The Best Documentaries About Japan 

Ranker Film
Updated October 23, 2019 442 votes 211 voters 70.9k views 32 items

List Rules Documentaries about Japan and all things Japanese.

This list of the best documentaries about Japan has been ranked by the community and includes popular and recognizable titles, along with independent films. What is the best documentary about Japan? Vote up your favorites below.

As you vote, the order of the list will be changed to see which documentary about Japan comes out on top. If you do not see your favorite on the list, add it to the titles below so that others can vote on it, as well. This list currently includes documentary movies about Japanese history, culture, art, and food. So if you're curious about Japan, these docs are a great place to start, some of these documentaries are even available on Netflix.

Documentaries are nonfiction and made with the intention of displaying reality for historical purposes and to educate viewers. Most documentaries are driven by independent filmmakers and those passionate about the topics they are portraying.

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Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Documentaries About Japan
David Gelb

Released: 2011

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is a a 2011 documentary film directed by David Gelb. "An appetizing documentary in every sense, Jiro Dreams of Sushi follows 85-year-old master sushi chef Jiro Ono, ...more

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Jiro Ono From 'Jiro Dreams Of Sushi' Is Still Serving Some Of The Best Sushi In The World #51 of 358 The Greatest Documentaries of All Time #22 of 61 The Best Documentaries on Hulu

The Tsunami and the Cher... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Documentaries About Japan
Lucy Walker

Released: 2011

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom is a 2011 documentary film directed by Lucy Walker. The film was nominated for the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary.
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Suicide Forest in Japan

Released: 2012

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The Great Happiness Space Jake Clennell

Released: 2006

The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief is a 2006 documentary film by Jake Clennell, describing a host club in Osaka. The male hosts and their female customers are interviewed, ...more
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The Sword Maker

Released: 2011

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Kon Ichikawa

Released: 1965

Tokyo Olympiad is a 1965 documentary film directed by Kon Ichikawa which documents the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Like Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia, which documented the 1936 Summer Olympics ...more
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ANPO: Art X War Linda Hoaglund

Actors: Setsu Asakura, Hiroshi Nakamura, Miyako Ishiuchi, Tadanori Yokoo, Makoto Aida

Released: 2010

ANPO: Art X War is a 2010 documentary film directed by Linda Hoaglund. The film traces the public outrage that followed in the wake of the passing of Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security ...more
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Kazuo Hara

Actors: Kenzo Okuzaki

Released: 1987

The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On is a 1987 Japanese war documentary film by director Kazuo Hara. The documentary centers on 62-year-old veteran of Japan's Second World War campaign in New ...more
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Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story Chris Sheridan, Patty Kim

Actors: Teruaki Masumoto

Released: 2006

Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story is an American documentary about Megumi Yokota, a Japanese student who was abducted by a North Korean agent in 1977. The film made its world premiere at the ...more
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Stuart J. Levy

Released: 2012

Pray for Japan is a 2012 Japanese documentary film about the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Stu Levy produced and directed the film. All of the crew, including Levy, volunteered to make it, ...more
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Mitsuo Yanagimachi

Released: 1976

God Speed You! Black Emperor is a 1976 Japanese black-and-white 16 mm documentary film, 90 minutes long, by director Mitsuo Yanagimachi, which follows the exploits of young Japanese ...more
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Marvin Scott Jarrett

Released: 2006

Fast Future Generation is a rockumentary DVD featuring Good Charlotte on tour in Japan. It was made and produced by Marvin Scott Jarrett in the fall of 2005. The DVD was released on December 26, ...more
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Masayoshi Nemoto

Actors: Harry J. Quini

Released: 1979

Budo: The Art of Killing is an award winning 1978 Japanese martial arts documentary created and produced by Hisao Masuda and financed by The Arthur Davis Company. Considered a cult classic, the ...more
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Mami Sunada

Actors: Han Ji-min

Released: 2011

Death of a Japanese Salesman is a 2011 documentary written and directed by Mami Sunada about the illness and death of her father, Tomoaki Sunada. The film was a box office success in Japan, and ...more
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Dear Pyongyang Yang Yonghi

Released: 2006

Dear Pyongyang is a documentary film by Zainichi Korean director Yang Yong-hi about her own family. Shot in Osaka Japan and Pyongyang, North Korea, the film features Korean and Japanese dialogue ...more
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Minamata: The Victims and Their World Noriaki Tsuchimoto

Released: 1971

Minamata: The Victims and Their World is a Japanese documentary made in 1971 by Noriaki Tsuchimoto. It is the first in a series of independent documentaries that Tsuchimoto made of the mercury ...more
Minka is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Documentaries About Japan
Minka Davina Pardo

Released: 2010

Minka is a 2010 documentary film directed by Davina Pardo.
Torn Memories of Nanjing... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Documentaries About Japan
Torn Memories of Nanjing Tamaki Matsuoka

Released: 2010

Torn Memories of Nanjing is a 2009 Japanese documentary film directed by Japanese activist Tamaki Matsuoka.
Wine Road of the Samurai... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentaries About Japan
Wine Road of the Samurai Eiji Sone

Actors: Shin Koyamada

Released: 2006

Wine Road of The Samurai is a feature film based on a true story about a delegation of 34 samurai to Europe in 1863. It was directed by Sone Eiji and starred Shin Koyamada as himself and the ...more
A Man Vanishes is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Documentaries About Japan
Shohei Imamura

Released: 1967

A Man Vanishes is a 1967 Japanese film by director Shohei Imamura.
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A Trace of the Sun

Released: 2012

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Yasukuni Li Ying

Released: 2007

Yasukuni is a 2007 film made by Japan-resident Chinese director Li Ying. It took ten years to complete and had been screened at the Pusan International Film Festival 2007, World Cinema ...more
Same Old Story: A Trip B... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentaries About Japan
Kunio Yato

Released: 2008

Same Old Story: A Trip Back 20 Years is a 2008 Japanese documentary film about a Japanese musician, Cheep Hiroishi who takes a look back at his life over the last 20 years. Traveling back to the ...more
Children Full of Life is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Documentaries About Japan
Children Full of Life Noboru Kaetsu

Released: 2003

Children Full of Life is a 2003 Japanese documentary film directed by Noboru Kaetsu.
A Normal Life: Chronicle... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Documentaries About Japan
A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler

Released: 2009