There’s a lot to look forward to in the Year of the Monkey—Here are just a few of the top Japan-related events you won’t want to miss in 2016!

1. Documentary: Behind the Cove (January 30)


This film, directed by Keiko Yagi, attempts to rebut the Academy Award winning movie The Cove. As we all know, there are two sides to every story, so this ought to be an interesting perspective.

The above poster asks “Why is Japan’s traditional food culture being targeted?” In Japan, The Cove prompted a plethora of negative reactions by the Japanese who felt their country had been singled out by a film that was “unwarranted, unfair, and manipulative” according to a press release for Yagi’s film. The Japanese Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries reportedly said, “It is regrettable that this movie is made as a message that brutal Japanese are killing cute dolphins.” Yagi calls for “understanding differences in food cultures and religions.” Whether or not one agrees with killing dolphins and whales, it’s probably worth at least listening to the other side of the story.

When RocketNews24 asked the director for reactions from Japanese people who have seen the film, she highlighted the following comments from a couple of viewers: “I don’t think people have looked deeply enough into the issues so I hope many people will watch the movie,” and “If you feel bitter after seeing The Cove, you will be delighted as this movie will free your heart.”

Showings in Japanese with English subtitles start in Shinjuku at K’s Cinema on January 30. Advance tickets are 1,300 yen (US$10.78) or 1,800 yen (about $15.00) at the door.

2. Theater: Takarazuka Performance of Rurouni Kenshin (Starts Feb. 5 in Kobe, April 1 in Tokyo)

posterTakarazuka Official Website

In the performing arts, we have the Takarazuka Review performing Rurouni Kenshin, the story of samurai redemption that started as anime before being transformed into a series of action movies and now, a musical by the all-female Takarazuka Theater in Japan (previous manga adaptations by the troupe include Lupin III, Black Jack and JIN). If the tunes are as rockin’ as those of the anime, it will be a treat for the ears as well as the eyes.

February 5 to March 14 at Takarazuka Grand Theater (Hyogo Prefecture), April 1 to May 8 at Tokyo Takarazuka Theater. Tickets can be ordered online (3,500 to 12,000 yen, that’s US$29 to $100).

3. Art: Setouchi Triennale (Starts March 20)

▼ Sou Fujimoto’s Naoshima Pavilion.

installationSetouchi Explorer (David Billa)

The Setouchi Triennale art show on the charming Kagawa Prefecture islands in the Seto Inland Sea is a treat for art aficionados and tourists alike. The venue, set across twelve idyllic islands in Western Japan as well as the town of Takamatsu on the mainland, the international art show is not only a chance to see installation art and projects by artists in residence, but it’s also a first-hand opportunity to experience the flavor of Japan’s local island cultures. The event is held every three years and for 2016 it will be carried out over 108 days and three seasons: spring (March 20 – April 17), summer (July 18 – September 4) and autumn (October 8 – November 6). Catch a ferry from Uno (Okayama Prefecture) or Takamatsu (Kagawa Prefecture) to get out to the islands.

Find out more about the festival at the Triennale website and see what’s new this year at Setouchi Explorer.

4. Anime: The 3rd annual “Anime Japan” Event (March 25-27)

posterAnimeJapan 2016 Official Website

The AnimeJapan Organization will hold this year’s AnimeJapan event at Tokyo Big Sight for three days from March 25–27. The weekend offers lots to see and experience including “Cosplayer’s World,” a food park, a production works gallery, and a business area to talk about expanding the anime business market (special registration required for the latter). An Open Stage will feature TV animations, interviews with actors, awards, talk shows, press conferences, etc. Upcoming trailer releases, exclusive talks with cast members and interviews will take place on the smaller Red, Green, and Blue stages for limited audiences (additional registration required for these smaller stages). Come join the world’s largest anime event!

Tickets on sale now at 1,600 yen (US$13.30) for general admission or 2,000 yen ($16.58) at the door.

