Japan has so many sights to offer that it’s sometimes hard to choose.
As you might know, I’m “hunting” Japanese castles. Others might go for gardens, sacred places or onsen.
But there’s something else you could do and that is visiting Japanese filming locations of dramas and movies.
It goes without saying that you’ll naturally run into lots of shooting locations of Japanese dramas and movies, but there’s also plenty of filming settings of Hollywood movies to discover!
In this article I’ll show you a few of them and also tell you where to find them.
Filming Locations of Japanese Dramas and Movies
The following is just a super tiny selection of places you could visit. The majority of dramas takes place in Tokyo and surroundings, so you’ll naturally run into drama settings. But if you have series or movies you especially love you probably want to visit meaningful settings and take photos there.
Also, if you’re into taiga dramas (*historical fictional TV series), then visiting the Kyoto Studio Park is a great option as well.
Now, apart from the ones I introduce here, how would you find out about those Japanese filming locations, you ask?
There’s a really awesome website that lists all the important shooting locations and tells you how to get there. Unfortunately the website is in Japanese and thus far (I started using it in 2006) nobody has translated it into English. (Hey, don’t look at me!! …..)
It’s definitely a great resource!
So, without further ado let’s check out some of the Japanese drama and movie settings in Japan:
Lockheart Castle (Gunma Prefecture)
The castle was originally built in 1829 in Carluke (Scotland) by the Lockhart Family. In the 1980s it was moved to Japan via the Trans-Siberian Railway. It was restored in 1993 and became the first European castle that was restored in Japan.
Nowadays you find a lot of interesting things such as a Teddy Bear Museum, Santa Museum or a Bridal Dress Museum.
Shooting Location of the following Japanese dramas:
Image Credit: Yukan Club @ NTV
The castle is also famous as it served as filming location for various popular dramas such as Yukan Club (有閑倶楽部), Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (ヤマトナデシコ七変化), Kaibutsu-kun (怪物くん) or Atashinchi no Danshi (アタシんちの男子).
Image Credit: Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge @ TBS
If you’re into Japanese dramas I’m quite sure you’ve seen this castle somewhere before.
How to get there:
It’s easier to access by car, but you can also use public transportation. From JR Numata Station take a bus heading for 中山本宿 (Nakayama Honshuku?) and get off at “ロックハート城前” (Lockheart-jou-mae).
Yonaguni Island (Okinawa)
Yonaguni Island is Japan’s westernmost island. It’s actually closer to Taiwan than to any other part of Japan.
You’ll also find the westernmost point of Japan there. There are mysterious underwater ruins that can be explored. I fell in love with this remote Okinawa island. It’s part of the Yaeyama Islands – and I highly recommend visiting all of those islands!
How to get there:
The fastest way to get to Yonaguni is to take a plane from Ishigaki Island. You can also take the Fukuyama Kaiun (福山海運) ferry, but it doesn’t run daily.
It’s also the shooting location for the famous drama “Dr. Koto – Shinryojo” (ドクターコトー診療所). The clinic you see in the photos was built specially for the drama and the islanders still preserve it as there might be a third season. I really hope there is!
On the roof of the little clinic. You can enter for a small fee which they use to preserve the location. You can also take various photos in there. It looks exactly like in the drama.
Even if you don’t plan to visit Yonaguni Island I wholeheartedly recommend the drama “Dr. Koto”.
Drama images credit: D-Addicts (copyrighted by Fuji TV Japan)
Ebisu Garden Place (Tokyo)
Ebisu Garden Place (恵比寿ガーデンプレイス) is located in Tokyo, so it’s rather easy to visit.
The area has a lot of restaurants and shops, so it’s a nice place to hang out in Tokyo. It’s only a short walk away from JR Ebisu Station (Yamanote Line).
Drama: Hana Yori Dango
Image Credit: Hana Yori Dango @ TBS
Fans of the series “Hana Yori Dango” (花より男子) have probably recognized it immediately. It’s the dating spot used by Domyoji and Tsukushi in the drama as well as the setting of their wedding in the movie from 2008.
If you haven’t read the manga or watched the drama, that’s another recommendation for you!
There are several other spots in and around Tokyo that served as shooting location for Hana Yori Dango, so if you’re a hardcore fan you can visit all the spots quite easily!
Sagachou Murabayashi Building (佐賀町村林ビル)
This is just a random building, not a tourist spot, so you cannot enter.
