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Top 8 Most Inspiring Japanese Dramas and Movies

Updated on February 24, 2020
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Mare is a lover of Japanese culture. She likes to discover what's new, popular, and trendy in Japan from time to time.

Japanese dramas are popular for its deep life lessons that teaches us to express love and appreciate life. While there are many top rated romance series nowadays, sometimes we cannot help but look for some shows that will give us an emotional roller coaster ride. If you're looking for super sad story and you want to release all your tears, you should check this out! Get ready to cry a lot because this list shows the highly-recommended heartbreaking yet inspiring stories you can watch.

1. Perfect World

"Perfect World" is a 2019 Japanese drama based on the manga of the same name by Rie Aruga. It features the story of Itsuki Ayukawa, a university student with big dreams of being a successful architect. During his 3rd year, he encounters an accident where he had a major injury, leaving him paralyzed from his waist down to his feet. His world began to change. He had to face the reality and the social prejudice of being in a wheelchair. He can no longer walk, run, and play basketball like he used to. He can only work harder and prove himself capable because of his physical disability.

He promised himself that he will not fall in love, but it seems like promises are meant to be broken when he meets Tsugumi Kawana, who had a crush on him during their high school days. She is working in an interior design company. Her dream was to enter an art school, but she lack confidence and gave up instead. Now, Itsuki Ayukawa and Tsugumi Kawana face the challenges in their love and the hardships in their life to overcome the negativity. Overall, this drama shows that finding the true meaning of happiness is the very definition of a perfect world.

Cast:

  • Tori Matsutaka as Itsuki Ayukawa
  • Mizuki Yamamoto as Tsugumi Kawana

2. The 8 Year Engagement

A 2017 film based on a true story, "The 8-Year Engagement" is an emotionally beautiful romance between two individuals who are engaged to be married. Hisashi and Mai started dating after meeting for the first time in a restaurant party. They became a couple and not long after, Hisashi proposed to Mai that he wants to marry her. Everything seems to be going well when one day, Mai suddenly fell ill. She experiences severe seizure and hysteria. The doctors were shocked to see her condition. After saving her from heart attack, she remains in comatose state and she is diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a rare brain inflammation.

That event was devastating for Hisashi and Mai's parents, but Hisashi continues to care for Mai every day. He visits her in the hospital and will sometimes stay beside her. Mai's parents started to worry about Hisashi, so they talked to him and ask him not to come back anymore. However, Hisashi didn't give up on their marriage. He is still holding on to the hope that one day, Mai will wake up. After a year, Mai woke up, but things have gone more heartbreaking because she completely forgotten about Hisashi.

The film was a big hit, selling over two million tickets in the box office. Many were touched by Hisashi's unconditional love to Mai.

Cast:

  • Takeru Sato as Hisashi
  • Tao Tsuchiya as Mai

3. Boku no Ita Jikan

For other people, time passes away like nothing, but for a young man with limited time left to live, every tick of the clock sounds scary. Also known as "The Hours of My Life", it centers on Takuto Sawada, who used to have a normal life in the beginning. He is an ordinary university student with ordinary family and home, and just like his classmates, he struggles in finding a decent job to earn for a living. Fortunately, he's hired in a furniture company. As a newbie, Takuto needs to work extra hard to please the boss. It was kind of exhausting, so he needs to find time to escape from the stress and pressure.

Megumi Hongo is a nice young woman with kind and bright personality. Takuto and Megumi started being friends until they developed into a couple. One day, Takuto discovered that he has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive nervous system disease that affects his movement and control. After being aware of his condition, he decided to break up with Megumi and continue working in the company as long as he can. Later on, Megumi learned the truth about his condition, and she chose to stay with him no matter what happens.

Cast:

  • Haruma Miura as Takuto Sawada
  • Mikako Tabe as Megumi Hongo

4. Good Doctor

While the original "Good Doctor" Korean drama received praises for its production and performance, there's also a plenty of good reasons to watch its Japanese remake. The series, which was aired in 2018 stars Kento Yamazaki as Minato Shindo, a man with autistic savant syndrome. He has an amazing memory and outstanding intelligence, and with that ability he aspires to become a doctor just like his mentor and savior, Akira Shiga. When asked why he wanted to be a doctor, he said that he wants to cure and save people so that the won't die just like his brother. His warm heart and innocent personality touches Doctor Akira. He personally thinks he can be a good doctor, except for the fact that he cannot communicate properly to others.

Doctor Akira supports Minato of his dream, so he recommended him to become a resident doctor. At first, there was a big issue of his acceptance because of his condition, especially Doctor Seiji Takayama who discourages him. Minato realizes that being a doctor is not just about brains. While slowly adapting to the medical environment, he is now a great pediatric surgeon who takes good care of the kids. Make sure your tissues are ready for this drama - it will certainly make you cry a river of tears!

