NOW BOOKING: Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme at ICA

One of our highlights of this early part of the screen year is Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme. This year’s theme is “Happiness Is A State Of Mind: Joy & Despair In Japanese Cinema” with events at ICA from 31 JAN to 16 FEB. Here’s everything you need to know.

Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2020: TEN DARK WOMEN at ICA (01 FEB).
Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2020: TEN DARK WOMEN at ICA (01 FEB).


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The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme returns with a theme of “Happiness”. Landing in London from 31 JAN to 16 FEB at ICA, the programme tours a further 21 cities nationwide, so if you travel, there’s plenty of chances to catch some fascinating cinema. And there’s another really good range of choices this year, from contemporary dramas to anime and cinema classics.

This year’s programme features 20 films, most of which have never been screened in the UK before. One of the things we like most about this programme is, away from the hard-hitting blockbusters on the international festival and awards circuit, it feels like how we imagine going to the cinema in Japan might be.

Junko Takekawa, Senior Arts Programme Officer explains the choice of theme: “Happiness is a staple theme in Japanese cinema and it is within its framework that the 2020 programme has been curated, showcasing diverse cinematic voices which explore the highs and lows experienced in pursuit of happiness.”

As you know, we love a special feature at RADIANT CIRCUS, and this year’s London programme comes with two opportunities to hear directors talk about their work. Ozaki Masaya appears with HER SKETCHBOOK (02 & 09 FEB) whilst Nobutomo Naoko discusses her documentary I GO GAGA, MY DEAR as part of special focus entitled ‘Japan Now’ (15 FEB). More details below.

If we had to pick just one? We’d choose from either TEN DARK WOMEN (01 FEB) – because we love a bit of ‘classic’ B&W Japanese cinema – or, more likely, documentary I GO GAGA, MY DEAR because of its strong F-Rating, intense topicality about our ageing societies and profoundly personal premise. Oh, and we’re curious to see JESUS (06 FEB) too… but aren’t we all?

And that’s the meat of it…

Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2020 – Happiness Is A State Of Mind: Joy & Despair In Japanese Cinema screens at ICA (31 JAN to 16 FEB) & around the country.


Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2020: JESUS at ICA (06 FEB).
Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2020: JESUS at ICA (06 FEB).

AND YOUR BIRD CAN SING aka Kimi no tori wa utaeru d. Miyake Sho, 2018 (31 JAN 18:20):

  • “A gritty coming-of-age drama depicting the lives of a Hakodate bookstore clerk (Emoto Tasuku), his co-worker (Ishibashi Shizuka), and housemate (Sometani Shota) as the carefree trio fight the sense of being adrift, hedonistically enjoying nightly escapades. But their happy days hinge on a delicate balance.”

OUR MEAL FOR TOMORROW aka Bokura no gohan wa ashita de matteru d. Ichii Masahide, 2017 (01 FEB 13:15 / 16 FEB 14:30):

  • “After participating in their school’s sack race, an unlikely romance begins between an introverted Hayama (Nakajima Yuto) and outspoken Uemura (Araki Yuko). As their lives unfold over the next 7 years, can they overcome obstacles and continue sharing meals in good times and bad?”

ORGAN aka Ano Hi No Orugan d. Hiramatsu Emiko, 2019 (01 FEB 15:30):

  • “As Tokyo burns in the wake of air strikes in the closing months of the Pacific War, nursery teachers lead by Kaede (Toda Erika) scramble to evacuate the children under their care to an abandoned temple. A rare film showing the little known realities of women on the home front who answered the call of duty in the face of adversity.”

A BANANA? AT THIS TIME OF NIGHT? aka Konna Yofuke Ni Banana Kayo: Itoshiki Jitsuwa d. Maeda Tetsu, 2018 (01 FEB 18:00):

  • “Afflicted by muscular dystrophy, Yasuaki (Oizumi Yo) doesn’t let that slow him down. A charming and eternally positive man, he is determined to live an independent life and fulfil his dreams with the help of coerced volunteers Misaki (Takahata Mitsuki) and Tanaka (Miura Haruma). Based on a true story.”

TEN DARK WOMEN aka Kuroi juunin no onna d. Ichikawa Kon, 1961 (01 FEB 20:30):

  • “Progressive for the time of its production, this black comedy follows the undoing of a married TV producer and philanderer as the women in his life join forces in conspiring to kill him. Starring many representative figures of Japan’s silver screen, this stylish work by the director of Tokyo Olympiad is a rare treat praised by his contemporaries.”

LITTLE NIGHTS, LITTLE LOVE aka Eine Kleine Nachtmusik d. Imaizumi Rikiya, 2019 (02 FEB 13:20):

  • “Sato (Miura Haruma) is a singleton in his late 20s, longing for the perfect meet-cute to kick start his love life. One day, he meets Saki (Tabe Mikako) in an unlikely encounter on the street, soon sparking a romantic connection. Is it a miracle? Based on a story by one of Japan’s most popular novelists, the film asks what is necessary in attaining happiness in a relationship.”

HER SKETCHBOOK aka Sekai wa kyo kara kimi no mono d. Ozaki Masaya, 2017 (02 FEB 15:40 / 09 FEB 13:30):

  • “Mami (Kadowaki Mugi) is an otaku and a hikikomori (shut-in). Worried about her future, Mami’s father finds her a job as a videogame tester, where she meets Ryotaro (Miura Takahiro). Encouraged by him to draw game characters for the company, she takes her first tentative steps towards new opportunities.”
  • Followed by a Q&A with the director.