The exact address is: 東京都江東区佐賀1丁目
I can barely remember how I got there. That was before I moved to Japan and a Japanese friend guided me there. But nowadays with smartphones and Google Maps it shouldn’t be difficult! ;)
Image Credit: Bambino @ NTV
The building was the “Trattoria Baccanale” (a restaurant) in the drama “Bambino!” (バンビーノ!) which aired in 2007.
Small shrine in Akihabara
I didn’t actually look for this one, but stumbled upon it by coincidence. It’s really not that difficult to find when you go shopping in Akihabara.
It looked somewhat familiar, so when I got home I checked and saw I was right!
Image Credit: Akihabara@Deep @ TBS
The shrine popped up in the drama “Akihabara@Deep” which aired in 2006.
Movie: Norwegian Wood
I’m quite sure most of you have at least heard of the popular novel “Norwegian Wood” (ノルウェイの森, Noruwei no Mori) by the famous novelist Haruki Murakami.
Images Credit: Norwegian Wood – Toho
In 2010 they released a movie featuring Kenichi Matsuyama (who became especially popular thanks to his role as “L” in Death Note).
A lot of scenes in the movie play outside in the woods. It’s a really beautiful scenery and I went to the actual shooting location(s):
Tonomine Highlands (Hyogo Prefecture)
The Tonomine Highlands are located in Kamikawa Town of Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県神河町砥峰高原).
The specific shooting locations are marked. It’s not only a filming setting for this movie, though. When I visited they also mentioned a taiga drama that was filmed there.
A good time to visit is early autumn as the highland is famous for its field of “susuki” (薄, Japanese silver grass).
Mineyama Highlands (Hyogo Prefecture)
Another shooting location of “Norwegian Wood” is nearby. It’s a small forest within the “Mineyama Highlands” ( 峰山高原リラクシアの森).
How to get there:
To be honest it’s probably best using your own vehicle. I also came by car.
If you have to use public transportation, you’ll take a train from Himeji to Teramae (Bantan Line). From there you’ll have to take a taxi (~ 20 mins). During the high season in autumn you could also reserve a shuttle bus. More information is available in Japanese only.
Japanese Filming Locations of Hollywood Movies
I’m sure you all are well aware of the fact that there are quite a few foreign movies that were filmed (partly) in Japan: “Lost in Translation”, “Black Rain”, “The Grudge”, “Wasabi”, “The Wolverine” …. there are so many!
I’m just going to add a few filming locations here, feel free to mention any others you know of!
Engyoji Temple in Himeji – The Last Samurai
Engyoji Temple (円教寺) on Mt. Shosha in Himeji is just a short bus ride away from the famous Himeji Castle. You have absolutely no excuse not to visit!
It’s especially beautiful during autumn with the colorful foliage.
It’s one of the film settings of “The Last Samurai”.
I spoke with a monk there and he told me they have added quite a few things like the cherry trees. In reality, there are none.
The locals are very hyper when you ask them about it. Some of them saw how Tom Cruise got to the shooting location by helicopter.
Ken Watanabe and Tom Cruise sitting on the floor of the main temple building.
These cherry blossom trees were added by computer.
Images credit: The Last Samurai – Warner Bros. Pictures
How to get there:
Take Shinki Bus #8 from JR Himeji Station or from Himeji Castle and get off at “Mt. Shosha Ropeway” (書写山ロープウェイ). The bus ride will take about 30 mins. Instead of using the ropeway you could also hike up the mountain in about an hour.
Memoirs of a Geisha – Fushimi Inari
This is another filming setting that most of you might have already visited: Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.
Image Credit: Memoirs of a Geisha – Columbia Pictures
This is exactly where Chiyo is running as a child in “Memoirs of a Geisha”.
Gunkanjima (Nagasaki) – James Bond: Sky Fall
Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) is a deserted island near Nagasaki City. You can take a guided boat tour.
It’s like a ghost island, really creepy, but totally worth a visit!
Image Credit: Sky Fall – Columbia Pictures
The island was featured in a recent James Bond movie called “Sky Fall” – in case you were wondering if the island was real or not.
Of course, they added quite a few things that aren’t really on the island.
The island was also featured in the music video of B’z “My Lonely Town”.
As you can see I could go on forever. There are several settings that pop up in every other drama or movie such as Tokyo Tower, for example.
But it’s fun to explore these and it’s a great feeling to stand in front of an actual shooting location – especially if you’re a fan of that series or movie.
I hope that this article was at least a bit helpful. Feel free to ask away if you have any questions.
Now, it’s on to you. Tell me if you have been to any filming settings in Japan yet and how you found out about them! ^__^