I’m a huge movie fan. So when I found out that my next destination will be Japan, I have one agenda in mind- to follow the trail of the sweet and sad love story of Bob Harris & Charlotte from the Sophia Coppola’s critically acclaimed movie “Lost in Translation”. I asked a couple of colleagues if they knew where it was primarily shot but none of them has any idea (while some haven’t seen the movie). So I continue my search and finally found the main location – Shinjuku, Tokyo (Park Hyatt Hotel).
Shinjuku is a district of irony. A Skyscraper District on the west and a notorious red light district of Kabukicho in the east, a Japanese salary man who spends 12 hours a day in one of the sky-high buildings and a homeless used-to-be salary man taking shelter at the nearby park. This town will show you the two faces of this country and yes, believe it or not there are homeless people in Japan who is now calling the befittingly named Central Park as their home. I walk inside the park and assume that it might be under construction since there are loads of properly arranged cardboard boxes and blue tarpaulin. But eventually I realize that these boxes and plastic wraps are not for the park renovation but the entire life possession of those Japanese who wasn’t able to recover from the previous economic breakdown or life in general.
To start your Shinjuku exploration, I suggest to proceed directly to the 243m Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It is a twin tower where visitors are welcome to enter the 45th floor viewing deck, gratis. Look for Building 1 and get another chance to see Tokyo on such great heights. If you get all tired walking in the Skyscraper district, then head directly to the main show – Kabukicho. To reach Kabukicho, you have to go back to the JR Shinjuku station (one of the busiest station in the world) and take one of the shopping center exit. Explore with caution particularly at night time, Kabukicho is not just your ordinary entertainment district (if you know what I mean). One observation though, there are more boy-band look a like clubs than those school girls fantasy pubs, maybe this particular district cater more for the amusement of the homosekusharu (homosexual)?
Few blocks away from Kabukicho is the Golden Gai. It is six narrow alley of single-person passageway size with shanty style bars and eateries. It is one of the most popular place in the district for a night filled of boozing and music. The space and the size of the bars is a good intimate setting if you are a Jazz fan. Golden Gai used to be a prostitution den prior 1958, then rehabilitate itself into a watering hole and now consider as an architectural treasure. In the 1980s, many buildings in Tokyo were set on fire by Yakuza so the land could be bought up by developers, but Golden Gai survived because some of its supporters took turns to guard the area at night (from Wikipedia).
Bob: Can you keep a secret? I’m trying to organize a prison break. I’m looking for, like, an accomplice. We have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in or you out?
Charlotte: I’m in. I’ll go pack my stuff.
Bob: I hope that you’ve had enough to drink. It’s going to take courage.