Tomonoura – Ponyo Locations

This small fishing port in Fukuyama City was indeed brought to my attention thanks to its role in the sixth X-Men movie but whilst searching for the locations of those scenes I saw an article saying that Tomonoura was where the Wolverine and Ponyo crossed paths. That was in June last year when I had no idea who or what Ponyo was!

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Once I’d booked my ticket to Fukuyama for Golden Week the wheels were set in motion and I set about getting my hands on a copy of ‘Ponyo‘ (2008) which is sometimes also known as ‘Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea‘. I asked around a select few friends who are into animation and got lucky when my friend Ben quite literally delivered me the dvd of it as he just happened to move from my hometown to Tokyo at that time.

Having watched it, I think I even surprised myself as I was quite moved at times by the cute story (albeit a bit weird) of the fish-girl and the five-year-old boy from Oscar-winning animator and director Hayao Miyazaki who I’m ashamed to say I only knew about due to some tribute in ‘The Simpsons‘ (S25E10 – Married To The Blob) where Homer and a Japanese guy both drink habushu (snake rice wine) and then stumble home intoxicated, where Springfield turns into a wonderland based on some of his Studio Ghibli work.

Now it has to be noted that there are no exact filming location match-ups in Tomonoura for this port town was the inspiration and basis for Miyazaki’s story. He spent two months there in 2005 before production started on the movie and his experiences helped inspire and shape the animated town where Sōsuke lives. The house that it was modelled on is a private house on the cliff lying just beneath Ankokuji Temple which was founded during the Kamakura Period (1192-1333).

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The place where Sōsuke finds Ponyo is the rocky beach situated near to the ferry pier and Enpuku-ji temple.

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Sōsuke and his mothers commuter route takes them along the road seen below and his school is the building in the distance on the left. The exterior of the school even has a painted signboard featuring Ponyo on it.

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Sōsuke and his mother are determined to get home on the stormy day despite the horrendous conditions and the danger involved. They pass an intersection similar to the one below which is basically just looking back the opposite way to the aforementioned commuting route.

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The tunnel where Ponyo loses her human form is about 3km west and was too far away for me to reach within my time constraints sadly. However, Rila Fukushima did go there during a break in filming of ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) in September 2012 and tweeted a picture of her in front of the tunnel where Ponyo reverts into a fish due to using too much magical power to help Sōsuke and others along the way.

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Just before I left Tomonoura I passed the ferry terminal and noticed a boat was about to depart for Sensuijima so I thought I may as well take a (very) quick trip to the island which is just five minutes away and costs only ¥240 (return). The fences in the screenshot and photo’s below are very similar and both lead to similar shaped cabins with the reality one being the ferry passenger terminal.

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The time I spent on Sensuijima was short to say the least as I had to take a ferry back 20 minutes later. I took a quick look round the island though which has a hotel, camp ground, observation decks, boardwalks, walking courses and some  coloured cliffs covering the rugged coastline.

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First port of call before all of those locales though should be the Tourist  Information Centre which stocks a good selection of Ponyo merchandise. It is the penultimate stop on the bus route from Fukuyama station to Tomonoura and they can print you off a Ponyo map of the area for free though sadly not the one like above. Wolverine maps are also available.

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As you walk around the main town there are other a fair few posters on shops and noticeboards showing how proud they are that Tomonoura was the inspiration for  the town depicted in this visually stunning fairy tale.

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How to get there: Take a bus from stop #5 on the south side of JR Fukuyama station. It takes approximately 25 minutes to reach the tourism information centre or you can get off a few minutes later at Tomokou bus stop; the final stop down the road from there.

Want more Japanese anime locations? Click here to see the Fukuyama locations faithfully depicted in ‘Kamichu!‘ (2005)

You can see The Wolverine locations in Tomonoura here

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Tomonoura – The Wolverine Filming Locations

My main reason for only taking the Shinkansen as far as Fukuyama (rather than just going directly to my final destination of Hiroshima) was not only to see the station locales used in ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) but also to continue the filming location theme by taking a trip to a place I have long wanted to visit.

This tiny fishing port of Tomonoura may no longer be a place for major cargo transportation trade but it has become a popular place for filming in recent years and is a short half hour bus ride south of Fukuyama. On screen, the viewer is made to think that they Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Mariko (Tao Okamoto) are going to Nagasaki which is the ancestral hometown of the latter. As mentioned in ‘Hiroshima-ken 2015 Pt V‘ they leave the Shinkansen at Fukuyama Station and then take a bus to Tomonoura.

