Thursday, July 15, 2010

Picture post: Tokyo

I renewed my passport in Tokyo a few weeks ago, and I took the Yashica along.


The Swedish embassy is in Roppongi, so you change subway lines in Meguro.

Swedish Embassy

Any embassy design is going to be playing off their national stereotypes of course. The entrance at the Swedish embassy does "Nordic minimalism" and modern design. A better choice than Dala horses and folkloric kitsch: look forward, not back.

A refreshing detail: no flags and no patriotic slogans. I mean, you presumably know which embassy you're at already so why add some big colorful marker to remind you? Oh, and we're technically a monarchy, but there's not a single portrait of the king, or the royal family. There's some aspects of my home culture that I really, really appreciate, and the lack of unthinking, noisy patriotism is one of them.

Restaurant Stockholm

While there were no cheap symbolism at the embassy, Restaurant Stockholm feels no such inhibitions. Still, it's a pleasant place with a fairly good Smörgåsbord. Lunch is not too expensive and Swedish passport holders get a nice discount. My only gripe is that they don't do Janssons temptation during summer. Oh well, it's pretty easy to make yourself. Perhaps post a recipe?


You can't go to Tokyo and not stop by Jimbōcho in Kanda. The area is filled with used book stores, and it's a treat to spend some time there. Most books are in Japanese of course, but there's a few places specializing in foreign-language books. A must-go place is Meirinkan, a store that specializes in science and technology works. Again, mostly Japanese but they have a pretty good collection of mathematics in English. I was very good and bought only half a dozen or so, including a good two-volume work on numerical analysis and a book on using sensors in electronics.


Kandabashi. Osaka isn't the only place to use its canals as convenient places for highways. I'm torn about this kind of thing. On one hand, you hide away what could be a pleasant waterway through the city. On the other, this kind of industrial brutalism looks pretty cool.

Beer Cafe

The area east of Tokyo station has become fairly upscale. Here's a beer cafe in one of the large office buildings right next to the station. Good place.


The upper-house election was in full swing. Here Renhō, a very popular DPJ politician, was giving a speech in Yurakuchō. A few days later we spotted her in Osaka, stumping for one of the candidates there.

Excuse the image quality; it's a cellphone shot, at dusk, with the phone held over my head. I'm amazed there's anything recognizable in the picture at all.

Thai Restaurant

A popular Thai restaurant under the Yamanote line tracks. The lighting and plastic chairs makes it feel very south-Asian in style. The food looked great but the wait was too long for us.

One thing I envy Tokyo is all the cheap, low-grade but friendly eating places under the tracks of the Yamanote loop line especially. They cluster around the stations, and especially where you'd have lots of employees passing through every evening. Namba in Osaka just doesn't have a lot of places like that. Perhaps it's simply the relative lack of elevated train lines, but I think it's a difference in style too. There's plenty of cheap eateries here too, just not this kind.


  1. Osaka has hardly any Southeast Asian restaurants compared to Tokyo. Having worked before in Takadanobaba, which is crowded with great Cambodian/Thai/Burmese/Indian/other Asian eateries, it's something I really miss. I wonder why? It's not the spiciness, as there are plenty of good Korean restaurants.

  2. What strikes me about that photo from the embassy is the beautiful light - the Nordic minimalistic design and architecture that emphasizes light is one thing I sometimes miss from home. Although that beer bar you found seems to do it pretty well too.

    I guess the Danish embassy is slightly more kitsch than the Swedish - at least there's a Little Mermaid replica sitting outside...
    For photos from a recent event there where there was absolutely no lack of national flags, feel free to have a look at my blog (in Danish):

  3. Claire, I was not really thinking about Asian food; many of those cheap joints are yakitoriya or izakaya, with benches or standing room only. There's a particular style to those places around and under the tracks in Tokyo I don't find anywhere else.

    For some Asian foods the Osaka area is good. There's a fair amount of Thai restaurants in Osaka, and Kobe is great for Indian food.

    Jonas, this was the first time I've gone to "my" embassy, and I was half expecting a two-story Dalahäst outside, and piped-in violin folk music and Carl Larsson replicas inside. I was very relieved to have been wrong. ^_^

  4. sorry - dalarna is Sweden

  5. I agree - Dalarna is Sweden!

  6. As somebody who grew up in Dalarna, but has lived in both Mälardalen and Skåne, I disagree. Dalarna is one small part of Sweden, and a not very representative one at that. I'm happy they stayed away from a fairly tired regional trope in favour of a more inclusive modernism.

  7. Having lived in Tokyo on and off since 1988, you take some of the most beautiful images of "my" city. BTW I have eaten at that Thai place under the tracks in it was not bad at all. If you go a little further to the south there is a great bend of a stretch by the tracks - you can sit outside, have a beer, and watch the Shinkansen pass by...


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