Tyler MacNiven is an easy guy to spot in a crowd. He’s tall, with bright hair and extremely outgoing. His charisma has taken him all over the world, including a win on the TV show The Amazing Race (season 9), and Iran, where he filmed his documentary I Ran Iran.
Despite traveling all across the world, it turns out that MacNiven got his start in Japan. A few weeks ago, after I wrote about Cycling Japan’s Abandoned Rail, a commenter recommend I check out MacNiven’s first movie, Kintaro Walks Japan.
The basic premise of the film is simple: MacNiven walks the four main islands of Japan, from the very southern point of Kyushu to the very northern tip of Hokkaido.
The full story behind the movie is a bit more complicated than that; MacNiven has a lot of reasons to visit Japan. He’s a recent college grad who gets drawn into a romance Japanese girl. His father was born in Japan, but doesn’t quite know where. And MacNiven decides to throw in a walk of the length of Japan because hey, why not?
Armed only with his hiking backpack and a sketch of a landmark near his father’s birthplace, MacNiven begins his journey and starts walking north. Along the way, lots of memorable things happen — he meets interesting people, nearly gets hit by a train, and gets arrested by the Japanese police.
The whole movie is available for free up on Google Video, which you can check out here:
I tried to find alternate ways to watch the movie (like through Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes), but it looks like at the moment, the only ways are either through the 240p glory that is Google Video, or by ordering a DVD directly from the movie’s website.
Unfortunately, I felt like a lot of the movie was staged. The romance between MacNiven and his Japanese lady friend seems to be mostly for the sake of the film. MacNiven doesn’t seem to have an especially strong interest in Japan, given he doesn’t seem to have revisited Japan since the film was made, instead working on other projects.
Nonetheless, Kintaro Walks Japan is a nice snapshot in time of a young man trekking across Japan. It’s only about an hour long (shorter than your typical movie), so if you want to see, check out Kintaro Walks Japan.