MFA Boston Hosts Third-Annual Boston Festival of Films from Japan, Made Possible by 10-Year Partnership with UNIQLO

Free Opening Night Celebration Features Screening of Madhouse’s “Okko’s Inn” and Music by DJ Yuzu Kosho

From a heartwarming anime ghost story to a neo-noir thriller, 10 of the best feature films recently produced in Japan are screening at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), from January 30 through February 23, 2020. The third-annual Boston Festival of Films from Japan, made possible through the MFA’s 10-year partnership with global apparel retailer UNIQLO, kicks off with a free screening of Okko’s Inn (2018), the latest feature film from famed anime studio Madhouse. The opening night celebration on January 30 will also feature a set by local DJ Yuzu Kosho (Marié Abe), whose musical selection runs the gamut from retro kitsch to contemporary experimental sounds from Japan; an art-making activity inspired by a koi kite-flying scene in the film; and a showcase of the latest line of UNIQLO T-shirts inspired by works from the MFA’s renowned Japanese art collection. In addition to Okko’s Inn, highlights of the 2020 Boston Festival of Films from Japan include the exciting neo-noir thriller First Love (2019) from prolific auteur Takashi Miike and Shinobu Yaguchi’s award-winning Dance with Me (2019), a musical road-trip adventure filled with dance, humor and heart.

Free tickets for opening night can be reserved online only starting at 10 am on January 30. Tickets for all additional BFFJ films are $10 for MFA members and $13 for nonmembers, available starting January 23.

BFFJ 2020 Films

Okko’s Inn, directed by Kitarō Kōsaka (Japan, 2018, 94 min.)

Okko’s Inn

Okko’s Inn is the latest feature from famed anime studio Madhouse and director Kitarō Kōsaka, a key animator on numerous classic films at the venerable Studio Ghibli. Seamlessly blending immersive, idyllic landscapes with storybook charm, Okko’s Inn delivers a rare ghost story that—despite several floating characters—is firmly grounded in the trials and joys of humanity.

Killing, directed by Shin’ya Tsukamoto (Japan, 2018, 80 min.)

Set during the tumultuous mid-19th century Edo period of Japan, Killing is the story of a master-less samurai or rōnin named Mokunoshin Tsuzuki. As the prevalent peace and tranquility are threatened by impending war, the swordsman feels restlessness creep upon him. The stark consideration of violence and honor is handled with masterful artistry by one of contemporary Japanese cinema’s most essential auteurs.

First Love, directed by Takashi Miike (Japan, 2019, 108 min.)

Hatsukoi (First Love)

Prolific auteur Takashi Miike’s First Love is an exciting neo-noir thriller that takes place over one night in Tokyo. After meeting a troubled young woman named Monica, Leo, a young boxer, finds himself unexpectedly caught up in the world of drug smuggling, police corruption, the yakuza, and a female assassin sent by the Chinese triads.

Erica 38, directed by Yuichi Hibi (Japan, 2019, 104 min.)

Inspired by a true story, Erica 38 stars actor and former pop idol Miyoko Asada as Satoko, an aging con artist who gradually swindles her way to wealth. Starting with small-time pyramid schemes, Satoko is introduced to an experienced grifter who manages her through an investment scam with bigger takes, eventually leading her to reinvent herself in Thailand as a 38-year-old named Erica. Written and directed by the accomplished fine art photographer and filmmaker Yuichi Hibi, Erica 38 is the first film produced by the late Kirin Kiki, who also appears in her final screen role as Satoko’s mother.

Dance with Me, directed by Shinobu Yaguchi (Japan, 2019, 103 min.)

Suzuki Shizuka is an office worker at a large Tokyo firm who, after seeing a hypnotist, finds herself compelled to sing and dance whenever she hears music. Shizuka heads back to the hypnotist for relief, but he is nowhere to be found. A musical road-trip adventure ensues, filled with dance, humor and heart.

Blue Hour, directed by Yuko Hakota (Japan, 2019, 92 min.)

