Can anyone recommend a non-samurai live-action Japanese film?
I tried one... but it played out like a (bad) anime.
Every single Kurosawa movie outside of like...Ran, Throne of Blood, Sanjuro...well it's a lot. High and Low was really good. Rashomon as well. I would still recommend Ran and Throne of Blood though.
After Life (Wonderful Life) is a great movie.
Beat Takeshi (Takeshi Kitano) movies tend to be hit or miss. I really liked Sanotine, but it's not for everyone. Brother was kind of eh. Zatoichi also seems to be hit or miss, but that's probably because a lot of people compare it to the older films which this just can't compare to. He recently put out a new Yakuza movie that I am hoping gets some US Distribution called Outrage.
Battles Without Honor and Humanity - One of THE best Yakuza movies. It was a breakthrough movie when it came out, and there is a lot that would be cheesy by today's standards, but it's a fucking amazing movie for anyone who likes gangster movies.
Sympathy for the Underdog - not nearly as good a yakuza movie as a previously mentioned but perhaps worth checking out. It feels more like an orgy of gratuitous violence than anything else though.
Tokyo! - well it's three short films, and none were made by Japanese directors, but they are pretty cool films that take place in Japan and worth checking out.
I guess it depends largely on your tastes though. Everything I listed would probably be considered "arthouse" movies (cept for maybe Sympathy for the Underdog). If you like Horror well that's pretty damn big in Japan. If you look hard enough though, you'd probably find something you would enjoy.