You may be surprised to hear that many scenes from famous movies were filmed right here in Kyoto! Would you like to discover the filming locations with us after you enjoy watching your favorite movies? Make your trip more interesting by walking the old streets and visiting various historical spots in Kyoto whose stars and stories inspired you to be here.
Trace the path of a Yin-Yang master from the hit Japanese movie Onmyōji (2001), which tells the fantasized life story of Abe no Seimei, a sorcerer who saved Kyoto a thousand years ago. Examine the international award nominated movie Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) starring renowned Asian talent Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li, and Ken Watanabe. Head back to the Meiji Restoration in 19th century Japan with the Hollywood actor Tom Cruise in the role of a former US soldier alongside many Japanese stars in The Last Samurai (2003). Changing times make for heroes like you will find in Rurouni Kenshin (2012), the story of a masterless samurai adapted from the famous manga.
Ōoku: The Lady Shogun and Her Men (2010) is a Japanese manga that deals with issues of love, gender politics, and power struggles in the inner palace, adapted for cinema and TV many times. Last but not least, Lost in Translation (2012) is an American film directed by Sofia Coppola. Starring the popular actors Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, it deals with feelings of alienation in a foreign country, and the city of Kyoto makes a guest appearance.
Kyoto is the perfect filming location for period dramas and romantic stories, attracting many internationally acclaimed film directors from around the world to film here. Let’s discover another travel story through your favorite movies in Kyoto!
● Onmyōji: The Yin Yang Master (Part 1) ● The Last Samurai ● Lost in Translation
● Ōoku: The Lady Shogun and Her Men ● Memoirs of a Geisha ● Rurouni Kenshin (Part 1)
Onmyōji: The Yin Yang Master (Part 1)
- Covered Walkways at Daikaku-ji Temple
- Hōjō and Sanmon Gate at Nanzen-ji Temple
- Shinden Hall Veranda at Ninna-ji Temple
- Taihei-kaku Bridge at Heian Shrine
- Nagare-bashi Bridge in Yawata City
The movie begins with a Heian period palace scene shot at the covered walkways of Daikaku-ji temple and the Hōjō hall at Nanzen-ji temple. The story uses these temples to represent the Kyoto Imperial Palace where Abe no Seimei (Nomura Mansai) worked with his colleagues. Walking around the calm courtyard at sunset is a memorable moment that not easily forgotten. Prince Hiromasa (Hideaki Ito) is a famous court musician, and the Sanmon gate at Nanzen-ji Temple is in the background when he plays his song. This scene reminds us of Kyoto city's now vanished Suzaku Gate and Rashōmon Gate in the old days.
Seimei performs his magic several times in the movie, like when he cuts a snake from a gourd. This scene was shot at the Shinden hall in Ninna-ji Temple. The long bridge over which Seimei and Prince Hiromasa cross is the Nagare-bashi bridge, or "floating wooden bridge" on Kizu River in Yawata City, previously seen in many period movies and dramas. It’s considered the longest wooden bridge in Japan. Flashback to an even earlier era in the movie to when a court lady dated the prince. This scene was filmed at the Taihei-kaku bridge in the Shin’en garden of Heian Shrine.
The movie portrays the mysterious stories of Kyoto through the life of Abe no Seimei, showing the political conflicts of those days intertwined with each other in one fantastical story. Come discover the major filming sites in Kyoto where the magic stories were revealed!
Onmyōji: The Yin Yang Master, Part 1 （陰陽師 I）, Director: Yōjirō Takita (2001)
Lost in Translation
- Shinkansen Platform inside Kyoto Station
- Sanmon Gate at Nanzen-ji Temple
- Heian Shrine Courtyard and Shin'en Garden
Lost in Translation is an American movie filmed mainly in Tokyo, but some scenes were shot in Kyoto. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) leaves the hotel where she is staying with her husband, a celebrity photographer on a job in Tokyo. She is unsure about her future and calmly visits Kyoto alone by shinkansen bullet train.
She arrives in Kyoto Station and then glimpses a young couple in a traditional wedding parade at the Sanmon main gate at Nanzen-ji temple. There’s a brief location shot of Heian Shrine in eastern Kyoto, a sentimental scene where Charlotte reads her fortune and ties her omikuji (fortune telling paper slip) before returning to Tokyo.
Lost in Translation, Director: Sofia Coppola (2003)
Memoirs of a Geisha
- The Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Sanmon Gate and Kannon-do Hall at Yoshimine-dera Temple
- Chikurin Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama
- Taihei-kaku Bridge and the Shin'en Garden at Heian Shrine
Memoirs of a Geisha is an American film based on the novel by Arthur Golden and directed by Rob Marshall. The movie tells the story of a girl named Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo, Zhang Ziyi) who was sold to a geisha house in the Gion area.
One day, she meets The Chairman (Ken Watanabe). He gives her a Japanese shaved ice dessert and a handkerchief with some coins inside. She receives them and runs happily through a tunnel of shrine gates, filmed at Fushimi Inari Shrine, and prays to become a geisha at the Kannon-dō hall in Yoshimine-dera temple.
Chiyo is renamed "Sayuri" after she becomes a geisha and she becomes one of the most famous stars in the Gion area. Focusing on her stunning beauty and successful career, Sayuri in geisha dress goes along with The Chairman by car, passing though the romantic bamboo grove in Arashiyama. After the war ends, she meets The Chairman again and confesses her love at the Shin'en Garden in Heian Shrine.
