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Japan

Japan Film & Photography Production Services

Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film / photography production support or shooting crew in Japan? We have fully vetted, locally based fixers, service producers, directors, DP’s, videographers, cameramen, photographers, sound operators, production drivers, and a range of other film crew. Contact us for referrals, questions, cost estimates and references.

Want to know more about shooting in Japan? See below for an introduction to Japan locations, permits, when to shoot, costs, talent, crews, fringes and premiums, equipment, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits, film friendly hotels, transport, communications and safety advice.

Japan Film Locations

Buzzing, well-ordered megacities. Peaceful countryside with snow-capped mountain backdrops and rivers criss-crossing the landscape. Traditional samurai, geisha and merchant neighborhoods. Castles, gardens, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. From north to south, Japan offers filmmakers a wealth of locations…

Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost main island. It is known for its volcanoes, national parks, hot springs (onsen), lavender fields, and ski resorts. Niseko is said to have some of the best powder skiing in the world. Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido. Hakodate is one of the best known places for cherry blossom viewing. Wakkanai is Japan’s most northernmost city.

Tohoku. Hirosaki and Kakunodate offer some of the Japan’s best cherry blossom Sakura and Hanami opportunities. Lake Towada is known for its fall colours. The Hachimantai area offers some excellent rustic onsen options set in snow-covered beech forest landscapes. The Kitayamazaki and Sanriku Coasts, and the Shimokita Peninsula offer dramatic coastal looks. Fukushima is also located in this region.

Kanto. Tokyo is Japan’s capital and main film production centre. Tokyo locations of interest include the Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple, Zojoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo Skytree, Zojoji Temple with view of Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall, Audi Forum Building “The Iceberg”, Kokugikan Sumo Stadium and Tokyo Dome baseball stadium. Neighborhoods of interest include Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Ginza and Roppongi Hills. Parks of note include Yoyogi Koen and Ueno Park. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building offers the best free views of the Tokyo skyline.

Just outside of Tokyo you can find the Ghibli Museum and Tokyo Disneyland. The cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki are also located in the Kanto region. The Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal is an impressive modern location. The Ogasawara Islands which lie about 1000 kilometers south of Tokyo are administered by Tokyo.

Chubu. Nagoya is one of Japan’s most modern business centres. Kanazawa is the creative city. Nagano hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. Other locations of note in Chubu include Takayama, Fuji Five Lakes, Mount Fuji, Aokigahara Suicide Forest, Shirakawa-go mountain village, Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Jigokudani Monkey Park, and Matsumoto Castle.

Kansai. Osaka is Japan’s second largest city. It has two satellite cities; Kyoto and Kobe. Kyoto is the historic ancient imperial city. Kobe is known as the film-friendly city. Other locations of note in Kansai include Himeji Castle, Uji, Miyama, Nara, Mount Koya, and Yoshino.

Chugoku. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park commemorates the dropping of the atomic bomb. Tomonoura is a picturesque port town. Other locations of note include Miyajima Island, Tottori sand dunes, Eshima Ohashi Bridge, Akiyoshidai cave, Inujima Island modern art display, and Iwakuni’s Kintai-kyo Bridge.

Shikoku. Locations of note include Naoshima Island modern art displays, Nijushi no Hitomi movie village, Senmaida rice fields, Naruto whirlpools, Choshikei Monkey Park, Kazurabashi vine bridges, and Uwajima bull fighting events.

Kyushu. Fukuoka is Kyushu’s largest city. Toto Museum is dedicated to the evolution of the toilet. Yoshinogari Historical Park recreates a settlement from the Yayoi Period. Kawachi Wisteria Garden has a spectacular wisteria bloom peaking in spring and maple leaf season in autumn. Nagasaki Peace Park commemorates the atomic bombing of the city. Huis Ten Bosch theme park recreates a Dutch Town. Mount Aso and Kirishima are active volcanoes in the region. Kumamoto Castle is one of the more important castles in Japan. The abandoned Hashima Island (Battleship Island) offers interesting looks for filmmakers and photographers. The churches of Amakusa show the Christian influence on Japan. Kuju Mountains offer arid looks. Yakushima Island is home to some of Japan’s oldest living trees. The southern city of Kagoshima is known as the Naples of Japan. The Okinawan Islands offer beautiful beaches and turquoise waters.

Tokyo and Osaka are Japan’s main film production centres.

Japan has hosted films including Lost in Translation, The Last Samurai, Babel, The Wolverine, and The Forest. It also has a rich local film history with names such as Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki, globally known.

Japan Film Location Permits

Filming in Tokyo can be very restricted. Small shoots looking to capture b-roll of public locations can get away with more. Separate permits are required for each location. These usually take about 3 days to process. More complicated shoots involving setting up track / lights and controlling traffic are much more difficult to permit and require more lead time. Popular locations such as Shibuya Square, Tsukiji Fish Market and Sensoji Temple are very difficult to permit. Some areas require additional permission from the neighborhood association. Please contact us for location specific information.

When To Shoot?

Japan’s north-south geography means there is significant seasonal variation. Where Northern Hokkaido has long, snowy winters and short, mild summers, the southern island of Okinawa has a sub-tropical climate. Generally speaking, Japan has a four-season climate. Winters (December to February) are cold and dry with snow in the mountains. Spring (March to May) is warm with cherry blossoms in full bloom. Summers (June to September) are hot and rainy. Fall (October to November) is mild with colourful leaves. For monthly weather statistics please see here.

