Hi everyone and welcome to part two of my J-Drama National Tour Series! Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments and feedback!
In part one, we started our journey of exploring all 47 prefectures of Japan through various movies and dramas. This time, we'll look at six more prefectures: Iwate, Aomori, Osaka, Gifu, Okinawa, and Nagasaki.
Let's get started!
Iwate is a large prefecture located on the main island of Honshu and contain's the island's easternmost point. Iwate is known for its inland mountains and scenic pacific coast, the latter of which was badly damaged by the March 2011 tsunami.
Iwate Recommendation: Little Forest: Summer & Autumn
Quick Summary: A young woman named Ichiko returns to her rural mountain village of Komori after being unable to find her place in the city. She is self-sufficient and gains energy living among nature and eating foods she makes from seasonal ingredients.
When I started this series, so many people said: “you have to watch Little Forest!” I planned to watch only one part, but ended up watching both movies in two days, which is a testament to how lovely and watchable these films are! Little Forest is separated by the four seasons and is probably best characterized as an art film series in that it focuses on the landscape and the farm to table cuisine in a slow, sweeping style. It’s a complete visual treat. Filming took place in Oshu, Iwate in the real-life town of Koromogawaku Shimoomori.
Aomori is the northernmost prefecture on Japan's main island Honshu. Relatively unexplored, Aomori is famous for its beautiful natural landscapes, popular festivals and World Heritage sites.
Aomori Recommendation: Wasao
Quick Summary: A big furry white Akita arrives in the town of Ajigasawa, Aomori. The dog has travelled all the way from Tokyo to find its owner. The Akita dog then runs into Setsuko Kikuya, the owner of a squid restaurant. The dog doesn't seem to follow anybody and has a habit of appearing and disappearing. Through several cases likes the Nebutsu Festival & the Ajigasawa Triathlon Event, the relationship between Tetsuko and the Akita dog becomes closer.
As far as famous Japanese dogs go, most people probably know Hachiko, the dog who faithfully waited for its master for nine years after his death. Hachiko even has a Hollywood movie based on its story. But do you know Wasao? Wasao was a stray Akita dog whose story went viral online. Since then, it has held the post of tourism train stationmaster in Ajigasawa since 2011. It was appointed a special ambassador for World Heritage-related activities the same year and today it continues to do all of these jobs and watch over the squid restaurant. And if it wasn't busy enough already, Wasao even starred in this movie. Everyone loves a heartwarming dog movie!
*Bonus Aomori Recommendations*
Movies - Miracle Apples (a true story about an apple orchard!)
Osaka Prefecture is Japan's second smallest prefecture. Its capital, Osaka, is the second-largest city in Japan. It is known as a cultural, culinary, and economic hub. It is located in the Kansai region, a region referred to as the cultural heart of the country.
Osaka Recommendation: Osaka Loop Line Part 1
Quick Summary: The Osaka Loop Line train runs through the city of Osaka where ordinary people live their lives. This 10-part omnibus drama follows the great love stories – romance, love of family, friendship, love of hometown – linked to 10 individual train stations on the Osaka Loop Line.
Since this is an omnibus drama, think of it as 10 mini-dramas in one. Initially a special project by Kansai TV, the first series was such a hit that they repeated the formula four more times. Series one features Tennoji, Tamatsukuri, Taisho, Osaka, Sin-Imamiya, Fukushima, Osaka Castle, Nishi-Kujo, Noda and Kyobashi stations. Watch for an intimate look at different neighbourhoods around Osaka!
*Bonus Osaka Recommendations*
Movies - Osaka Hamlet
Gifu is a large, landlocked prefecture in the centre of Honshu. The northern stretch of the Japan Alps runs through Gifu, making it a prime destination for hiking, skiing, and hot springs.
Gifu Recommendation: Gattan Gattan Soredemo Go
Quick Summary: Upon the death of her mother, Kana decides to return to her hometown of Okuhida, Gifu. There she meets her former classmate, Shinichi, who is unhappy to still be living in Okuhida and helping out at his parents’ onsen. They both run into Kotani Yoshio, who loves Okuhida very much. At the base of the Northern Alps, their encounter with Okuhida's treasures changes both Kana's and Shinichi's take on life.
Okuhida is a real place in the Northern Japan Alps and in nearby Hida Kamioka. Visitors can experience Rail Mountain Bikes “Gattan Go!!," which allows visitors to ride on electrically assisted bicycles on the tracks of the abandoned Kamioka Railway just like the characters do in the drama. I'm kind of sad I didn't know about it when I went to Gifu last year! Also, Machida Keita is a wannabe cowboy here, boots and hats and all! You didn't know you wanted to see it until now!
Okinawa is Japan's southernmost prefecture, made up of 160 islands (48 of which are inhabited). Known for its coral reefs and warm waters, the island chain stretches for 1,000 km between Taiwan and mainland Japan.
Okinawa Recommendation: Letters From Nirai Kanai
Quick Summary: Fuki lives with her grandfather on Taketomi Island. In her childhood, her mother, Masami, left to live in Tokyo. Although Masami has not come back, Fuki receives birthday cards from her every year. On Fuki's fourteenth birthday, Masami promises to confess everything when Fuki turns 20. After her high school graduation, Fuki moves to Tokyo to work as a camera assistant and look for her mother.
A bit of an older movie but a real gem for fans of Aoi Yu, this coming-of-age melodrama was filmed on location at Taketomi island, a small island with a population of about 300 people. Taketomi is known for its traditional Okinawan stye houses, stone walls, and sandy streets, making it popular with tourists. Local landmarks such as Kondoi Beach (below) are featured as well.
Nagasaki Recommendation: Have a Song on Your Lips
Quick Summary: Yuri was once known as a genius pianist. When her colleague goes on maternity leave, she asks Yuri to take over as the choral advisor at a middle school on one of the Goto Islands. Yuri’s first assignment for her new students is to write a letter to themselves 15 years in the future. The letters they write eventually reveal their secret worries and concerns about reaching adulthood.
When most people think of Nagasaki, they think of Nagasaki City, where the second atomic bomb was dropped during the Second World War. However, Nagasaki prefecture also includes hundreds of smaller islands. The location of this movie is the Goto Islands, an archipelago of approximately 140 islands. Filming took place on Fukue Island (the largest of the Goto islands), Nakadori Island and Wakamatsu Island. This movie falls into the "uplifting school movies" category that Japan loves so much. If that's your thing, check this one out!
*Bonus Nagasaki Recommendations*
Dramas - Dakara Koya