I got off the bus at the tourist information centre which is highly recommended. There was a very nice and helpful guy working there who was able to help me with my extra-nerdy questions relating to the whereabouts of the screenshots I had on my iPad. He printed off a couple of very interesting maps detailing the locations and inspirations for ‘The Wolverine‘ and ‘Ponyo‘ (2008) too.

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The Wolverine map specifically focuses on when and where filming took place, what Hugh Jackman did on his days off, Tomonoura-related tweets from the directors and stars and short reports detailing behind-the-scenes information of shooting and how the area was decorated and dressed to appear more Nagasaki-like.

First stop was the Tomokou bus stop five minutes away by foot where Mariko and Logan disembark from the bus on 52 mins. This is the final stop on the route from Fukuyama station and where the bus turns around and heads back that way.

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They are next seen on the other side of the road next to the harbour with the mountains standing in the distance and Logan asks “Where are we?” to which Mariko replies that they’re just outside Nagasaki. Well if being 530km from Nagasaki is “just outside” it then I guess she’s right!!

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Tomonoura scenes are then blended in with other ones shot on Omi-shima island in Ehime-ken which is about 65km west in the Inland Sea just south of Okunoshima a.k.a. Rabbit Island. The one where Logan chops up the tree that’s fallen across the road is Omi-shima but Mariko’s house is in Tomonoura.

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It’s a private house located on the hill next to Enpuku-ji temple which can only be accessed by a couple of paths leading up there.

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The private house appears again later on 69 minutes when Logan wonders where  Mariko has gone.

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Realising she’s been taken he gives chase to the yakuza and the scenes switch back and forth between Omi-shima and Tomonoura.

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Yukio (Rila Fukushima) pulls up in her car near the ferry pier as Logan hobbles towards her having been shot in the leg by one of the yakuza. They drive off with a roaring sound, go over a mountain and within seconds are back in Tokyo albeit one looking very much like a street in Sydney!

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The movie was actually titled ‘Wolverine Samurai‘ in Japan and there are various posters and signs around town alerting tourists to the fact that the movie was shot in the area.

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Above is a tweet from main star Jackman (@RealHughJackman) when he was in Tomonoura in September 2012 for shooting which took place between the 5th and the 11th following a day in Fukuyama on the 4th and two days in Omi-shima on the 6th and 7th. I guess I need to visit Omi-shima now to complete the Japanese locations for this movie.

How to get there: Take a bus from stop #5 on the south side of JR Fukuyama station. It takes approximately 25 minutes to reach the tourism information centre or you can get off a few minutes later at Tomokou bus stop; the final stop down the road from there.

You can read ‘Cycling The Wolverine Tokyo Trail…In One Day’ here

The Tokyo Fox review of ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) can be seen here

Fukuyama – The Wolverine Filming Locations

The sixth film in the X-Men franchise paid little respect for distance and time as the movie zig-zagged its way across Tokyo and then south to Nagasaki. However, no filming actually took place in the city which will always be remembered for the atomic bomb that was dropped on the place on the 9th of August in 1945. In fact, one can’t even go south from Ueno station where they board, as the Shinkansen (bullet train) only heads north from that station.

Anyhow, on 52 minutes Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine) and Mariko disembark at what is actually JR Fukuyama station in the east of Hiroshima prefecture. All the action (well all 17 seconds!) takes place on the South gate side (the opposite side to where Fukuyama-jo castle sits) as the two take one of the exits. The blue signed Nippon Travel Agency can be seen in the background although that style of sign is no longer on display.

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The crew filmed in Fukuyama for just one day on the 4th of September 2012 and Sun Station Terrace (or Sansute as its abbreviated to in Japanese) is in the background of Logan and Mariko with the bus station on the right and the red JTB is noticeable in the distance.

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Whilst reinforcing their need to find some place safe and get off the streets away from the trailing yakuza they walk by a statue and decide which direction to go in. The station has been renovated a bit since filming took place in 2012 with a new building in front of the statue….or behind it as one views it on screen! This statue is called Izurachojin (basically five cove fisherman) and was made by Denchu Hirafushi and could also be seen in episode 11 (Koi wa Yukue Fumei – Love is Missing) of the 2005 Japanese animated series ‘Kamichu!‘.

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The Nippon Travel Agency can be seen in the background again as Logan asks where downtown is. She replies that it’s straight ahead and it may well have been in that same direction albeit some 700+ km away!!

