Two episodes of the fifth season of HBO’s hit show “Girls” turned its lens to Japan. While the show focuses on four millennials trying to make it in New York, season five takes plucky Shoshanna Shapiro out of the Big Apple and sends her to Tokyo for a new marketing position.
Here, she experiences both real and surreal aspects of life in Japan. At times, her itinerary feels like Buzzfeed clickbait (think “10 crayzee things to do in Tokyo!”), including highlights such as feet-eating fish, cat cafes and S&M bars. In its defense, the show also highlights normal points of life in Japan, including buying onigiri snacks for work, slurping ramen after drinks and chilling at an urban hot spring with friends.
And even Shoshanna, who is essentially kawaii incarnate, can get bogged down by the realities of expat life in Tokyo. She’s not exactly fluent in Japanese, her friends constantly remind her about her foreigner status and she has to deal with cultural differences in the dating scene.
But during her stay in Japan, Shoshanna visits a variety of classic tourist spots and experiences traditional pastimes. Now that season five is finally airing in Japan on Star Channel, we’ve mapped out her time abroad so you can see where the Tokyo adventures took place.
Since Shoshanna is the quirkiest character on the show, it’s only natural that she stays in one of the quirkiest condos complexes in Japan, titled “Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka in Memory of Helen Keller.”
Located in Mitaka, less than an hour from inner Tokyo, Shusaku Arakawa’s famous complex features a brightly colored facade and ball-shaped rooms. The architect has said he designed the building, which was completed in 2005, to keep tenants alert and forestall the inevitable: death.
This sight will be familiar to anyone who has been to Tokyo, and even those who haven’t.
Millions of people brave the Shibuya “scramble crossing” every year. Surrounded by giant video billboards evoking scenes out of “Blade Runner,” the crossing is the city’s top selfie spot. Naturally, Shosh, wearing Hello Kitty headphones, navigates the five-way intersection with aplomb.
Shoshanna takes like a fish to water by embracing Japan’s bathing tradition. This “super sento” in the Tokyo suburb of Tama, which has giant baths, massages and dining halls, is not exactly your typical neighborhood bath.
For Shoshanna’s second visit, she and her former boss Abigail (played by “Saturday Night Live” cast member Aidy Bryant) indulge in “Doctor Fish” foot baths, where little fish actually nibble the dead skin on your feet (for ¥500). Actress Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna) said that “it doesn’t just tickle, it kinda really hurts.”
Shoshanna makes her move on shy work colleague Yoshi at the aptly named Moon Romantic (青山 月見ル君想フ) while her and her friends see the Japanese band Flip.
The venue features a variety of performers throughout the year, ranging from piano players to up-and-coming rock stars. Unlike the more famous and slightly grungier “live houses” in the city, Moon Romantic, located in the up-market Minami Aoyama, is decidedly more clean-cut.
Shoshanna gets a first-hand taste of S&M at Shibuya’s Trump Room, a nexus for trendy scenesters that boasts dozens of chintzy chandeliers and mirrors.
As the bar has a revolving door of DJs and themed nights, don’t show up looking for latex-clad dominatrixes on any night of the week.
After a long day, Shoshanna and her gal pals go out for drinks in a small hole-in-the-wall izakaya in what looks like the Golden Gai area, a sliver of Shinjuku that is jam-packed with tiny bars and has been a magnet for tipplers since the 1960s.
Pro tip: Most places have only a few counter seats each, so don’t bring a large group of friends along for your pub crawl.
One location that should be obvious to any visitor of Japan is Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori, where Shoshanna takes Abigail on a trek through what she calls “Katy Perry’s vagina.”
The street’s pink-centric fashion shops and creperies attract hordes of young people and tourists.
Pro tip: If you’re allergic to crowds, squeals and pink, steer clear.
After being laid off from her marketing job, Shoshanna does the responsible thing and becomes an assistant manager at Temari no Ouchi Cat Cafe.
Located in Kichijoi, this cat cafe is one of the most elaborate in the city with its Ghibli-like decor. And while other cat cafes simply serve tea or coffee, Temari no Ouchi has full meal sets along with cat-shaped cookies.
If the ramen at Afuri looked delicious, the good news is that you can go ahead and try it yourself.
Not your average fat-laden ramen, the noodles here are on the lighter end of the spectrum. The signature bowl of yuzu shio ramen is not be missed. You can slurp on Afuri’s ramen at seven locations, but we’re impressed that Shoshanna chose the flagship shop in Ebisu.
Shoshanna’s final moments in Japan have her walking in the early morning hours through Nishi Shinjuku.
The street has all of the things you’d expect from a jaunt through Tokyo, except people.
Bonus: Are you jealous of Shoshanna’s talking alarm clock? Well, you can now buy it on Amazon.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5