Kyoto Filming Locations: The Last Samurai (2003)

Most of this 2003 epic was shot in New Zealand but there were still a few interesting scenes filmed in the Kansai region of Japan. 12 minutes into the film sees the appearance of Chion-in Temple in Kyoto albeit with a bit of CGI. Although the steps lead to a temple it is not directly at the top or as dominating as the one in the picture (below left). Four men including Tom Cruise are seen climbing the steep steps which are on the other side of the main entrance gate which is protected by two guards in the film.


The action moves on to Daikodo (Main Hall) at Engyoji temple on the 41 minute mark which is where Algren (Cruise) meets Katsumoto (Watanabe). This is at the top of Mount Shosha in Himeji (west of Osaka) and provides the hilltop backdrop for Katsumoto’s mountain village. There is even a laminated picture card among the information pamphlets on the little souvenir shop counter in this building and it features five screenshots from ‘The Last Samurai’.


The garden temple is opposite the wooden bit featured above and appears after 1 hr 11 mins as Watanabe and Cruise talk about something or another. The dvd extra’s reveal that it wasn’t filmed during the cherry blossom season and that those flowers were added to the place.


The Buddha seen below also features for a few moments. No photos can be taken inside (I presume) so I settled for a sly zoom-in one from outside.


It’s not all Kansai though as there is a very brief shot of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on 1hr 19mins. Its the typical picture postcard type view of the place which I have seen and photographed many times over the years.


How to get to Engyoji: Take bus #8 at Shinki Bus Terminal East gate of Himeji Kita station (if coming from JR Himeji station then exit the station and turn left and you will see the bus station across the road). Get off at the final stop which is ‘Shosha Ropeway’. A special ticket (1300 yen) gets you return bus and ropeway tickets. The temple entrance is 500 yen payable when you get to the top of the ropeway.

Sitting On My A*se For A Few Days

Had a few days off recently and for once didn’t go on a trip as saving for one next month. It was tipping it down with rain anyway so I watched a few dvd’s with Japanese connections as the rental store had a special offer.
Firstly, I watched ‘The Last Samurai’ which I’d still never seen. Was actually better than I’d imagined it would be though far too long for someone with my limited attention span.
Secondly, I watched ‘Pearl Harbour’ which I only knew previously to be a war film best not to be mentioned to most Japanese. I quite enjoyed this overlong Hollywood film full of amazing battle scenes but also overflowing with cliches.
Next up was the 1982 so-called sci-fi classic ‘Blade Runner’ which was set in a Los Angeles perhaps based on a futuristic Tokyo. This was the directors cut so I don’t know whether it’s better or worse than the other version. I enjoyed moments of this but never really got into the story so much.
As I think I’ve mentioned before my ideas about Japan previously came from films like ‘The Karate Kid’ as well as ‘Lost in Translation’, ‘007 You Only Live Twice’, ‘Kill Bill’ , ‘Austin Powers in Goldmember’ and even ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ where Mickey Rooney portrayed a Japanese man in a time when you could get away with such a thing.
‘The Simpsons’ also gave me an insight into the land of the rising sun and my final viewing was their ‘Japan: 30 minutes over Tokyo’ episode (Season 10 Episode 23 for all the geeks out there!) which saw the dysfunctional family go to Japan and run out of money resulting in them appearing on a crazy Japanese game show in order to win tickets back home. Seeing Homer continuously just walking through the thin paper walls was very amusing as was his rude behaviour in such a polite country and it was these images which were stuck in my mind before i came here.
 The Simpsons also advertised a tasty Japanese drink called ‘CC Lemon’ years ago and those adverts are here for anyone interested.