I could lose myself just wandering through Tokyo’s streets: from the back alleys bursting with tiny bars and restaurants; below the noisy underpasses, and along the wide tree-lined boulevards.
When I lived in Tokyo I wandered for hours but I always had someplace to be at 8 p.m. Work. Now, I just wander, unanchored, and it makes me feel a little lost — but in the mental sense, never in the physical. I can wander through the streets that are imprinted on my muscle memory and never lose my way. I just follow my feet and they guide me through the city I know so deeply that their map seems to exist inside of me.
Nishi Azabu: Alley behind my house
Back in my beloved, precious Japan for a few weeks.
The city itself is cinematic and is familiar even to those who have never been there; we can all picture walls of neon lights, screeching advertisements blaring from giant video screens and a great sea of humanity moving in sync with one another. It is no wonder that Tokyo is a source of inspiration for many writers, artists and movie directors.
Park Hyatt Shinjuku
In Sophia Coppola’s 2003 movie Lost in Translation, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson play Bob and Charlotte; two Americans adrift in Tokyo. Their first meeting occurs in the hotel bar of the five-star Part Hyatt located in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.
A night’s accommodation in the Park Hyatt is likely out of the budget of most travelers but you can still visit the bar for (like in the movie) a jazz accompanied cocktail, or the restaurant for lunch, dinner, or one of the most popular Sunday Brunches in Tokyo. Both bar and restaurant feature huge windows with views over the Tokyo skyline – perhaps best appreciated at nighttime when the hypnotic neon lights of Shinjuku and its red light district Kabuki-cho are twinkling in the dark sky.
One of not only Japan’s best clubs, but also one of the top-rated clubs in the world, Womb appears in the 2006 movie Babel. In the movie we see a group of young deaf girls taking their first hits of Ecstasy and going to the Shibuya club.
Despite Womb’s powerful Phazon sound system, the movie shows moments from the point of view of the deaf girl Chieko, drawing attention to the impressive laser system which, along with one of the world’s biggest mirror balls, is another reason for Womb’s fame.
The House of the Blue Leaves, setting for The Bride’s (played by Uma Thurman) final Tokyo showdown with the Crazy 88 was inspired by the Edo-themed restaurant Gonpachi. Whilst no movie scenes were actually filmed in the restaurant, Kill Bill’s set was built to resemble Gonpachi. The restaurant will look familiar to anyone who has seen the film.
At the crossing of Tokyo’s up market Nishi-Azabu district, Gonpachi is just a few minutes’ walk from the nightlife center of Roppongi. The restaurant serves simple Izakaya style foods – yakitori and soba are their specialties. Gonpachi is open for lunch and dinner, and stays open until five in the morning. Reservations are recommended as this is one of the most popular restaurants, particularly among foreigners, in Tokyo.
Besides the Quentin Tarantino movie connection, Gonpachi was in the news when then-Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi decided to take then-US President George W Bush here on his state visit to Japan.