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Filmography - Japan: Essential and Recent Documentaries: Home

Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of August 2013

Japan: Essential and Recent Documentaries

Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of August 2013

Most streaming videos listed are available exclusively to AU students, staff and faculty after an online authentications by AUID#.

This is a selective list of video holdings in the American University Library. Filmographies are created by doing multiple keyword searches in the ALADIN catalog to capture as many titles on a topic as possible.  All DVDs listed below are located in Media Services on the Lower Level of Bender Library. To search the library’s complete videos holdings on prison topics (including VHS tapes) search the library catalog at:


See also National Cinema - Japan


ANPO, art x war The art of resistance. 2010.  1 videodisc (89 min.). "...reveals the untold story of resistance to U.S. miliary bases in Japan through a collage of paintings, photographs and films by Japan's most respected artists. Their stories and their art depict the struggle against the U.S. Military presence, which provoked a national uprising in 1960 and still festers today"--Container. DVD 10305

Arakimentari. 2005.  1 videodisc (75 min.). Further insight into understanding the life and mind of photographer Nobuyoshi Araki.  DVD 4260

The atomic artists. 2011.  1 streaming video file (12 min.). How one group of artists is challenging Japan's unusually strong faith in nuclear power .  Streaming video.

Babies. 2009.  Spotlight series: Focus Features spotlight series.  1 videodisc (79 min.). Follows four babies from different parts of the globe as they navigate their first year of life. Features Ponijao from Namibia, Bayarjargal from Mongolia, Hattie who lives in San Francisco, and Mari from Tokyo.  DVD 7579

Beetle queen conquers Tokyo. 2011.  1 videodisc (90 min.). This documentary explores Japan's fascination and love affair with insects. The film intertwines their love for something so mundane, be it a beetle or butterfly, with their cultural values and traditions. In the end, it challenges viewers to not only alter their view of insects but also our lives.  DVD 9432

Big business and the ghost of Confucius. 1992.  The Pacific century.  1 videodisc (58 min.). Describes the economic success stories of Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. Examines how these newly industrialized countries moved to the forefront of the world economy so rapidly.  Examines the role played by America and Confucian beliefs in shaping the successful formula for East Asian capitalism and grapples with the question of the role of government in economic growth. Presents profiles and interviews of politicians and business leaders like former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, and the chairman of South Korea's Hyundai Corp. DVD 2537

Changes on the Chang Jiang: The booming maritime edge ; A challenge for two old cities ; Small farms, big cities. 2006.  1 videodisc (120 min.). Program 9. pt. 1: Shanghai: head of the dragon. Shanghai enters the 21st century on a wave of development, ready to reclaim its legacy as China's commercial center. pt. 2: Sijia: small town, big change. The steady growth of a township enterprise illustrates three great contrasts in modern China: rural vs. urban, agricultural vs. industrial, coastal vs. interior. Program 10. pt. 1:Guangdong: globalization in the Pearl River delta. This program explores globalization and the effects of modernization on Chinese society. pt. 2: Taiwan: high-tech tiger. What factors contributed to Taiwan's emergence as a high-tech powerhouse? Program 11. pt. 1: Lanzhou: confluence of cultures. We travel to the frontiers of Han and Muslim China in the city of Lanzhou. pt. 2: Shenyang: hope for China's rust belt? A previously dynamic industrial city continues to struggle with modernizing its manufacturing infrastructure. Program 12. pt. 1: Northern Japan: protecting the harvest. Japanese rice farmers battle destructive weather in order to save their crops. pt. 2: Tokyo: anatomy of a mega-city. The continuing expansion of the Tokyo megalopolis leads to ever-longer commutes and demand for suburban housing.  DVD 8543

The cove. 2009.  1 videodisc (96 min.). In a sleepy lagoon off the coast of Japan is a highly guarded secret. During the night, Taiji fishermen engage in an unseen hunt for thousands of dolphins. The work is so horrifying, the fishermen will stop at nothing to keep it hidden from the outside world. When a team of elite activists, filmmakers, and free-divers embark on a secret mission to penetrate their cover, the shocking discoveries they find there are just the tip of the iceberg. Includes commentary, deleted scenes, and more. DVD 6763 

Dream girls. 2007  1 videodisc (50 min.). A documentary film illustrating the ways that the all-female Takarazuka Music School and its annual musical revue reflect Japanese puritanism and sexual politics. VD 5988 and Streaming video;1647039

