Filming for this epic took place in eight different countries; the USA, England, France, Spain, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand and Japan. Whilst multiple locations is fairly common place these days, it wasn’t at all back in the mid-1950s so it really is quite incredible that so many exterior locations and sets were used including a couple in Japan.
It really is a long wait for some Japanese scenery though. Mount Fuji is finally seen on 103 minutes as Phileas Fogg (David Niven), having missed the boat to Yokohama, uses a traditional Chinese sailing ship (known as a junk) to get to Japan. The first location in Japan is the Great Buddha of Kamakura at Kotoko-in Temple in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Without any regard for geography or time the scene then transitions to another city. Fogg’s loyal servant Passepartout (Cantinflas) casually strolls to an expansive, chrome-red coloured palace complex which is nearly 300 miles west in Kyoto!
It is of course the Heian Shrine (Okazaki Nishitennocho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto) which was used for filming this scene in late 1955. In some ways this classic Shinto shrine complex is actually quite modern having been built in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto (which was Japan’s first capital). Latin immigrant valet Passepartout enters through the giant torii gate into the wide open court
Six decades may have passed since filming took place but very little has changed, and that is the beauty of filming at such places as they are timeless and are still very recognisable many, many years later. It’s an impressive shrine with its elegant, richly-colored buildings.
Located among many museums, this area is one of the most popular places on the tourist trail in Kyoto. It’s a 10 minute walk from Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Subway Line or 15 minutes on foot from Jingu-Marutamachi Station on the Keihan Line.
Very similar shots of the gravel-covered courtyard could be seen approximately 50 years later in ‘Lost In Translation‘ (2003). That film more famously featured the landscaped gardens behind the shrine which are representative of Meiji Period garden design, and have a rich variety of flowers that change with the four seasons. They could also be seen briefly at the end of ‘Memoirs Of A Geisha‘ (2006).
After a couple of minutes that’s it for Heian Shrine, and indeed Japan as the action moves on elsewhere in this epic 167 minute film directed by Michael Anderson.
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Filming Locations #21 – Around The World In 80 Days (1956)’
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Click here to read ‘Kyoto Filming Locations: Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005)’
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