Japan offers no regulatory or financial incentives to foreign producers. In the past five years, however, a nationwide network of film commissions has sprung up to support the work of filmmakers, foreigners included. The Japan Film Commission Promotion Council, headquartered in Tokyo, serves an as umbrella organization for local film commissions as well as an information source for foreign filmmakers.
Japanese bureaucracy is notoriously difficult to negotiate, for locals and outlanders alike. Film commissions can supply invaluable assistance in getting the correct stamps on location permits, securing the cooperation of the local police and otherwise smoothing bureaucratic waters.
Although all regional commissions are purportedly ready to help foreign-film shoots, the quality of support varies widely. Film commissions in Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe and other major cities have the most experience in dealing with foreign productions, while some smaller communities, such as Himeji, which served as a location for “The Last Samurai,” also have more “Japanesque” locations, from ancient castles and temples to emerald-green rice paddies — though crews will have to figure out their own ways to deal with the telephone poles, concrete tetrapods and other signs of modernity now found in the country’s remotest corners.
- Japan Film Commission Promotion Council: Email: info@ film-com.jp; Contact: Tetsuji Maezawa.
- Tokyo Location Box: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Contact: Yoshihiro Hamadaml.
Clint Eastwood wanted what a Japanese filmmaker would have found impossible to obtain — permission to shoot on Iwo Jima, the volcanic island south of Tokyo that is the setting for Eastwood’s two WWII pics, English-language “Flags of Our Fathers” and its Japanese-language companion piece “Red Sun, Black Sand” (aka “Letters From Iwo Jima”).
The Japan Self-Defense Force, which operates an air base on Iwo Jima, has long kept it off-limits to visitors, save for memorial services once a year. But true to his word, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara promised Eastwood help in shooting there when the director visited Tokyo in April of 2005.
Tokyo Location Box, the Tokyo film office that was Ishihara’s brainchild, liaised with the SDF and helped Eastwood’s company process the necessary paperwork, clearing the way for filming on the island this past April.