A Guide To the Best ‘Lost in Translation’ Spots in Tokyo
By Joshua Meyer
On January 16, 2018
It has been a decade and a half now since the year Lost in Translation, the romantic comedy-drama starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, first hit theaters. More than any other film, this is the one that foreigners coming to Tokyo for the first time seem to most associate with the city.
Up-to-date with the most recent info as of January 2018, we take a comprehensive look here at the real-life locations featured in the film: from famous landmarks like the Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel in Shinjuku to spots that take some more tracking down like the exact karaoke box in Shibuya where Murray and Johansson’s characters sang songs with their Japanese friends.
The New York Bar: Tokyo’s most romantic tourist spotPhoto by Joshua Meyer
For travelers, expats in their first year of life in Japan or family and friends visiting from abroad, it’s a familiar rite of passage: having drinks in the New York Bar. In Lost in Translation, this is the place where Bob and Charlotte, the two adrift foreigners, played by Murray and Johansson, meet for the first time.
Situated high atop the 52-story Shinjuku Park Tower, where the shimmering lights of Tokyo can be seen from floor-to-ceiling windows at night, it’s also a luxury venue where there’s a ¥2,500 cover charge after the jazz music starts at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. on Sundays.) Beer is ¥1,300 and the cheapest glass of wine is ¥2,000. Two other things to be aware of are that the bar does allow smoking and it is usually full of foreigners snapping discreet photos as everyone seeks to capture memories of their own Lost in Translation experience.
Brunch at the New York GrillPhoto by Joshua Meyer
While it’s more romantic by lamplight as seen in the movie, epicureans who want to get a little extra bang for their buck would probably be better served hitting up the adjacent New York Grill during one of its weekend or holiday brunches (¥8,600 before tax). You can still admire the décor of stylish murals along with the daytime view of Tokyo, but now the long counter where Bob saddled up on a chair with his Suntory whisky gets turned into an appetizer buffet.
In the lap of luxury at the Park Hyatt TokyoPhoto by Joshua Meyer
If you want to go swimming in the hotel pool or curl up on a window ledge and look out over the city like Charlotte in her room, you can book a stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, which takes up the top 14 floors of the Shinjuku Park Tower (as seen in the photo above taken from the South Observatory of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building). This is a 5-star luxury hotel; room rates vary but are upwards of ¥50,000 per night.
41 floors up at the Peak Bar and LoungePhoto by Joshua Meyer
To reach the ground floor from the hotel lobby and vice versa, you will need to get off the elevator on the 41st floor and transition through the atrium where the Peak Bar and Lounge, another location glimpsed in the movie, maintains its own special ambiance with sky-lit bamboo. This place also holds some gorgeous night views of the Tokyo skyline.
An oasis of calm at Joganji templePhoto by Joshua Meyer
Away from the hotel, if you take the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line from Nishi-Shinjuku to Nakano-Sakaue Station, it will put you within about a five-minute walk from Joganji (2-26 Honcho, Nakano-ku). This is the small temple Charlotte visits in the rain early in the movie. The place where she comes walking out of when she first appears on screen with her umbrella is actually a cemetery on the temple grounds. Full of interesting statues and wooden grave marker sticks that rattle in the wind, this is a serene spot away from the city madness.
The neon lights of Kabukicho in ShinjukuPhoto by Joshua Meyer
If you like the madness, however, a short taxi ride down the street at night from the Park Hyatt Tokyo will take you past the red-light district of Kabukicho. This is the neon paradise seen by the jet-lagged Bob on his entry into the city at the very beginning of the movie. In other driving scenes, you can also see Tokyo Tower and the Rainbow Bridge.
Watching Shibuya’s Scramble Crossing and the Q-Front screenPhoto by Joshua Meyer
From Shinjuku, you can take the JR Yamanote line to Shibuya station. The famous scramble crossing outside this station was shown in Lost in Translation, but in recent years, the brontosaurus on the giant video screen Q-Front has been replaced by a butterfly sequence.Photo by Joshua Meyer
If you’ve ever been up on the second floor of the Starbucks in the Q-Front building and felt like vultures were gathering behind you, waiting to swoop in and grab your window seat, then you’ll know that it’s a popular perch for taking pictures and shooting video of the scramble. Once upon a time, writer-director Sofia Coppola and a small guerrilla filmmaking crew went up there with their own equipment to furtively grab footage under the pretense of drinking lattés.
Karaoke in Udagawacho
Photo by Joshua Meyer
Stretching back from the Q-Front building is the Udagawacho area of Shibuya. On Inokashira Dori, a street that runs parallel to the popular Center Gai shopping street, you can find the branch of Karaoke Kan (30-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku) where Bob, Charlotte and their friends sang “More Than This” and “Brass in Pocket,” among other songs. The rooms where they filmed the karaoke scene are 601 and 602. Both of these rooms are located in an annex to the main building, on the corner above Jeans Mate. 601 is the room with the window view.
Note that finding the right sixth floor with the right rooms can be tricky, as the main building and annex both have a sixth floor, and right around the corner on Center Gai, there is another even bigger Karaoke Kan, which also has a sixth floor. The rooms are quite popular, so you will need to call in advance (03-3462-0785) or go in person and book them ahead of time. Unless it has been removed recently, there should still be a Japanese sign on the wall between the rooms identifying them as the ones from Lost in Translation.
Shabu-Shabu on the edge of UdagawachoPhoto by Joshua Meyer
If you take Inokashira Dori all the way down to where NHK headquarters is, you can hang a quick left and find the Creston Hotel, the basement of which holds Shabuzen (10-8 Kamiyamacho, Shibuya-ku). This is the shabu-shabu restaurant where Bob and Charlotte sit in the booth and appear less than thrilled with having to cook their own food.
In the intervening years, the table where they filmed the movie scene has had its booth seats replaced with six chairs. According to the staff, it is the second table off to the right when you first walk in.
At Shabuzen, you will be waited on by a mannerly server in a kimono. The tabehodai (all-you-can-eat) menu starts at ¥5,400. The one-plate menu starts at ¥4,300.
Two Closed Venues in DaikanyamaPhoto by Joshua Meyer
Tucked away among the many fashionable boutiques in Shibuya’s upscale Daikanyama neighborhood, there used to be a sushi restaurant where you could pull up a chair at the same counter as Bob and Charlotte. The place was called Sushiya no Ichikan, and until recently — though his hair was going gray — you could still see the the same owner/chef who appeared in Lost in Translation working there.
Alas, Ichikan has since closed, as has the nearby basement nightclub Air, where Bob and Charlotte spent time socializing with friends among huge concert balloons with projection-mapped fireworks on them. In the case of Air, it has been converted into a different nightclub called Contact. The ground floor of the building is currently occupied by Café Habana, a rare mecca for Cuban sandwiches in Tokyo, so it might still be worth it to make the pilgrimage there.
Bonus: Locations in Kyoto, JapanPhoto by Joshua Meyer
While Lost in Translation may have a reputation for being the ultimate Tokyo movie, it does make a brief bullet train venture away from Japan’s current capital to the ancient capital of Kyoto. Here Charlotte visits Heian Jingu shrine as well as two temples, Nanzenji and Chion-in. Bob is also seen playing golf in the shadow of Mount Fuji.
Do you have any personal memories with the locations depicted on film in Lost in Translation? Share your experiences in the comments!