How can I legally watch Showa/Heisei Japanese movies?

I’ve seen just about all the “classic” live-action Japanese movies: easily half of Kurosawa’s filmography; every Japanese Godzilla movie; Hausu; both Lady Snowblood movies; Shogun’s Samurai; Legend of the Eight Samurai; Makai Tensho; The Great Yokai War; Tampopo; Branded to Kill; the Hanzo the Razor series; plenty of Sentai/Kamen Rider movies.

But I’m still interested in exploring more live-action films that shaped Japanese culture in the Showa and Heisei eras. I’ve been trying, in particular, to track down the 1959 version of 里見八犬伝 and the トラック野郎 series. More than that, I’m always looking for anything from those decades that helped shape Japanese pop culture. I’m most interested in things that nobody has ever localized. I don’t like feeling like I’m reinventing the wheel, you know?

I also know that it’s easy to find almost every anime ever, and I’ve seen plenty. But I prefer live-action for listening practice. I’m trying to improve my phonology, so it helps to see real lips moving. Moreover, I don’t think I’m a snob or anything, but I’d rather learn more about Japanese pop culture than one gets from watching nothing but animation.

I saw the トラック野郎 series for rent on, but you can’t rent there unless you have a Japanese bank account. I’d like to visit Japan someday, but I’ll probably forget to swing by a bank. So I don’t think this is an option.

So far, the only way that I’ve been able to legally find Japanese movies is to look for physical media on or eBay. But searching for the right movie is a nightmare (especially on eBay) and the shipping fees really add up. I’ve thought about doing the VPN trick, but I don’t even know how to find out which movies Netflix streams in other countries.

Is there any way that I can legally stream Japanese movies as someone who’s never been there? Or at least some option that’s cheaper than blind-buying DVDs one by one and hoping they have subtitles and/or are good movies?

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Criterion in the US had a lot of Showa era classics and you can pay for then VPN into that.

Arrow video has a good line in pulpy films on DVD and blu-ray including one of my favourites Dectective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell you bastards, which is a lot of fun and has some great shots of early 60s Tokyo.

In general though it can be frustratingly hard to pay people for Japanese films with English subtitles. And even quite difficult and expensive to get hold of them without.

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Asking around here should get some good recommendations.

Arrow films above also has Love and Peace by Sono Sion which is brilliant and unexpectedly hilarious and heartwarming.

The other thing to look out for is the Japan Film festival which is a global festival of Japanese films. It went online last year due to the pandemic but there are still editions for some geographies. The Canada, Mexico, Brazil edition is about half done and various European countries get it in March.

We watched one or two films a day when it was on in Australia.

Favourites from that were

Tora-San of goto
Lady Maiko
Dance with me
Tsukiji wonderland
Our 30 minute sessions


My library used to subscribe to Kanopy
although it doesn’t anymore. I recall seeing pretty much all of Kurosawa’s films on there and many more. You local library or university might have access.


I’m going to keep coming back as I remember things. Also enjoyed Uzumasa Limelight from Arrow films, great story about an actor who’s job it is to get killed in Jidaigeki.

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I’m reading about Eiji Tsuburaya at the moment, and he was one fascinating guy. Now I’m trying to track down more of his non-Godzilla movies. Sadly, the Japanese originals are much harder to find than the Americanizations and dubs. It’s annoying that I’m pretty much stuck buying physical media. I hate having so much physical stuff.

I don’t know the name for it (and I just Googled to no avail), but it sounds like Japan has a subgenre of fiction that mixes sci-fi and detective stories, something akin to America’s weird west genre. I’m familiar with City Hunter and Shin Megami Tensei and Solid Runner for the SNES—and I know about the aborted plot thread along these lines in SaGa Frontier—but that genre is still something I’d like to learn more about.

The Criterion Collection is having a flash sale! What do you all recommend that’s Japanese? I’m planning to get Seven Samurai, and I already have Lone Wolf and Cub, the Lady Snowblood series, and that big-ass Godzilla box set. What else should I get?

Have You seen Crazed Fruit (狂った果実) from 1956? I just wanted to drop it in as a recommendation, it’s one of my favorites. I think it’s on the criterion channel. From wiki: “The film was controversial upon release because of its depiction of Japanese youth. It would later be known as a foundational work of the Sun Tribe genre.”

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I know this thread is old but I just got a free subscription trial for Mubi so I could watch ‘Labyrinth of Cinema’ but I see they have lots of Japanese movies, mostly artsy movies. Also, for the movies they don’t have, they provide interesting information.


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