Tokyo: films to see before you go

This excerpt from Lonely Planet's Tokyo guide offers a selection of films showcasing the city.

Tokyo StoryTokyo Story (Tōkyō Monogatari; 1953) – Ōzu Yasujirō’s story of an older couple who come to Tokyo to visit their children only to find themselves treated with disrespect and indifference.

GodzillaGodzilla (Gojira; 1954) – It’s become almost a cliché, but watch it again and you’ll find a powerful metaphor in this city that spent the first half of the 20th century being beaten down and getting right back up again.

The Bad Sleep WellThe Bad Sleep Well (Warui Yatsu Hodo Yoku Nemuru; 1960) – Kurosawa Akira’s first film after breaking from Toho studios centres on a protagonist who marries the boss’s daughter as part of an intricate plan to avenge his father’s death.

Tokyo PopTokyo Pop (1988) – Fran Rubel Kuzui’s breezy comedy about a lonely American songstress who finds redemption, fame and love in the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of J-pop.

Shall We DanceShall We Dance? (1997) – A bored salaryman risks it all to learn the low-brow art of ballroom dancing. Footage includes some wistful shots of Tokyo at night.

DistanceDistance (2001) – A subtle meditation on togetherness and loneliness, Koreeda Hirokazu’s follow-up to After Life follows four people into the woods as they seek the truth about lovers and friends who belonged to a murderous cult. Though clearly an examination of the phenomena of Aum Shinrikyō and the subway sarin attacks, this film is blissfully free of dogma.

Lost in TranslationLost in Translation (2003) – Tokyo takes on a muted gleam in Sofia Coppola’s Oscar-winner about two guests at the Park Hyatt, sharing a moment away from loveless marriages. Bill Murray is in finest deadpan form, and the movie made Scarlett Johansson a star.

Tokyo GodfathersTokyo Godfathers (2003) – Kon Satoshi’s animated film uses a group of homeless men to explore the city’s postbubble underside. They come across a baby and don’t quite know what’s hit them.

Nobody KnowsNobody Knows (Dare mo Shiranai; 2004) – Koreeda Hirokazu’s slow and depressing but somehow life-affirming tale of four children forced to fend for themselves after their heinous mother abandons them. Based on true events.

Kamikaze GirlsKamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma Monogatari; 2004) – One of the daffiest buddy movies ever made, and the only one we know that pairs a country girl obsessed with Lolita outfits from Tokyo boutiques with a biker chick who spits to punctuate her sentences. Written and directed by Tetsuya Nakashima.

Train ManTrain Main (Densha Otoko; 2005) – After a shy otaku (supergeek) falls for a woman he defended from a drunkard, he turns to online pals for help with his feelings of love. This hit from director Masanori Murakami helped put otaku and Akihabara culture on the map.

More cultural highlights can be found in the Lonely Planet guide to Tokyo