Contributing To J-Soccer Magazine

Issue #13 of J-Soccer; Japan’s number one English language football magazine hit the streets recently and, despite an inadequate knowledge of the game in this country, a certain Tokyo Fox managed to feature quite heavily throughout its pages.

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My J-Soccer story began in late 1991 when Gary Lineker agreed to a two-year move to Nagoya Grampus Eight which would start the following year once he’d finished his Spurs contract. That was the first time I had ever thought about the J-League, and indeed Japan,  but little did I know that that wouldn’t quite be the end of it! Crisp thief Lineker didn’t actually start playing for Grampus until the inaugural season in 1993 not that I was able to keep any track of what my hero was up to in the Far East.

A decade later and, having been absorbed by the 2002 World Cup, I first moved to Japan and whilst living in Matsudo (Chiba) I attended about half a dozen games for nearby team Kashiwa Reysol. Although they never achieved anything better than a draw and suffered a miserable season I had formed a bond with them. I very much enjoyed the games as I could support the team without ever really having the deep emotional attachment that I have with Leicester City.

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I have only seen them once (at a so-called “home” game in Tokyo in September 2007) since moving to Tokyo (via a six month period back in the UK) due to a mixture of distance, timing, work commitments, idleness and so on. In some ways I’d be better off changing team but, unlike one of my friends (who changed from FC Tokyo to Omiya Ardija because the formers kit was starting to resemble the colours of his teams rivals back in Britain!), I really couldn’t do such a thing.

I may have become a disloyal b*stard when it comes to truly following Reysol and the J-League in general but I’m always interested in hearing about it and thanks to the medium of Twitter I have almost inadvertently become involved with some of the English speaking community who have a strong passion for football in this country.

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As someone who is happy to contribute the odd article here and there to publications of my choice I was keen to come up with something for J-Soccer magazine. My options were fairly limited though as I couldn’t write anything J-League related which is why I decided to write about the Japan Football Museum which I re-visited in my research for the story as, despite having been there three times before, the place is one which continues to update and change.

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There’s a couple of other bits and pieces from me in this latest issue including my thoughts and feelings on Japan’s performance at this Summer’s World Cup in Brazil. The editor asked for a few lines to be penned on this matter but a paragraph turned into much more and before I knew it, I had reeled off a much longer review revealing my disappointment at how well the Samurai Blue fared in South America.

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JSoccer magazine is available in print or as a Pay-What-You-Want PDF from jsoccer.com

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Tokyo Toray Pan Pacific Open 2014 Tennis Tournament

Scotland voting no to independence has been the big story of the day and thanks to Andy Murray’s tweet yesterday in support of his country going it alone, tennis was in the news albeit not for anything to with the actual playing side of it. My major worry of this whole Scottish referendum was the threat that Murray may no longer be representing Great Britain so I was just thankful, as I set out for my annual Toray Pan Pacific day out, that he’s still on side as England and Wales aren’t exactly flooded with talent!

Like Murray, Japan’s Kei Nishikori is seemingly the sole competitor for his country (yes I know Kimiko Date-Klumm is out there too, and she’s been an amazing pro, but she can’t go on forever try as she might!) and having very recently reached the U.S. Open Final you would think that the sport of tennis would be at an all-time high. You probably wouldn’t know it though based on the crowds at Ariake Collosseum in Tokyo for this tournament. Maybe that’ll change when the Rakuten Open men’s tournament gets under way here in a couple of weeks time when Nishikori will compete. Anyway, that’s my annual swipe at the poor crowds in Japan’s capital out of the way for this year!

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This was my fourth time to attend the Toray Pan Pacific Open but there was a slight change in scheduling this year which meant that Friday was quarter final day rather than the semi’s. This meant that I could have actually gone to the final on Sunday (21st) but the quarter finals seemed like better value for money as it was a bit cheaper (3000 yen) and the chance to see a greater number of singles matches was more appealing as this is not exactly the most prestigious of tournaments!

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I decided to skip the opening doubles match and the majority of the first quarter final between Dellacqua (AUS) and Muguruza (ESP). I caught the end of this fiercely contested match with the latter triumphing by two sets to one 6-3 6-7 6-3. I would’ve seen even more of the match had I not stopped outside to see an on-stage interview with 5-time Grand Slam winner Martina Hingis (along with her doubles partner) which was a nice bonus for the day.

