Japan was well represented at the Cannes film festival this year after three entries made their way into the prestigious celebration of cinematography. What’s more, two of the three films shown ended up securing awards; one going to best actor and one going to best screenwriter. 

The best actor award went to Japanese actor Koji Yakusho for his portrayal of Hirayama in the film ‘Perfect Days’. He plays the role of a Janitor tasked with cleaning toilets located in Tokyo, including the new transparent toilets that recently made the news. 

The second big win of the night was that of Japanese screenwriter Sakamoto Yuji for the film Monster (kaibutsu). The film also contended for the top prize of the Palme d’Or but was ultimately won by the French film Anatomy of a Fall. The film’s director Kore-eda Hirokazu however, is no stranger to greatness, as his previous work ‘Shoplifters’ bagged the top prize in 2018. 

These are some big milestones for Koji and Sakamoto, and for Japanese cinema as a whole; the last time a Japanese actor won best actor was 19 years ago; and best screenwriter has only ever been won twice, the last time in 2021. It shows how Japanese films have started to gain recognition and the exciting possibility of greater visibility and releases in the western world. 

It wouldn’t be right to talk about Japanese cinema without mentioning Takeshi Kitano who writes and directs the last film ‘Kubi’. It harkens back to the samurai era of which has previously proved successful, in a bloody and satirical display. Although the film didn’t win any awards it’s presence in such prestigious company is in itself an achievement.

All in all, a great night for Japan at Cannes