Thirty-year-old Sunada (Kaho) seems to have it all: a successful career as a director for TV commercials, a kind husband and a stylish Tokyo home far from her rural hometown. Behind the scenes, however, she’s having an affair with a married industry senior, is disconnected from her aloof partner, and grows increasingly anxious about the longevity of her career in an industry with little space for women at the top. Memories of a simpler time spent running in muddy fields and napping on tatami mats draw Sunada to her backwater Ibaraki hometown for an overdue visit to her frail grandma. Spurred along by her free-spirited friend Kiyoura (Eun-Kyung Shim; Train to Busan), Sunada’s impulsive homecoming proves just as complicated as her Tokyo life. Between the strained family relationships, the roots of her complex identity slowly come into focus. Blue Hour is a sensitive and artistic debut feature film from director Yuko Hakota, revealing complex nuances of intimacy across relationships and the passing of time.

The Journalist, directed by Michihito Fujii (Japan, 2019, 113 min.)

Erika Yoshioka (Eun-kyung Shim) is a Tokyo reporter for the Toto Newspaper. Although she possesses a passion for her profession and a dedication to exposing truth, her career has been tainted by her father’s destroyed journalism career and subsequent suicide. Meanwhile, a young bureaucrat named Takumi Sugihara (Tori Matsuzaka), with eyes on a path to promotion, finds himself torn between his beliefs of working for the people while simultaneously preventing unfavorable coverage of the current Japanese administration. However, after he unearths a shady government cover-up, Erika and Sugihara connect and, together, reveal a shocking discovery.

The Island of Cats, directed by Mitsuaki Iwagō (Japan, 2019 103 min.)

An adaptation of the popular manga Nekomaki, The Island of Cats is about a small sleepy island with few cars and many well-fed feline residents. Daikichi (Shinosuke Tatekawa) is a 70-year-old retired elementary school teacher living alone with his cat, Nama, after the passing of his beloved wife. Daikichi was born and raised on the island, enjoying an easy-going lifestyle alongside his surly childhood friend, Iwao (Kaoru Kobayashi), an idiosyncratic cast of fellow locals, and, of course, Nama to keep him company. However, after Iwao passes away, Daikichi worries about his own mortality and finds his life beginning to change. Director Iwago Mitsuaki, better known for his wildlife photography, lends a sensitive, naturalistic approach to the portrayal of animal and human bonds, resulting in a heartwarming film about what makes life worth living.

We Are Little Zombies, directed by Makoto Nagahisa (Japan, 2019, 120 min.)

One sunny day, four young strangers—Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi and Takemura—meet by chance at a crematorium. Although they have all recently lost their parents, none of them is able to shed a single tear. They have all lost the ability to process grief. Alone in the world at 13 years old with no future, no dreams and no way to move forward, the four teens dress themselves in scraps from a garbage dump, track down musical instruments and form a band as a release from their emotional paralysis. They call themselves Little Zombies.

Mr. Jimmy, directed by Peter Michael Dowd (USA and Japan, 2019, 113 min.)

In snowbound Tokamachi, Japan, teenage Akio Sakurai took refuge in his room, escaping to another world with a pair of headphones and a pile of Led Zeppelin records. Moving to Tokyo, Akio worked as a “salary man” by day, but by night became “Mr. Jimmy,” adopting the guitar chops and persona of Jimmy Page. For 35 years, Akio recreated vintage Zeppelin concerts note-for-note in small Tokyo clubs, until the real Jimmy Page stopped by one night, and Akio’s life changed forever. Inspired by Page’s ovation, Akio quits his job, leaving behind his family to move to Los Angeles and join a Led Zepplin cover band. Soon cultures clash, and Akio’s idyllic vision of America meets with reality.

UNIQLO became part of the Boston community in the fall of 2015 at historic Faneuil Hall. Five additional store openings followed, including a location on Newbury Street. Since the launch of UNIQLO’s partnership with the MFA in the fall of 2017, educators from the Museum have hosted a range of art-making activities that are free and open to the public at the company’s stores throughout Massachusetts. UNIQLO additionally supports a variety of programs celebrating Japanese art and culture at the MFA, including the Boston Festival of Films from Japan, held annually in February. Since 2018, UNIQLO and the Museum have collaborated on three UT collection series of T-shirts inspired by works from the MFA’s renowned collection of Japanese art, ranging from katagami stencils to ukiyo-e prints.