It is a strange sensation to wander around in a Japanese town as a six foot four gaijin, a foreigner excluded from the language and everyday rituals that everyone within sight silently obeys.

Today I have walked alone in the streets of Kyoto, visiting temples and shrines at a leisurely pace, following in the footsteps of Scarlett Johansson’s character from Lost In Translation. I even listened to the song “Alone in Kyoto” by Air on my iPod, featured on the movie soundtrack as the backdrop while Scarlett walks around.

Nijo-jo castle in Kyoto Exterior of Nijo-jo castle.

To further increase my movie buff epitaph, I must admit that one of the temples visited was the Nijo-jo castle, built in 1603 as the residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu. For all of us who remember the Shogun TV-series and the old ninja movies with Sonny Chiba, this is holy ground.

Garden of Nijo-jo castle in Kyoto The garden of Nijo-jo castle.

The palace looks like a fortress with a moat surrounding the huge stone walls. To protect the compound from assassins, all hallways are equipped with “nightingale floors”, making a high-pitched sound when anyone steps on it. I tried my best to sneak across the building, but the floor revealed me each time. I suppose I would make a lousy ninja.

Reine in Nishi Hongan-ji, Kyoto A moment of reflection in Nishi Hongan-ji temple.

Update: A few days later in Tokyo I “happened” to visit the Lost In Translation bar at 52nd floor of Park Hyatt, as well as the same karaoke place that was featured in the film (Karaoke Kan in Shibuya). Guess I’m addicted to that movie.


  • avatar
    13 Oct, 2008

    Aaargh! You make me green with envy…

  • avatar
    13 Oct, 2008

    First of all, congratulations on reaching Japan!
    I found Japan to be a pleasantly strange experience as well. I was there before Lost in Translation was out, but I later loved the movie for capturing the mood of my visit.
    Love to see some photos when you come back…

  • avatar
    16 Oct, 2008

    Thanks! Photos coming up later.
    Today I will bash my head against the Tokyo subway net. I guess the word “wakarimasen” will be handy when asking the locals for directions. :)

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