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Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation is the perfect visual postcard. Filmed on location predominantly in Tokyo, with a brief detour to Kyoto, it immerses the viewer in the rich color and culture of Japan. It's filmed on the streets, in the karaoke bars, on a golf course against the backdrop of Mount Fuji, on the famous bullet train (shinkansen) and all over the sumptuously contemporary Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson play two lost souls abandoned for different reasons in Tokyo. Neither know what to do with themselves, until they meet in the rooftop bar at the Park Hyatt. From there, the pair (whose unlikely friendship teeters on the verge of romance) are seen framed in the picture windows of their rooms, in the stunning hotel swimming pool, in the whirlpool, and back in the bar.

As almost unwilling tourists in the big city, they look constantly wide-eyed. As Bill Murray's taxi drives through the streets in the opening scenes, he looks like he's waking up (from a long flight, but also from some kind of entrenched lack of awareness), and the sights challenge his rather blasé attitude.

Tokyo – and his new friend – start to bring him back to life.

The couple's night out in Tokyo, culminating in a karaoke bar, feels like it could be the real thing, filmed speedily as they run through the streets. It's a carefree moment for both of them and offers a great opportunity to see Japan's quirkier side.

Some say the movie overplays the quirky, focusing too much on the 'comic' behavior of TV hosts and the excessive bowing of those in the service industry. Which is a shame because the bulk of the movie is elegant, almost gentle, in its sweep through the city.

In contrast to the bright lights and bustle of Tokyo, Scarlett Johansson's day trip to Kyoto has a dreamy quality, showing a more traditional beauty that is found all over the cluster of islands.

You catch only a brief glimpse of the incredible temples that litter the ancient city. Best to go and see them for yourself.

Obviously, Lost in Translation is made through the eyes of director Sofia Coppola as a visitor. No doubt a local would portray the city quite differently.

But that, in part, is what is so charming about the movie – the way in which you feel like everyone involved in it is a stranger, a little 'lost' but mesmerized by this amazing culture. – Roshan McArthur

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  • John Wing

    May 27, 2014

    I suppose “backdrop” can mean background, right.. Referring to the mountain providing the background, backdrop…

    Ofcourse it’s REAL.

  • Brad Cook

    April 10, 2012

    The golf course is in no way a “backdrop” or fake. It is the Kawaguchiko Country Club near Mt. Fuji. No doubt about this at all. Thank You.


    May 26, 2007

    Thanks for your comment – if you’re correct, that’s very funny. I have however just done some searching online and found many, many other people who believe the golf course is real. Some have even suggested it is the Fuji Golf Course, and there seem to be several golf courses that boast such views. I ended up, in my overenthusiasm, at Sofia Coppola’s draft script ( which reads: ‘In the distance, Bob swings on a perfect golf course.’ Your version sounds funnier – I’d love to know more…

  • carley evans

    May 25, 2007

    I beg to differ on one small detail – that is NOT a golf course at Mt. Fuji. It is a backdrop which Murray’s character is aiming at. It is supposed to be a joke. He is in a game parlor of some sort. Either that or the producer opted out of a real location shot. See line along the edge of the grass if you do not believe this. Thanks!

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