North America’s largest festival of contemporary Japanese cinema presents a diverse slate of 42 films, with over 20 guest filmmakers and talent in person for daily post-screening Q&As, including CUT ABOVE awardee Shinya Tsukamoto.

Premiering 26 features and 16 short films, the summer festival offers a deep dive into one of the world’s most vital film cultures with a diverse selection across its Feature SlateClassics: Rediscoveries and RestorationsDocumentary FocusExperimental Spotlight and Shorts Showcase sections. This year’s lineup features 19 first-time filmmakers and 14 female directors (the most in the festival’s history), including 10 International Premieres, 16 North American Premieres, 4 U.S. Premieres, 4 East Coast Premieres and 6 New York Premieres. In addition, over 20 guest filmmakers and talent from Japan will join the festival to participate in post-screening Q&As and parties.

“This 13th edition of JAPAN CUTS provides testament to the continued vitality of contemporary Japanese cinema with a wide array of films by emerging filmmakers who dare to take formal and thematic risks,”
Kazu Watanabe
Japan Society Deputy Director of Film

The Opening Film on July 19 is the U.S. Premiere of “Dance With Me”, an office comedy-road trip-musical directed by Waterboys helmer Shinobu Yaguchi featuring a breakout performance by star Ayaka Miyoshi. As previously announced, the festival’s Centerpiece Presentation on July 24 is the East Coast Premiere of “Killing”, a subversive samurai drama and meditation on the nature of violence by internationally renowned cult director Shinya Tsukamoto, who will be presented with the 2019 CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film prior to the screening. The director will also introduce a special 35mm presentation of his 1998 black-and-white classic “Bullet Ballet” on July 25. The Closing Film on July 28 is the North American Premiere of director Yuko Hakota’s remarkable debut feature “Blue Hour”, a comedic drama about rural homecoming and reinvention starring festival guests Kaho (Our Little Sister) and Eun-kyung Shim (Miss Granny).

Other festival highlights include: the New York Premiere of “His Lost Name”, a drama about two lost souls who find themselves in a tenuous father-son dynamic and the long-awaited debut feature by Hirokazu Kore-eda’s protégé and assistant director Nanako Hirose; the North American Premiere of 22-year-old director Hiroshi Okuyama’s highly original debut feature “Jesus”, about a young boy’s encounter with a six-inch Christ, winner of the New Directors Award at the 2019 San Sebastian International Film Festival; the International Premiere of “NIGHT CRUISING”, a fascinating documentary about a congenitally blind man’s attempt to create a short film for the first time, with filmmakers and subject in person; the return of festival favorite and 2013 CUT ABOVE Award recipient Toshiaki Toyoda with his latest crowd-pleaser “The Miracle of Crybaby Shottan”, a biopic about a late-blooming shogi master; and the New York Premiere of the recently restored send-up of 1980s pop music “The Legend of the Stardust Brothers” by director Macoto Tezka (son of legendary manga artist Osamu Tezuka).

Organized by Kazu Watanabe, Joel Neville Anderson and Amber Noé.


“Dance With Me”

“Dance With Me” (U.S. Premiere) by Shinobu Yaguchi, 2019
+ Q&A with director Shinobu Yaguchi and star Ayaka Miyoshi and the Opening Night Party

When an entry level Tokyo salarywoman with executive level aspirations wakes up from hypnosis performed by a shady carnival magician (played by Akira Takarada, of Godzilla fame), she suddenly can’t help but break into song and dance whenever she hears music. Desperate to break the spell before an important meeting, she chases the evasive hypnotist across the country, singing and dancing herself into and out of trouble along the way. With his signature light touch and knack for ensemble comedy, director Shinobu Yaguchi (Swing Girls) delivers a winning office comedy-road trip-musical led by Ayaka Miyoshi’s irresistible breakout performance. With Ayaka Miyoshi, Akira Takarada, Yu Yashiro, Takahiro Miura.  


