Most people know that ‘Memoirs Of A Geisha‘ (2005) and ‘The Last Samurai‘ (2003) were filmed in Kyoto. It was briefly in ‘Lost In Translation‘ (2003) and also featured in the likes of ‘Wasabi‘ (2000), ‘The Challenge‘ (1982), ‘Mastermind‘ (1976) and ‘Fear And Trembling‘ (2003) but one of the first internationally-produced movies to be filmed in Kyoto was ‘The Yakuza‘ (1974).
This film starred Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura, who later went on to appear in ‘Black Rain‘ (1988) and ‘Mr Baseball‘ (1992) as well as countless Japanese films. ‘The Yakuza‘ was directed by Sidney Pollack, and written by Paul Schrader of ‘Taxi Driver‘ (1976) fame. As mentioned in the Tokyo Fox review of the film, the Kyoto International Conference Center on Lake Takaraga-ike was the most notable of all the locations and it’s front exterior (below) is first seen 43 minutes in.
This futuristic-looking building was designed by architect Sachio Otani and it is where the Kyoto Protocol was signed. To get there, head north of Kyoto Station on the Subway Karasuma Line for 20 minutes and the final stop is Kokusaikaikan station and one of the exits leads you directly to this International Conference Center. The center, which opened in 1966 with an addition in 1973, is a rather unusual building as there are few vertical walls or columns.
The screenshot match-ups in this post aren’t quite precise but they’re all close enough. Mitchum’s character Harry Kilmer is next seen walking down the hallway from the main entrance where the reception desk is. However, if you look up at the ceiling of the two pictures below then you’ll notice that my photo was taken from the other end of the hallway to the screenshot.
The majority of the remaining footage from the International Conference Center was filmed outside and featured Kilmer and Goro (James Shigeta). Goro is a man of position and influence and Kilmer feels he should be aware that the life of his brother Ken (Ken Takakura) is under threat.
The two of them walk around the back of the Center and talk about cultures in what is a rather lengthy (over five minutes!) dialogue-heavy scene between the pair.
Goro feeds the fish and shows a sign of some sorts but that is not actually there now or was just a set prop added in production.
This Center also featured in the climax to ‘The Challenge‘ (1982) which was directed by John Frankenheimer and starred Scott Glenn and Toshirō Mifune.
It was a beautiful sunny day when I visited but more impressive was the fact that it looked pretty much identical 44 years on.
Click here to read ‘Kyoto Filming Locations: Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005)’
Click here to read ‘Kyoto Filming Locations: The Last Samurai (2003)’
Click here to read ‘Kyoto Filming Locations: Lost In Translation (2003)’
Click here to read ‘Kyoto Filming Locations: Wasabi (2000)’
Click here to read ‘Kyoto Filming Locations: The Challenge (1982)’ (Link will appear soon)