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7 Japanese Netflix Documentaries For You To Delve Into The Intricacies Of Japan Without Being A Weab

Japanese Netflix documentaries

Some think that documentaries are simply those shows which you see on National Geographic, full of wild animals and nothing more. Here, we have a list of Japanese Netflix documentaries that will give you a whole new perspective on Japan – we promise there none of them are snoozefests.

1. The Birth Of Sake

Image credit: Netflix

Centred on Japan’s most famous alcoholic drink, sake, The Birth of Sake features Yoshida Bakery, a 144-year-old sake brewery in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Image credit: BirthOfSake

This documentary film shows us the painstaking process of brewing that takes all winter, in order to produce the famed drink. 

Though it may be well known worldwide, the popularity levels of sake in Japan itself have been dropping in recent years. It even once ranked as the second-lowest consumed drink in Japan, according to The Japan Times.

Image credit: Netflix

As such, Yasuyuki Yoshida, a 29-year-old sake brewer and his fellow young tōji (professional brewers) seek to help sake make a comeback. Yasuyuki’s contribution to the sake movement comes in the form of this documentary, with him taking us through the painstaking process that he and his fellow brewers go through at his family’s brewery.

Keep in mind, this documentary is only available on Netflix in certain countries. If you’re an avid alcohol-drinker who just can’t get enough of the traditional Japanese rice wine, this is the show for you.

Release date: 16th April 2015
Length: 94 minutes

2.  Little Miss Sumo

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We’ve all got a certain picture of sumo wrestling in our heads – large, meaty men, running at their opponent in an attempt to throw them out of the ring. But Little Miss Sumo is here to subvert that perspective by featuring a female sumo wrestler. 

Image adapted from: @kon_hiyori via Instagram

Hiyori Kon is one of the few women in Japan who practises the Japanese martial art, and Little Miss Sumo is all about her.

Image credit: @kon_hiyori via Instagram

This documentary explores not only the difficulties surrounding Hiyori’s climb to the top of the sumo wrestling world, but also the struggles she faces in a male-dominated field, where years of established traditions and culture restrict her participation in her chosen sport. 

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To outsiders, it may seem like a mere spectator sport reserved for when one’s interest is piqued. But to Hiyori, it is her everything. This is her story.

Release date: 18th October 2018
Length: 19 minutes  

3.  Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan

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Being a samurai under a feudal lord in ancient Japanese times must have been so cool, but there is little we know about samurai and the trying times they lived in beyond our consumption of movies such as The Last Samurai

The Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan is a series that is set in feudal Japan in the late years of the Sengoku Period, also known as the Age of Warring States, which lasted from the 15th to 16th century. It tells the story of the fight between several daimyō, or Japanese feudal lords.

Image credit: Netflix

Featuring realistic reenactments of historical events as well as commentary by historians, including but not limited to Stephen Turnbull, David Spafford, and Tomoko Kitagawa, this series culminates in the unification of the warring states and the formation of Japan as we know it today. 

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Additionally, Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan received three Canadian Screen Award nominations at the 9th Canadian Screen Awards in 2021.

Release date: 24th February 2021
Length: 6 episodes (45 minutes each) 

4. LiSA Another Great Day

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Japanese pop punk star LiSA is a household name, with multiple awards under her belt for her songs such as Akeboshi and Homura, the hit theme song for Demon Slayer The Movie: Infinity Train

Image credit: @BandwagonAsia via Twitter

LiSA decided to commemorate her 10th anniversary as a solo artist with a project called LiiiiiiiiiiSA (with 10 i’s, you’re welcome), which features the LiSA Another Great Day documentary that chronicles her journey as a musician.

Image credit: @xlisa_olive via Instagram

Released in fall of 2022, the LiSA Another Great Day documentary seeks to showcase the superstar not just as a music icon, but also as an ordinary person who experiences all the day-to-day troubles her fans face in everyday life. 

Image credit: @xlisa_olive via Instagram

Fans of LiSA will love this tell-all tale of their favourite artist.

Release date: 18th October 2022
Length: 97 minutes  

5. Sing, Dance, Act: Kabuki

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Kabuki as an art form is demanding, requiring practitioners to possess a high standard of skill in singing, dancing and acting, in addition to knowing when and how to exit the stage. Actor Toma Ikuta’s foray into this new art form is chronicled in Sing, Dance, Act: Kabuki, a Netflix documentary produced to show the world exactly what kabuki is.

Image credit: @unleashthegeek via Twitter

This documentary features Ikuta as a guest star on his close friend and kabuki actor Matsuya Onoe’s new production of a kabuki stage series. Ikuta learns the ropes of the famously complicated kabuki performances by starting from the very bottom.

Image credit: @unleashthegeek via Twitter

The documentary also showcases the two’s friendship since high school, where they promised each other that they would stand on the same stage some day. Ikuta’s venture into kabuki is also partly inspired by Onoe’s late father, who was once a prominent kabuki actor.  

Sing, Dance, Act: Kabuki is a tell-all, not just about kabuki itself, but about Toma Ikuta himself, as he explores a new form of expression through art and performance.

Release date: 16th June 2022
Length: 87 minutes

6. Tokyo Crime Squad: The Lucie Blackman Case

Image credit: @dicklp via Twitter

Tokyo Crime Squad: The Lucie Blackman Case tells the story of the tragedy that hit Tokyo, Japan, in 2000. 

Bright and cheery Lucie Blackman was working as a hostess in a bar in Roppongi, a popular entertainment district in Tokyo. She was reported missing when she couldn’t be contacted after going on a paid date with a customer. Her body was only found almost six months later, miles from where she had been last seen. 

Her family turned her disappearance and suspected murder into a high-profile case, conducting press interviews and approaching the British secretary at the time, Robin Cook, in a desperate plea for help.

Image credit: @Missing51135347 via Twitter

Slowly, clues were pieced together and the culprit was soon found. A Japanese businessman – and as it turns out, a serial rapist and murderer – Joji Obara, was deduced as the prime suspect of the crime. 

This documentary follows this harrowing case, as the dark, grimy details of a case that haunted the minds of many, come to light.

Release date: 2023
Length: 100 minutes

7. The Modest Heroes Of Studio Ponoc

Image adapted from: Netflix

We all know that producing animation is no easy feat. But what do we really know about the whole process? In this short documentary, Yoshiaki Nishimura, the producer of Studio Ponoc’s anthology of animated short films, Modest Heroes, discusses the creative processes and inspirations behind the show.

Image credit: Netflix

Apart from that, Nakamura also shares the origins of the studio itself, how the ideals behind the formation of Studio Ponoc came about. He also touches on the ins and outs of the animation industry, giving aspiring animators some insight into this competitive industry.

Release date: 24th August 2018
Length: 21 minutes

Japanese Netflix documentaries to watch

With our list of Netflix documentaries at your disposal, we hope that you’ll learn more about the land of the rising sun, and love it just as much as we do!

For more series to watch on Netflix, check out these 10 anime series to watch on the streaming platform, or these 27 Japanese anime movies. Alternatively, these 21 Japanese romance drama series or 10 romance anime series that are airing in 2023 will scratch your itch for some heart-pounding scenes.

Cover image adapted from: Netflix, Netflix, Netflix