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First up for me on court was recent U.S Open ladies finalist and number two seed Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) who won this tournament in 2010 and could well be on course to win it again having defeated 8th seed Suarez Navorro (ESP) 6-3 6-3.

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Top seed Angelique Kerber of Germany didn’t take too long to despatch Slovakia’s Cibulkova (whose serve involves a strange sounding grunt!) in the third singles game of the day but I felt the 6-3 6-0 rout was a little flattering.

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The final tie of the day followed on and involved the 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic of Serbia who I had never seen play live before. Her opponent was 7th seed Safarova (CZE) who she made hard work of finishing off in the first set having initially raced into a 5-0 lead. She eventually regained control and won in straight sets 6-3 6-2.

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You can see my Toray Pan Pacific Open 2013 tournament review here

You can see my Toray Pan Pacific Open 2012 tournament review here

You can see my Toray Pan Pacific Open 2010 tournament review here

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TF Flashback – Bungy Thrillogy Pt I (2002)

Back in September 2007 I did a 22 metre bungy jump at Yomiuriland in Kanagawawa which was billed Bungy Jump #4 so what about these other three jumps I hear you say! Well, five years prior to that I was travelling around New Zealand for a few months on the back of a years working holiday in Australia and on Sunday 24th March 2002 I was in Queenstown on the South Island. Thanks to the journal that I kept at the time it is now possible to recall the events of that day in a three part series.

“The most challenging day of my life got off to the worst possible start when I woke up at 4.30am and couldn’t sleep again as I sweated the next four hours out tossing and turning. Fearing I may bring up any breakfast later on, I decided to skip breakfast having finally  got out of bed just after 8am. I was the first person at the AJ Hackett centre where I had to be weighed. Was I keen to jump or just get it out of the way?! 64 kilo’s was my weight which was written on my left hand. I sat in the waiting area and felt quite calm probably due to my blatant ignorance of the bungy jumps being relayed through the TV screens.

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The minibus then took us on a 25 minute journey to the world’s original bungy site at the Kawarau Bridge. On the way I didn’t stop talking which might have been my way of coping with nerves. This was the jump I’d thought about most and if I could handle this then I’d ideally be prepared for the jump which would follow at the far bigger Nevis Highwire. The journey to the bridge had obviously taken its toll on my body as I weighed only 63 kilo’s at the next weigh-in!

An American guy called Chris and I were first onto the bridge and after stepping through the railings we simultaneously sat on the floor entrusting the instructors who were strapping us up using just an ordinary towel around our ankles. While this was happening, loads of Japanese tourists were peering through the railings and snapping away at us with their camera’s which is probably as close as I’ll ever get to rock-star status!

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Another instructor appeared on the scene and as I was wearing my Leicester City shirt I got involved in a strong discussion about why we were doing so cr*p that season. Not really the time for pondering how the Foxes had fallen into crisis but I guess it stopped me thinking about my imminent first bungy jump.

By now I’d been given the signal that I would be the first of our group to jump from 43 metres above the crystal waters of the Kawarau River which I had taken trouble to avoid digesting too much! I hobbled out to the edge of the platform and had to put my toes over the edge which was the defining moment when it really hit me. No time to think though as I waved to the camera. The instructor quickly did the countdown…5…4…3…2…1…

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I crouched down and dived off into the air as if I was diving into the swimming baths. Within a second or two of my leap into freefall, the bungy cord came into play leaving me bouncing around for a while which I did celebrating and shouting my head off as if I’d just scored the a last minute winner in the cup final!

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The adrenalin rush I felt from achieving one third of my feat (two more jumps to come later that day remember!) was fantastic and I felt free and enlightened. From my leap at 9.52am I was pulled into a little dinghy about 90 seconds later where my belly and legs were wobbling but as soon as I was back on land I was fine and climbed the stairs to the viewing platform just in time to see Chris take his jump.