Killing” (East Coast Premiere) by Shinya Tsukamoto, 2018
Preceded by the CUT ABOVE Award ceremony and followed by a Q&A with director Shinya Tsukamoto and the Centerpiece Party

The latest from internationally renowned cult director and 2019 CUT ABOVE Award recipient Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: The Iron Man) is a subversive samurai drama that the filmmaker has called a “scream” in response to the current state of the world. When a traveling swordsman (Tsukamoto) in mid-19th century Japan enlists a young ronin (Sosuke Ikematsu) for an anticipated war in Edo, the battle-untested recruit struggles to reconcile his pacifism with the demand to kill—a struggle that unravels into madness. A stark consideration of violence and honor handled with masterful artistry by one of contemporary Japanese cinema’s most essential auteurs. With Sosuke Ikematsu, Yu Aoi, Ryusei Maeda, Shinya Tsukamoto.   

“Blue Hour”

Blue Hour (North American Premiere) by Yuko Hakota, 2019
+ Q&A with director Yuko Hakota and stars Kaho and Eun-kyung Shim

Just past thirty, Sunada (Kaho) is a consummate Tokyo entertainment media professional (with the toxic love life and battered liver to prove it) directing television commercials that require more personality management skills than artistry. Discouraged by the inequitable pressures of a misogynist industry and her cycle of self-destructive behavior, Sunada road trips to her rural Ibaraki hometown with her free-spirited best friend Kiyoura (Eun-kyung Shim) where she reopens uneasy family relationships and unlocks repressed creative spirits. Director Yuko Hakota manages subtle fluctuations of reality with distinct comedic flair in this remarkable debut, announcing the arrival of a new force in Japanese cinema. With Kaho, Eun-kyung Shim, Denden, Kaho Minami. 

“And Your Bird Can Sing” 

FEATURE SLATEIn Alphabetical Order

And Your Bird Can Sing” (North American Premiere) by Sho Miyake, 2018

Being Natural” (U.S. Premiere) by Tadashi Nagayama, 2018
+ Q&A with director Tadashi Nagayama and stars Yota Kawase and Natsuki Mieda.

“The Chaplain” (North American Premiere) by Dai Sako, 2018

“Demolition Girl” (East Coast Premiere) by Genta Matsugami, 2018
+ Q&A with director Genta Matsugami and star Aya Kitai.

“Erica 38” (North American Premiere) by Yuichi Hibi, 2018

His Lost Name“ (New York Premiere) by Nanako Hirose, 2019
+ Q&A with director Nanako Hirose.

“The Island of Cats“ 

“The Island of Cats“ (U.S. Premiere) by Mitsuaki Iwago, 2018

Jesus“ (North American Premiere) by Hiroshi Okuyama, 2018
Preceded by “Tokyo 21st October“ (East Coast Premiere) by Hiroshi Okuyama, 2018, 12 min. and followed by Q&A with director Hiroshi Okuyama

“Jeux de plage“ (International Premiere) by Aimi Natsuo, 2019

“The Journalist“ (International Premiere) by Michihito Fujii, 2018

“The Kamagasaki Cauldron War” (East Coast Premiere) by Leo Sato, 2018
Preceded by “Takoyaki Story“ (East Coast Premiere) by Sawako Kabuki, 2018, 2 min.

Melancholic“ (North American Premiere) by Seiji Tanaka, 2018

The Miracle of Crybaby Shottan“ (New York Premiere) by Toshiaki Toyoda, 2018
+ Q&A with director Toshiaki Toyoda.

