To see the newest Japanese films in English – and maybe bump into a few stars – head to a film festival. The capital’s largest, the Tokyo International Film Festival, runs each year for about 10 days from the end of October, and screens dozens of Japanese films so new that most don’t even have trailers yet. That includes anime, low-budget indies, documentaries and even big budget premieres – the vast majority with English subtitles. Many screenings are followed by Q&A sessions with the stars, with English translators on hand to give you the chance to dig deeper into the film.
TIFF isn’t the only game in town: there’s also Tokyo FILMeX, which rolls into Yurakucho each year in late November. Like TIFF, there are plenty of English-subbed films from Japan and around the world. Meanwhile, Tokyo’s neighbour Saitama hosts the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival in July, where English subs are the norm.
From there, we go a bit farther afield – up to Tohoku in northeast Japan for the biennial Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (every odd year in October), or all the way to Hokkaido for the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival (every March). Or to tropical Okinawa or historic Kyoto, each of which boasts its own festival – Okinawa International Movie Festival is usually in April while Kyoto International Film and Art Festival is in October. Both offer the perfect excuse to mix some English-subbed flicks with a bit of sightseeing.