Cast:

  • Kento Yamazaki as Minato Shindo
  • Juri Ueno as Natsumi Seto
  • Naohito Fujiki as Seiji Takayama

5. I Give My First Love To You

"Boku no Hatsukoi o Kimi ni Sasagu" is a 2009 J-movie about youth love. It was the 17th highest grossing Japanese film of 2009 with a total gross of 2.15 billion yen. Everyone was hooked by the heart-wrenching plot of two childhood friends, Mayu and Takuma. Since 8, these two developed an inseparable bonding and friendship that grows deeper as they grew up. They could have been a perfect couple in the future if not for Takuma having a heart disease. The doctor said that he will not live past the age of 20, so the two lovebirds promises to marry when they turn 20.

Years later, when they are attending high school, Takuma wants to push away Mayu because his death is near and he will only make her sad. But Mayu is determined to stay with him, so he followed his school and declared to be campus lovers. Things started to get interesting when another guy named Kou fell for Mayu, while a girl patient named Teru is now close to Takuma. It was a tragic, tear-jerking love story that inspires us to show how much we love someone while there is still time. There is also a TV drama adaptation of this film, entitled "Secret Unrequited Love" aired in 2019.

Cast:

  • Masaki Okada as Takuma Kakunouchi
  • Mao Inoue as Mayu Taneda

6. Koizora

Koizora was a mass cultural phenomenon which started as a romance novel written by author Mika. Its immense popularity was bought to life in a 2007 film, "Sky of Love". Starring Yui Aragaki and Haruma Miura, they portrayed the characters of Mika and Hiro. It all started with Mika losing her cellphone in school, and Hiro talking to him through calls. Mika loves Hiro's voice, so she decided to meet-up with Hiro personally. To her surprise, he is a the delinquent boy with white hair. Over time, Mika realizes that Hiro is a kind person, and that she wants to be with him. They had romance in the school library, and later, Mika confirms that she is pregnant.

The two young lovers wanted to raise the baby, but Hiro's ex-girlfriend, Saki, pushed Mika, causing her to have a miscarriage. They were totally depressed about the incident, and to move on, they promised to visit the baby's grave every year to show their love for their unborn baby. Later, Hiro is diagnosed with cancer, and he doesn't have much time to live, so he breaks up with Mika. But after some time, she learned about his condition, and she did her best to be with him until his death. The story ends with Mika having hope after Hiro's death, learning that she is pregnant with Hiro's child.

If you can't get enough of "Mika x Hiro" romance, there is a drama version of the same title released in 2008.

Cast:

  • Yui Aragaki as Mika Tahara
  • Haruma Miura as Hiroki Sakurai

7. One Liter of Tears

When it comes to inspirational stories, there is an award-winning drama that captures the hearts of many viewers. "One Liter of Tears" is an 11-episode drama aired in 2005 which centers on a cheerful and bubbly 15-year old girl, Aya Ikeuchi. Friendly and courageous, Aya is loved by her classmates and friends. Even her family cherishes her so much. She is from an ordinary family who runs a tofu shop. As Aya goes by with her day to day activities, she started being clumsy and gets into accidents often, so her mother stated to worry. Curious as to why she falls down and trips easily, she researches about the symptoms on her own. When they go to see the doctor, she is diagnosed with spinocerebellar degeneration, a disease that will make her lose the ability to walk, speak, and eat, but her mind will still be fine.

At such a young age, Aya had to live with this cruel disease. Seeing her strong motivation is truly heartbreaking. Thanks to the support of her family and friends, Aya lived a short but satisfying life. She died at the age of 25. The story is inspired from the real Aya Kito, who wrote a journal about her personal experience living with the disease.

Cast:

  • Erika Sawajiri as Aya Ikeuchi
  • Ryō Nishikido as Haruto Asō

8. Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World

Also known as "Sekai no Chushin De, Ai Wo Sakebu", it is based on the bestselling novel that sold over 3 million copies. There is a movie version of this, but the TV series has an 11 episodes which was released in 2004. Showcasing the bittersweet love from the past and in the present, it starts in a small town in Japan where Saku and Aki started to like each other. They were young, high school students back then. They exchange conversations about their dreams, and Aki have always wanted to go to Australia, to a beautiful rock formation called Ayer's Rock.

Aki discovers that she has leukemia. Because she's sick, she cannot be with Saku often, just like how they were before. The boy wants to do everything for the girl, so Saku bought plane tickets for Aki so she can go to her dream place. Sadly, she passed away before she can reach her destined journey. In the present time, Saku flashes back his memory to the time when he's with Aki. Young love can be sad yet sweet, and it is a memory that will last a lifetime.

Cast:

  • Takayuki Yamada as teen Matsumoto Sakutaro
  • Naoto Ogata as present Matsumoto Sakutaro
  • Haruka Ayase as teen Hirose Aki

What is your favorite inspirational Japanese drama/film?

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© 2020 Mare-sensei

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