“I’m a nut, but not just a nut.” – Bill Murray
Sofia Coppola’s 2003 romantic drama Lost in Translation is often regarded as one of her best films. Shot entirely in Japan, it starred Bill Murray as a fading actor who finds an unconventional brand of love in a Tokyo hotel where he meets a young college graduate played by Scarlett Johansson. Lost in Translation is a brilliant look at the fundamental isolation which operates in modern society, examining how fleeting moments of actual connection can transcend the realm of language.
In recent years, the Lost in Translation experience has become a regular feature on the wish-lists of fans who want to make the cinematic dream a reality. If you’re tired of living vicariously through Murray’s character and you are planning to visit Japan soon, you should definitely check out the Lost in Translation guide in order to relive the film’s beautiful navigation of Tokyo.
As Murray himself said: “In Japan, you have no idea what they are saying, and they can’t help you either. Nothing makes any sense. They’re very polite, but you feel like a joke is being played on you the entire time you’re there.” However, despite his initial trepidation, the actor comically in the Coppola film: “My Japanese is getting better. We started speaking English.”
To try and ease the burden and to stop the confusion, we’re offering a one-stop in how to enjoy a Lost in Translation guide to Tokyo.
The ‘Lost in Translation’ guide to Tokyo:
Where to stay: The Park Hyatt, Tokyo
A fine luxury accommodation, the Park Hyatt in Tokyo is the central framework on which Lost in Translation builds its exploration of love. The 5-star hotel is located in Shinjuku and occupies the top 14 floors of a 52-floor tower, offering breathtaking views of Mount Fuji and the sprawling city of Tokyo.
Although there are more budget-friendly places to stay at, the iconic hotel from Lost in Translation is worth the staggering fees it charges. It is an interesting and somewhat inevitable consequence of modernity, with an indoor lap pool and the New York Grill & Bar on the 52nd floor.
“Tokyo is so hectic, but inside the hotel, it’s very silent. And the design of it is interesting. It’s weird to have this New York bar…the jazz singer…the French restaurant, all in Tokyo. It’s this weird combination of different cultures,” Coppola said.
Where to eat: Shabuzen Restaurant
Hidden away in the basement of the Creston Hotel in Shibuya, this top-rated restaurant lets you select between tables and traditional tatami rooms. One of the most popular choices on the menu is the “all the meat and vegetables you can eat” course which comes with appetisers and kishimen (flat strip wheat noodles) in “Shabu-Shabu”.
Hot-pot dining, or “Shabu-Shabu”, is when you cook meat, vegetables and noodles throughout the duration of your meal by placing them in a simmering broth. Apart from the restaurant, Shibuya also gives you an honest glimpse of new Tokyo. Also featured in the film, Shibuya Crossing is the world’s busiest crossing and is always bustling with people and endless traffic.
What to drink: Suntory Whiskey
Suntory Whiskey is the reason why Murray’s character Bob Harris travelled to Tokyo in the first place. Established in 1899, Suntory has been producing premier whiskey for almost a century now. Other well-liked beverages include Japanese beer, the most popular brands being Sapporo and Kirin, the national spirit shochu and the iconic sake, a traditional rice wine which can be served both warm and cold.
There are a lot of places in Tokyo where you can indulge in recreational drinking, Apollo in Shinbashi and Zoetrope being the go-to places for whiskey. If you want to drink at a location with a stellar view, Oriental Lounge, R Restaurant & Bar, and Sky Lounge Stellar Garden are hard to beat.
Where to go: Cultural sites
Japan has a rich cultural heritage and a lot of sites which are beautiful as well as historically significant. It is difficult to come up with a comprehensive yet quick guide if you want to get a good grasp of the country’s history, but if you’re looking to recreate the Lost in Translation experience, these are definitely the places to visit.
Located in Kyoto, the Heian Shrine is recognised by the Japanese government by a place of cultural importance and has a stunning Japanese-style garden where rare species of turtles can be found. Another tourist attraction in Kyoto is the Nanzenji Temple, located at the foot of the Higashiyama mountains. To this day, it is one of the most important Japanese schools of Zen Buddhism. Other must-see destinations featured in the film include the Garyu-kyo pond, the Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba.
Where to play: Karaoke-Kan
Forget the Lost in Translation experience, singing in karaoke bars is an essential part of the Tokyo experience. However, since this is a Lost in Translation special, try and book rooms 601 and 602 on the sixth floor of the Shibuya branch of Karaoke-kan where Bob and Charlotte enjoy themselves.
Like most Japanese establishments, Karaoke-kan offers private rooms so that you can showcase your terrible singing skills for your friends without the fear of being embarrassed in front of strangers. Less than five minutes from Shibuya Station by foot, this is the place where Murray sang Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This’ with Scarlett Johansson.