The 22 Best Documentaries About Japan

Jul 11, 2023 | Best Of, Culture, History

The Land of the Rising Sun, Japan is a mesmerizing country that captivates all who visit. From its majestic mountain ranges to its vibrant urban environment in Tokyo and its unique cultures and customs, it’s no wonder why Japan has been an intriguing destination for travellers throughout history. Not to mention, you can find some of the best sushi around!

But there’s more to learn about this remarkable country than what meets the eye. To truly understand its past and present, one must dive deeper into Japanese culture through various documentaries. Here are 22 of the most illuminating films that explore different aspects of Japan’s fascinating history and culture.


1. Beautiful Japan

Japan is a country with an incredible history and culture. From its stunning temples and shrines to its iconic landscapes, Japan has something special for everyone. In this documentary, we’ll take you on a journey through some of the best places in Japan and explore its rich history along the way!


2. Religion in Japan

This video explores the unique coexistence of two major religions in Japan: Shinto and Buddhism. Discover how these faiths have existed harmoniously for centuries, and how they are still present in everyday life today. Learn about religious rituals at ceremonies like birth, weddings, funerals, New Year’s celebrations, and local festivals.


3. Japanese Traditional Diet

Explore the traditional Japanese diet and its emphasis on natural flavors that make up a balanced meal. From steamed rice, noodles, fish, tofu, natto and seaweed to eggs, dairy or meat – we’ll take you through this healthy eating plan with its expansion of small dishes. Learn how to incorporate these ingredients into your own meals while reducing added sugars and fat for a healthier lifestyle!


4. Japanese Food guide

Explore the history of Japan and discover the secrets behind its unique culture! This documentary takes you through a journey to uncover some of the nation’s most fascinating stories. We’ll look at traditional Japanese toys, like the spinning pinnacle, and learn about their significance in everyday life. You will also get an inside look into Japanese cuisine, from grain-based dishes to milk and fruit. Plus, discover why physical activity is so important for overall health. Join us as we explore Japan’s past and present – it promises to be an unforgettable experience!


5. Japanese Food and Diet Requirements

Discover the secrets of traditional Japanese cuisine and how it can help you lead a healthier lifestyle. In this documentary, we explore the “washoku” diet plan that relies on simple, fresh ingredients such as fish, seafood and plant-based elements with minimal amounts of animal protein, sugar or fat. Go on an exploration through Japan’s history to learn more about the culture behind this unique weight loss program.


6. Memoirs Of A Secret

Take a journey through Japan’s turbulent history with this documentary. Learn about the powerful samurai and daimyo warlords who once ruled the country, and how Portuguese merchants introduced Christianity to Japan in 1543. Follow Tokugawa Ieyasu’s life as he is taken hostage at an early age, later reclaiming his family’s land and allying himself with two of the most powerful rulers in Japan: Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Discover more about this fascinating period of Japanese history!


7. Japan: Shedding Light On The Hidden Sides of Japan

If you’re looking to gain a deeper understanding of Japan, its culture and history, then this video is for you. It showcases the best documentaries about Japan that explore the country’s unique customs and traditions from mouth-watering closeup shots of sushi to family dynamics within Jiro’s restaurant dynasty. Dive into these insightful films and discover what makes Japan such an incredible place!


8. Japanese Customs: Bowing

Japan is a culture of art and etiquette. From its deep and ancient history to its modern-day customs, Japan has many unique ways of expressing respect. Bowing is one such way – ranging from the most subtle nod of the head to a full waist bend, bowing can be both an art form and a cultural necessity. In this documentary, we explore the various forms of bowing in Japan as well as their origin in order to gain insight into this fascinating culture!


9. A journey between tradition and modernity

Discover the unique beauty of Japan with us! From iconic temples to traditional geishas, explore all that this country has to offer. Start your journey by visiting the Kiyomizu Dera Temple and admire its breathtaking view of the city. Then head over to Kinkakuji’s Golden Pavilion, known for its grandiose pillars. Afterwards, enjoy a peaceful atmosphere at Ginkaku-Ji temple surrounded by stunning gardens and cherry blossoms. And don’t forget to visit Nansen-Ji where you can spot some Koi fishes in tranquil ponds amid lush bamboo groves. Join us on an unforgettable tour around Japan!


10. Japanese Music Instruments Documentary

Are you interested in learning about the fascinating history of Japan? This video takes a deep dive into the culture and music of this beautiful country. We explore the traditional shamisen, shakuhachi flute, and koto instruments. Learn how these unique instruments have evolved over centuries and hear their distinct sounds that make them so special! Discover why they are still appreciated today as we uncover Japan’s rich history through its music.


11. How The Birth Of Japanese Audio Technology Changed The World

This documentary takes a look at two revolutionary products from Japan and how they changed the world. Through interviews with artisans, DJs, and other experts in the industry, we explore the history of technology that these products have helped to shape. Featuring Alex Rosner, Bill Adler, Bobbito Garcia, Dan Pucciarelli and many more! Join us as we discover how these little items made their way around the globe – leaving an unforgettable mark on our culture.


