5 Best Japanese Movies to Watch Online While Social Distancing

Nationwide Culture Movie 2020.04.08
Stuck keeping safe from coronavirus, but wish you could travel to Japan instead? It's the perfect time to stay home and enjoy Japan from afar!
As the coronavirus situation in Japan (and all over the world) refuses to improve, Prime Minister Abe has announced that Tokyo is going into lockdown, and we're all staying home to avoid increasing COVID-19 cases. It's best for everyone... but it's also a little boring! Which is why we're all turning to streaming services across the internet in hordes. And as we dream of riding the subways of Tokyo without worry, and venturing into the Japanese countryside for a relaxing ryokan retreat, there's no better time to just hop on the internet and watch some great Japanese content! So here are some of our favorite Japanese movies available to stream right now (in no particular order).

(PS: For any US residents reading this, did you know that your local public library probably provides free access to a video streaming service or two!? Sites like Hoopla and Kanopy frequently partner with public libraries, which means that any library member can watch some of their content for free! Check it out!)

① Tampopo (1985)


Do you dream of the perfect bowl of ramen? (Stuck at home with cup noodles instead?) Well, so does the main character from this slightly artsy, slightly bizarre 80's movie from director Juzo Itami. The central plot of the movie surrounds Tampopo, owner of a lackluster roadside ramen shop, and her quest to improve the shop with the help of two brothers, Goro and Gun. Part of the charm of this movie, though, is the many subplots and short vignettes that weave in and around the main characters. Check it out for views of 80's Japan, and food that will make your mouth water.

Available for streaming on: Kanopy, The Criterion Channel

② Mary and the Witch's Flower (2017)


Many of us were disappointed when we heard that Ghibli would be releasing much of its catalogue on Netflix... but not in several English-speaking countries, or Japan itself. Fortunately, there are some lovely alternatives! Mary and the Witch's Flower is a charming story of Mary and her magic-filled adventures, strongly resembling a Ghibli movie in both style and mood. That's probably because it was made by former Studio Ghibli directors and producers! Now we're looking forward to seeing what else the artists at Studio Ponoc come out with in the future.

Available for streaming on: Netflix

③ Shoplifters (2018)


This instant classic is a heartwarming story of family, with a heartwrenching ending. Far from the wacky Japan often found in films, Shoplifters is a beautiful vision of the harsh realities of everyday life in Japan.

Available for streaming on: Hulu, Hoopla

④ A Silent Voice (2016)


While this anime film focuses on the school life of the initially popular elementary school student Shouya Ishida, when Shouya begins to bully deaf classmate Shouko Nishimiya, the story takes a turn. The end result is a deep and thoughtful movie about high school students in Japan, and Shouya's struggles to make up for his past mistakes.

Available for streaming on: Netflix

⑤ Battle Royale (2000)


Surprisingly bloody, and an inspiration for battle royale-themed media of all kinds over the past two decades, Battle Royale has been a cult favorite all over the world. If you haven't seen it yet, hop on the bandwaggon and check out this classic film's combination of gruesome violence and emotional 9th-grade relationships.

Available for streaming on: Hoopla, (Vudu & Tubi with ads)

Which will you watch first?

Ready to enjoy Japan from afar this spring? Got any Japanese movie favorites that are available online right now, but aren't on this list? Let us know on the Japankuru twitter, instagram, and facebook!
  • e 2020.04.08 reply
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