Study Guide

Lost in Translation Setting

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Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is the perfect place for Bob and Charlotte to meet, and here's why: it’s gorgeous and exciting, but it's also intimidating and scary. It's vibrant, but it's not always welcoming. It’s disorienting: it’s nighttime in Tokyo when it’s daytime in the U.S.

In other words, it's the physical embodiment of the precise moment that both Bob and Charlotte are both at in their lives. If they want to get around Tokyo, they need to take some initiative; the city's not going to slow down and wait for them to hop on. Same goes for their lives back home: if Bob and Charlotte want to break out of their respective funks and get unstuck, they need to make the first move.

The city also compounds Bob and Charlotte's communication problems. Not with each other, of course; just with everybody else. These two Americans are surrounded by masses and masses of people, most of whom don't speak their language.

Bob's wife, Lydia, and Charlotte's husband, John, aren't exactly speaking their language these days, either, but in Tokyo, that communication barrier is literal. When Bob takes Charlotte and her messed-up toe to the hospital, for example, they have no idea what's going on. For all Charlotte knows, when the doctor goes over her X-ray with her, he's telling her they're going to amputate.

On the one hand, not speaking or understanding the language is liberating. If nobody understands you, and you don't understand anybody, you can slip by largely unnoticed, provided you never want to order a sandwich or find out where the post office is. For a celeb like Bob, especially, it's pretty nice to be allowed a few extra shreds of anonymity.

On the other hand, language gaps like that can be downright terrifying, especially given that Bob and Charlotte are a pair of night owls who spend most of their time skulking around Tokyo After Dark.

The city seems quietly hostile, like somebody hit the mute button, and Bob and Charlotte should be prepared for them to crank the volume back up at any minute. When they hit a bar with Charlie Brown, for example, everything seems nice and chill. The next thing they know, Charlie's arguing with the bartender. About what? Who knows, but the bartender whips out a BB gun and starts firing.

For Bob and Charlotte, Tokyo’s a metropolis that holds infinite possibilities, not all of them good.

The Park Hyatt Tokyo

Tokyo's the big setting. The Park Hyatt Tokyo is the setting-within-the-setting. This sleek hotel has everything its guests need: a gym, a pool, a place to sleep at night, a corny Lite FM cover band, food, booze.

It's basically a luxury prison, and it keeps Bob and Charlotte from experiencing Tokyo for most of the movie. Bob eats his meals in the hotel, works out in the hotel, putts in the hotel, has a car service transport him to and from the hotel's front door. It’s no wonder that he compares leaving the hotel bar to a prison break:

CHARLOTTE: You having a nice time?

BOB: Can you keep a secret? I'm trying to organize a prison break. I'm looking for, like, an accomplice. We'd have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in, or are you out?


It's equally unsurprising that Charlotte's in. She spends a ton of time holed up in her hotel room, listening to self-help CDs, puttering around aimlessly, and passively gazing out the window at all the action in the streets below.

The Park Hyatt Tokyo lets people experience Japan without actually experiencing Japan. It's a fortress of creature comforts that contrasts with the loud, dynamic, assertive city that surrounds it. Like most hotels, it's designed to cater to its guests so they never have to leave.

The Park Hyatt Tokyo is big, it's sterile, and it has the same low-lit pockets of emptiness that Bob and Charlotte both have inside.

Plus water aerobics.

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