All About Japan

Spend the Evening 'Lost in Translation'

| Nightlife , Tokyo

Sofia Copolla's 2003 film Lost in Translation is set in Tokyo, and was shot almost entirely in Japan's buzzing capital. It uses some of the city's most recognizable features as the backdrop for the film's bittersweet story of two people searching for connection. Here's how you, too, can get lost in translation.

Lost in Translation is a tale of two lost souls floating somewhat aimlessly in their respective voids. When their paths cross in Tokyo, they form an unlikely bond that explores the true nature of connection. The movie's two main protagonists are faded movie star Bob Harris, portrayed by Bill Murray, who has picked up a job in Tokyo shooting a Suntory Whisky commercial, and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) a young Yale graduate who feels neglected by her workaholic cameraman husband. The 2003 hit became an instant classic—it won 3 Golden Globes (Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Screenplay) and received 4 nominations at the 2004 Academy Awards, where it scored an Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay.

The city of Tokyo is as much a character as either of the film's protagonists, thanks to the artistry and distinct visual language of the cinematography. Thankfully visiting the on-site locations from the movie is an easier task than one might expect—the majority of the film was shot in Shinjuku and Shibuya, which are arguably Tokyo's two most iconic entertainment districts. Given that Shinjuku and Shibuya are only three stops from one another on the JR Yamanote Line that loops around the city, the order in which you visit the locations is at your own discretion. However, the following route will guide you neatly through 5 real-life sets from the film, and your adventure will culminate with a dazzling, panoramic view of the Tokyo skyline at night.

First, let's get lost in Shibuya...

Shibuya Crossing

What better place to start an evening than the iconic Shibuya crossing, one of the busiest and most-photographed intersection in the world? The crossing is just outside the eighth exit of Shibuya Station, often referred to as the "Hachiko exit." It appears several times in Lost in Translation—including a scene where Bob's face is plastered on the side of a truck advertising Suntory Whisky. The crossing is a true marvel no matter how many times you've witnessed it. Throngs of people line up at the crosswalks only to dart across in all directions once the signal changes, pirouetting, weaving and avoiding each other with a seemingly rehearsed dexterity. The sidewalks seem to fill up again almost instantaneously, in a process that repeats itself throughout the day. The Tsutaya building provides an excellent, glass-walled vantage point from which you can watch the intersection come to life, and the bar seats at the Starbucks are a hot commodity for that very reason.

Shabuzen Restaurant

When you've finished gawking in amazement at the pulsing intersection, why not eat dinner at this delectable little shabu-shabu restaurant where Bob and Charlotte are seen dining together in awkward, tension-filled silence? Located in the basement of Shibuya's Creston Hotel, it's only a short stroll from the Hachiko crossing. The restaurant has a very distinct Japanese aesthetic with a traditional, polished wood interior. The prices are reasonable—with course menus that start around ¥5,400 (about US$49)—the sake list is inviting and it's a great opportunity to experience shabu-shabu, a traditional Japanese hot pot that's perfect for sharing with friends.

Karaoke-Kan Shibuya Honten

Once you're full of shabu-shabu and sake has your juices flowing, make a quick detour into the Udagawacho Karaoke-kan on your way back to the station. Rooms 601 and 602 were used to shoot the famous scenes where Bob and Charlotte spend a wild night out with their friends, featuring Bob Harris' unforgettable rendition of "More Than This" by Roxy Music. Karaoke-kan is a popular chain, so the prices for both room rental and drinks are relatively cheap. Just bear in mind that if you want to guarantee either room 601 or 602, you'll probably need to book in advance.

Nishi Shinjuku Final Scene

Now it's time to take the train to Shinjuku Station, which (as mentioned) is only three stops on the JR Yamanote Line from Shibuya Station. The side street that was used to film the final, tear-jerking scene is just a short walk from the station's western exit, near the Yodobashi Camera. As soon as you arrive, memories of Bob whispering intimately into Charlotte's ear as they warmly embrace are sure to come flooding back. Plus, there's tons to see and do in Shinjuku.

Park Hyatt Tokyo - New York Bar

After having your heart broken again, another short stroll will bring you to the Park Hyatt Hotel. There, you can finish your evening in the classy, 52nd floor New York Bar. The hotel itself is where Bob and Charlotte stay during their time in Tokyo, and its swanky New York Bar is instantly recognizable as the place Bob haunts most of his nights, and where he and Charlotte first meet.

The bar features live jazz performances and has a large selection of fine cocktails. It's impossible not to feel like you've been transported directly into a scene from the film—the only thing missing is a tuxedo-clad Bob Harris sitting at the bar with that endearing smile, those lost puppy dog eyes and a tumbler of whisky on the rocks. Be sure to dress appropriately and be prepared to splash a little—there's a cover of ¥2,500 (about US$23) per person, a bottle of beer is around ¥1,300 and cocktails are about ¥2,000. But the incredible view offered alongside the bar's ambiance is more than worth it!