Tokyo is a great city to see through a cinematic lens. The size and diversity of the city make it a versatile set in which to tell a story. If you’re looking to explore the real-life sets of your favorite films, here are some highlights.
Shibuya Crossing is one of Tokyo's most recognised locations
Lost in Translation is mostly shot in the busy districts of Shinjuku and Shibuya. This modern classic by Sofia Coppola tells the story of an encounter between a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) and a jaded actor (Bill Murray). Start in the late afternoon at Joganji Temple, a serene temple in the middle of this dense city—you’ll immediately recognize it from the movie. As the sky darkens, walk over to the Park Hyatt and take the elevator to the iconic New York Bar. The views from this fifty-second-floor bar are stunning, and live jazz, from 8 pm, adds to the elegant atmosphere.
Zojoji Temple, with Tokyo Tower as its backdrop, was featured in The Wolverine
After a few drinks, take a walk through Kabukicho (Bill’s first jet-lagged views of the Japanese capital), and then catch the Yamanote Line from Shinjuku to Shibuya for the famous Shibuya Crossing. This landmark has featured in so many films about Tokyo that it almost seems to be mandated by law. Once in Shibuya, you can have a coffee and observe the crowds from the second floor of the Starbucks, where Coppola filmed some guerilla footage to use in the film. Afterward, grab a bite to eat (shabu-shabu, if you are sticking to the Lost in Translation theme) and then head to one of the many karaoke venues in the area. Pink wig optional.
This clock tower in Ginza was destroyed by Godzilla in the movie
The Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman, was also shot in Tokyo. In a fight scene at a funeral, the temple featured seems to be incongruously photoshopped right next to Tokyo Tower — but the temple is real, as is its location. Zojoji Temple is in Minato — take a couple of hours to visit the temple (and the gorgeous temple grounds surrounding it) and then walk over to ascend Tokyo Tower. After the fight scene, Wolverine can run to Ueno Station via a pachinko parlor and Akihabara in only two minutes. It’ll take you about 90 minutes on foot (boring non-super being that you are). Still, you walk past the Imperial Palace, Akihabara, a thousand places for a tasty lunch, and end up in Ueno Park, so it’s a worthy endeavor, even for mortals.
National Diet Building also featured in Godzilla
Godzilla is the grandfather of “society-gets-its-comeuppance” movies, and even if you aren’t really into that style of film, it’s worth checking out the original. The breakout Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was a 1956 re-edited American adaptation of the first movie from 1954 — and for such a fearsome, destructive force, his path of rampage is a very manageable walk. Start at the Sumida Bridge (destroyed in the movie), walk through Ginza, past the clock tower (destroyed, in spectacular fashion), and end up at the National Diet Building (which Godzilla spared.) Make time for a coffee or beer break along the journey, and enjoy views of the Imperial Palace from the path.
A replica of Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu was the set of Kill Bill, Vol. 1's most memorable scenes
Much of Kill Bill, Vol. 1 was set in Tokyo, but filmed in China. There is an iconic fight scene that was shot on a set that is an exact copy of a restaurant in Roppongi, Gonpachi Nishi-Azabu — the food is good, and the atmosphere is very fun.
About the author
Brock has lived in both the Kansai and Tokyo areas for more than six years, so he has his fair share of sweaty summers under his belt. He’s become an expert in finding some quiet nature to dip into on the weekends, knowing that you have to balance all-you-can-drink karaoke with fresh air.