Japanese Cinema Resources in the Mercer County Library System

Japan’s reputation in international cinema has been growing in recent decades, from the award-winning films of Kurosawa in the 1950s to the more recent explosion of Japanese anime and horror on the world film scene. You can read about these films and also see many of the most acclaimed Japanese films of previous decades on DVD at the Mercer County Library System. Japanese films are well represented in our system.  In fact, Japanese-language films rank fourth in our system in  number of DVD foreign-language titles behind Hindi, French, and Chinese.

Post-war Japanese cinema

Japan produced several great directors in the seonnd half of the twentieth century, but none gained as much attention around the world as Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998). Starting with Rashomon in 1951, and continuing with such films as  Seven Samurai in the 1950s, his films brought Japanese cinema to the attention of a world audience.

You can read more about Kurosawa’s life and works in The Emperor and the Wolf: the lives andfilms of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune by Stuart Galbraith, which chronicles the relationship between the famous actor Mifune and director Kurosawa as they made films throughout the 1950s and 1960s that influence American directors like George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. In Something Like an Autobiography by Akira Kurosawa the director talks about his early life and career as a filmmaker up to the making of Rashomon.

Lesser known directors from the 1950s and 1960s are also represented in the Mercer County Library System collection, including  Mikio Masaki Kobayashi (Kaidan), and Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugetsu).

If you want to read more in depth about post-war Japanese cinema, The Foreign Film Renaissance onAmerican Screens, 1946-1973 by Tino Balio describes how Japanese films slowly began to make inroads in the American film market in the 1950s, starting with Kurosawa’s Rashomon.


The growing popularity of Japanese anime (animation) has resulted in the release of many Japanese animated movies in the United States in recent years. The most famous Japanese animation studio is Studio Ghibli, whose films are discussed in detail in the book  StudioGhibli, the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata by Colin Odell and Micheklle Le Blanc. In addition, the art of studio Ghibli films is reproduced in the books The Art of the Secret WorldOf Arrietty and The Art of Ponyo. Many of Hayao Miyazaki’s films including Howl’sMoving Castle and The Secret Worldof Arrietty are available in  the library system.

You can read about more Japanese anime directors and films of the last century(as well as television anime) in the book Manga impact: the world of Japaneseanimation by Carlo Chatrian and Grazia  Paganelli, which features entries on Masaoka Kenzo and other anime pioneers.


Japanese horror cinema has grown greatly in popularity in the last twenty years, inspiring a number of American remakes including The Ring. The genre is well represented in the Mercer County Library System. Ringu by Hideo Nakata and Ju-on by Takashi Shimizu are among the films that have given Japanese horror a worldwide reputation. In the book Asian Cinema: afield guide by Tom Vick you can find a discussion of J-horror and other genres of modern Japanese cinema in the chapter Japan: cinema of extremes.

A Selection of Japanese cinema on DVD at the Mercer County Library System

Rashomon – (1951) dir. by Akira Kurosawa. Released in 1951, this film presents four different accounts of the same murder in medieval Japan, and made Kurosawa’s international reputation when it won the Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival.

Throne of Blood - (1957) Akira Kurosawa’s masterful reinterpretation of MacBeth, set in feudal Japan.

Spirited Away - (2001) Director Hayao Miyazaki’s animated tale of a girl trapped in  the spirit world broke box-office records in Japan and won an Oscar for best animated feature.

Audition - (1999) When a lonely man wishes to remarry, his quest leads him straight to the depths of horror in this thriller directed by Takashi Miike.

When a Woman Ascendsthe Stairs - (1960) Mikio Naruse’s sensitive study of the life of a bar hostess in post-war Japan.  

- Michael K.


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