SHADOWFALL aka Kagefumi d. Shinohara Tetsuo, 2019 (02 FEB 18:20):

  • “Makabe (Yamazaki Masayoshi), a first-class professional burglar, witnesses arson while on a job at night. The fire brings back memories of a past incident some 20 years before and sets in motion events which will determine his destiny.”

MY LOVE STORY!! aka Ore Monogatari!! d. Kawai Hayato, 2015 (04 FEB 18:20 / 15 FEB 14:40):

  • “Takeo (Suzuki Ryohei) is a lovable giant admired by his fellow male students but struggling to find his own love story – girls tend to be repelled by his hulking looks or fall for his best friend (Sakaguchi Kentaro). That is until the day he saves Rinko (Nagano Mei) from a pervert… “

SEA OF REVIVAL aka Nagi machi d. Shiraishi Kazuya, 2019 (04 FEB 20:30):

  • “In a bid to rid himself of his crippling gambling addiction, Ikuo (Katori Shingo) moves to his partner’s coastal hometown in an area recovering from the devastating 2011 earthquake. Initially adapting to the new environment, his vice soon catches up to him in a vicious cycle.”

KAKEGURUI – COMPULSIVE GAMBLER aka Eiga: Kakegurui d. Hanabusa Tsutomu, 2019 (05 FEB 18:20):

  • At Hyakkaoh Private Academy students are ranked on their gambling abilities rather than grades. The coveted prize for becoming the ultimate gambling champion is a ‘blank future’ that will give the winner autonomy over their life after graduation. Who will win happiness by betting on their lives?

THE ACTOR aka Haiyu kameoka takuji d. Yokohama Satoko, 2015 (05 FEB 20:40):

  • “Kameoka Takuji (Yasuda Ken) is the perennial supporting actor, constantly typecast as background characters, from homeless to yakuza roles. Thirty-seven years old and single, he reaches a crossroads in his life when he meets a female bar owner (Aso Kumiko) that may change everything.”

JESUS aka Boku wa Iesu-sama ga kirai d. Okuyama Hiroshi, 2018 (06 FEB 20:40):

  • “Having relocated from the big city to a rural town, timid Yura (Sato Yura) feels isolated in his new Christian school. Initially sceptical of the new worshipping practice, he begins to have apparitions of a tiny, mute Jesus who seems to answer his prayers. But he should be careful what he wishes for…”

ANOTHER WORLD aka Han sekai d. Sakamoto Junji, 2018 (07 FEB 20:40):

  • “Koh (Inagaki Goro) leads a mundane life as a village charcoal maker – a profession he took over from his father. One day, an encounter with his old military buddy from the Self-Defence Force (Hasegawa Hiroki) brings back complex memories, making him reconsider his passive existence.”

MY DAD IS A HEEL WRESTLER aka Papa wa Warumono Champion d. Fujimura Kyohei, 2018 (08 FEB 15:40):

  • “Little Shota (Terada Kokoro) gets the shock of his life when he discovers that the father he looks up to plays the despicable heel wrestler, Cockroach. Once a star champion, Takashi (Tanahashi Hiroshi) decides to overcome his injuries and re-join the wrestling big league to win back his son’s heart.”

LYING TO MOM aka Suzukike no Uso d. Nojiri Katsumi, 2018 (08 FEB 18:00):

  • “Yuko (Hara Hideko) wakes up in the hospital with amnesia, oblivious to her son’s death. Realising this, her family decides to innocently deceive the mother, pretending that he is alive and well, working in Argentina. Meanwhile, the rest of the family struggles to deal with their grief.”

BENTO HARASSMENT aka Kyo mo iyagarase bento d. Tsukamoto Renpei, 2019 (09 FEB 16:10):

  • “Wishing to open up another line of communication with her rebellious teenage daughter, in the name of light-hearted revenge, single mother Kaori (Shinohara Ryoko) begins creating embarrassingly sweet messages in her child’s lunchbox meals. Will it work?”

THE HOUSE WHERE THE MERMAID SLEEPS aka Ningyo no nemuru ie d. Tsutsumi Yukihiko, 2018 (09 FEB 18:20):

  • “Teetering on the edge of divorce, a couple is faced with tragedy when their daughter becomes brain dead with little chance of recovery following an accident. Confronted by an impossible decision, the parents must seek alternative solutions in a bid to keep her alive…”

Japan Now Special Strand: I GO GAGA, MY DEAR aka Bokemasukara, yoroshiku onegaishimasu d. Nobutomo Naoko, 2018 (15 Feb 16:45 – main featured image!):

  • “Filmmaker Nobutomo begins to notice gradual changes affecting her nonagenarian mother. Turning the camera on her parents’ lives, she presents an intimate portrait of the highs and lows of a family living with Alzheimer’s and the reality of geriatric care in Japan’s super aging society.”
  • Followed by a Q&A with the director.

RIDE YOUR WAVE aka Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara d. Yuasa Masaaki, 2019 (16 FEB 16:45):

  • “After young firefighter Minato (Katayose Ryota) rescues avid surfer Hinako (Kawaei Rina), the two fall in love. But Minato’s life is cut short in an accident at sea causing the distraught Hinako to stay away from the ocean; until the day she hums their song and he appears in the water…”


Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2020: RIDE YOUR WAVE at ICA (16 FEB).
Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2020: RIDE YOUR WAVE at ICA (16 FEB).

Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2020 – Happiness Is A State Of Mind: Joy & Despair In Japanese Cinema screens at ICA (31 JAN to 16 FEB) & around the country.

Web @jpflondon | Facebook @JapanFoundationLondon

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*THE SMALL PRINT: As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any errors. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version. Event dates/times are subject to change by the venue/organiser. We try to only list events you can book for at the time of posting: however, some events may still be sold out. Please click quickly! We don’t filter by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should be 18+.