Many of the western films arriving Japan do so with several months delay (to allow time for subtitling), although a number of films in the past several years have released in Japan and overseas at the same time. All movies from the U.S. are show in English with Japanese subtitling, and movies from other markets are shown in their specific language with Japanese subtitling. Movies produced in Japan in Japanese do not typically include English subtitling.
Most major districts in Tokyo have movie theaters including Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro, along with Virgin Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills (http://hlo.tohotheater.jp/net/schedule/009/TNPI2000J01.do), and Shinagawa Prince Cinema in Shinagawa. Full movie listings, reviews, and maps to theaters for many of Japan’s cinemas can be found in Metropolis Magazine or on their Web site. Tickets can be purchased at the movie theater on the day of the showing or in advance. Some theater’s such as the Virgin Toho Cinemas sell tickets on their Web site, in Japanese.
On the independent movie front, the Tokyo International Film Festival (http://www.tiff-jp.net/) is held each October and it has become one of the largest film festivals in Asia.
Videos and DVDs can be purchased at HMV (http://www.hmv.co.jp), Tower Records (http://tower.jp/), and other audio/visual stores across the city. While DVD purchase costs are a bit higher to what they would be in other countries, it’s important to remember that Japan is in DVD Region 2. This means that DVDs purchased in Japan should work in DVD players acquired in Europe, but not in DVD players from the U.S., unless you have purchased a region-free DVD player.
Movies can also be rented from a number of retailers, the largest and most prolific of which is Tsutaya (http://www.tsutaya.co.jp), which not only offers DVD rentals for just a couple hundred yen, but they also provide a digital download rental selection as well for about US$7.50 per download.
From traditional theater and opera performances to the more modern art forms, while Tokyo does not have nearly the variety of performing arts that New York or another major city might, there is plenty to see here.
Kabuki is a 17th century form of Japanese dance drama. The Kabukiza Theater (http://www.shochiku.co.jp/play/kabukiza/) in Tokyo’s Ginza district runs shows throughout the year with daytime and evening performances. Tickets range from 2,500 yen up to 17,000 for 1st floor box seats. Many tourists opt to stay for one act only (tickets for single acts can also be purchased approximately 20 to 30 minutes before the performance begins), with each act lasting between one and 1.5 hours. Kabukiza offers non-Japanese speakers with English-language earphones that will not only give you a better sense of the plotline, but will explain some of the history behind the theater itself.
The National Noh Theater in Sendagaya offers a different kind of traditional Japanese performing experience in the form of Japanese musical drama dating to the 14th century. In traditional Noh, the male performers play both the male and female roles, and the performances often last all day. Unlike Kabuki performances, Noh does not come with English translations, although the Japanese-language used is antiquated and many locals admit that they don’t fully understand what’s taking place either. Nonetheless, Noh is an interesting cultural experience despite the language barrier.
For a more Western performing art experience, checkout the all volunteer Tokyo International Players (http://www.tokyoplayers.org/), which has been entertaining Tokyo-ites with regular plays since 1896. Cirque du Soleil and the Blue Man Group also have their own permanent shows in Japan and a variety of other international performers have shows in Japan regularly. Check Metropolis Magazine (http://metropolis.co.jp) for listings.
Tickets for each performance can be purchased at the venue and tickets for many performances can be bought at any Ticket Pia outlet or on their Web site, in Japanese, at http://t.pia.jp/.
There are variety of museums worth visiting in Tokyo, including the Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tel: 03-3822-1111), which is the largest and the oldest museum in the nation. The museum is home to the largest collection of Japanese art in the world from paintings and Buddhist sculptures, to kimonos and antique samurai garb.
For something a little more cosmopolitan, drop by the Mori Art Museum on the 53rd floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. The MAM not only sports incredible exhibitions throughout the year, but also offers one of the most breathtaking views of the city at just about the same viewing level as Tokyo Tower’s top viewing deck.
Metropolis Magazine is likely the best source for keeping track of movies and performing arts offered in Tokyo. Beyond Metropolis, some movies and performances are also covered in the three daily English newspapers (Japan Times, Daily Yomiuri, and International Herald Tribune/Asahi) in feature stories and in the weekly/monthly calendars of what’s coming up in the city.