12. Minamoto Vs Tiara Rivalry

Japan has a long and fascinating history that is worth exploring. This video dives into the 22 best documentaries about Japan and its past, from the Gempei War in 1180 to Minamoto Yoritomo’s rise as shogun of Kamakura in 1192. Learn more about the Taira clan’s dominance over Imperial authorities, and how their defeat by Yoshitomo’s son led to a new era of military dictatorship. Discover an amazing land full of captivating stories waiting to be revealed!


13. Ainu Documentary

This documentary explores the fascinating history of Japan and its Ainu people. Learn how this distinct indigenous population has been culturally and physically different from their Japanese neighbors for centuries, up until the early 20th century. Discover how they were connected to Japan’s prehistoric Jōmon culture, and how a language-revitalization movement in the 1980s sought to preserve their heritage by introducing formal training in Ainu. A must-watch for anyone interested in learning about the unique cultures of Japan!


14. Japanese Art Documentary

Explore the world of Japanese history and culture through the lens of one of its most celebrated artists – Taki Katei. In this documentary, we will take a closer look at his life and works, from his time in Tokyo to the international exhibitions that showcased his paintings. We will also delve into World Museum’s rare archive of preparatory drawings used by Taki Katei for teaching, commissions and as an aide-mémoire. Join us on an unforgettable journey as we discover the beauty behind Japan and its vibrant culture!


15. Dolphin in Japan Documentary

The picturesque Japanese fishing village of Taiji in southwestern Honshu has become infamous for its annual dolphin hunt, which sees thousands of dolphins and other small cetaceans killed. This documentary takes an in-depth look at the pressure fishing technique used by hunters to create a ‘wall of sound’ between the dolphins and open ocean. Learn more about how sonar navigation is disrupted and how terrified dolphins try desperately to escape the deafening noise.


16. Tradition and Culture

Explore the fascinating history of Japan with this documentary! Get an in-depth look at how Japan rose from a country heavily influenced by China to one that experienced rapid modernization. Learn about the Meiji Restoration, Sino-Japanese Wars, Russo-Japanese War and more as we trace the timeline of Japanese culture leading up to World War II. Discover both the benefits and costs associated with rapid modernization in Japan and get a unique perspective on its complex dynamics.


17. Suicide Forest in Japan

Are you looking to learn more about the fascinating culture and history of Japan? This documentary will take you on an in-depth exploration of some of the most unique aspects of Japan, from the samurai ritual suicide known as seppuku to Aokigahara Forest, one of the world’s most popular places for suicides. From this film, viewers will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Japanese culture and its long-standing traditions.


18. Voices of the past

Japan’s history is full of fascinating and complex stories that often go untold. From the Meiji Restoration to the beginnings of World War II, this documentary explores Japan’s rapid modernization process and its costs and benefits. Discover how Japan quickly “caught up” with the West in a profound transformation, while also uncovering some of its hidden complexities. Get ready to dive into 22 documentaries about this unique country’s avant-garde movements!


19. Empire of Japan

Discover the fascinating history of Japan and its imperial rule with this documentary. We explore the Meiji Restoration, which saw a young emperor Mutsuhito take power in 1868 and initiate a period of enlightened rule. The tumultuous period leading up to World War II is also examined, as well as the subsequent enactment of Japan’s postwar constitution on May 3 1947. With our comprehensive coverage, you can gain an understanding into how power was nominally vested inside the imperial house during this time.


20. Japan: History, Geography, Economy & Culture

Japan is a land of contrast, with an ancient history and modern culture. From its legendary shoguns to the devastating atomic bombs of World War II, Japan’s story has been one of extraordinary transformation. In this video we explore the highs and lows of Japanese history, from its rise as a global superpower in electronics to natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis that have shaped its geography over time. We’ll also look at some of the cultural aspects that make Japan unique – from martial arts to ikebana flower arrangements, manga comics to sumo wrestling. Get ready for an immersive journey into the fascinating world of Japan!


21. The Dark Side of Japan: The Lost Generation

Japan has the 3rd largest economy in the world and is renowned for its advanced technology, but there’s a darker side to this success. Millions of people have failed to make it through Japan’s job market and are left struggling with no safety net. This video explores the story behind Japan’s Lost Generation – how they fell through the cracks of society and what it means for Japan’s future. Learn why this is an important issue that needs our attention!


22. The Entire History of Ancient Japan

Discover the amazing history of Japan and its people in this documentary. From ancient times to modern day, explore the diverse culture and traditions that have shaped one of the world’s most fascinating nations. Learn about great leaders who led Japan through wars, dynasties, and economic booms – all while preserving its unique identity. Get an inside look at how Japanese society has evolved over time, as well as how it continues to thrive today!

Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

David B