Aishiteru. That’s how you say “I love you” in Japanese, and it’s something that you’ll hear in a lot of Japanese romance movies. From tragic tearjerkers to eccentric rom-com, you’ll have your pick of love stories from the Land of the Rising Sun. Here are just a few of the best romantic films to make you swoon!
1. Your Name (2016)
PG, Romance, Animation, Fantasy
Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi
You might have heard of Your Name. A massive hit with both domestic and foreign fans, it’s the third highest-grossing film in Japanese history and a modern classic in terms of story, animation, and more.
The plot follows two high schoolers who live in different parts of the country. One day, they start switching bodies, and they slowly start to fall in love as they live each other’s lives. But things are never what they seem in such a fantastical setting…
Stream Your Name on Prime Video, Chili, Apple TV, Google Play, and YouTube.
2. See Hear Love (2023)
PG-13, Romance, Drama
Starring: Yamashita Tomohisa, Araki Yuko, Takasugi Mahiro, Yamamoto Maika
She’s deaf. He’s going blind. See Hear Love tells an unconventional love story, especially since the couple’s meetup takes place on a rooftop where he’s about to commit suicide. At its core, however, the movie tells an achingly romantic tale of two people who find each other exactly when they need it most.
Watch See Hear Love on Prime Video.
3. Rurouni Kenshin Part 1: Origins (2012)
PG-13, Action, Drama, Historical
Starring: Takeru Sato, Emi Takei, Yuu Aoi, Koji Kikkawa, Munetaka Aoki
What would you do as an assassin who’d had enough of killing?
Kenshin, the wandering swordsman at the center of Rurouni Kenshin, commits to living a peaceful life and never killing again. But the year is 1868, and Japan is still reeling from the Bakumatsu War. Kenshin is also compelled to protect the new friends he’s making, including a female Kendo instructor who offers him a guest room. Peace will be a lot harder to maintain than it seems.
Note for romance lovers: There isn’t a lot of doki-doki in this particular movie, but the love story picks up in the sequels!
Catch Rurouni Kenshin Part 1 on Netflix.
4. We Couldn’t Become Adults (2021)
Starring: Mirai Moriyama, Sairi Ito, Masahiro Higashide
A movie for a slightly older crowd, We Couldn’t Become Adults tells the story of a 42-year-old man who gets a friend request from an old flame on social media. Before he knows it, he’s thrown into a whirlwind of memories from the ’90s and beyond, making him confront the fact that he’s not who he’d planned to be when he was young, free, and in love.
Stream We Couldn’t Become Adults on Netflix.
5. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
G, Romance, Animation
Starring: Yoko Honna, Issei Takahashi, Takashi Tachibana, Shigeru Muroi
Whisper of the Heart is one of the lesser-known titles from Studio Ghibli, the powerhouse behind other classic Japanese films such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. However, it’s a hidden gem that deserves just as many accolades as Hayao Miyazaki’s other work. Cute, charming, and thoroughly vintage, it follows the story of a junior high student who loves writing and falls for a boy who works at an antique shop.
Watch Whisper of the Heart on Netflix.
6. The Legend & Butterfly (2023)
PG-13, Romance, Historical, War
Starring: Takuya Kimura, Haruka Ayase, Hideaki Ito, Miki Nakatani, Takumi Saitoh
They were part of an arranged marriage fixed in hopes of bringing peace to their kingdoms. However, the main characters of The Legend & Butterfly take a while to find love. In fact, they only really find it when war threatens to tear apart everything they’ve ever known, bringing them together as unlikely allies. Filled with big themes like duty, honour, and sacrifice, this is an epic historical film for the ages.
Play The Legend & Butterfly on Prime Video.
7. Drive My Car (2021)
PG-13, Drama, Mystery, Romance
Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Reika Kirishima
Drive My Car is an engrossing and character-driven movie that’s only partly about romance. The main character is a man who lost his wife to mysterious circumstances several years ago. While being driven around for work by a seemingly cold-hearted female chauffeur, he’s forced to confront the memories of his past and the unanswered questions that his wife left behind. You can read more about Drive my Car here.
Fun fact: The screenplay is based on a short story written by famous Japanese author Haruki Murakami.
Stream Drive My Car on Apple TV, Google Play, and MUBI.
8. Weathering With You (2019)
PG-13, Romance, Drama, Fantasy
Starring: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Tsubasa Honda
A high school boy grows tired of living in his remote island town and runs away to big-city Tokyo. Once there, he struggles to make ends meet, but his fortunes change when he meets a girl who can control the weather… and bring sunshine to his rainy days. Weathering With You is a beautiful animated movie with the kind of cute, whimsical tropes that you’d expect from a Japanese romance movie flavoured with fantasy.
Watch Weathering With You on Rakuten TV and Apple TV.