People ask me where I like to visit when I'm in Tokyo. I think they're angling for me to tell them about some cool tourist spot they can check out when they make it over. Sadly, my visits to Japan usually aren't so prosaic. I spend them predominantly in two locations: izakaya (sake bars) and movie theaters. It's one of my few chances during the near not only to drink sake without the 2x markup I pay in the US, but to see films that are either hard to get legally or may never even see the light of day in the states.

While I got to see a lot of great flicks on my last two trips to Japan, preparation for a Japanese language test on my last trip meant I didn't get to catch the one I wanted to see most: Manbiki Kazoku (万引き家族; Tentative English title: Shoplifters), the latest production of director Kore-eda Hirokazu (是枝裕和). Manbiki, led by a strong cast including Lily Frankie and Kiki Kirin, tells the story of a pastiche family living in poverty who depend on grift and shoplifting to stay afloat. The film has won international acclaim, and scored Japan its first Palmes d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in over 20 years.

Sadly, Shoplifters won't be releasing to international audiences for a few months. Also sadly, Kore-eda's 2017 film, The Third Murder (三度目の殺人; sando-me no satsujin) doesn't appear to be generally available in English. Fortunately, his 2014 hit, Soshite, Chichi ni Naru (そして、父になる), released as Like Father, Like Son, is available to rent with English subs from

Like Father is a touching, tear-jerking (though not maudlin and overly sentimental) story of a workaholic dad, Nonomiya Ryouta, and his neglected wife, Midori, who are told by the hospital where their son was born that their child was switched at birth. The couple agree to meet the parents who have been raising their biological son. The two couples couldn't be more opposite: the Nonomiyas live in a high floor in a spacious mansion (condo) in a city in Gunma Prefecture, while the other couple, the Saikis, run a small, worn-down electrical shop on the outskirts of the city, and live in what Ryouta can only see as utter poverty. Determined to give his biological son the best life he can, Ryouta recommends that the couples reverse the hospital's mistake and switch children - an experience that ends up changing the course of Ryouta's hectic life for the better.

Like Father is a subtly woven story whose emotional moments are tender and moving without being cheap. Fukuyama Masahiro delivers a solid performance as Ryouta, while Lily Frankie (the star of Shoplifters) also lends a powerful hand as Saiki Yuuta, a father who makes up in attention and heart whatever he may lack in worldly success.

The film appears slated to be remade in English by Dreamworks, but I'd suggest seeing the original beforehand. I mean, hey, you weren't doing anything else this weekend, right?

Like Father, Like Son

Like Father, Like Son (そして、父になる)

Director: Kore-eda Hirokazu
In this touching, heartwarming film, two very different families collide when the parents learn their six-year-old sons were switched at birth.