I got to see the video of my jump in the office immediately after and was also given my t-shirt and certificate before having to wait around for everyone else to complete their jumps and for the bus to take us on the second, much bigger jump. In the meantime I had something to eat in the form of an apple which was adequate enough in the circumstances. On reflection, I felt my first jump was over with too quickly and I was a little disappointed that my splashdown only involved getting my hands wet rather than a good dipping!”

TF Flashback – Bungy Thrillogy Pt II (2002) will appear soon!
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TF Top 5……Movies Made In Malaysia

The Malaysia tourism board launched a largely successful worldwide marketing campaign back in 1999 called “Malaysia, Truly Asia” but when it comes to appearances in movies, this south-east Asian country has rarely played true to itself and has instead filled in for other countries on the rare occasions production has moved there. It’s a shame that Malaysia hasn’t been given more time on the big screen but watching these films will still showcase the splendour and beauty of this exotic country and give (some) movie fans a thirst for wanting to feel the aura of the locations where the films were shot.

Here, in no particular order, is the Tokyo Fox Top 5……movies made in Malaysia

1. Entrapment (1999) – Starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones, this is perhaps the most famous western production to have been made (and set!) in Malaysia. feature some beautiful shots of Malaysia. The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur was heavily featured in the most action-packed scenes in the movie. The Melaka River can also be seen in the movie. However, this movie did manage to annoy some Malaysian movie fans with its depiction of distances between famous landmarks. More details here

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2. The Sleeping Dictionary (2003) – Set in the 1930’s, this film tells the story of a British man (Hugh Dancy) who learns the local language and culture from his sleeping dictionary played by Jessica Alba. You can see it here. The majority of shooting was done in Malaysia with Sarawak and Batang Ai the places used in this movie which angered some critics due to its historical inaccuracies such as the White Rajahs actually being in control of the region at that time rather than the British who took over after WWII.

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3. Indochine (1992) – This won the Best Foreign Language award at the Academy Awards in 1992 and it follows the lives of French plantation owner Élaine, her adopted daughter, Camille and her lover, Jean Baptiste. Despite taking place in Vietnam, a lot of the film was shot in Malaysia with Penang, Sham Alam, and Ipoh being used to recreate the French colonial era. Of course temporary sets were also built to replicate the 1930’s period.

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4. Anna & The King (1999)  – Of course this story is ‘set’ in Thailand but due to the protests of historical inaccuracy from the Thai Film Board it had to be filmed in Malaysia. Protracted negotiations and rewrites resulted in 20th Century Fox finally moving the production, starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat, to the likes of Penang (Bangkok harbour and some street scenes), Ipoh, Parit, Langkawi and Selangor. More details here

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5. Beyond Rangoon (1995) – Depicting the events during the 8888 Uprising in 1988. You can see it here. It’s main star Patricia Arquette loses her passport at a political rally and, left to her own devices, she gets caught up in a fight for democracy as she and leader U Aung Ko travel through Burma as they try to escape to Thailand. The film, which has an emotional score by Hans Zimmer, was mostly shot in Malaysia with some scenes captured in Thailand. More details here

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TV Shows And Documentaries About Japan

It seems the idea of a TV station sending some kind of celebrity to the land of Japan is not going to end anytime soon with programme after programme continuing to be churned out by television networks each and every year. As well as the ‘fish out of water’ concept there have also been a wealth of documentaries covering all kinds of subject matter from the land of the rising sun…if I can use that overly used description of this country which no-one actually ever says!

Having made similar lists on ‘Songs about Japan‘ and ‘Music Videos filmed in JapanTokyo Fox thought it was about time to compile as many of the English-language TV shows about Japan. This is by no means an exhaustive list but if you know of something missing then please let me know and I’ll add it to this list. I have only included links for the video’s of episode’s which are on YouTube but please remember that things are taken down from there all the time so some links may not work. Others are available on other search engines (Putlocker, Sockshare etc) so if you really want to see a programme then you’ll have to look around the internet for it.

* Globe Trekker (S01E08, S10E01, S16E12, S17E05, Channel 4/Travel Channel (1994 – Present) – The long running adventure tourism series has called in to Japan a fair few times over the years. It’s premise is similar to the Lonely Planet guidebooks in that it often tries to go beyond popular tourist destinations in order to give viewers a more authentic look at local culture.

