richie, Donald. “Movie Guide: Swallowtail ButterflyInternational Herald Tribune Friday, November 29, 1996

Rucka, Nicholas; Sharp, Jasper; Mes, Tom. Midnight Eye Round-Up 2004

Sad Vacation. Internet Movie Database.

Sato Tadao. Suwaroteru no rebyu no niban. Kinema Junpo. No. 1202 October 1996, pp. 50.

Sharp, Jasper. “Fried Dragon Fish: Movie Review” Midnight Eye: The Latest and Best in Japanese Cinema April 17, 2001

Standish, Isolde. A New History of Japanese Cinema: A Century of Narrative Film. New York: Continuum, 2006.

Stevens, Chuck. “Japan’s New New Wave.” LA Weekly. August 02, 2001.

Suwaroteiru. Internet Movie Database.

Todoroki Yukio. “Maho wo kakerareta shojo Ayumi Ito intabyu.” Kinema Junpo. No. 1202 October 1996, pp. 40.

Tomonari, Noboru. Course Description. JAPN 231: Japanese Cinema in Translation. Carleton College. (Spring 2010).

Yoshimoto Mitsuhiro. “The Difficulty of being Radical: The Discipline of Film Studies and the Postcolonial World Order.” boundary 2, Vol. 18, No. 3, Japan in the World (Autumn, 1991), pp. 242-257

------. Kurosawa: Film Studies and Japanese Cinema. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

------. “The University, Disciplines, National Identity: Why Is There No Film Studies in Japan?” The South Atlantic Quarterly 99.4 (2000) 697-713


Aoyama Shinji. Sad Vacation. Style Jam (Japan). 2007.

Iwai Shunji. All About Lily Chou Chou (Riri shushu no subete). Rockwell Eyes (Japan). Distributed by Home Vision Entertainment (USA). 2001.

-------. Love Letter. Fuji Television Network (Japan). Distributed by Fine Line Features (USA). 1995.

-------. Swallowtail Butterfly (Suwaroteiru). Rockwell Eyes (Japan). Distributed by Superhappyfun.com (USA). 1996.

Kitano Takeshi. Brother. Bandai Visual Company (Japan). Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics (USA). 2000.

Kurosawa Kiyoshi. Cure. Code Red and Daiei Studios (Japan). Distributed by Home Vision Entertainment (USA). 1997.

Miike Takashi. Audition (Odishon). AFDF, Creators Company Connection, and Omega Project (Japan). Lions Gate Films Home Entertainment (USA). 1999.

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