10 Best Sad Japanese Movies

Thursday, January 27 by Sasha Maggio

Ten sad Japanese movies are great to have on hand if you are entertaining women or you just need to show your sensitive side. A lot of the really sad Japanese films can easily be considered depressing by new Western viewers, but they also provide a bit of insight into Japanese culture, psychology and spirit. The following list of ten best sad Japanese movies may prove useful.

  1. "Tokyo Story": "Tokyo Story" is a classic Yasujiro Ozu film telling the story of an elderly couple in post-war Japan who travel to Tokyo to visit their children. Their widowed daughter-in-law welcomes them, but has little to offer as she struggles on her own. Their biological children receive them coldly, almost irritated at their presence. A lesson even non-Japanese can learn from is clear by the end of this sad film.
  2. "Tokyo Twilight": Another Ozu classic focusing on post-war Japanese families, this movie tells of two sisters who learn deep secrets while at home with their elderly dad.
  3. "Ugetsu": An old film set during the Feudal Period of Japanese history, Ugetsu tells of human nature, particularly the darker sides of greed and ambition. Two brothers leave their wives for dreams beyond simple farming life. Without the presence of their husbands, the women suffer alone, tragically. This is an emotional film not to miss!
  4. "The Lower Depths": A classic Akira Kurosawa film based on a very depressing play by Maxim Gorky, "The Lower Depths" is tragic yet comical, focusing on a small group of people living in a rundown tenement. Also known as "Donzoko," in Japanese.
  5. "Nobody Knows": This is a terribly sad tale of children abandoned by their mother and left to fend for themselves. With little money, and no adult supervision, 12-year-old Akira does what he can for his younger siblings, but things fall apart as he slips from responsibility into being the child he should be. This film was based on a true story.
  6. "Grave of the Fireflies": This is a brilliant animated film focusing on the struggles of two children trying to survive after WWII in Japan. The shock of the atomic bomb attacks and the devastation of a country just surrendered leave these children in a shadow barely visible for most around them.
  7. "Kabei – Our Mother": Left alone in post-war Japan when her husband is imprisoned under the accusation that he’s a Communist, Kayo Nogami must raise her two daughters alone, while faced with cruel acts and gossip from all sides. This is a touching and sad family tale based on writings of Teruyo Nogami who worked on several Akira Kurosawa films.
  8. "Sisters of Gion": This is a story of two geishas who choose different paths in their professions, though both lead to ruin. One seeks to raise her status through increasing her clientele while the other remains loyal to one, now bankrupt, patron. An old film from 1936, this is a classic and sad tale.
  9. "A Litre of Tears": Also a book (memoir) and Japanese Drama TV series titled "1 Litre of Tears," the film tells the tale of a ninth grade girl, Aya, who learns she has a fatal illness. With the help of her mother and doctor, Aya records her story in a diary and lives her life to the fullest. This is a sad but emotionally rewarding story and is definitely worth the tears.
  10. "A Story of Floating Weeds": A classic from Yasujiro Ozu, "Floating Weeds" is a remake of an older film and an update to a classic story. "Floating Weeds" tells of a Japanese actor who returns home and finds an old flame still cares for him, which doesn’t go over well with his current flame. Both the 1934 and the 1959 versions are excellent, emotionally moving film.