The movie going experience in Japan is accessible, familiar, and well, actually, rather expensive. But hey! Everyone loves going to the flicks, don’t they?
Here’s the good news; Western style movie theaters abound in Japan, replete with all the expected trimmings. Pretty much all of the heavy-hitting Hollywood releases will get some screen time in Japan, and yes, they’ll be in English (or their native language). The bad news, apart from the expense (more to come on that later), is that many of those annoyances familiar to you at home; doddering late arrivals, noisy snack munchers, the impossibly tall guy who sits right in front of you, can all be found in Japan, too.
In fact, the homesick among you can easily take comfort in the familiar magic of the movie going experience; the giddy excitement of catching the next superhero installment, coupled with that clammy-palmed anxiety that the inconsiderate moron sitting next to you, will ruin the experience.
Everywhere! Local news rags and English language publications publish movie listings.
The king of movie theater chains is Toho Cinemas, the people that brought you Godzilla. Other nationwide chains include …
Is It Really 1,800 Yen For A Ticket?!
Well, yes. For an adult. But before you run to your nearest DVD rental, be aware that individual movie theaters offer plenty of discounts.
There isn’t a movie theater in the land that doesn’t offer a Ladies Day (usually a Wednesday or Thursday / Tickets from 1,000 yen). Other discounts can include …
The first day of the month: Tickets from 1,000 yen
Married Couples: Where one person is over 50. Weird, but ... 2,000 yen for two.
Driver’s Discount: If you’re driving/parking
Toho Cinemas Day: The 14th of the month (err, only available at Toho Cinemas).
Be aware that screenings after 20:00 usually come in at 200-300 yen cheaper.
If you’re into 3-D, expect to pay 300-400 yen on top of your ticket.
There are a number of options here. Undoubtedly the easiest is just to show-up at the theater and buy one. These days, the machines are taking over, so it’s highly possible that you won’t have to speak any Japanese. There will be a staffed ticket counter though, should you need one.
The major theaters all have websites (links above). If you think your Japanese can handle it, then of course, you can buy tickets online. This will usually mean collecting tickets from a separate machine in the theater lobby.
Another option is at your local convenience store. Again, it’ll test your Japanese. The machine will print out a code which you hand over at the counter and pay for there and then. The convenience store staff will then print out your ticket(s).
Keep your eyes peeled for kinken shops (金券ショㇷ゚). These shabby looking stores can often be found around train stations and sell discount tickets for just about anything you might need a ticket for, including the movies. It’ll shave a few hundred yen off the regular price.
Spend thrifts should note that buying tickets well in advance (by whatever means) increases the likelihood of paying 200-300 yen less.
When buying tickets, be aware that no matter how many may be available, you’ll be instructed to choose your seats at the time of purchase.
During a movie, clapping, cheering, whooping and a hollering, are not cool!
The done thing in Japan is to bring your rubbish out of the theater with you. Staff are waiting in the corridor with trash cans.
If you’re curious to know when a movie is getting a Japanese release, check out the movie’s IMDb page.
Although it’s all in Japanese, the MovieWalker website is a great resource for locating theaters. Click on 映画館を探す to get started.
Foreign language movies will mostly be subtitled (字幕/jimaku). However, a few screenings will show the dubbed version (which presumably, you don’t want). Watch out for the sign saying - 吹き替え (fukikae). Be aware that kids animation movies are invariably dubbed into Japanese.