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The love hotel which they subsequently check into is actually back in Tokyo. It’s the Nakagin Capsule Tower (8-10-6 Ginza) which in reality is not a place for couples to get it on but is home to many unmarried salarymen wanting to stay in a small place. The interior of these tiny apartments could be seen in episode four of the BBC documentary ‘Journeys Into The Ring Of Fire‘ (2006). The building is a fine example of Tokyo modern architecture and now you can actually stay there thanks to airbnb website.

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The “Nagasaki” journey then continues on to Omi-shima and Tomonoura and you can see the Wolverine locations in the latter here.

You can read ‘Cycling The Wolverine Tokyo Trail…In One Day’ here

The Tokyo Fox review of ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) can be seen here

Top 10……Filming Location Trips For 2014

Another year has passed and despite my reservations about the future of such ‘top 10……filming locations’ this time last year, I have managed to do enough locations to warrant another list. It’s quite 007-centric and has in the main included just topping up pre-existing entries. Here then, in no particular order, is the Top 10……filming location trips for 2014…

1) Entrapment, 1999 (Click here)

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2) The Hangover Part II, 2011 (Click here)

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3) The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974 (Click here)

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4) Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997 (Click here)

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5) The Wolverine, 2013 (Click here)

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6) Godzilla, 1954 (Click here)

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7) Notting Hill, 1999 (Click here)

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8) The World Is Not Enough, 1999 (Click here)

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9) Skyfall, 2012 (Click here)

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10) Quantum Of Solace, 2008 (Click here)

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For the best filming locations for other years please click on the links below:

2009     2010     2011     2012     2013

Cycling The Wolverine Tokyo Trail…In One Day!

The idea of this cycling venture then was to ride the route (supposedly) taken in ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) which tends to zig-zag its way across the capital without too much respect for distance and time. For Tokyo residents the geography in this sixth film of the X-Men franchise is quite bewildering at times as the film edit makes it seem like such a vast city is easily walkable when in reality the distance between places is quite far. In its defence, geography has rarely ever been a strong point in movies. What do those who criticise it really expect? A painstakingly long scene shot in real time?!! Of course Wolverine/Logan could have used public transport to get around but that doesn’t seem to exist in the X-Men universe! To follow in the footsteps of the Wolverine meant taking in seven places with one of them repeated and yes I really did go there twice.

Themed cycling tours of Tokyo have taken a bit of a backseat in recent times on this site so it was nice to get back in the saddle for a few hours on a nice warm Spring day. The first Tokyo location appears 19 minutes in and thankfully it’s only a five minute ride away from the my place! It’s the classic shot of Yasukuni dori in Shinjuku which has featured in so many movies and TV programmes over the years and I guess it’s become the classic shot (alongside Shibuya crossing) of the neon lights of Tokyo really hitting the foreigner visiting these shores. I get to travel under the same bridge half a dozen times a week so I probably take it for granted. The photo’s below show the screenshots, the ones taken on the day of this tour and a bonus couple taken only the night before to show how it looks at night.

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After that I cycled on to Zojoji temple (below) in the Shiba neighbourhood of Minato-ku which is about 8km away and a route I’ve taken a few times now not that stops me from ever doing it smoothly! The funeral procession takes place at this temple on 35 minutes; locations which Tokyo Fox premiered back in April 2013 following the release of the trailer. However, not all the funeral scenes took place at Zojoji as pretty soon the action moves to the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Sydney which previously featured in ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert‘ (1994). The real action scenes were filmed at this Australian location as the two places are blended together. There are no ponds or water features at Zojoji so it’s the Sydney gardens which you see prominently around the 37 minute mark. Posing as the Wolverine with three chopsticks poking out from between my fingers was pretty embarrassing and they’re not even that visible in the pictures!

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Tokyo Tower does loom large over Zojoji temple and is in the background of a selection of the screenshots and my pictures. In ‘The Wolverine‘ though this tower seems to be prominent quite a lot whereas in reality it can hardly be seen at the best of times in Tokyo due to the many skyscrapers in the city.

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During the funeral at Zojoji, Yakuza gangsters attempt to kidnap Mariko but Logan helps her to escape which is done in reality is done in a very roundabout way taking in Darling Harbour (Sydney!) and Zojoji itself with a chase going on through the two-storied sanmon (below) which was originally built in 1605 and is a rare example of early Edo-period architecture in Tokyo.

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Within seconds the action is in Takadanobaba (below) which is about 10km away! We only get to see the briefest of rooftop chases and arrow shots outside this station which  also appeared in the Jackie Chan movie ‘The Shinjuku Incident‘ (2009). Takadanobaba is on the Yamanote, Tozai and Seibu Shinjuku lines. Sadly I was unable to get on the rooftop of an eikiawa to get an identical match to that seen on 44 minutes.