“Orphan’s Blues“ 

“Orphan’s Blues“ (North American Premiere) by Riho Kudo, 2018,

“Randen: The Comings and Goings on a Kyoto Tram“ (North American Premiere) by Takuji Suzuki, 2019

“Red Snow“ (North American Premiere) by Sayaka Kai, 2019

“Samurai Shifters“ (International Premiere) by Akiyo Fujimura, 2018

Ten Years Japan“ (New York Premiere) by Akiyo Fujimara, Chie Hayakawa, Yusuke Kinoshita, Megumi Tsuno and Kei Ishikawa, 2018

Whole“ (International Premiere) by Bilal Kawazoe, 2019
Preceded by Tokyo Kurds“ (U.S. Premiere) by Fumiari Hyuga, 2018, 20 min. Q&A with director Bilal Kawazoe and stars Kai Hoshino Sandy and Usman Kawazoe.

“Bullet Ballet”


Bullet Balletby Shinya Tsukamoto, 1998, 87 min
+ Q&A with director Shinya Tsukamoto. 

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers“ (New York Premiere) by Macoto Tezka, 1985
+ Q&A with director Macoto Tezka.

“I Go Gaga, My Dear” 

DOCUMENTARY FOCUSIn Alphabetical Order

“I Go Gaga, My Dear” (North American Premiere) by Naoko Nobutomo, 2019

“NIGHT CRUISING” (International Premiere) by Makoto Sasaki
+ Q&A with director Makoto Sasaki, producer Miyuki Tanaka and participant Hideyuki Kato.

“A Step Forward” (North American Premiere) by Atsushi Kasezawa, 2018

“A Snowflake into the Night”


“Palm of the Hand Cinema”

“Mountain” (North American Premiere) by Isamu Hirabayashi, 2017, 8 min.

“FLUFFICTION” (North American Premiere) by Yoshiki Imazu, 2018, 7 min.

“A Snowflake into the Night” (North American Premiere) by Yoko Yuki, 2018, 6 min.

“Living in the Story” (New York Premiere) by Lynn Estomin, 2018, 15 min.

“100percentElectrical” (North American Premiere) by Yoko Yuki, 2017, 15 min.

“The Dawn of Ape” (North American Premiere) by Mirai Mizue, 2019, 4 min.

A Japanese Boy Who Draws (U.S. Premiere) by Masanao Kawajiri, 2018, 20 min.

“Cloudy, Occasionally Sunny” 


New Directions in Japanese Cinema 2018

Since 2007, the Visual Industry Promotion Organization (VIPO) has supported the development of Japanese film through its New Directions in Japanese Cinema (ndjc) program, which cultivates talented young filmmakers through workshops and provides them the opportunity to produce 30-minute narrative shorts, shot on 35mm film. Both screenings are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

ndjc, vol. 1

“Cloudy, Occasionally Sunny” (International Premiere) by Motoyuki Itabashi, 2019, 30 min.

“Saaya’s Box” (International Premiere) by Mikiko Okamoto, 2019, 30 min.

 “Last Judgement” (International Premiere) by Shinya Kawakami, 2019, 29 min.

ndjc, vol 2.

“Farewell Family” (International Premiere) by Kohei Sanada, 2019, 30 min.

“Quiet Hide-and-Seek” (International Premiere) by Kan Yamamoto, 2019, 28 min.


The Current State of Film Restoration in Japan
Friday, July 26 at 4:30 pm


Order tickets at or call or visit the Japan Society box office, Mon.-Fri. 11 am to 7 pm and weekends during the festival, 212-715-1258. Tickets go on sale to Japan Society members June 11 and to the public on June 18.

For complete information visit the Official Website

On paper I am an Italian living in London, in reality I was born and bread in a popcorn bucket. I've loved cinema since I was a little child and I’ve always had a passion and interest for Asian (especially Japanese) pop culture, food and traditions, but on the cinema side, my big, first love is Hong Kong Cinema. Then - by a sort of osmosis - I have expanded my love and appreciation to the cinematography of other Asian countries. I like action, heroic bloodshed, wu-xia, Shaw Bros (even if it’s not my specialty), Anime, and also more auteur-ish movies. Anything that is good, really, but I am allergic to rom-com (unless it’s a HK rom-com, possibly featuring Andy Lau in his 20s)"