Movie Titles in Japanese

'Man of Steel' Press Conference in Tokyo
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The Japanese enjoy movies, eiga (映画), very much. Unfortunately, it is a little bit expensive to see movies at the theater. It costs ~1800 yen for adults.

Houga (邦画) are Japanese movies and youga (洋画) are western movies. The famous Hollywood movie stars are popular in Japan as well. Girls love Reonarudo Dikapurio (Leonard Dicaprio) or Braddo Pitto (Brad Pitt), and they want to be like Juria Robaatsu (Julia Roberts). Their names are pronounced in a Japanese style because there are some English sounds that don't exist in Japanese (e.g. "l", "r", "w"). These foreign names are written in katakana.

If you have ever had a chance to watch Japanese TV, you might be surprised to see these actors quite often in TV commercials, something you will almost never see in North America. 

Japanese Movie Translations

Some youga titles are literally translated like "Eden no higashi (East of Eden)" and "Toubousha (The Fugitive)". Some use English words as they are, though the pronunciation is slightly changed to the Japanese pronunciation. "Rokkii (Rocky)", "Faago (Fargo)", and "Taitanikku (Titanic)" are just a few examples. These titles are written in katakana because they are English words. This type of translation seems to be on the increase. This is because borrowed English is everywhere and the Japanese are likely to know more English words than before.

The Japanese title of "You've got mail" is "Yuu gotta meeru (You got mail)," using English words. With the rapid growth of personal computer and email use, this phrase is familiar to the Japanese as well. However, there is a slight difference between these two titles. Why "have" is missing from the Japanese title? Unlike English, Japanese has no present perfect tense. (I have got, You have read etc.) There are only two tenses in Japanese: present and past. Therefore present perfect tense is not familiar and confusing to the Japanese, even to those who know English. That's probably why "have" is taken away from the Japanese title.

Using English words is an easy way to translate, but it is not always possible. After all, they are different languages and have different cultural backgrounds. When titles are translated into Japanese, they are sometimes turned into totally different ones. These translations are clever, funny, strange, or confusing.

The word used most often in the translated movie titles is probably "ai(愛)" or "koi (恋)", which both mean "love". Click this link to learn about the difference between "ai" and "koi".

Below are the titles including these words. Japanese titles first, then original English titles.


Japanese titles
(Literal English translations)
English titles
愛が壊れるとき Ai ga kowareru toki
(When love is broken)
Sleeping with the Enemy
愛に迷ったとき Ai ni mayotta toki
(When lost in love)
Something to Talk About
愛の選択 Ai no sentaku
(The choice of love)
Dying Young
愛という名の疑惑 Ai to iu na no giwaku
(The suspicion named love)
Final Analysis
愛と悲しみの果て Ai to kanashimi no hate
(The end of love and sorrow)
Out of Africa
愛と青春の旅立ち Ai to seishun no tabidachi
(The departure of love and youth)
An Officer and A Gentleman
愛と死の間で Ai to shi no aida de
(In between love and death)
Dead Again
愛は静けさの中に Ai wa shizukesa no naka ni
(Love is in the silence)
Children of a Lesser God
永遠の愛に生きて Eien no ai ni ikite
(Living in the lasting love)
Shadow Lands

恋に落ちたら Koi ni ochitara
(When falling in love)

Mad Dog and Glory
恋の行方 Koi no yukue
(The place love has gone)
The Fabulous Baker Boys
恋愛小説家 Renai shousetsuka
(A romance novel writer)
As Good As It Gets

The funny thing is there is no word "love" in all these English titles. Does "love" attract more attentions to the Japanese?

Whether you like it or not, you can't ignore the "Zero Zero Seven (007)" series. They are popular in Japan as well. Did you know that in the 1967's "You Only Live Twice," Jeimusu Bondo (James Bond) went to Japan? There were two Japanese Bond girls and the Bond car was a Toyota 2000 GT. The Japanese title of this series is "Zero zero sebun wa nido shinu (007 dies twice)," which is slightly different from the original title "You Only Live Twice". It is amazing that it was shot in Japan in 60's. The views of Japan are not quiet right sometimes, however, you could almost enjoy it as a comedy. In fact, a few scenes were parodied in "Oosutin Pawaazu (Austin Powers)".

We have had the lesson about yoji-jukugo (four character kanji compounds). "Kiki-ippatsu (危機一髪)" is one of them. It means "in the nick of time" and is written as below (see #1). Because 007 always escapes from danger at the last moment, this expression was used in the description for 007 movies. When it is written, one of the kanji characters (patsu 髪) is replaced witha different kanji character (発) that has the same pronunciation (see #2). These phrases are both pronounced as "kiki-ippatsu". However, the kanji "patsu " of #1 means "hair" which comes from "to hang by hair," and #2 発 means "a shot from a gun". Phrase #2 was made up as a parodied word that has two meanings in botit's reading and writing (007 escapes in the nick of time with his gun). Because of the movie's popularity, some Japanese miswrite it as #2.


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Abe, Namiko. "Movie Titles in Japanese." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Abe, Namiko. (2020, August 27). Movie Titles in Japanese. Retrieved from Abe, Namiko. "Movie Titles in Japanese." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).