Eiga Nihon-koku Kempo = Japan's peace Constitution. 2005.  1 videodisc (70 min.). "In 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II, a conservative Japanese government is pressing ahead with plans to revise the nation's constitution and jettison its famous no-war clause, Article 9. This timely, hard-hitting documentary places the ongoing debate over the constitution in an international context: What will revision mean to Japan's neighbors, Korea and China? How has the US-Japan military alliance warped the constitution and Japan's role in the world? How is the unprecedented involvement of Japan's Self-Defense Force in the occupation of Iraq perceived in the Middle East? Through interviews conducted with leading thinkers around the world, the film explores the origins of the Constitution in the ashes of war, and the significance of its peace clauses in the conflicted times of the early 21st century"--Container.  DVD 3146

Frontline. Inside Japan’s nuclear meltdown. 2012.  1 videodisc (60 min.). In the desperate hours and days after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the fate of thousands of Japanese citizens fell into the hands of a small corps of engineers, firemen and soldiers who risked their lives to prevent the Daiichi nuclear complex from complete meltdown. This is their story, with rare footage from inside the plant and eyewitness testimony from the people on the frontlines.  DVD 9067

Geologic journey II Episode 4. The Western Pacific Rim. 2010.  1 streaming video file (52 min.). The Pacific Rim is home to half the world's active volcanoes and 90 per cent of its earthquakes, yet nearly 800 million people live at its violent edge. This episode focuses on the Asia-Pacific side of the Pacific Ring of Fire, al ving testament to the beauty and danger that geologic forces can deliver. Our journey begins in New Zealand where we find a 500-kilometre long slip-strike fault deep under the Pacific Ocean. And in Japan we scale the iconic peak of Mount Fuji and discover new ways to monitor, and hopefully one day predict, seismic activity. Streaming video. 

Hiroshima. 2006.  BBC history of World War II.  1 videodisc (ca. 92 min.). Set in the three weeks from the test explosion in New Mexico to the dropping of the bomb, the action takes viewers into the room where the crucial political decisions are made, on board the Enola Gay, inside the bomb as it explodes, and in Hiroshima. DVD 2385

Hiroshima. 2009. American history in video. 1 streaming video file (22 min.). A&E Television Networks. Streaming video.;518172

Hiroshima Nagasaki, August 1945. 2010.  1 videodisc (17 min.). Featured is the first footage shot following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The viewer becomes an eyewitness to the bomb's aftermath, literally walking through the rubble and hospitals jammed with dying people. With only black and white film available, the film recorded stark and often simple, but telling images of the vast destruction, such as the shadows of leaves, flowers, and other objects burned onto stone.  DVD 10166

Hiroshima no pika. 2005.  1 videodisc (ca. 83 min.). Hirsohima No Pika is an animated film based on the award winning children's book by the Japanese artist Toshi Maruki.  Through Maruki's hear-rending but beautiful water color illustrations, the film tells the story of a young girl and her family who live through the horrific bombing of Hirsohima.  Nominated for an Academy Award, Hellfire: a journey from Hiroshima caputres the artists Iri and Toshi Maruki in their decades long collaboration to creat a monumental testament to the effects of the atomic bomb - the Hiroshima murals, which have been viewed by over 100 million people aroung the world. Engaging interivew and extended sequences of the Marukis at work are shown.  DVD 1485

Inside Japan, Inc. 1992.  The Pacific century.  1 videodisc (58 min.). Examines the economic miracle of post-war Japan and the increasing tensions between Japan and the United States because of Japan's resolve to control its own economic destiny.  DVD 2536

Intimate stranger. 2009.  Alan Berliner collection.  1 videodisc (60 min.). " You've probably never heard of Joseph Cassuto, but by the end of this film you may think that he was the most elusive, fascinating and baffling man to have ever lived. Cassuto is filmmaker Alan Berliner's maternal grandfather, a Palestinian Jew who was a cotton buyer for the Japanese in Egypt prior to World War II. With Hitler's armies just miles away from Alexandria, Cassuto's family is split in half. They reunite in New York after the war, but Cassuto is restless there. He moves to Japan to spend eleven months of the year, virtually abandoning his wife and children in the U.S. while he pursues his business interests and a life-long love affair with Japanese culture. Seventeen years after his death, his grandson has constructed a poetic and emotional jigsaw puzzle out of the voluminous memorabilia of his grandfather's life story. What emerges is a curious legacy -- admiration and love from Cassuto's Japanese business associates; resentment from his family. Depending on who you ask, Cassuto was either a romantic adventurer or a shirker of family responsibility; a man at the center of historic events or a nobody." -- Director's Website.  DVD 7837 and Streaming video.;1778653

