I just saw Lost in Translation. It was strange watching it in Boston just hours after leaving Tokyo. It was like looking at my moblog... I knew the sushi chef from Ichikan in Daikanyama and the guy who played the producer of the photo shoot, Maki-san. I knew almost every location they shot. Everything was so familiar. It was strange thinking that it must seems so weird to people who haven't been there. It was like being back in Tokyo, but in Boston...

I loved the story and Bill Murray was great.

It captured Tokyo very well. I thought it was really difficult to get permits to shoot movies in Tokyo. I wonder how they pulled it off.

UPDATE: Good post by Jane and a discussion about Lost in Translation on Chanpon. You should read the discussion. Many good points raised. After reading the comments I realize I'm just a sucker for Hollywood movies. ;-)

23 Comments

Really a great movie, gave me serious Tokyo flashbacks.

yes, i thought it a delightful film in its treatment of cultural differences (and similarities) as well as commonalities in struggling with relationships, work and intimacy....

i have not yet been to tokyo but started checking it out when i returned from the film...

am going to thessaloniki and istanbul next week...anyone have any experience they might share...like where an open 802.11b network might be?

~William

" I thought it was really difficult to get permits to shoot movies in Tokyo. "

I know this from first hand experience. NO ONE in tokyo wants you to film anything there. What's up with this? Japan is famous for their tourists who are photography enthusiasts that travel the world and take many photos of other cities, why is tokyo so restrictive on this? Can a japanese person, or perhaps joi himself, offers some insight into this? I was really quite surprised at exactly how hard it was to shoot in tokyo. Now I see why so few american's have come to tokyo to shoot what is arguably one of the greatest looking cities on the planet. They're met with a brick wall. Why??

p.s. I know about all the foreigner in japan photo blogs, but I'm talking about "shooting video or film." when it comes to this, you get shut DOWN.

I think there may be a strategic move on the part of the Japanese government to start encouraging tourism. The easiest way to do this is to loosen restrictions on filming. I recently heard this a professor.

One of the problems with shooting films in Tokyo, or most large cities in Japan is that you have to get permission from SO MANY agencies. When I take TV crews around Tokyo we often don't get permits and shoot until we get chased away.

I don't know about foreign movie filming, but there are three types of filming that are going on ALL THE TIME in Tokyo: (1) Japanese TV dramas--there have been several shot in the vicinity of my station; (2) Japanese motion pictures--you can recognize the locations; and most commonly (3) what appears to be university student filmmakers (they may or may not have or need permits, but they show up in force and make absolutely no attempt at Ed Wood-esque guerilla stealth or speed). I'm from Los Angeles, but I have to say I run across filming more often in Tokyo than I did in L.A.

Jimmy. You're right... I also remember seeing shooting sometimes. Then why do my friends always have such a difficult time getting a permit? ;-)

Maybe you just have to have the right connections. Also, probably big scenes, like chase scenes that involve blocking off roads is difficult...

I remember they couldn't shoot a lot of Black Rain in Tokyo so had to shoot in Osaka or something.

Did the movie's use of locations accord with how Tokyo is laid out?
I used to watch TV shows and movies make a mess of LA geometry when I lived there, and not get bothered by it. But I spent a few months in Atlantic City just a bit before the Louis Malle film "Atlantic City" came out. Malle had people going all kinds of directions other than the right ones. Like going East to go to Philadelphia. It really took me out of the movie.

I've just found just about every single scene in Lost in Translation and generally speaking the locations exist, but there is more than just poetic license used on actual geography everywhere...bill murray waking up in the taxi would never end up going away from his hotel through kabuki-cho in that direction (clearly done to show the neon strip - to be fair very unrealistic), the ending whisper scene is completely impossible in reality, maybe attributable to throwing away continuity altogether...and the final shots of tokyo highways are almost archive standard and are a pretty scenic and extended route to Narita...including several expressway loops that only a taxi driver wishing to triple his fare would take.

By the way, if the taxi took the final route shown in the movie, it must have u-turned and bill would see scarlett again..the intersection after the driver with white gloves is the intersection he just left from the other direction.

I saw this film and really enjoyed it. Jane's take on it is very accurate. Makes me want to visit Tokyo, it looks great!

Everyone's been raving about this film. It must be really good.

