Hollywood movies usually get Japan wrong. There are exceptions, sure, but generally speaking, they fail miserably. It's either hiring non-Japanese actors to play Japanese characters or doing a bad job of recreating the country.
The Wolverine, which takes its titular hero to Japan, seems to be doing a solid job of avoiding those pratfalls. There are several Japanese actors in lead roles, such as the brilliant Hiroyuki Sanada. And the crew came to Japan to film several scenes — which is a big deal, considering how expensive it is to work and film here (especially with the strong yen). But there's one small problem — and fingers crossed, we can fix it before this weekend.
As News.com.au points out, the crew has returned to Australia and is attempting to turn Parramatta into downtown Tokyo. Movie magic, right? Maybe! I imagine the scenes in Parramatta will be the ones in which the background isn't so important (so they probably won't really matter all that much). Good thing, because it looks the like the filmmakers are getting Tokyo wrong.
Here's a photo from the intersection of George and Smith in Parramatta. If you've been to Tokyo, you'll know that this doesn't really look like Tokyo.
This is what Tokyo looks like... at night. But like I said, having Australia double for Japan is probably for scenes in which the background isn't so important and maybe it will be done under a cloak of darkness (thanks Luke for the photo!).
But let's say that movie-goers can see Parramatta's Tokyo. Well, if they're Japanese moviegoers, they'll probably look at the signs in the windows and scratch their heads.
Since big movies like The Wolverine are aimed at worldwide audiences, and Japan makes up a big part of that audience, movie companies might want to be as accurate as possible. For example, why is there a money exchanger (両替) on the third floor? Wouldn't it be on the first floor in a bank?
Yes, I see there's a financial service (金融サービス) below that in red. But financial services are usually for doing loans or giving credit — slightly different. And then there's the Japanese for the Milky Way (天の川 or "Tennogawa") right next to it and then somebody's last name (桑島 or "Kuwajima") for the 2F. It's mishmash of Japanese words.
But Tokyo is a mishmash! You're right. It is. But what Westerners often forget is that it's a mishmash of English and Japanese words and when depicting Japan, they tend to go all out in nothing but Japanese in order to portray something more authentic. Japan, however, can't seem to stop using English, often using words everybody knows or giving stores names with English lettering. See below.
Yes, there are some English letters in the Parramatta set, but all the signs on the flatbed are entirely in Japanese. However, none of these, including my silly money-changing hang up, are truly the big mistake on how these filmmakers are getting Japan wrong. They seem to be making the extra effort to try and get things right. And that's great, because you know what, Japanese filmmakers often get the West wrong when they film it.
So what's the big mistake? What do they need to fix? What's your beef, Ashcraft? Like I said, it's a small mistake, and one that can be fixed: In the corner, the character for "yo" in katakana (ヨ) is flipped around. So instead of it saying "yoga" (ヨガ), which would be correct, it says, well, nothing that makes any sense whatsoever.
Hey, we're human. We screw up! When I screw up, I appreciate it when lovely readers send along corrections, because then I'm able to be as accurate as possible. I bet the folks behind The Wolverine feel the same way. The filmmakers are shooting this weekend, so hopefully they'll fix it on the off chance that the sign makes its way on camera. It's not too late! Let's help them out.
The Wolverine comes out next winter. I'm looking forward to it, and I hope you are, too.