The invention of Dr. Nakamats. 2010  1 videodisc (57 min.). DVD 10135

Japan comes first. 1990.  Power in the Pacific.  1 videodisc (58 min.) : sd., col. with b&w sequences. Shows how U.S. policies were designed to rebuild Japan and explores the series of diplomatic events and business decisions that led the Japanese into new industries.  DVD 8954

Japan: Memoirs of secret empire. 2003.  1 videodisc (160 min.). An historical documentary of Japan between the 16th and 19th centuries, from the "Warlord Period" to the end of its isolation from the West in the 19th century. Looks at the cultural and military aspects of Japanese society -- the rule of the Shogun, traditions of Samurai and geisha, the effect of exposure to Western culture. DVD 1860

Japan's war in colour. 2003.  1 videodisc (151 min.). The story of Japan at war from rare color films, plus letters and diaries from those who lived through it. Much of this material has been recently discovered and allows the viewer to experience Japan and its culture from a new perspective. DVD 2326

Japanese education in crisis. 2005.  1 videodisc (20 min.). "This documentary explores sobering developments linked to Japan's emphasis on intense academic pressure and conformity" -- Cover.  DVD 5114 and Streaming video.

The Japanese version. 1991.  1 videodisc (56 min.). Looks at modern Japanese culture by exploring Japan's fascination with things American, pointing out that in borrowing from other cultures, there emerges a distinct Japanese slant on such things as American baseball, the 1950's, weddings, and "love hotels.". DVD 5965

Japanland. 2006.  2 videodiscs (225 min.). An action-packed and entertaining journey into the side of Japan that few outsiders get to see. Follow Karin Muller as she delves deep into the world of the geisha, mountain cults, samurai, taiko, swordmaking, sumo, and much more! DVD 2790

Jingi no hakaba = Graveyard of honor. 1975.  1 videodisc (93 min.). A story about the life and death of Rikio Ishikawa, one of the most notorious and violent yakuza in the history of organized crime in Japan.  DVD 8916

Jiro dreams of sushi. 2012.  1 videodisc (83 min.). The 85-year-old Jiro Ono is considered by many to be the world's greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of a 10-seat sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3-star Michelin review, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimages, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro's sushi bar.  DVD 3005

Know your enemy Japan. 1945.  Historic film classics: Historic film classics (Chicago, Ill.).  1 videodisc (63 min.). Explains how the religious, political, cultural, and economic history of Japan contributed toward making her a formidable foe. Intended to show the American serviceman the fighting characteristics of his Japanese counterpart.  DVD 10178

Kurosawa. 2002.  1 videodisc (215 min.). A documentary of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa featuring his family, colleagues and critics from Japan and America commenting on the man and his films. Includes excerpts from many of his famous works.  DVD 392

Makoto Aida: Cynic in the playground. 2003.  New people artist series: New people artist series.   1 videodisc (98 min.). Follows Japanese artist Makoto Aida as he creates two works of art.  DVD 8815

Managing the overseas assignment. 1983.  Going international.  1 videodisc (29 min.). Intended to help families adjust to living abroad through exploration of cultural and business practices in various foreign countries. This program focuses on business practices in Japan, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, India, England, and Mexico as seen in vignettes and through interviews.  DVD 7782

Mishima a life in four chapters. 2008.  2 videodiscs (120 min.). A look at acclaimed Japanese author and playwright Yukio Mishima, the impossible harmony he created between self, art, and society, and his famously committed public seppuku (ritual suicide). Includes interviews, commentary, documentary, and more.  DVD 4581

Nankin La mémoire et l'oubli = Nanjing : Memory and oblivion. 2006.  East Asian film collection.  1 videodisc (52 min.). "Although the Nanjing Massacre, a series of war crimes committed by Japanese troops in China's capital during the second Sino-Japanese War, occurred seventy years ago, the nature and extent of these atrocities remains the subject of continuing debate and the source of political tensions between China and Japan ... [The film] uses archival footage and photos, interviews with Chinese survivors and eyewitnesses, former Japanese soldiers, and both Chinese and Japanese government officials, historians and lawyers, to document the events of 'The Rape of Nanking' and to show how the interpretation of this history has become politicized"--Container.  DVD 10015