Susan: not everyone. I didn't particulary like it. It's very well done, but it's not a good movie. ;)

They shut you down, it's almost like there's a "we don't want the world to see what tokyo looks like" thing going on or something. I guess that over now with the bad economy/poor tourism seeing as "Lost..." and "Kill Bill" seem to have health amounts of tokyo scenes. But still, I shot recently and it was very hard, I basically had to do what Joi said, film and run, film and run. The cool thing is, when they do stop you, it's generally polite, no rough tactics or anything.

They shut you down, it's almost like there's a "we don't want the world to see what tokyo looks like" thing going on or something. I guess that over now with the bad economy/poor tourism seeing as "Lost..." and "Kill Bill" seem to have health amounts of tokyo scenes. But still, I shot recently and it was very hard, I basically had to do what Joi said, film and run, film and run. The cool thing is, when they do stop you, it's generally polite, no rough tactics or anything.

Very nice film.
Me pareció una muy sutil historia de el encuentro de un hombre y una mujer. Buena banda de sonido.
Y excelentes actuaciones.
Lamento que la pagina oficial no este en castellano.

Very nice film. From Argentina...
Me pareció una muy sutil historia de el encuentro de un hombre y una mujer. Buena banda de sonido.
Y excelentes actuaciones.
Lamento que la pagina oficial no este en castellano.

Very nice film. From Argentina...
Me pareció una muy sutil historia de el encuentro de un hombre y una mujer. Buena banda de sonido.
Y excelentes actuaciones.
Lamento que la pagina oficial no este en castellano.

Hi there - do you happen to know where in Tokyo I can find the karaoke place featured in Lost in Translation?
Thanks!

Jen: The karaoke place they go to is the Shibuya branch of Karaoke-kan: 30-8 Utagawacho.
BTW I loved the film, especially the way that Tokyo is viewed from the perspective of a lost foreigner, without explaining the strange things that they encounter.
Got to see the film again now that I'm living here...

My feeling upon seeing this film was that it was a real testament to the failing family nucleus in America...especially as it pertains to the adult-male's dissatisfaction of himself and his "definiing", mid-life circumstances. Murray's character represents that growing body of priviledged professionals who despite their bouts with "mid-life" problems...are prone to indulge their lusts away from home quite willingly. Does anyone really think overseas brothels, "funky" escort services and illicit sex-markets aren't somehow connected with the American middle-aged businessman overseas? Coppola's film portrayed a genuine search for fulfillment and direction in it's characters...but beyond this milder portrayal lies a more harsher and serious reality generally revealed on Sunday evening's "60 Minutes".

That Tokyo postcard backdrop film used very few locations. Most achieved through guerilla filmmaking/Who Sophia Coppolla is. Half the movie took place in the hotel which had been her experience of Tokyo before writing the script. The movie itself is for a person who has lived in Japan for 15 years something that people who have never come to Japan or visited once might appreciate. All the locations are real places except for that club which is the Hysteria Glamour office. The main character's contradiction to the crazy pop star was wonderful. You often see people blow through town and talk like "I was so lost in translation". Or even see film stars pay lip service to Kurosawa when they probably haven't seen more than one of his films. All in all, Brits have a better appreciation for this town and Japan than Americans.
As for filming in Tokyo, it's not as film friendly town. Setting up permits is not that difficult. You have to apply with the police for shooting on the road, etc. Closing down roads like you can do in NYC is another ballgame. The reason I know this is that I work as a film coordinator in Japan mainly for documentaries like for the Discovery Channel and for features. Last year, I was the first unit director on a film that went to Sundance.
Regarding comments about "getting shut down", I would imagine you experienced difficulties because you didn't have a local coordinator or didn't contact locations in advance. Try to put things in perspective. Do you think you could show up in front of the White House and start rolling?
But always keep in mind, if there's a will, there's a way.
Christian

If you'd like to know how to secure locations and get permits for filming in tokyo, please drop me an email.

Hi!
I'm doing some preliminary research on taping in Tokyo.
We are a small, independent company that creates health and fitness programs.
We would mainly tape in early morning and in areas with pretty landscape (park, etc.). We are a team of 2 people with minimal equipment.
I will be demonstrating exercises, so it will be apparent that we are taping something unusual.
We are considering permits.
Thank you for info.
Lisa

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「エレファント」気になる映画だ。 "Lost in Translation" これも知らなかった映画だ。 予告編しかみていないが見慣れた東京の風景が違って見えるのは何故だ?... Read More

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