Kiyo in Kyoto
Photo: Netflix Production still from the upcoming Netflix series 'The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House', directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Hirokazu Kore-eda on his new Netflix series and the future of Japanese cinema

The Palme d'Or-winning filmmaker talks about his ongoing mission to make the Japanese film industry more inclusive

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen

Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda is an industry-leading filmmaker who has earned international acclaim with his features such as ‘Like Father, Like Son’ (2013) and ‘Shoplifters(2018), both of which have won awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Now, however, he is making a foray into content for streaming services with the all-new Netflix series adapted from a popular manga about maiko in modern-day Kyoto. 

Beyond his seamless storytelling, the filmmaker is also famous for his unconventional approach to directing and the way he runs his set. Here, we’ll take a look at Kore-eda’s upcoming Netflix series and his ongoing mission to improve the film industry for future generations.

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House 

In November 2021, Netflix announced it would be teaming up with Kore-eda for not one, but two new projects, including a drama series as well as a full-length feature film. Details haven't been released about the film yet, but the series, as most manga lovers know by now, is the highly-anticipated live adaptation of ‘Maiko in Kyoto: From the Maiko House’ by Aiko Koyama. 

The story is set in modern-day Kyoto and follows a teenage girl called Kiyo in her career as a live-in cook at a maiko (apprentice geisha) house. Kore-eda’s Netflix series, titled ‘The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House’, features nine episodes and is set to hit the streaming platform on January 12 2023

Alongside Kore-eda, who excels in crafting mouth-watering cooking scenes to highlight kinship, Megumi Tsuno ('Ten Years Japan'), Hiroshi Okuyama ('Jesus') and Takuma Sato ('Any Crybabies Around?') are credited as directors for individual episodes. Kore-eda and his producer Genki Kawamura made a point of choosing up-and-coming directors to work on the project, citing the importance of providing young filmmakers with more opportunities to thrive in the industry.

Hirokazu Kore-eda
Photo: NetflixHirokazu Kore-eda

Paving a path for future filmmakers 

‘The Makanai’ isn’t the first time Kore-eda has passed the torch to budding writer-directors. Far from it, as the auteur started a production company in 2014 called Bun-buku, which works with a number of next-generation talents including Emma Kawawada. Kawawada served as Kore-eda's assistant director for 'The Third Murder' (2017) before she went on to release her own feature film 'My Small Land' in 2022. 

Beyond offering young creators growth opportunities, Kore-eda strives to set higher standards for the working conditions of cast and crew on his sets. At the most recent edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival, Kore-eda was a guest speaker at Kering’s Women in Motion talk session, where he discussed pressing issues such as gender inequality and work-life balance with ‘Shoplifters’ actress Mayu Matsuoka. Kore-eda spoke about the current conditions for women working in the Japanese film industry and what needs to be done for the future of filmmaking.

‘I don’t want the harsh working conditions to deter young people from joining this industry’, said Kore-eda, referring to Japan’s notoriously long workdays. ‘If we don’t make enough changes soon, we’re going to run out of filmmakers, and cinema as we know it will disappear’.

Kore-eda also acknowledged how working on sets in remote locations complicated things for cast and crew members with young children and mentioned his ongoing efforts to support his staff so that they wouldn’t be forced to choose between their careers and parenthood. ‘For my latest project, I arranged childcare on set so that my crew could work and be there for their kids at the same time’, the director explained. ‘There’s more to be done, but that’s something we’ve been testing.’

What's next 

We still don’t know much information about Kore-eda's upcoming film with Netflix, except that it’s got a substantial budget and – according to the director – will be unlike anything he’s done before. In the meantime, Kore-eda’s film ‘Monster’ – a collaboration between movie distributors Gaga and Toho – is currently in post-production. This is Kore-eda’s first Japanese film since his 2018 release ‘Shoplifters’ and is set to be out in Japanese cinemas on June 23 2023, though it could potentially premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2023.

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