Ask any Filipino what's their dream country to visit and chances are Japan is probably at the top of the list.
Apart from the popularity of Japanese movies, TV shows, music, anime and manga, we are also curious to know their way of life, visit their historical and tourist spots and taste authentic Japanese cuisine.
Good news! The Japanese Embassy in Manila recently announced that the country will be accepting visa applications beginning October 11, 2022. For the past months, tourists could only visit Japan through packaged tours via accredited travel agencies. Finally, you can turn that Japan dream trip into reality!
When visiting Japan, most travelers would prioritize going to the capital city Tokyo and historical Osaka as these places are often featured in the media.
But if you want to fly to Japan and visit a less crowded and quaint destination with a unique charm, you might take interest in Saga Prefecture. Located in Kyushu's northwest, Saga offers underrated natural wonders, history and artistry, with towns mainly influenced by Chinese and Korean culture. The nearest airport going there is Fukuoka.
Did you know that at least four Filipino films were shot in Saga Prefecture in the past five years? With the help and guidance of the Saga Film Commission, the following films were produced and shown in cinemas and a number of streaming platforms.
Need more inspiration to plan your trips? Check out these Filipino films.
Probably the most recognizable film on the list for mainstream moviegoers, Between Maybes is a story of a former child star named Hazel (portrayed by PhilSTAR L!fe October cover girl Julia Barretto) who is struggling with her showbiz career that causes a rift with her mom. On a whim, she goes to the airport and books a flight to Fukuoka where she ends up in a restaurant (Oyster BBQ SONO). There, she meets a fellow Filipino named Louie (Gerald Anderson) who spent most of his life living in Japan. This is a story of two lonely strangers who find solace and comfort in each other despite their differences in age and social standing.
Some of the spots featured in the film include the Takezaki Castle, Kaichu Torii, Rokuroza Pottery Studio and Kokorozashi No Mori. With the serene backdrop perfect for finding true love, I wouldn’t be surprised if a special love story starts between two people while exploring. Right, Gerald and Julia?
- Director/Writer: Jason Paul Laxamana
- Starring: Gerald Anderson and Julia Barretto
- Where to Watch: Netflix and iWant TFC
There are instances where couples travel overseas to reassess their relationship. Is it still worth fighting for, or is it time to let go?
Hanggang Kailan? is a movie about lovers Donnie and Kath who travel to Kyushu in Saga prefecture to celebrate their second anniversary. The thing is, they’re not there to strengthen their relationship. Instead, they’re on their last trip together because Donnie is actually engaged to be married.
The film serves as the first pairing of Xian Lim and Louise Delos Reyes together. With the two known for their drama projects both on TV and films, the pair managed to portray flawed characters who happen to be in love. Though this one features a bittersweet story, having the Saga Hot Air Balloon Festival as the backdrop might influence couples (whether they want to break up or not) to visit. In fact, the highly anticipated hot air balloon festival of the prefecture resumes on November 2-6! You may want to include this in your itinerary just in case you’ll fly out soon!
If your intention of visiting Saga prefecture is somewhat similar to our featured characters, you may want to check out the Japanese-style garden Keishuen, the Kaichu Torii, Toyotamahine Shrine, Warakuen and the Tenzan Resort for ski-enthusiasts out there.
- Director: Bona Fajardo
- Starring: Xian Lim and Louise Delos Reyes
- Where to Watch: Vivamax
For moviegoers who grew up exposed to the rise of popularity of Asian horror movies in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, having a Filipino film shot in Japan is somewhat a nostalgic treat. It will also make one curious about the similarities of the superstitious beliefs between the two nations particularly in terms of constructing a house.
Shot in Kuratsu during the autumn season, the movie features Ritz Azul as Iris, a female architect who specializes in restorations was commissioned by her ex-boyfriend Job (Joseph Marcos) to work on a project in Japan. Iris is suffering from PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing how her younger sister was kidnapped by a syndicate.
The Missing tackles the concept of Hitobashira or human pillar, an old practice of burying a living human being in important buildings and structures which was said to be a common practice back in the 16th century. Sounds familiar? You probably heard of the urban legends regarding some of the sturdy bridges in the Philippines…
To make the film more intriguing, majority of the scenes were shot in the 150-year old ancestral home called Maeda Residence located at the small seaside town of Iman. The viewers will also get a glimpse of the Karatsu Kunchi Festival, the festival of the Karatsu Shrine held every November 2-4.
Important scenes were also shot in the Chikugo River Lift Bridge, Yoshinogari Historical Park, Saga Castle History Museum, Giant Japanese Judas Tree of Shimoose (where an important flashback scene was shot), Nanatsugama Caves, Sansui, Furiya Hot Springs, Obuchu Mebuchi Park, Ikiso Kaiku and the Joran Juksu. All those offer a good weekend itinerary already!
- Director/Writer: Easy Ferrer
- Starring: Ritz Azul, Miles Ocampo and Joseph Marco
- Where to Watch: Regal Entertainment Inc. YouTube Channel (divided into parts)
Kintsugi pertains to the unique Japanese way of repairing broken porcelain. The town of Arita in Saga prefecture is best known for the traditional Japanese craft. Based on the photos, it seems like one can really feel the old Japan vibes.
The movie is all about Dante Dizon (JC Santos), a Filipino laborer working in a porcelain factory in Saga. In the workplace, he meets Harue Matsuzaka (actress name), the daughter of the factory owner who arrived from Tokyo unannounced. When Dante met an accident in the factory which caused him to break a prototype of a new design being developed, Harue offered helped by teaching him Kintsugi. With the bowl restored, the two became good friends and eventually, they fall in love. An emergency back home in the Philippines prompted Dante to come home. Harue discovers something about Dante’s past that will make her agree to get married to someone else.
Will their love for each other be enough to heal their broken hearts?
If you’re interested in pottery or are experiencing heartbreak that can only be healed by wandering, you may be interested in visiting the following places: Shingama Kilm (the main location of the film), Iorihisashi (they offer workshops on pottery making), Shujian, Takeo Shrine, Kasane, Kashima Roadside Station and the Yutoku Inare Shrine.
- Director: Lawrence Fajardo / Writer: Rona Lean Sales
- Starring: JC Santos and Hiro Nishiuchi
- Where to Watch: TBA
The four stories written by Filipino filmmakers will probably inspire you to visit Saga prefecture on your future Japan trip!