Only 12 days left until Christmas! The holiday season might be a little bit weird for a lot of people around the world this year due to the pandemic, but hopefully better days are ahead of us. I decided for this very special period to do my own sort of Advent calendar, with a series of six short articles published every four days… and a surprise for Christmas Day! Today with the fourth one, I’m taking you out for a melancholic night in Tokyo.
📷 For more pictures have a look at my gallery of photos of Tokyo.
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Lost In Translation
It has always been one of my favourite movies, for the unaffected poetry of its scenario, for the emotions in the eyes of Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) and for her naïve beauty, for the charisma and the irony of Bob Harris (Bill Murray), for the melancholia of its soundtrack… and for Tokyo. When I watch it again now, I am still fascinated by how Sofia Coppola filmed the city, by the panoramic views from the hotel, the neon lights and the crowds everywhere, the oases of peace of the temples… In my opinion, she perfectly captured the essence of Tokyo in a series of gorgeous shots, sometimes slow and contemplative, sometimes swaying and blurry, with a constant kind of distance between the tumult of the city and us spectators observing it from the perspective of her characters, enhanced by the talent of her actors.
I think that this movie contributed to make me want to go to Japan, which I did at the end of March 2018. During my two and a half years of travelling around the world, it’s the only trip I accomplished with a friend, Jeff, a former colleague from when I lived Switzerland. He joined me there a few hours after my arrival, and we explored the country together for about ten days.
He eventually flew back home at the end of his holidays, leaving me on my own for 24 hours in Tokyo before heading to the United States. We had an amazing trip together and we probably often had that same astounded look on our faces as Charlotte and Bob in the movie when they explore the city, but these last 24 hours alone in Japan were really special. I think they remain among my best memories of the country.
During the entire time Jeff and I spent together, we always spoke French to each other, we shared our thoughts about the places we were visiting, we helped each other with directions or to order food at restaurants, just like random tourists exploring a foreign country. We were both amazed by how different the Japanese culture was compared to what we were used to in Europe, but it’s only after I found myself completely on my own that I realised how far away I was from home. I randomly walked around the city, first to the peaceful and poignant memorial for children of Zozoji temple and its dozens of statues dressed as little kids with aprons and hats, for a meditative and emotional moment…
…then to the buzzing streets of Harajuku or Shibuya, until I eventually reached Shinjuku at nightfall. It’s the biggest district of Tokyo, with its boulevards illuminated by hundreds of giant billboards brighter than Times Square and with its forest of skyscrapers, including the Park Hyatt Hotel where Lost In Translation was shot. Suddenly, the feeling that I was a complete stranger in a country I knew so little about hit me with an extraordinary intensity. I didn’t understand anything from the conversations around me, I had no idea about what these billboards said, I was incapable to communicate with the people surrounding me. I kind of felt like standing perfectly still in the middle of a flowing crowd, and I had the impression of being inside of a bubble, observing the world through the lens of a camera.
I was a little bit of Charlotte walking alone in Kyoto, I was a little bit of Bob staring at the window from his taxi, I was a little bit of both of them trying to figure out what they were doing in Tokyo. I was a little bit lost in this giant city on the other side of the world, but I loved it so much.