Photo of set for Akira Kurosawa's “Ran“ Production Design: Shinobu Muraki & Yoshirô Muraki
”In 2016, 610 domestic films opened in Japan and The total gross for the Japanese box office was 235.508 billion yen (about US$2.07 billion) - a record high. Apart from films, in Japan we have a huge TV and commercials industry.
The audience used to prefer foreign films 15 years ago, especially Hollywood films. But now they prefer Japanese film for example Manga (comic books) based films and love romance films.
Almost all the productions are based in Tokyo. The production companies hire the crews and do pre-production there, and then go to shoot all over the country. Almost all of the “Samurai” films are filmed in Kyoto. In Kyoto, there are 2 film studios for “Samurai” film, and local crews in Kyoto in good at this genre film. They have historical knowledge and skills. And also standing sets, decorations and props.
Compared to US, the art department in Japan is much smaller and we usually have a production designer and assistant production designers. Assistant production designers work like art director, set designer, and art dept. manager. There is not distinction between art director, set designer and assistant production designer.
We have around 60 production designers in Japan. Some of them, myself included, are members of the APDJ - Association of Production Designers in Japan. However, it’s not like the unions in the US - They don't have any insurance, social security and protection.
Japan has both many traditional locations and futuristic locations in the small country. Japan has many styles of construction, architecture and design. Traditional Japanese, modern Japanese, American, European and so on. Japan is influenced by other countries and mix with our own. That's why Japanese culture is unique. I learn many kinds of style by experience even when I'm in Tokyo. Japanese culture is unique but so many people in the world mix up Chinese, Korean and other Asian countries with Japanese culture. I want to make people understand more and interested in our Asian cultures through our works.
My favorite PD are Shigeo Mano who PD'd “Blind Beast” (This is also my favorite film!) and Noriyoshi Ikeya. Also my favorite production design is “The Face of Another”. I just finished working on a John Woo film and he is my dream! I couldn't believe I'm working with him on the set. I worked on that film for 14 moths - it was so hard but I learned so many things. Sometimes I’d be so tired and only thinking about taking some rest, when I remembered I'm on John Woo's set and working as art dept. That made me happy and I didn't feel tired anymore."
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