Japan, according to “The Wolverine”

“Our islands are long and thin. The trains only run in two directions.”
Shingen Yashida

One of the movies I chose to watch on the flight to Japan was “The Wolverine”. It’s a bad, bad movie, with even more Oriental stereotypes per square inch than Last Samurai’s “traditional Japanese village” sequence. Since whatever little of the plot there was failed to pull me in at all, I had ample time to focus on the particularly shoddy job the Wolverine does of Japanese geography. Wolverine’s escapades around Japan are far more intriguing than even Thor’s famous Tube journey from Charing Cross to Greenwich in three short stops.

Here’s a (badly drawn) map of what Wolverine’s Japan looks like, based on what’s said and shown in the movie:

Wolverine

PEDANT’S NOTES (contain Spoilers):
(PS: I know geography is never a strong point in action movies, but usually the action itself is distracting enough not to care about it. In Wolverine, it wasn’t.)

1. All of Japan’s city centres are, apparently, perfectly walkable. It’s about 8km from Tokyo Tower to Ueno Station. Wolverine and Mariko run all the way (Mariko in her wedding kimono). Also, the Tokyo Tower can be visible from any point in the city.

2. There are no bullet trains from Ueno to Osaka. Why they couldn’t just run to Tokyo Station (which is half-way to Ueno) will remain a mystery.

3. Since there is no public transport in Wolverine’s Japan, he and Mariko must walk again, a few miles from Shin Osaka station to the “centre”, where they stumble upon an unexpected clone of Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower.

4. There is never any sense of Japan consisting of several islands, rather than one long one. Japan’s main geographical regions are “The South” (Osaka and Nagasaki) and “The North” (where the Yashida research facility is). As mentioned above, Japan is a one-dimensional place, with only one railway line running along it. No wonder Shingen is so angry with his lackeys.

5. The distances covered are not explained, but we do get one glimpse into how long it takes to travel between major cities, when Yukio takes Logan in her Audi all the way from Nagasaki to Tokyo in a matter of one cut-scene, and doesn’t even manage to explain him her visions along the way. In reality, the non-stop journey would take the best part of the day (also: how fast is that Audi? Logan mentions earlier that the bullet train runs at 400-500km/h, and yet it’s easier to get back to Tokyo in Yukio’s car)

6. The only actual distance mentioned in the movie is the ominously uttered “500 km” from Tokyo to Black Clan Village. It’s so far away that even the weather changes from summer to winter. Never mind that Logan and Yukio just drove some 1200 km from Nagasaki apparently without even having time to talk.

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4 thoughts on “Japan, according to “The Wolverine”

  1. Ha, I had to revisit this post when watching one of the first episodes of “Heroes Reborn”. In a segment set in Tokyo, the Nakagin Capsule Tower rears its head again, this time smack dab in the middle of Shibuya, just outside Shibuya Station.

    It must be a running joke among non-Japanese filmmakers to insert the Nakagin Capsule Tower whenever they get the chance.

  2. Love this post. Reminds me of Die Hard 4 when they take a helicopter from the hills of West Virginia to Washington D.C. in a matter of minutes.

    One question. I haven’t seen The Wolverine, but you mention “Tokyo’s long-demolished Nakagin Capsule Tower” – was it demolished in the movie? The tower still stands in Tokyo (at least in July when I was there, although it looks like it has seen better days.

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