Japan has fared well throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with low infection and mortality rates, but its vaccination programme is off to a slow start. Travel from abroad is highly restricted, making large-scale international productions a no-go for now.
The country has also wrapped a pilot programme that had offered an incentive for TV and film productions with a minimum spend of $9.1m (208m). The programme was used to help fund projects including Chinese hit Detective Chinatown 3 and Paramount’s G.I. Joe spinoff Snake Eyes. The government has not announced whether it is planning to run another pilot or roll out a permanent incentive, but there are promising signs: a cabinet office report assembled in 2020 concluded the pilot programme generated huge knock-on economic benefits in regions that hosted international shoots.
Japan is gradually throwing off its reputation as an expensive and difficult place to shoot, thanks partly to the work of the Japanese Film Commission (JFC), while around 300 individual prefectures, cities, towns and regions, boast their own film commissions.
Also, when planning, it is worth noting Tokyo is prohibitively hot in July and August. A lot of productions take a hiatus in August because it is simply too humid.
Tokyo-based Japan Film Commission provides access to a network of more than 120 regional and municipal film commissions spanning the country, from Sapporo Film Commission in the mountainous north to Okinawa Film Office in the islands of the south. Tokyo Location Box provides advice on locations and permits on behalf of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Sekine estimates there are about 200 bilingual crew members in Japan. However, it is worth noting the Chinese hit Detective Chinatown 3 and Snake Eyes shot simultaneously in 2020 and there was some strain as both productions tried to take those precious bilinguals.
Japan is an archipelago of thousands of islands, stretching for 3,000 kilometres, although the four largest islands — Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu — make up 97% of its land mass. In addition to around 180 airports, Japan has a vast and efficient road and rail network, including high-speed ‘shinkansen’ bullet trains. From Tokyo, the bullet train takes about two and a half hours to reach Japan’s third-largest city Osaka and five hours to reach Fukuoka in the south.
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