Video production in Japan is an incredible experience. From the bustling metropolis of downtown Tokyo and its western prefectures dotted with picturesque sakura gardens to the majestic snow-dipped peaks set against rolling greens that could rival Ireland in rural Hokkaido, there are so many eye-catching options for on-location shoots that will surely make for memorable movies and short films. In addition to its diverse geographic landscapes and vibrant cities, Japan is also rich with thousands of years of history and well-known as well as obscure landmarks. If you're contemplating shooting video in Japan, here's some locations you should check out.
Yahiko is a small village just off of Japan's western coast in the Hokuriku region. The village boasts one of the very few remaining 100-year-old train stations designed to resemble the architectural styles of ancient shrines including the large Yahiko Shrine deeper in town. The subsidiary Sumiyoshi Shrine flanks a beloved local landmark, a keyaki tree over 800 years old known as "The Octopus Tree" for its large, swooping branches and ponderous trunk that resembles an octopus' body. The ancient cedar-lined path to the famous Yahiko Shrine is a tranquil environment that can easily become a great backdrop for a horror movie, while the Tamanohashi Bridge ("bridge of gods") would be the perfect spot for an action shoot.
Yonaguni Island, the westernmost point and island of Japan, is a remote Okinawa island that is actually closer to Taiwan than Japan. It's famous for the popular Japanese drama series Dr. Koto - Shinryojo and the natives have actually preserved the remains of the old clinic set used on the show. The paradisiacal blue waters and natural beaches could easily be mistaken for that of a clandestine tropical resort, and the large ratio of land to people makes it both economical and easy to do video production in this location.
In the film The Last Samurai, the sakura blossoms were added to the Engyoji Temple by computer. There's no need to do that when Japan is full of these natural beauties. Inokashira Park is Tokyo's crown jewel when it comes to breathtaking sakura gardens surrounded by soothing lakes and ponds, which reflect the countless pink tree tops that make the 95-acre park resemble fantasy worlds without even needing a special effects artist or really adept DP. Those magical sakura trees start blooming in late March just to end in late April, so you'll want to take care in shooting video in that timeframe in order to capture them candidly.
Used in James Bond: Sky Fall as well as the music video for B'z's "Lonely Town", Gunkanjima is a ghost island near Nagasaki City. The formerly-inhabited (and formerly owned by Mitsubishi until 1974) island looms like Alcatraz from the only boats that will go there. 5,000 coal miners and other workers lived on the tiny island, creating the highest population density in the world at one time. Like many populous cities, the inhabitants had to maximize the space and build up, not out. Extremely tall concrete buildings that resembled battleships from the sea were the solution, and how the island lost its official name of Hashima and became known as Battleship Island instead. After abandonment in 1974, typhoons and tsunamis over the years further eroded the island and made it into a paradise for urban explorers who love scoping out old ruins and abandoned buildings once the government deemed Battleship Island safe for entry and tours as of 2009. So long as you don't shoot in restricted areas, this island is a fantastic location for any post-apocalyptic thriller.
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