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The action quickly moves on to Akihabara on 45 minutes where they take a brief respite in Big Apple Slot & Pachinko parlour (1-16-1 Soto-kanda) opposite Sega Gigo

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Photography is forbidden in panchinko parlours but mobile phone camera’s always allow for a sneaky one! After exiting this place Logan and Mariko walk across the bridge over the Kanda River in the direction of Mansei Akihabara Youshoku (2-21-4F Kanda-Sudacho). If they had any sense they would’ve stopped for one of their famous deliciouskatsu-sando as I did on a previous themed cycling trip.

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JR Ueno Station is the next location and this is easy and quick to get to as it’s just down the road from Akihabara. It appears after 46 minutes and is where Mariko and Logan take the Shinkansen (Bullet train) to “Nagasaki” even though these super-fast trains only go north from Ueno. If they had wanted to go south then they may as well have just gone a bit further south to Tokyo station which probably wouldn’t have been too much of a problem for them and no doubt they’d have ran or walked it!

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The station has many exits but its outside the Central exit on Jewellery Bridge where Mariko thanks Logan for saving her, says she’s fine (twice) meaning that she doesn’t need his help and then advises him to see a doctor before walking off to catch her train.

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I then had to cycle back the way I’d just came and so passed through Akihabara again (as well as the subsequent stop in Ginza) as I returned to Zojoji temple for a second time. In the film it’s a brief return to the temple on 47 minutes as one of the baddies gives an impromptu interview to the waiting media and paparazzi. Yukio is still there and looks on at the interview before Mariko’s father asks her where her gaijin friend is. Quite a bit of set dressing was added by the production team when they were filming at this temple which explains why some of the match-ups may not be so easy to notice as being the same!

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I was pretty much sick of the sight of this temple by the time I returned and I didn’t hang about for too long. Having been here only a week prior for the cherry blossoms I knew the angles I needed and was happy that the place was quite empty.

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On 52 minutes Logan and Mariko disembark from the Shinkansen and are in Fukuyama for a few seconds before it switches back to Ginza where the Nakagin Capsule Tower (8-10-6 Ginza) appears as a love hotel which they check into. In reality this place is not a place for couples to get it on but is home to many unmarried salarymen wanting to stay in a small place. The interior of these tiny apartments could be seen in episode four of the BBC documentary ‘Journeys Into The Ring Of Fire‘ (2006). The building is a fine example of Tokyo modern architecture and was one of my favourite examples of architecture in this article from July 2012. I can only assume that digital wizardry was used for this scene as the road they are seen walking down is not the one that’s actually next to the building. IMDb says that this street was Brisbane Street, Surry Hills in Sydney!

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So that was it for my day of following in the footsteps of the Wolverine. I managed to avoid getting hit or wounded but the 53.59km ride did no favours for my left knee which I smashed a few days earlier. For the record I paused the Runkeeper app at each of the seven locations (yes, I really did go to Zojoji twice!) so my time of 3 hours 38 minutes, give or take a short stop here and there, is pure riding time.

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BTM Top 10……Filming Location Trips For 2013

Having already covered most of the filming locations I ever wanted to do, its getting harder and harder to add to the pile, so this list is not ’13 Filming Location Trips For 2013′ but instead will be known as a BTM Top…… list instead.

Thank god these end-of-year entries is titled ‘Filming Location Trips’ as that means I can include music video locations as well as film ones to bulk out the list a bit!! What chance it being just a BTM Top……5 list next year!!

This years list may lack the oomph of past years but there were still a few notable nuggets covered in the last 12 months. Click on the links below to see more.

1. Skyfall (Click here)

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2. Mission: Impossible III (Click here)

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3. Empire Of The Sun (Click here)

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4. The Toxic Avenger Part II (Click here)

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5. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Click here)

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6. Quantum Of Solace (Click here)

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7. The Wolverine (Click here)

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8. Lost In Translation (Click here)

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9. Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness (Click here)

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10. Muse – Panic Station (Click here)

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Other 2013 locations for the films listed below can be found here

Moonraker; The Green Zone; Love Actually; Basic Instinct 2; The Bourne Ultimatum; The Tailor of Panama and Kaiser Chiefs ‘Man On Mars’.

