Sofia Coppola wasn't sure if Bill Murray was actually going to show up for the film, going by only, according to Coppola, a verbal confirmation. It was on the first day of filming, that Murray showed up.
In 1999, Bill Murray replaced his talent agency with an automated voice mailbox that can be reached with an 800 number he gives out sparingly. Sofia Coppola reportedly left hundreds of messages on Murray's mailbox before he finally called back to discuss her offer to cast him as the star.
The film's Spanish title in South America, "Perdidos en Tokio", Chinese title "Mi Shi Dong Jing", and its Hebrew title in Israel, "Avudim be-Tokio", all mean "Lost in Tokyo", meaning that the titles themselves were literally lost in translation. The reason is probably that "Lost in Translation" sounds like a discussion on translation in other languages. The title got lost in translation in other versions as well: the title in Portuguese translates as "Love is a Strange Place"; the title in Polish translates as "In Between Words".
Catherine Lambert, the redheaded lounge singer, wasn't a professional actress. Sophia Coppola witnessed Catherine performing in Tokyo in 2001. A year later, her producer Ross Katz from Elemental Films (based in New York) tracked Catherine down in South Australia and invited her to return to Tokyo to play the part of the "Red Haired Jazz Singer" in "Lost in Translation".
The dish that Bill Murray's character complains about saying who goes to a restaurant where you have to cook your own food is called Shabu Shabu. It is very thinly sliced raw meat along with various vegetables that the consumer dips in boiling broth.
Bill Murray had a Japanese phrase book called "Making Out In Japanese" in which he would go around to sushi restaurants and ask the chefs if "they had a curfew" or if the would mind if he "used protection." He even mentioned on the Graham Norton Show that he had learned a phrase along the lines of "Who do you think you're talking to?" and would mention it to the fear of others.
There is a shot of Bob running across a busy street while a minivan passes, full of uniformed women waving and politely shouting over a P.A. system. This is a form of advertising used by political candidates. The candidate himself is running alongside the van.
The conversation between the two men in the Sauna (near the end of the film) goes something like this: - "I can hardly eat papayas anymore!" - "At first I was really happy ... at first, I thought ... well I thought..." - "At the beginning, yes." - "In Germany, I was looking forward to it, but in the meantime..." - "Yeah. Now, something German..." - "Hmmmm." - "After this, we'll go out and get something German to eat here!"
The BB-gun the angry bartender used to drive out Bob, Charlotte and Charlotte's friends is an Airsoft MP5 with a Tokyo-Marui tracer adapter, firing plastic phosphor-luminescent BBs. The adapter's strobe light makes the BBs glow.
The car that Bob Harris is chauffeured around in is a Toyota Century, a luxury limousine which is produced in a limited quantities and is commonly used by members of royalty, government leaders, and executive businessmen. It is also the choice for Japanese embassies outside Japan.
When Charlotte goes to the arcade she sees the games Taiko no Tatsujin, (the game with the big drum) by Namco, GuitarFreaks by Konami, and Pop'n Music by Konami. The latter two are part of Konami's Bemani music game series which is very popular in Japan.
For years, no one other than Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Coppola knew what Bob whispered to Charlotte in the final scene, but on October 28, 2009, a YouTube video surfaced containing a slightly enhanced audio of this part of the film with subtitles where more than 20 thousand visitors had a chance to find out that Bob whispered to Charlotte: "When John is ready for his next business trip, go up to that man and tell him the truth, okay?" Another YouTube video, uploaded April 15, 2007, suggests that the line is: "I have to be leaving, but I won't let that come between us, OK?" Closer inspection seems to reveal that the opening words are "Promise me ..." and that the closest match to the audio is most likely, "Promise me, that the next thing you do, is go up to that man and tell him the truth."
In the hospital, the question that the elderly man with the cane tries to ask Bob (in Japanese) is: "How many years have you been in Japan?" Meanwhile, the diagnosis that Charlotte receives from the doctor (in Japanese) is that her toe is fractured, but taping is enough.