Japanese New Wave

Films and Movie Memorabilia

The Japanese New Wave, is the term for a group of Japanese filmmakers emerging from the late 1950s through the early 1970s. The term also refers to their work, in a loose creative movement within Japanese film, from a similar time period. Unlike the French nouvelle vague, the Japanese movement initially began within the studios, albeit with young, and previously little-known filmmakers. The term was first coined within the studios (and in the media) as a Japanese version of the French New Wave movement. Nonetheless, the Japanese New Wave filmmakers drew from some of the same international influences that inspired their French colleagues, and as the term stuck, the seemingly artificial movement surrounding it began to rapidly develop into a critical and increasingly independent film movement. One distinction in the French movement was its roots with the journal Cahiers du cinéma; as many future filmmakers began their careers as critics and cinema deconstructionists, it would become apparent that new kinds of film theory (most prominently, auteur theory) were emerging with them. The Japanese movement developed at roughly the same time (with several important 1950s precursor films), but arose as more of a movement devoted to questioning, analyzing, critiquing and (at times) upsetting social conventions. Directors initially associated with the Japanese New Wave included Hiroshi Teshigahara, Nagisa Oshima, Yoshishige Yoshida, Shohei Imamura, Ko Nakahira and Seijun Suzuki. Working separately, they explored a number of ideas previously not often seen in more traditional Japanese cinema: social outcasts as protagonists (including criminals or delinquents), uninhibited sexuality, changing roles of women in Japanese society, the internal struggles of identity, racism and the position of ethnic minorities in Japan, primal instincts of human nature vs civilized behavior, and the critique of (or deconstruction of) social structures and assumptions.

Japanese New Wave
Featured Japanese New Wave Films
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Articles and Essays on Japanese New Wave

Harakiri (1962)

Samurai films similar to westerns have the ability to tell the most complex and challenging stories on the ethical and moral questions of a character in the form of tradition and human tragedy. Masaki Kobayashi’s masterpiece Harakiri is one of the most powerful and also the most complex because its story not only questions the morality of the individuals within the […]


Woman in the Dunes, The (1964)

Hiroshi Teshigahara’s The Woman in the Dunes which won the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival, is one of the most haunting and beautifully shot parables on the themes of human nature, identity and civilized life. The story is about a man named Junpei Niki who is a teacher and entomologist off on an expedition to collect several […]