Unlike other Asian countries, foreign production companies usually remain faithful to Japan by actually filming on location when need be but there are of course times when other places are used to fill in for the country. One of the most common scenarios is for Japanese scenes to be filmed at Japanese, or even Chinese gardens in the USA, Australia or wherever but the following movies were all faked in some way using other countries to double up as Japan.
* The Karate Kid Part II (1989) – The sequel to the classic 1986 film sees Daniel-san follow Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita) back to the latter’s homeland to see his dying father in Okinawa whilst settling some old scores. Oahu in Hawaii stood in for the southern Japan island. A scenic area called Kahaluu was spotted in an aerial survey from helicopter by the filmmakers 20 miles from Honolulu.
The place is 43 acres and is covered with palms and a lagoon which once served as a royal fish pond. Thanks to some of Morita’s connections, filming was able to take place on the land which had been closely preserved before then. An Okinawan village was built and 50 Okinawa-born Hawaii residents were recruited to portray the villagers. Further shooting took place at The Burbank Studios in California where the Naha street and the O-bon dance and finale at the moat-surrounded ruins of the ancient castle were filmed.
* The Last Samurai (2003) – Whilst some filming was done in Kyoto and Himeji the rest was principally done in New Zealand. The Taranaki region on the west coast of the country’s North Island played host to much of the filming with the Japanese village constructed on the hillsides of the Uruti Valley where some battle scenes took place too.
New Plymouth is the major city in the area and its port played the part of the Japanese Port. Less than an hour away from there is Mount Taranaki which portrayed Mount Fuji. The parade ground, where the Japanese troops are trained to use rifles, and where Algren (Tom Cruise) invites a young recruit to shoot him, is the Pukekura Sports Ground in Pukekura Park, New Plymouth. The ’battle in the fog’ scene was filmed in Mangamahoe Forest, outside the town.
* Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993) – Not too much of a shock that this poor second sequel was not filmed in Japan. It was set in feudal Japan in 1603 even though the movie poster states that it’s set in the year 1593!! All filming was done nearly 5000 miles away in Astoria, Oregon. (You can see the full movie here)
* Austin Powers In Goldmember (2002) – It doesn’t take a genius to realise that none of this third instalment in the Austin Powers trilogy was not filmed anywhere near Tokyo! They didn’t reference this fact quite as blatantly as they did in the second film where Austin Powers (Mike Myers) comments on how England looks remarkably like Californian countryside! 40 minutes into the movie Japan’s capital is seen by way of Dr Evil’s (also played by Mike Myers) new lair which is a submarine in Tokyo Bay in the shape of him including the classic little finger to the mouth. It’s long, hard and full of sea-men! This was supposedly created using CGI and the docks at San Pedro in south Los Angeles.
The Asahi Sumo Arena doesn’t exist which is where Austin and Foxxy head (albeit with obvious rear projection of Shinjuku in the background) to find Fat Bastard (again played by Mike Myers) who tells them of Roboto Industries whose boss is named purely to give Powers the chance to say “Domo arigatou Mr Roboto” as was sung in Styx’s 1983.
* Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) – This Japanese volcanic island is actually part of Tokyo albeit a long, long way south (750 km) of the mainland. Access to the island is prohibited (for the general public) but the filmmakers were given special permission by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to film there on a short day trip there. A short scene with Ken Watanabe doing something or another on the beach was shot and then Sandvik in Iceland was used to replicate its black sand beaches. Other scenes were filmed primarily in Barstow and Bakersfield in California as well as the studio’s in Los Angeles.
* The Wolverine (2013) – An artistic license was certainly used where the filming of this one was concerned. Sure, the funeral scene really was at Zojoji temple in Tokyo but that footage was all interwoven with what was filmed at Chinese Friendship Gardens in Sydney. The very same gardens were also used in ‘The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert‘ (1994). The Australian city was further used with Nagasaki’s wartime prison camp being built at Bonna Point Reserve in Kurnell on the south of Botany Bay.
Yashida’s heavily-defended compound in Tokyo was actually filmed at the Fox Studios on the former Sydney Showground at Moore Park. Paramatta is in Sydney’s western suburbs and the intersection of George and Smith Streets doubled up as the Tokyo streets where a foot chase took place. Furthermore, Sydney Olympic Park was made into a Japanese village draped in snow where Logan (Hugh Jackman) heads to save Mariko from Yashida’s empire in the mountains. Filming also took place on Brisbane Street in Surrey Hills which was transformed to look like a Japanese street with Japanese signs and vehicles scattered throughout.