How did Japanese culture inspire Western cinema?


In the age of globalization, almost everything is connected. But this is nothing new. While globalization may be a recent expression, this sharing of culture and inspiration by other countries has been around for centuries. The film industry, for example, shows how much inspiration can be borrowed from one culture to add to another. Japanese culture has a specific way of telling stories and creating narratives. So how has Western cinema borrowed from Japanese culture for inspiration from cinema?

Hollywood borrows from Japan

Star wars has been one of the most successful franchises of all time. As such, it makes sense that the inspiration for the original story and the way it was told could come from a multitude of different places, including Japan. Many suggest that the story was borrowed from The Hidden Fortress (1958) by prolific director Akira Kurosawa.

The story of the hero’s journey was borrowed, as was the idea that Jedi Knights would wear robes much like Japanese Buddhist monks. Darth Vader’s costume was based on a Japanese warlord. Indeed, Jedi himself comes from the Japanese word for period drama – jidaigeki or ??.

The Magnificent Seven (1960) is adapted from Kurosawa too much. It tells the story of the 1954 film Seven Samurai. The film was told as being in the American West instead of feudal Japan. Using the film as inspiration in this way helps to tell two different stories and draws on the Western genre. This shows one of the benefits of borrowing ideas and stories from a culture and telling them – we end up with two important films.

Americanization of Japanese films

Sometimes the inspiration is more obvious. Take Godzilla, released in Japan in 1954. Two years later, America produced a remake that appealed to American audiences. This mainly happens for films in the horror genre. For example, The ring has been redone in 2002 for the American public after the release of Ringu in 1998 – or ?? – as The Grudge was in 2004 from the 2002 original. Indeed, the latter is still so prolific that it gets a Netflix series.

Japanese horror is popular with audiences and considered more popular than Western horror in the early 2000s. So it makes sense that Hollywood is looking for inspiration to make some truly terrifying movies. The American versions appeal to well-known celebrities. We can notably see it with the role of Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Grudge, which would have courted its fans of Buffy, Scream 2 and I Know What You Did last summer.

The benefits of sharing inspiration for cinema

But the benefit of sharing culture and influence is that it makes it easier for Japanese and Westerners to share some of the best cinematic experiences with each other. For example, as we can see from William Hill online slots – or ?? to keep the Japanese theme – there is a Goonies slot game. The game merges online slots gameplay with iconography from the 1985 hit movie. By sharing inspiration for cinema across countries, people can benefit from more experiences.

There are a limited number of stories and some suggest Hollywood is just telling the same stories over and over again. Drawing inspiration from other places and cultures enriches the arsenal of stories with which filmmakers must work. It introduces new concepts to a new audience and helps people embrace the culture in ways they might not have done otherwise. As much as it is clear that Hollywood borrowed from Japanese cinema, Japan in turn borrowed things from America. Shared connections help strengthen cinema.


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