People Still Call it Love: The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2019 preview

13th January 2019

People Still Call it Love: The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2019 preview

The Japan Foundation Touring Programme returns this February and March, touring an impressive 19 cities across the UK, spanning Inverness to Exeter.

Now in its 16th year, and arguably the largest programme of its scope in the UK, this year’s theme is that time-honoured subject of cinema – love – looked at freshly in the contemporary moment.  

In the words of the organisers, “As the conventional binaries defining what it means to love continually give way to new understandings of this sweeping emotion, so too does this year’s curation aim to provide insights into a wider context of love in Japanese society [including] LGBT issues.” 

Of Love and Law's Masafumi Yoshida and Kazuyuki Minami, who run Japan’s first openly gay law firm in Osaka


Of Love and Law, directed by Hikaru Toda, centres on Fumi and Kazuare, who establish Japan’s first law firm run by an openly gay couple, working primarily on civil right cases. Toda, who will appear at a Q&A at Curzon Soho on 21 February, returned to Japan for the first time in 22 years to make this revealing documentary about ‘partners in love and law’. 

Two other prize-winning directors will also attend special Q&A screenings as part of the programme. Established director and screenwriter Keisuke Yoshida will be at five screenings across the country of Thicker than Water, a double narrative exploring the complexities of sibling rivalry. Yoshida’s previous film Himeanole was a notable box office hit in Japan in 2016.

Director and screenwriter Yukiko Mishima, whose career spans nearly three decades beginning in TV, will be at three screenings of her latest feature Dear Etranger, which won the Special Grand Prix of the Jury Award at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival. Dear Etranger examines the complicated effects of divorce and remarriage, still often left undiscussed in Japan. Its 40-year-old protagonist juggles a career in decline, the teenage angst of his rebellious stepdaughter and the news his second wife is pregnant.  

While primarily showcasing new films, the Programme represents a rare chance to see the work of Heinosuke Gosho, who directed Japan’s first non-silent film in 1931. His 1953 classic, Where Chimneys Are Seen, will be screened at 10 different cinemas across the UK. A drama representative of Gosho’s work, it focuses on family life in the downtown of post-war Tokyo.

Manga adaptations continue to provide a rich source of subject matter for Japanese cinema; Pumpkin and Mayonnaise, based on a 1998-99 manga, offers a more modern slice of city life: a worker at a hostess bar conceals her job from her struggling musician boyfriend in Masanori Tominaga's adaptation. The precarious balance shifts when he discovers what she's doing to support them and she runs into on an old flame. 

The lone animated film of this year’s selection is the strange and adorable-seeming Penguin Highway. A fourth-grade elementary school student enlists his friends in a mission to investigate the sudden and puzzling influx of penguins in his village, a phenomenon which is somehow connected to the young boy’s crush on a young woman working at a dental clinic.

Asami Usuda in Pumpkin and Mayonnaise


The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2019 – People Still Call It Love: Passion, Affection and Destruction in Japanese Cinema – plays at the ICA in London from 2 February-10 February 2019, and up and down the country from 2 February-28 March.

For full details of screenings and tickets please visit


JETAA UK would like to highlight in particular the 11 screenings taking place at QUAD arts centre in Derby from 8-10 February, including of Thicker than Water with director Keisuke Yoshida on the 9th. QUAD also hosts Satori Screen, a regular film night showcasing East Asian and many Japanese films on the big screen, often featuring films that would not be seen in UK cinemas otherwise.

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