UK’s First Japan Film Festival

Words by Rochelle Field Valentine & Photography by N.O.W.


The growing popularity of Japanese culture within the UK has prompted the first ever Brick Lane Japan Film Festival, at 5th Base Gallery just off Brick Lane. The event kicked off with a bang last night, with Takeshi Kitano’s HANA-BI (lit: fireworks).

Takeshi Kitano is a popular television personality and comedian in Japan, but is known abroad for his film roles and directing. Anime films from Studio Ghibli have exploded in recent years at the BFI Southbank, Prince Charles Cinema and Curzon Cinema. The event organiser, Kentaro Hayashi, who studied at the University of Westminster, says that there are many independent and major films that are yet to be discovered.

PR manager, Keiichiro Fuse, revealed before the film started that he wants to spread Japanese culture around the world so that it becomes more popular than K-Pop. This determination has opened the doors of 5th Base Gallery with seven films screened over three days, with talks of more festivals to come.


On the opening night a towering painting of DANK’s “Queen of Neon” geisha sparkled with his use of liquid lights and the flash of a very good camera outside the event doors. Tables were lined with memorabilia including posters of the night’s theme, ‘Way of Life’. Rows of bottled sake, which held no more than a can of coke, and Sapporo beer were presented to guests along with a small helping of ‘kaki-pi’ upon entry.

Kaki-pi, an assortment of peanuts and persimmon seed-shaped crackers called Kaki-no-tane, are a great accompaniment to any alcohol in Japan.

Once the doors opened, warm fairy lights strewn across the ceiling that delicately illuminated the room. The floor was decorated with rows of air mattresses for guests to sit on and the east wall, in blue wiring spelt out “BJFF 2016”. Simple yet elegant. The 30-seat limit for the gallery turned cinema, emitted cosy and warm feelings. Or maybe it was the sake. Smooth and sweet: Sparkling Mio sake did not disappoint. A quick search revealed a whopping £13.80 for the bottle in Japan Centre!

Mio Sparkling Sake can be bought at the Japan Centre in Shaftesbury Avenue, or found in these locations:


At 7:30pm, the lights were switched off and the film began…

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