Yesterday, my last day in Tokyo, was mostly about tying up loose ends. I began the morning peacefully enough, by doing laundry. A little Ueno housekeeping to start the day on the right foot! Sawanoya has a washing machine, a dryer and an iron, and the whole thing adds up to only 300 yen.
At around noon, I went down to Ueno Park to visit the Tokyo National Museum, which I’m told is the Japanese Louvre/British Museum. Unlike those two institutions, this museum is spread out over four or five buildings around a central square. The main building holds a very informative “Highlights of Japanese Art”, about 8 or 10 rooms on the second floor that summarises the main developments of Japanese history through pottery, clothes, calligraphy, and other traditional crafts. It’s a very well curated exhibition; with a manageable amount of objects, they manage to display the main characteristics of each period.
Already in the afternoon, I went to Shinjuku, the last must-see on my list. The lights, the noises, the throngs of people, the pachinko parlors and the massive stores, it’s all exactly like you would imagine.
I made my way to my most anticipated movie-geek moment in the trip: visiting the New York Bar in the Park Hyatt hotel, where most of Lost in Translation is set. The walk from the JR Shinjuku Station is straightforward enough; the problem lies in recognising when you’re there, because the Park Hyatt has no real signs or indications. It doesn’t occupy its own building: it owns floors 39 through 52 of one enormous building along with other companies. Even after I found the building (I recognised the entrance from the movie; thankfully, I watched it again a few days ago precisely for this purpose), making my way to the hotel was a bit surreal: I entered into a big, empty lobby, where the lady at the information desk told me to “Go through the delicatessen”.
Surely “delicatessen” must have another meaning in Japanese… but no, the elevators to the hotel are indeed found after crossing a small but elegant food store tucked away in a mezzanine.
These elevators took me to floor 39, where I had to leave, cross the hotel lobby, a bar, a restaurant, and then find the elevators that go all the way up to floor 52. All the way, just like you saw in the film, is filled with hotel employees who speak perfect English -also a first in my stay in Japan.
When I finally found the New York Bar, in the last floor, it must have been about five thirty or so and the place was still very quiet. The hostess took me straight to a table right in front of the window, so that I had the whole of Tokyo in front of me. So, that would be one of the tables in which Scarlett Johansson sat with her friends, although I wouldn’t have minded perching myself on the counter like Bill Murray, either.
As it grew darker, the city lights began shining and blinking until the view became more Blade Runner than anything else. I had only planned to have the one drink and then leave for dinner somewhere, you know, non-rich, but I found myself so exhausted and so enthralled by the view that I just couldn’t budge from my seat. The beefsteak sandwich was delicious -although at that price, of course, it would have to be.
Unlike the Kill Bill restaurant, the New York Bar is exactly like you see it in the film, down to the last detail, from the seat arrangement to the music, from the clientele of American businessmen to the ultra-kind staff. Completely worth the bill and the walk, and an amazing goodbye to Tokyo.