Have you wanted to see a movie in Japan, but were not sure if you might run into some problems? Maybe the ticketing process is different or the movie will be dubbed in Japanese or the theatre etiquette will be different. Read on to find out what an experience in a Japanese movie theater is really like!
Going to the movie theater in Japan is a cultural experience in itself. The Japanese incomparable comic and animation industry generate a lot of income producing movie versions of many famous mangas every year, every month and sometimes every week! Some of the more famous ones that were released this past year were Lupin the Third, Doraemon, and Conan the Detective. Inside the theater, as in most movie theaters in the West, you’re sure to find posters advertising myriads of new releases, both foreign and Japanese.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many major films from the United States often find their way to Japan as well and are shown with Japanese subtitles. You’ll find that their Japan release is typically a bit later than their release in the United States.
Buying tickets might be quite different from what most foreigners expect, though. Compared to my own experience, the ticket counter staff are much more formal. It’s not uncommon for movie-goers to buy tickets days in advance. You can also choose your seat in some larger movie theaters, much like you would in a concert, ballet, or the live theater. Seat charts will also list special seating for disabled people, “executive seating” and even “premium pair seats”.
A Japanese friend of mine recently went to the theater by herself for the first time in her life. She said she was so embarrassed because people rarely ever go to the movie theater alone in Japan, and it’s often seen as an activity you do with friends or on a date.
Ticket prices tend to run around 1500 to 1800 yen. That might seem a bit expensive for some, depending on where you come from, but I found that food and drinks are much cheaper than they typically are in the United States. Depending on the theater, movie-goers are also likely to find a larger variety of food and drinks in the Japanese theaters. Popcorn is quite an exotic Western delicacy in Japan, and recently, several famous brands of shops specializing in flavored popcorn (cheese and caramel are among the most popular, of course) have opened up in major transportation hubs and department stores where people form long lines to buy some! Bread and pastries are also available in many movie theaters!
One other thing I find interesting about Japanese movie theaters is that mothers often take their babies and young children to movies with them. Childcare before preschool and kindergarten is traditionally, and still commonly, one of the mother’s responsibilities, so during the day, mothers will be taking care of their young babies. Because of this, there is also, often, a room for people to watch the movie from if their young child or baby starts crying, in order not to disturb the other viewers.
Japan also puts out a number of its own very impressive films with moving plots and dialogue, featuring talented actors and actresses. If you’re studying Japanese or have a passion for foreign film, I highly recommend checking out the theater in Japan. It’s bound to be a comfortable and eye-opening experience!
Related: 4 Tips, Seeing Movies in Japan on a Budget