Memoirs of a Geisha, Director: Rob Marshall (2005)
The Last Samurai
The Last Samurai is a Hollywood retelling of the fate of Japanese samurai in the early Meiji period. Former US Army Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) comes to train the newly formed Imperial Japanese Army. When he introduces himself to the Emperor of Japan in Tokyo, the famous exterior shot of the Tokyo Imperial Palace wasn’t actually filmed in Tokyo!
The steps to the Sanmon Gate at Chion-in Temple in Kyoto are used as part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. This scene allows you to imagine how the seat of the Chrysanthemum Throne appeared in the 19th century. This temple is located near Shōren-in temple and is a nice place to visit when you are exploring around the Higashiyama area.
The Last Samurai, Director: Edward Zwick (2003)
Ōoku: The Lady Shogun and Her Men
- Zakka-in, Tokai-an, and Daitsu-in sub-temples in Myōshin-ji Temple
- Stone steps at Nison-in Temple
- Shinden Hall at Daikaku-ji Temple
- Passageway in Ninna-ji Temple
- Shoin Hall at Nishi Hongan-ji Temple
- Kachoden Hall in Shōren-in Temple
- Passageway at Seiryō-ji Temple
- Tōnan-sumi Turret, Ninomaru Palace, Honmaru Palace at Nijō Castle
- Stone foundation of Fushimi Momoyama Castle
- Shinden Hall in Shōgo-in Temple
Ōoku: The Lady Shogun and Her Men is a Japanese movie based on the first volume of the manga series by Fumi Yoshinaga. In the alternate history, a mysterious epidemic that targets men ravages Japan in the early 18th century and decimates the male population of the country, causing the gender roles of society to change. Women become dominant in previously male roles, and men become valued for their ability to make babies.
The story centers on a young man named Mizuno Yūnoshin (Kazunari Ninomiya) who realizes he cannot marry the woman he loves, Onobu (Maki Horikita), or provide for his family with his low social status. To do this he enters the the inner chambers (ōoku) of the Tokugawa shogun, but life amongst the men of the chamber from which the shogun is to select consorts is full of more political ambition and intrigue than he bargained for, and everything is turned upside down when the new shogun Yoshimune Tokugawa (Kou Shibasaki) takes power.
Scenes of Mizuno's impoverished samurai household were shot at several sub-temples of Myōshin-ji. Locations include the gate at Zakka-in, the side alley at Tokai-an, and the rear of Daitsu-in. When Mizuno meets with Onobu the day before he enters the inner chambers he carries her on his back and walks up the stone steps of Nison-in temple. After Mizuno enters the inner chambers several shots depict passageways between the buildings, such as when he is guided by his superior Matsushima (Hiroshi Tamaki) and when he meets Kakizoe (Aoi Nakamura), a young man who later serves as his tailor. These scenes were shot in various locations, such as the passageways of Ninna-ji temple and Seiryō-ji temple, as well as the Shoin (Study Hall) of Nishi Hongan-ji temple. The room where Mizuno plays a game of incense scent matching is actually the Kachoden Hall of Shōren-in temple from which you can view their beautiful garden.
Many men in colorful regalia hurry to prepare for the shogun's first visit to the ōoku, which is set at the Shinden Hall in Daikaku-ji temple. For buildings around Edo Castle they also filmed at the southeastern Tōnan-sumi Turret, Ninomaru palace, and Honmaru palace of Nijō Castle. The execution that serves as the film's surprising climax was filmed at Fushimi Momoyama Castle, and the final scene, in which fifty men in formal black regalia learn their fate from the female shogun, ends the movie with the Shinden Hall of Shōgo-in Temple.
Ōoku: The Lady Shogun and Her Men （男女逆転 『大奥』）, Director: Fuminori Kaneko (2010)
Rurouni Kenshin (Part 1)
- Earthen Wall and Bamboo Grove at Zuishin-in Temple
- Pagoda Courtyard at Ninna-ji Temple
- Central Hall at Ryukoku University (Omiya Campus)
Rurouni Kenshin is a Japanese movie adapted from the hit manga series. The story focuses on a Rōnin ("wandering samurai") named Kenshin with historical events in the early Meiji period as its background.
After the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, Kenshin (Takeru Satoh) left the war and abandoned his sword. Ten years later, the murder of an undercover cop is investigated and the police believe that Kenshin is the killer. The scene of the crime was filmed near the earthen wall at Zuishin-in temple. The place where Kenshin first meets Kaoru (Emi Takei) in Tokyo is the located between the Five-Storied Pagoda and a teashop at Ninna-ji temple.
Kaoru finds Kenshin coming from a bamboo grove after a flashback of the murder, and this bamboo grove is also at Zuishin-in temple. The Central Hall at Ryukoku University (Omiya Campus) was also used as a set for the Army Ministry where the Field Marshal Yamagata Aritomo gives his speech. This building was completed in 1879 and it was later registered as a National Important Cultural Property. Please go inside and up to the second floor (free of charge) after visiting the nearby Nishi Hongan-ji temple.
Rurouni Kenshin, Part 1 （るろうに剣心 I）, Director: Keishi Ōtomo (2012)
※ The above article was last updated in October, 2017, and the information is subject to change. We recommend you check with official websites before visiting.