5. Films: New Godzilla Movie (July 29)

godzilla1Cinema Today

This year brings an abundance of great movie releases but perhaps the most anticipated—after a 12-year wait—is the new Shin Godzilla, directed by Shinji Higuchi (Attack on Titan). The good news is that the live-action film director promises that this kaiju movie will be scarier than the previous Godzilla endeavors, terrorizing audiences with modern anxieties such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and nuclear accidents. The story board artist and special effects supervisor employs his hallmark techniques among miniatures in the same vein as those used in Attack on Titan. Fans have long anticipated another flick featuring monster, who has since become an official Tokyo resident, so here’s to hoping for a terrification of gargantuan proportions. See the trailer here.

6. TV: 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics (August 5-21 BST)


Sure, the 2016 summer Olympic Games are taking place in Brazil, but if you want to see Japanese athletes compete, there’s no better place to watch them on TV than in Japan. Even if you don’t catch the televised Olympics, you’ll still get to see the results of the Japanese athletes’ victories hundreds of times over, just in case you missed them the first dozen replays. Do not underestimate the Japanese propensity to plaster their own athletes’ victories all over the screen 24/7 ad nauseam. If you have a favorite Japanese athlete, I hope they do well so you can revel in their rectitude! This is a time to look forward to not just victories, but also defeats and apologies by shamed athletes who didn’t get the Gold despite all the support from their compatriots at home. But forget it if your favorite athlete is from another country (you traitor!) and gets the Gold, because no other country’s medalists will be given air time that might take up the celebrity space reserved for the unfortunate losers and fallen heroes of Japan who will be interviewed instead. So if you love sports, best to be a sportsman about it and join the art of Japanese fandom. Like Hello Kitty or the color pink, there’s no point fighting these things here–you may as well just join the frenzy! Besides, you didn’t really want to watch anything else on TV, did you?

Keep your eye out for Japan’s Gold medal hopefuls at the XXXI Olympiad: 19-year-old Ami Kondo (judo), Kenta Chida (fencing, going for Gold after getting Silver in team foil event in London), and Paralympian Saki Takakuwa (track and field). Go Japan!

While the Olympics start on August 5 in Brazil, due to the nine-hour time difference, the Opening Ceremony will probably air live in Japan the morning of August 6.

7. Manga: Comic Con December 3-4, 2016


The Comic Con festival of pop culture and technology, the brainchild of Stan Lee and Steve Wozniak, debuts in the Silicon Valley, California in March. After that, the whole shebang will head east as the Marvel Comics founder and Apple co-founder bring their team to Tokyo for an inaugural event that is sure to please their antipodean manga, anime and technology fans. Celebrities, autographs, photo ops, and a chance to preview the latest in video game technology are just a few things on the cards. You’ll have the chance to buy merchandise and collector’s items as well as see exhibitions of some of the best comic and anime artists today—all compelling reasons to attend the extravaganza. And don’t forget to seize the chance to pitch your ideas to industry veterans! Check out the Tokyo Comic Con announcement event that was held in Shinagawa.

Tickets go on sale in March. The venue is the Makuhari Messe Convention Center—where the Tokyo Game Show is held. Keep an eye on the Tokyo Comic Con website for more information, or follow @TokyoComCon on Twitter.

8. Movie: Silence (late December 2016)

book coverWikipedia (InfamousPrince)

Based on the acclaimed 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo Silence has twice before been made into a movie. This time director Martin Scorsese tells the story of a 17th-century Christian missionary in Japan who is forced to apostatize. When two Jesuit Portuguese priests (Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield) go to Japan to investigate the rumor, they find a country reeling from evangelism and the fear that the over 300,000 Christian converts will come to prefer religious teachings to those of their ruler, Ieyasu Tokugawa. This presentiment was further exacerbated by the relatively recent Spanish-colonial rule of the Philippines (1521-1898), and prompted the shogunate to ban Christianity in 1614. What followed was the wholesale slaughter of thousands of Christians. In addition, generations of Christian survivors suppressed their faith for the next 250 years until the Meiji government lifted the ban on practicing Christianity in 1873. Nagasaki is the home of the Endo Shusaku museum and many of the sites in this movie, which was actually filmed in Taiwan. Anyone who is a fan of Scorsese or who has an interest in 17th century Japan and Christianity won’t want to miss this historic drama with a U.S. release date of late December.

What other Japan-related events for 2016 are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments section!