Singing of Japan
Singing of Japan

A film I bought over a year ago on import from Japan, only to realise it had no English subtitles (oops), I’m so glad Nippon Chinbotsu, Sinking of Japan, has finally been given a UK release. Not only can I now understand the plot, it means I can finally enjoy this epic disaster movie fully.

Released: 2006

Running Time: 135 mins

The Premise

Various brainy people have worked out that due to the tectonic plate movement around Japan, the whole country will sink within 30 years. This suddenly is found to be inaccurate and it’s scaled down into a year and then by half way through the movie it might as well just all happen at once! Different people react to the news in different ways and as a country, Japan decides its course of action while piece by piece it slides into the Ocean.

The Disasters Faced

Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami’s, tectonic shifts, gas pockets and rock slides. Basically Mother Nature is out to take poor Japan out any which way she can!

The Execution

Sinking of Japan is a large-scale high budget disaster movie and some of the set pieces are fantastic. The acting is typically Eastern. The main plot consists of rescue worker Reiko and the man (and little girl) she saves in an Earthquake Toshio. They form a broken family of people left behind from previous natural disasters. Kobe is refered to quite often and it gives the characters a weight of reality to them. Reiko’s family are also along for the ride including the fantastic Hideko Yoshida as Aunt Tamae who along with Reiko’s brothers, make a great comedy trio as they are processed through the evacuation from Japan.

We also see how the people at the top deal with the news. Some bury their head in the sand, others decide to take action but by the time they do its all too late and so the numerous disasters begin. What the film is particularly good at doing is finding people’s motives for their actions and really discussing exactly what exactly would the impact be on the world if Japan was no more. Would we miss their culture? What does the nation bring to Earth’s table?

Here comes the tidal wave
Here comes the tidal wave

The Effects

Japan has a very different palette of effects compared to Hollywood. The volcanic CGI eruptions are fantastic, the flood scenes, like Haeundae, look more like scaled miniatures and don’t hold up quite as well, whilst still being quite mesmerizing to watch. Ash and fire are rife throughout the film, and the underwater sequences are well done too. All in all, the effects are great.

Why It’s Worth Watching

Sinking of Japan is worth watching for all the right reasons. The characters are strong. The love story between them is palpable (although the strange love theme song played in the middle is very jarring – I was waiting for VH1 styled music credits to appear). Misaki, the  young girl saved in the opening scene is superb with her underplayed fear and innocence throughout the ordeal. The movie also deals with the politics and the problems with trying to evacuate a whole country. You’d think if a country was to disappear, others might take in their stranded fellow humans but not in this case. The film also deals with what Japan is as a country quite well too, and doesn’t idealise itself as America does in all these types of movies and its refreshing for it. Best of all though, its enjoyable to watch purely because the film starts off slowly ramping up the stakes higher and higher as the film continues on and will have you in suspense all the way.

Favourite Character

It’s tough this. Misaki is adorable as the little orphaned girl, both leads are fantastic too but for the scenes she’s in, Aunt Tamae steals the show as the elderly lady tries to wrestle off armed guards to see her home before its lost to sea.

The Volcanic eruptive is impressive
The Volcanic eruptive is impressive

Best Death

The first volcano’s massive eruption is spectacular and claims our first main character in the process too. However the “best death” award goes to what is a small scene when our leading male is wandering through the broken streets he stumbles across a massive line of dead bodies laid to rest. While he stares at them, he turns around to see an inconsolable mother carrying her dead baby and she lays the baby to rest with the other bodies. It’s such a powerful scene that stuck with me long afterwards.

Drinking Game

Japanese people being depicted as loyal and humble to their homes – refusing to leave. Get outta there peeps!

Weirdest Moment

As our leading lovers are reunited before they head off for their last missions in the final act, they run to each other and just simply stare at each other while we listen to a chorus and verse of the vocal love song. The music fades, they then turn and scoot off on their way again!

Random Trivia

This film is a remake of the 1960’s film of the same title and was also one of the most expensive films ever made in Japan at the time.

Goofy Quote

As Japan is being ripped to shreds…. “Why do we have to go? I like it here”


Sinking of Japan is fantastic. Don’t be put off by the subtitles, it’s a great piece of cinema that any disaster fiend will enjoy and it takes the hurt and pain of a natural disaster all the way from the individual right up to just exactly what a country is these days. It also delivers on the title – Japan does sink. There are no do-overs. There’s no get out clauses. Hurrah for that! Very highly recommended!

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