Nuclear aftershocks.  2012.  1 videodisc (60 min.). A devastating earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, leaving the country's once popular energy program in shambles. In response, Germany decided to abandon nuclear energy entirely. Should the U.S. follow suit? Frontline correspondent Miles O'Brien examines the implications of the Fukushima accident for U.S. nuclear safety, and asks how the disaster will affect the future of nuclear energy around the world.  DVD 9773

Overstay. 1998.  1 videodisc (74 min.). An exploration of the lives of foreign migrant workers in Japan. Four sets of young people from Iran, Pakistan, Peru and the Philippines tell their unique stories--why they came to Japan and how they have adjusted to Japanese ways. These young migrant workers are also observed at work and at play, trying to make a new life while homesick for a familiar culture.  DVD 4264

The Pacific century. 1992.  10 videodiscs (600 min.). Surveys the past 150 years of economic and political development in the Pacific Basin. Studies the interconnections between Pacific nations and between those nations and the United States - within a geographical, cultural, and historical framework. DVD 2531 - 2540

Preschool in three cultures Japan, China, and the United States. 89.  1 videodisc (58 min.). A video companion to the book Preschool in three cultures : Japan, China, and the United States. All footage was shot for research purposes by the authors. The quality of the original video recording is very marginal and contains numerous screen freezes and rolls. In-class use is inadvisable without previewing in advance. Distributed by Yale University Press. DVD 3328

Reinventing Japan. 1992.  The Pacific century.  1 videodisc (58 min.). Describes the allied relationship that developed between the U.S. and Japan following WW II.  Set to the sounds of big band jazz, the program tells the stories of real men and women - both American and Japanese - who lived through the Occupation. Reveals the unexpected results of America's ambitious efforts to mold Japan into its own image and analyzes the astonishing present-day consequences.  DVD 2535

Sentimental imperialists. 1992.  The Pacific century.  1 videodisc (58 min.). Examines the stereotypic attitudes of Westerners towards Asia from 1776 to the present. Presents specific case studies of the U.S. relationships with China and the Philippines. DVD 2539

Shinjuku boys. 1996.  1 videodisc (53 min.). Looks at a Japanese subculture involving cross-gender and prostitution. Three women, called annabees, who live as men and have girlfriends, work as hosts at the New Marilyn Club in Tokyo. DVD 8601

Shinto: Nature, gods, and man in Japan. 1977.  1 videodisc (48 min.). Traces the development of Shinto to the present day.  Shows ancient ritual sites still used today as well as some major shrines.  Also portrays great works of Shinto religious art. DVD 5948

Sugihara: Conspiracy of kindness. 2005.  1 videodisc (85 min.). This documentary tells the story of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, consul to Lithuania during World War II. Sugihara defied Tokyo authorities and wrote transit visas that allowed hundreds of Jewish families to flee Europe through Russia to Japan and other countries. Includes home movies, photographs, film footage, and interviews with Holocaust survivors who owe their lives to Chiune Sugihara. DVD 1323

Sukiyaki and chips: The Japanese sounds of music. 2003.  Beats of the heart:.  1 videodisc (ca. 60 min.). An interesting mix of Japanese adaptations of foreign music styles with the traditional music of the past. A perfect introduction to the often misunderstood musical culture of Japan.  DVD 10517

This is noh. 199?.  1 videodisc (39 min.). "This program introduces the actors of the Noh Association, Kyoto Branch, in a program scripted by the actors themselves. It features excerpts from numerous plays, rehearsals, and dances, providing insights into this ancient masked dance-drama tradition through the eyes of its practitioners." --from  DVD 10368

Tokyo Olympiad. 1990.  1 videodisc (170 mins.). An epic study of athletes struggling to excel against their own bodies and against each other. Kon Ichikawa used 164 cameramen and over 100 cameras to show the humanity of the competitors--the tears of the Japanese women volleyball champions, the bellow of the hammer throwers, the pain of the collapsed marathon runner and the solitude of the loser, finishing his lap, picking up his sweats and leaving the field. DVD 2791 

Toyota's drive to the top. 2005.  1 videodisc (50 min.). "Japan's first automaker has learned a few lessons about corporate identity in the global economy, and what it will take to become the world's largest automaker. This program shows how Toyota has localized its overseas operations, pursuing a strategy in which its factories integrate into surrounding communities. Visiting Toyota plants and suppliers in Texas and Thailand, the film illustrates Toyota's system of cultivating native-born " trainer's trainers" who will pass on crucial production techniques and practices. Viewers are given a firsthand look at the frontline operations of a company that is fighting, or, in the words of one trainer, employing a "human-centered approach," to become the worldwide leader in its industry"--Container.  DVD 5851 and Streaming video.

