5 Japanese Movies And Dramas To Watch Over The Holidays

Something for Christmas, Something for New Year's

By Jessica Esa
December 17, 2018
Art & Culture, Lifestyle

Cheers to a holiday well spent!

No travel plans for Christmas? No worries! Here’s your unmissable list of Japanese films and dramas to keep you going over the festive and New Year period! This list has something for everyone from binge-worthy uplifting dramas to emotionally-charged films.


1. Tokyo Girl


When we arrive at year’s end, social media sites like Facebook urge us to look back on the year we’ve just lived, and the creeping-in of New Year’s Eve gets us pondering on the next stage in our lives. This transition from year to year, life to life, is presented perfectly here in Tokyo Girl.

On the surface, Tokyo Girl looks like another typical Japanese drama. The story trails a young girl – played by Asami Mizukawa – from a small town who feels there are no opportunities for her in her local area, and that she’d have been much better placed in Paris, NYC or Tokyo. Somewhere far from her provincial life.

When she heads to her first stop, Harajuku, however, she finds out that her good looks, praised in her hometown, aren’t so special in Tokyo. The series follows her life from age 23-40 as she maneuvers her career and love life, and moves from district to district in Tokyo, each move providing a clever commentary on Tokyo’s social ladder and the changes we face as we journey through life.

Watch on: Amazon Prime
Language: Japanese with English subtitles 


2. It All Began When I Met You 


If you’re looking for a film to fill that Love Actually hole in your life, this is it. Full of warm Christmas feels – although decidedly tragic at times – It All Began When I Met You focuses on six separate stories centering around Tokyo Station just before Christmas. Many of the ten characters are dealing with the typical relationship issues you might expect from a rom-com, from long-distance relationship drama, to crushes, and unrequited love. But there are some that really tug on the heartstrings, like Tokito who can’t bring himself to tell his son that he doesn’t have long to live, and Ichikawa who works in an orphanage. There’s the added advantage of seeing a Christmassy Tokyo looking beautiful as ever and you don’t even have to head out into the cold to enjoy it.

Watch on: Netflix
Japanese title: すべては君に逢えたから (
Subete wa Kimi ni Aeta kara)
Language: Japanese 


3. Aggretsuko


New Year is the time of fresh starts and Aggretsuko urges the audience to ask the question: Am I happy with my job and with my career? If the answer is no, then it’s never too late to make a positive change. This is what makes Aggretsuko the perfect dark satire to watch over the Christmas period, as it might just provide the push many of us need to make that change come 2019. This series provides some genius social commentary on office culture in Japan, the everyday pressures that women are subjected to in the workplace, and often out-and-out misogyny.

The red panda Aggretsuko finds her release by heading to the karaoke rooms alone and venting about her colleagues, her boss, and her life through some excellently animated death metal screams. It’s very relatable, occasionally sad, but always hilarious. This show is way deeper than its cutesy façade lets on. Aggretsuko takes time to make her fresh starts, and sometimes while those fresh starts aren’t the ones she actually wants, she keeps trying — just like all of us.

Watch on: Netflix
Japanese title: アグレッシブ烈子 (Aguresshibu Retsuko)
Language: Japanese, English, Portuguese, Cantonese with subtitles in English, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and simplified Chinese 


4. Flavors of Youth


Christmas is a time for family and family connections are never presented more strongly than in this beautiful animated film, a collaboration between CoMix Wave Films (Your Name) and Chinese studio Haoliners. This collection of heart-warming and occasionally heart-breaking stories are all based in China and are complemented by a moving and varied soundtrack.

The first story, “Rice Noodles,” centers around a man in Beijing reflecting on his life in the countryside with his grandma but guilty that he hasn’t been able to see her as much as he’d like. Something many expats can relate to, particularly at this time of year. Similarly, the “Little Fashion Show” features two sisters (one of them a famous fashion model and the other a designer) who grow apart over the years as they miss all the special occasions that they want to spend together but don’t. This collection will stay with you for a very long time, and will leave you wanting to call your nearest and dearest this holiday.

Watch on: Netflix
Japanese title: 詩季織々 (Shiki oriori)
Language: English, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese with subtitles in English, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and simplified Chinese 


5. Tokyo Godfathers


A classic Japanese film and one that’s perfect for Christmas despite its harrowing themes. Christmas is a time to think of others and this offer from Satoshi Kon pays homage to those on the streets of Tokyo at Christmas. We meet an unlikely trio of homeless people who have formed a makeshift family. Former drag queen Hana, the teenage runaway Miyuki, and alcoholic Gin rummage through the bins on Christmas Eve and find, to their surprise, a newborn baby. They set out together in the hopes of reuniting the baby with its parents. Along the way, we find out about their pasts, loved ones, and watch them form emotional reconnections. Brimming with social criticism, Tokyo is presented at its most unforgiving here as any city can be for those who struggle to find a place in.

Watch on: Amazon Prime
Japanese title: 東京ゴッドファーザーズ (Tokyo goddofazaasu)
Language: Japanese with English subtitles

Happy Holidays whatever you choose to watch this year!