* The Simpsons Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo (S10E23), Sky One (1999) – The dysfunctional family take a cheap last-minute flight to Tokyo. The episode references and mocks several aspects of Japanese and American culture, as well as differences between the two. More details here

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* A Cook’s Tour (S01E01 & S01E02), Food Network (2001) – Short 20 minute episodes and Anthony Bourdain’s introduction to TV following the acclaim surrounding his memoir, ‘Kitchen Confidential‘.

* Jonathan Ross’ Japanorama (3 seasons), BBC Three (2002 – 2007) – 18 episode’s from the TV and radio funny man with each one focusing on a different theme, around which he presents cultural phenomena, films, music, and art that exemplify facets of Japan. More details here

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* Adam & Joe Go Tokyo (8 episodes), BBC Three (2003)  – Magazine-style show with a Japanese band, a couple of guests and funny features on each episode. More details here

* Geisha Girl, Documentary, BBC1 (2005) – Documentary about a 15-year-old Japanese girl’s arduous training to become an apprentice geisha.

* Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (S02E01/S02E07, S04E16, S07E08, S08E05), Travel Channel (2006, 2008, 2011, 2012) – Similar format and content to his previous show with the host visiting worldwide cities and countries as well as places within the U.S. with an emphasis on local food and culture. Japan-based episodes didn’t just focus on the capital city but also Hokkaido, Nagano, Ishikawa and Osaka. More details here

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* Jack Osbourne Adrenaline Junkie (S02E03), ITV2 (2005) – Not even a full episode was dedicated to Japan but following some white-water rafting in New Zealand, Jack comes this way and embarks on some more spiritual challenges. More details here

* Kelly Osbourne Turning Japanese (S01E01, S01E02, S01E03), ITV2 (2006) – Kelly spends five weeks in Japan trying her hand at a number of different jobs; both weird and traditional. More details here

* Journey’s Into The Ring Of Fire Japan (S01E04), BBC1 (2006) – Four part documentary series looking at how geology has shaped human history and culture in Pacific Rim regions. More details here

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* Top Gear (S11E04), BBC2 (2008) – Jeremy and a Nissan race across Japan against James and Richard, who are on the shinkansen (bullet train). This challenge comes to a climax at Nokogiri-yama mountain in Chiba.

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* Japan: In Search Of Wabi Sabi, Documentary, BBC4 (2009) – Marcel Theroux sets off across Japan to define the elusive concept of wabi sabi; an idea at the heart of the Japanese psyche but so difficult to define. More details here

* Japan: A Story Of Love And Hate, Documentary, BBC4 (2009) – About a 56 year old  postal worker who had it all during the bubble era before losing it in the early 1990’s. Thrice-divorced and dating a much younger girl he has long been an outsider in Japan. They share a shoebox room with no windows, he’s a house-husband with only a part time job whilst she has three jobs to support them both. It also focuses on meeting each others families in order to save the relationship. More details here

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* Fish! A Japanese Obsession, Documentary, BBC4 (2009) – Investigation into the Japanese love of fish and their need to eat so much with particular reference to whale. It details the emotional attachment to it which Japan just doesn’t have as they continue to hunt these huge specimens which may become extinct. More details here

* Great Railway Journeys: Tokyo To Kagoshima, Documentary, BBC4 (2009) – Part of the Japan season on this BBC4, Fergal Keane travels through Japan, starting with the shinkansen (bullet train) in Tokyo and journeying through the countryside where he contemplates the old and the new. More details here 

* Justin Lee Collins Turning Japanese (3 episodes), Channel Five (2011) – The comedian throws himself in at the deep end as he travels to Tokyo and Osaka on a cultural trip where he gets involved in a few challenges such as performing as part of a Japanese comedy duo. More details here

* An Idiot Abroad (S02E07) Japan: Climbing Mount Fuji, Sky One (2011) – Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant monitor the progress of Karl Pilkington who has no interest in global travel. In series two Karl chooses activities from a general (but not his) “bucket list” with one of them being to climb Japan’s iconic mountain. More details here

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* World’s Busiest Train Station, Channel 5 (2013) – Documentary detailing 24 hours in the life of the dedicated staff at Shinjuku station in Tokyo. More details here

* The Moaning Of Life Kids (S01E03), Sky One (2013) – Karl sets out to learn why people have children and in Japan he attends the Kanamara Matsuri a.k.a. the penis festival where he assists other men in carrying a large portable shrine shaped like a phallus. Karl has no kids or interest in having them but he decides to have his sperm tested to see if he is capable of fathering children.

* Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, CNN (2013) – Bourdain is back in Tokyo again and this time his aim is to seek out the city’s dark, extreme, and bizarrely fetishistic underside featuring some unique subcultures. More details here

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* Hairy Bikers Asian Adventure (S01E04, S01E05), BBC2 (2013) – The British duo travel around Asia on their beloved bikes with two episodes in Japan taking in Tokyo, Fuji, Kyoto and Kobe whilst trying the local cuisine, meeting local people and cooking some native dishes themselves. More details here

* Tom Daley Goes Global (S01E02), ITV2 (2014) – The Olympic diver (and his best friend Sophie) takes six weeks off his training to go backpacking around the world to get life-changing experiences and to try some extreme sports to raise money for charity.  More details here

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* The Charlotte Crosby Experience – The Furisode-San of Tokyo (S01E02), TLC (2014) – The English reality TV star spends time in different extreme cultures living with some of the world’s unique communities and that of course includes Japan. More details here

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If you know of any more programmes which could be added to this list (and there are many!!) then let me know in the comments or tweet me using @tokyofox

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London Filming Locations: The World Is Not Enough (1999)

It was pretty much a law of diminishing returns where the Pierce Brosnan Bond-era was concerned and by the time of his third outing as the double agent things were starting to get more and more ridiculous regarding plot, excessive action scenes and an over-reliance on technological devices of some sort. Still, it was enjoyable enough and the follow up ‘Die Another Day‘ (2002) made it seem not so bad after all!

The MI6 Headquarters building is Vauxhall Cross (below); the same building which would reappear in ‘Skyfall‘ (2012). It’s located at 85 Albert Embankment next to Vauxhall Bridge.

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The pre-titles sequence along the River Thames is actually the longest one of all the 23 James Bond films clocking in at just over 14 minutes. It starts off at the MI6 building, and goes past Westminster, which is clearly seen alongside Big Ben, as the chase continues on down to Tower Bridge.

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Perhaps the most memorable part of the chase was on 10 minutes at Glengall Bridge (below) in the East End’s docks where, with the bridge closing in true dramatic movie style, Bond hits a special button which allows the boat (Q’s retirement recreational boat no less which is on show at the ‘Bond In Motion’ exhibition at London Film Museum) to go under the water to avoid the bridge. No doubt the underwater scene was shot in the studio but it was classic Bond with him slyly finding a moment to adjust his tie!

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The bridge, which opened in 1990, is located at Millwall Inner Dock and Crossharbour Station on the DRL Line is technically the closest station though many of the other stops on this line are in close proximity too. I actually walked from Canary Wharf which is three stops away!

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From there the chase proceeds along Ornamental Canal (below) at Wapping Lane where he soaks a couple of traffic wardens at the right-angle bend as they motor on towards the purposely built canoeing clubhouse.

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A brief detour on tarmac and then its back on the water as the scene comes to a climax in Greenwich at the Millennium Dome (below) as it was known then. These days its sponsored and is called the O2 Arena. Sadly, my photo below is a rather poorly scanned photo which I took back in 2005. 

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Not quite London, but Luton is near enough to the nations capital for its airport to have been re-named London-Luton in 1990 to re-emphasise the airport’s proximity to London……and if it’s good enough for them then it’s good enough for Tokyo Fox!! So with that in mind let us remind you that Luton Hoo, Hotel, Golf & Spa (also used in ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘ and ‘Four Wedding’s And A Funeral‘) in Bedforshire was actually used to portray the interior of Electra’s Baku palace in Azerbaijan.

Click here to see 15 ‘fake’ Bond filming locations.

After that, the action moves on to a few places including Turkey where the Maidens Tower (below); a tiny islet off the coast at Uskudar, is where ‘M’ (Judi Dench) is taken prisoner.