Trade, an introduction; Protectionism vs. free trade. 1995.  Inside the global economy.  1 videodisc (120 min.). Program 1: This program illustrates the forces transforming the global economy, addressing questions such as: Why do nations trade? Who gains or loses from trade? Features IBM's move to Japan and the impact of 1970's Australian mineral exports boom on its domestic car production. Program 2: Examines impediments to trade, covering both tariff and nontarrif barriers. Includes discussions about the driving forces behind protectionism and likely winners and losers. Cases include French agricultural subsidies and conflict in the Uruguay Round and voluntary export restraints on Japanese cars into the U.S. DVD 8191

The tradition of performing arts in Japan the heart of Kabuki, Noh and Bunraku. 1989.  Nippon, the land and its people: Nippon, the land and its people.  1 videodisc (38 min.). Presents Noh, Bunraku and Kabuki, in their cultural and historical contexts, as parts of the Japanese theatrical tradition.  DVD 10774

Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara. 2007.  New people artist series: New people artist series.  1 videodisc (93 min.). Documentary featuring Japanese modern artist Yoshitomo Nara from Hirosaki, Japan. Follows the artist's life journey from London to Bangkok as he travels for his exhibitions and workshops. His latest attempt at creating a collaboration leads to a surprising outcome for both his artwork and himself. DVD 8811

White light, black rain: The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 2007.  1 videodisc (85 min.). In August 1945, the world was transformed in the blink of an eye when American forces dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. The destruction was unprecedented and the bombings precipitated the end of World War II. Contains archival footage and stunning photography. Interviews are from both Japanese survivors and the Americans who believed that their involvement would help end a brutal conflict. DVD 3453

Wings of defeat. 2007.  1 videodisc (89 min.). "In Japan, WWII Kamikaze are still revered as self-sacrificing heroes. Internationally, they remain a potent symbol of fanaticism. Until now, few outsiders knew that many Kamikaze survived their suicide missions. The candid, heartbreaking testimony of surviving Kamikaze conveys the true depth of war's travesty. Sixty years later, these humble men tell us about the horrors of the cockpit, their dramatic survival and the survivors' guilt still haunting them" -- Container.    DVD 4837 

World in the balance. 2004.  1 videodisc (120 min.). In Japan, Europe and Russia, birth rates are shrinking and the population is aging. In parts of India and Africa, more than half of the still growing population is under 25. The world population is now careening in two dramatically different directions. China revs up examines China's booming economy and the impact its having on the environment.  DVD 2371

Writers & revolutionaries. 1992.  The Pacific century.  1 videodisc (58 min.). The lives of Lu Xun, China's greatest modern writer, and Kita Ikki, the famous Japanese philosopher, are highlighted. Both revolutionaries explored the traditional strengths and weaknesses of their societies, with Lu Xun writing scathing satires aimed at China's ineffective leadership. Kita Ikki, on the other hand, watched with alarm as his radical teachings were distorted by right wing extremists and used to design a monstrous blueprint for a Japanese world empire. Details how China became vulnerable to the threat of the encroaching Japanese.  DVD 2371 and Streaming video.

Yayoi Kusama: I love me. 2008.  New people artist series.  1 videodisc (102 min.). Documentary showing Japanese avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama at work.  DVD 8812

Yuki yukite shingun =The emperor's naked army marches on. 2006.  1 videodisc (122 min.). "In this absorbing documentary, Kenzo Okuzaki--a veteran of Japan's WWII New Guinea campaign--painstakingly tracks down the former military officers responsible for the mysterious deaths of several fellow soldiers. Director Kazuo Hara not only captures the zeal of Okuzaki's mission but also exposes the atrocities committed by the Japanese military against its soldiers, resulting in a controversial film of undeniable power."--Container. DVD 2814

Yukoku = Yukio Mishima's Patriotism. 2008.  1 videodisc (29 min.). Depicts the ritual suicide of a naval officer in both Japanese (27 min.) and English (29 min.) versions. Bonus features include an 49-minute audio recording of Mishima at the Foreign Correspondent's Association of Japan, a 50-minute making-of documentary, interview excerpts featuring Mishima discussing World War II and death.  DVD 4582