Stephen Arnell

Ten films set in Tokyo

  • From Spectator Life
Image: Shutterstock

The postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics have not been without controversy.

After being delayed for a year, a survey commissioned in May by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper revealed that 83 per cent of those polled were not in favour of the event going ahead in 2021, as COVID-19 cases soared and vaccine rates remained low.

One of the few pleasant side-effects of the pandemic in Japan was the lessening of air pollution which means that iconic Mount Fuji (the country’s highest peak) is now visible from the city on the increasingly frequent smog-free days.

As tourist guides note, Tokyo (formerly Edo) is a blend of the old and (mainly) new, home to the futuristic vistas that inspired the likes of Blade Runner, and the serene environs of Imperial Palace, built amongst the picturesque remains of the centuries-old Edo Castle.

British audiences have experienced Japan at a distance through numerous documentary seasons and celebrity-led travelogues over recent years – and in the acclaimed BBC2 drama Giri/Haji (2019) which delved into Tokyo’s Yakuza criminal underworld.

Here are ten selections of motion pictures set in and around the city.

The Outsider (2018) Netflix

Star Jared Leto (Suicide Squad, Dallas Buyers Club) left no cliché unturned in this extremely unlikely story of a westerner rising to become head of a yakuza clan.

Leto’s Nick Lowell is a former US marine captain who deserts under suspicion of war crimes then falls in with Tokyo gangsters before enduring a long stint in an Osaka penitentiary prior to his release in 1954.

The yakuza find a useful role for Lowell as a token gaijin (outsider), which he then uses as a steppingstone to become a fully-fledged crime lord. Shot in Tokyo and Osaka, The Outsider looks good and boasts some effective action sequences, although Leto’s onscreen narcissism is (as usual) a drag.

You may recognise a few familiar faces amongst the Japanese cast, including Tadanobu Asano (Battleship, Silence) and Shiori Kutsuna (Deadpool 2).

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