"Drive My Car" Hiroshima Filming Locations - Step Into the World of Haruki Murakami!

Directed by the up-and-coming visionary Ryusuke Hamaguchi, the movie “Drive my Car” won an Oscar for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards. The movie takes place in Hiroshima, and in this article, we’ll introduce all the real-life places within the prefecture that appeared in it! Drive your car through beautiful Hiroshima locations that will transport you straight into the world of the hit movie. This is one side of Hiroshima that you won’t find in any guidebook.

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Drive My Car: The Winner of the 2022 Academy Award for Best International Feature Film

The movie “Drive My Car” is based on the Haruki Murakami short story of the same name from the author’s 2014 collection “Men Without Women,” and Ryusuke Hamaguchi is the director and screenwriter who brought the story to the big screen. Prior to winning an Oscar for “Drive My Car,” Hamaguchi’s accolades included having his movie “Asako I & II” compete at the Cannes Film Festival, winning the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize for “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” at the Berlin International Film Festival, and “Wife of a Spy,” which he co-wrote, winning the Silver Lion for Best Direction award at the Venice International Film Festival.

While the Murakami short story serves as the foundation of the movie, other parts of “Men Without Women” as well as themes from other works such as Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" have been woven into the story to better flesh out the main characters, bringing the film’s total runtime to nearly three hours. The result was a massive success, with “Drive My Car” being the first Japanese movie to win an award for Best Screenplay at the 74th Cannes Film Festival in 2021. Combined with it also winning an Oscar for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Award ceremony, “Drive My Car” has become one of the most talked-about Japanese movies in recent years.

Plot Summary

Renowned stage actor and director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is married happily to a screenwriter named Oto. However, tragedy strikes when Oto suddenly dies, leaving behind a secret. Two years later, the still-grieving Yusuke accepts the position of director for a theater festival and departs for Hiroshima in his beloved Saab chauffeured by the skilled Masaki. As they spend time together, Yusuke comes to a realization about a thing that he’s been ignoring all this time.

Drive My Car Was Originally Supposed to Be Filmed in South Korea...?!

The novel version of Drive My Car takes place in Tokyo, where it would be difficult to shoot long driving scenes. That’s why, originally, the plan was to shoot in Busan, South Korea. But then the pandemic happened and Busan was no longer an option. The shoot would have to take place somewhere in Japan.

The theme of the movie is “A widower regains his life,” which made Hiroshima, the place that rose from the ashes of the atomic bomb, seem like the perfect setting for the story of “Drive My Car.”

All the Places in Hiroshima Where the Movie Was Shot

International Conference Center Hiroshima (Scenes: The Audition and Rehearsals)

The scenes of Yusuke working on a performance for the Hiroshima International Theater Festival were filmed at the International Conference Center Hiroshima. Located within Peace Memorial Park, the facility was originally the Hiroshima Municipal Hall, designed in 1955 by renowned architect Kenzo Tange, who was also involved in the construction of the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, and many other Japanese landmarks. In 1989, the municipal hall was rebuilt to become the International Conference Center we know today. The location’s circular approach leading towards the underground parking lot also features in the movie.

Peace Memorial Park (Scene: Performers Rehearsing Outdoors)

The scene of the theater festival performers rehearsing outdoors in front of the curbed benches was shot at Peace Memorial Park. This was one of the movie’s highlights, featuring the intense interaction between two performers from different countries unable to communicate with each other.

Hiroshima Naka Incineration Plant (Scene: Misaki’s Recommended Place)

When Misaki shows Yusuke one of her favorite places in the movie, she takes him to an incineration facility facing the Seto Inland Sea that's located at the end of Yoshijima Street, which stretches all the way from the Hiroshima city center. The plant’s first-floor glass passages called “ecoriums” (a portmanteau of “ecology” and “atrium”) were constructed in such a way as to not obstruct the view from the park to the sea. The facility was designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, the architect responsible for such projects as New York’s new Museum of Modern Art building or GINZA SIX.

Akinada Bridge (Scene: The Route from Yusuke’s Residence to the Rehearsal Space)

The Akinada Bridge is a toll road and the most inland part of the Akinada Tobishima Kaido, a route connecting Shimo-Kamagari Island in the southeast of Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, with Imabari’s Okamura Island in Ehime Prefecture through seven connected bridges. The route is called “tobishima” (literally meaning “leaping islands”) because it was meant to bring to mind jumping between islands like one would from one stepping stone to another to cross a garden. The route is not only convenient, but it also offers stunning views of the sea and Japan’s small islands.


Townscape of Mitarai (Scene: Where Yusuke Resides in Hiroshima)

Yusuke’s Hiroshima residence is located within the Townscape of Mitarai, an important preservation district on Osaki-Shimojima Island which floats on the Seto Inland Sea. Since the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), this port city has flourished as a natural harbor, with many buildings and structures dating back between the Meiji (1868 – 1912) and Showa (1926 – 1989) periods. Mitarai’s great seawall, stone bridges, lighthouse, stone embankments, pier stairs, and other elements necessary for a harbor city to thrive have all been preserved here in their original form. In 1994, the area was designated as an important preservation district for groups of historic buildings.

In the movie, while in Hiroshima, Yusuke stays at the Kangetsu-An Shintoyo lodging facility, a real location that only accepts one group of guests per day.

Higashi Hiroshima Arts & Culture Hall Kurara (Scene: The Premiere of Yusuke’s Play)

Yusuke’s play opens at Higashi Hiroshima Arts & Culture Hall Kurara, a facility built in 2016 that's dedicated to creating and appreciating art. It’s also where locals go to mingle and expand their horizons. The stage that features in the movie is located in the Saijo area in the heart of Hiroshima. This area has pristine water that many have taken to using for sake production, which is how the facility got its name - “kurara” (written as 蔵楽) is actually a neologism meaning “to enjoy music in a sake brewery town,” though it’s also said to come from the Italian “cura” meaning “care”.

The above map of various filming locations has been provided by the Hiroshima Film Commission, which promotes the prefecture as a setting for movies and TV shows. It features many more spots not mentioned in this article, so if you’re a film buff traveling through Hiroshima, we hope you’ll make use of it!


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Chugoku Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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About the author

Chisa Nishimura
I am from Kyoto and enjoy watching movies, reading books, going to art museums, and running.
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