 

6 Movies ‘Set’ In Japan But Filmed Elsewhere

Unlike other Asian countries, foreign production companies usually remain faithful to Japan by actually filming on location when need be but there are of course times when other places are used to fill in for the country. One of the most common scenarios is for Japanese scenes to be filmed at Japanese, or even Chinese gardens in the USA, Australia or wherever but the following movies were all faked in some way using other countries to double up as Japan.

* The Karate Kid Part II (1989) – The sequel to the classic 1986 film sees Daniel-san follow Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita) back to the latter’s homeland to see his dying father in Okinawa whilst settling some old scores. Oahu in Hawaii stood in for the southern Japan island. A scenic area called Kahaluu was spotted in an aerial survey from helicopter by the filmmakers 20 miles from Honolulu.

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The place is 43 acres and is covered with palms and a lagoon which once served as a royal fish pond. Thanks to some of Morita’s connections, filming was able to take place on the land which had been closely preserved before then. An Okinawan village was built and 50 Okinawa-born Hawaii residents were recruited to portray the villagers. Further shooting took place at The Burbank Studios in California where the Naha street and the O-bon dance and finale at the moat-surrounded ruins of the ancient castle were filmed.

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* The Last Samurai (2003) – Whilst some filming was done in Kyoto and Himeji the rest was principally done in New Zealand. The Taranaki region on the west coast of the country’s North Island played host to much of the filming with the Japanese village  constructed on the hillsides of the Uruti Valley where some battle scenes took place too.

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New Plymouth is the major city in the area and its port played the part of the Japanese Port. Less than an hour away from there is Mount Taranaki which portrayed Mount Fuji.  The parade ground, where the Japanese troops are trained to use rifles, and where Algren (Tom Cruise) invites a young recruit to shoot him, is the Pukekura Sports Ground in Pukekura Park, New Plymouth. The ’battle in the fog’ scene was filmed in Mangamahoe Forest, outside the town.

* Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993) – Not too much of a shock that this poor second sequel was not filmed in Japan.  It was set in feudal Japan in 1603 even though the movie poster states that it’s set in the year 1593!!  All filming was done nearly 5000 miles away in Astoria, Oregon. (You can see the full movie here)

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* Austin Powers In Goldmember (2002)  – It doesn’t take a genius to realise that none of this third instalment in the Austin Powers trilogy was not filmed anywhere near Tokyo! They didn’t reference this fact quite as blatantly as they did in the second film where Austin Powers (Mike Myers) comments on how England looks remarkably like Californian countryside! 40 minutes into the movie Japan’s capital is seen by way of Dr Evil’s (also played by Mike Myers) new lair which is a submarine in Tokyo Bay in the shape of him including the classic little finger to the mouth. It’s long, hard and full of sea-men! This was supposedly created using CGI and the docks at San Pedro in south Los Angeles.

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The Asahi Sumo Arena doesn’t exist which is where Austin and Foxxy head (albeit with obvious rear projection of Shinjuku in the background) to find Fat Bastard (again played by Mike Myers) who tells them of Roboto Industries whose boss is named purely to give Powers the chance to say “Domo arigatou Mr Roboto” as was sung in Styx’s 1983.

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* Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) – This Japanese volcanic island is actually part of Tokyo albeit a long, long way south (750 km) of the mainland. Access to the island is prohibited (for the general public) but the filmmakers were given special permission by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to film there on a short day trip there. A short scene with Ken Watanabe doing something or another on the beach was shot and then  Sandvik in Iceland was used to replicate its black sand beaches. Other scenes were filmed primarily in Barstow and Bakersfield in California as well as the studio’s in Los Angeles.

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* The Wolverine (2013) – An artistic license was certainly used where the filming of this one was concerned. Sure, the funeral scene really was at Zojoji temple in Tokyo but that footage was all interwoven with what was filmed at Chinese Friendship Gardens in Sydney. The very same gardens were also used in ’The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert‘ (1994). The Australian city was further used with Nagasaki’s wartime prison camp being built at Bonna Point Reserve in Kurnell on the south of Botany Bay.

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Yashida’s heavily-defended compound in Tokyo was actually filmed at the Fox Studios on  the former Sydney Showground at Moore Park. Paramatta is in Sydney’s western suburbs and the intersection of George and Smith Streets doubled up as the Tokyo streets where a foot chase took place. Furthermore,  Sydney Olympic Park was made into a Japanese village draped in snow where Logan (Hugh Jackman) heads to save Mariko from Yashida’s empire in the mountains. Filming also took place on Brisbane Street in Surrey Hills which was transformed to look like a Japanese street with Japanese signs and vehicles scattered throughout.