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Bonus: London has of course regularly appeared in many Bond films and is the true home of 007. It made a brief appearance on 15 minutes in ‘Quantum Of Solace‘ (2008) when Daniel Craig’s Bond is driven into the entrance of a high rise apartment (below) belonging to a deceased double agent where he and M realise the extent of the mysterious organisation. The flats are called The Water Gardens and they’re on Burwood Place close to Edgware Road tube station.

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The city of London featured extensively throughout the awesome follow up ‘Skyfall‘ (2012) which you can see in detail here.

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London Filming Locations: Notting Hill (1999)

Despite the huge success of ‘Four Weddings & A Funeral‘ in the mid-nineties, that film totally bypassed me and it wasn’t till five years later that I actually saw any kind of Hugh Grant film. That movie was of course ‘Notting Hill‘ (1999) and what do you know but 15 years on, my wife and I found ourselves staying at a rented apartment on Ladbroke Grove which is right in the heart of where much of this 1999 rom-com was shot.

Now, this is not the first time some of these pictures have appeared on Tokyo Fox as there was a Rom-Com special in December 2012 which cobbled together my efforts not only from ‘Notting Hill‘ but also from the aforementioned ‘Four Weddings & A Funeral‘ (1994) as well as ‘Love Actually‘ (2004).

Straight up on 2 minutes is Saints Tattoo Parlour (below) on 201 Portobello Road which a guy emerges from in disbelief that he got an ‘I love Ken’ tattoo.

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Another place to get the briefest of references is the failed restaurant of William Thacker’s (Hugh Grant) mate Tony; an architect turned chef who ploughed all of his money into the business. That place is seen on 3 minutes and is actually an art store (below) called Portfolio. The address is 106 Golbourne Road and it’s a short walk north of Ladbroke Grove Underground station.

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Anyway, what you really want to know is whereabouts the next couple of filming locations are. The famous blue door (below) of the house where William and Spike (Rhys Ifans) live is 280 Westbourne Park Road. It first appears on 3 minutes as William heads off home from Portobello Road which is just a few meters away. It’s Spike though who steals the limelight outside the door on 80 minutes when he poses for the paparazzi in his underpants!

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Just around the corner from their flat is the book shop (below) where normal guy William works and indeed first meets the very famous Anna Scott (Julia Roberts). It is seen for the first time on 5 minutes and is at 142 Portobello Road. Its now aptly named Notting Hill whilst the actual travel bookshop on which it was based is at 13 Blenheim Crescent.

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The interior scenes of the shop were actually shot at Universal Studios in Hollywood (below) along with a few other inside shots. There is a facade of the shop on display in the theme park which I have visited twice; in 2002 and 2011 respectively.

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Having got his coffee at 303 Westbourne Park Road (below), William proceeds to turn the corner into Portobello Road on 11 minutes where he spills his coffee all over Anna. It’s still a coffee shop but these days it’s home to a branch of Coffee Republic.

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William turns up at The Ritz (below), where is Anna is staying, on 22 minutes and gives an impromptu interview on behalf of Horse & Hound magazine to Anna as well as her co-stars. The high class establishment features again on 51 minutes.

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The first place William and Anna go on a date is to his sisters birthday party at 91 Lansdowne Road (below). This is the home to Max and Bella and as well as that first appearance  on 33 minutes it is also seen at dinner time half an hour later.

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The Coronet Cinema (below) at 103 Notting Hill Gate plays host to a couple of movies within the movie. First up on 48 minutes is when William and Anna watch something with the former wearing a snorkel mask/goggles and on 56 mins he is alone as he watches Anna starring in sci-fi film ‘Helix‘ in the wake of discovering her husband is in town.

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After that first cinema scene, William and Anna go to Japanese restaurant Nobu (below) on 49 minutes whereby Anna gives as good as she gets. This expensive place is part of the Metropolitan Hotel and is located at 19 Old Park Lane. 

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The final ‘Notting Hill’ location is The Savoy (below) at 1 Savoy Hill on the Strand which appears on 108 minutes. All good rom-com movies need someone chasing after their true love and this one is no different but rather than the usual dash to the airport we see William and friends driving through busy London traffic to get to the press conference in the Lancaster Room where he very publicly proposes.

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Many thanks to Tony Reeves
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