Festivals and events of interest to filmmakers and photographers include:

• Sapporo Snow Festival in February.
• Cherry Blossom Festivals throughout Japan from March to May.
• Takayama Festival in April.
• World Bonsai Convention in Saitama in April.
• Sanja Festival in Tokyo in May.
• Kyoto Gion Festival in July.
• Nachi Fire Festival in Nachisan in July.
• Hakata Gion Yamakasa in Fukuoka in July.
• Sunflower Festival in Zama, in July / August.
• Nebuta Festival in Aomori in August
• Kanto Festival in Akita City in August
• Obon (Festival of the Dead) throughout Japan in August.
• Tokushima City’s Awa Odori “Fools Dance” in August.
• Tokyo Game Show in September
• Nagasaki Kunchi Festival in October.
• Tokyo Motor Show in October / November (held every odd-numbered year)

Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. See here for public holiday dates in Japan. Best to avoid filming during ‘Golden Week’ holidays in late April / early May.

Costs & Tax Incentives

Costs. Japan is a relatively expensive place to shoot certainly compared to the rest of Asia. Our locally based fixers and service producers will negotiate deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget. For low budget shoots there are of course ways to save money. There are plenty of last minute hotel deals and the quality of inexpensive food from even from places such as Seven-Eleven, is very high by comparison to what you’d get in the West. When it comes to payment, make sure to have plenty of cash handy. Few places outside of tourist areas accept credit cards. Seven-Elevens are the most reliable place to withdraw cash.

Tax Incentives. There are no tax incentives for foreign feature films or commercials shooting in Japan. Regional film commissions have subsidies and support that can be accessed by visiting productions.

Film Crew & Talent

Crews. Japan has a good local pool of directors, directors of photography and stills photographers although not many speak fluent English. Japanese crews are non-union. There is a good depth of experienced creative and technical crews.

Contact us if you are looking for a Tokyo, Osaka, or Sapporo based director, DP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, or any other film crew in Japan.

Talent is non-union and buyouts are negotiable. Talent looks are mostly Japanese but there is also a considerable pool of international models and actors who live and work in Japan for extended periods of time.

Fringes. No hidden extras. Crew members are independent contractors and take care of their own taxes and contributions.

Premiums. Japan works on a 10 hour shooting day. Overtime is negotiable and tends to be less expensive than what you find in most western countries. Most crew are hired through companies that specialize in supplying specific departments making it easier to package crews and negotiate better rates. Japan has no turn-around rules. No weekend, holidays or night shoot premiums apply. New Years Eve and Golden Week (beginning of May) are major public holidays so crews and talent are limited and extra charges are possible.

Japan Film Equipment

Japan has all of the standard camera, grip and lighting gear as well as several specialized suppliers offering a variety of cutting edge technical equipment. For productions looking to bring in film equipment Japan is an ATA carnet country.

In terms of communications, Japan has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world. Local production support can arrange wifi enabled phones or if you are shooting on a budget you can also purchase pocket wifi at the airport.

Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production

Art department and set construction is of the highest standard. Set construction is also of a high standard but it is very expensive to execute in Japan. To give you an idea of the high standard of work Lost in Translation and Babel were filmed in Japan.

Studios and backlots. Japan has a samurai movie backlot. Japan has a range of studio facilties with Yokohama Super Factory and Toho Studios among the largest. Given the high costs of filming in Japan, most productions come for the locations rather than studio builds.

Post Production. Japan has state of the art post production facilities.

Visas & Work Permits

Entry is subject to regulations from country of origin. Crew travelling on Western passports can enter as business / tourist travellers.

Transport & Accommodation

Transportation Infrastructure. Japan is very well serviced by an extensive road network, bullet trains and domestic airlines. For small film crews travelling around Japan on a budget, Japan Rail passes offer significant savings. Note, these passes can only be purchased prior to arrival in Japan. Tokyo and Osaka are well serviced by many international carriers.

Accommodation. Contact us for recommended film friendly hotels in Tokyo. For longer stays we can also organize serviced apartments. Japan has many hotels and traditional ryokans to choose from. Some great last-minute deals can also be found on online accommodation booking services. Even Japan’s lower cost accommodation options are very clean and offer sufficient facilities. Make sure to book well ahead of time if you are planing to film during Golden Week. Accommodation with an onsen is a welcome sight after a long day of shooting.

Final Notes

Safety. Japan is a very safe and reliable a filming centre. See here for up to date travel advice.

Down Time. Japan has a great wealth of culinary options ranging from casual dining, to quirky theme restaurants, to haute cuisine. Tokyo has more Michelin Star restaurants than any other city in the world. Try Fugu and live to tell the tale.

Projects. For an example of TV commercials, stills campaigns, online content, corporate videos, virtual reality 360 content, feature films, TV series and documentaries shot in Japan, please see below:

Hire Japan Production Support & Shooting Crew

If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in Japan, please contact us.

If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in Japan, such as a director, DoP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, please contact us.

We are able to provide you with answers, references and bids quickly.