Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Picture Post: Tokyo

Way back then I promised to post images from our Tokyo trip. Life and work intervened and I never got around to it. Better late than never, here's a few impressions.

Tokyo - Night

Big cities are really best at dusk. Dingy, messy streets in daylight turn into golden rivers of light as the sun sets.

Akasaka Prince Room

We stayed at the Akasaka Prince hotel. It's a pretty cool hotel with a fairly well-done 1970's style interior - yes, it can be tasteful and comfortable, believe it or not. Unfortunately the construction methods also seem to be typical for the 1970's, so renovating the place is too expensive and it will be torn down beginning this April.

It's Full Of Stars

Best thing about Tokyo is the subways. Lots of separate companies, and lots of restrictions on how you can run tunnels (no tunnelling under the imperial palace, for instance) so lines criss-cross the city in delightfully surprising ways. And with so many different actors, station design can vary a lot. Akasaka station has this blacklight (UV) enabled zodiac in one of the access tunnels, visible at night.


Blue scarf, Tokyo subway.

We went to Kanda in Jimbocho, just north of Akasaka, where hundreds of used book stores crowd the area. I try to go there every time I'm in Tokyo, and as always I stopped by Meirinkan that specializes in used science and technology books. I finally bought first three volumes of The Art of Computer Programming by Donald Knuth; a true classic in computer science and one I've wanted for many years. They were used, but in perfect condition - I suspect the original owner never actually opened them. As it happens, Knuth has just published part one of the fourth volume.

Another stop was the temple in Asakusa. It's a major tourist attraction of course, and usually crowded. There was a winter market going on selling traditional crafts as wall as the usual touristy stuff. Fun place, but really a bit too commercial to evoke any seasonal feelings.


Asakusa Pagoda.


Asakusa is famous for the huge straw sandals they have hanging on a gate wall.

Ginza is the traditional high-end shopping street in Tokyo. There's other high-end shopping areas now of course, but Ginza apparently still holds a special place in the mind of many Japanese. Every now and then the street is shut off for traffic and becomes a promenade for the day.


Take a news break. Perhaps he was waiting for his wife, just as I was waiting for Ritsuko when I took this.


An entrepreneurial shop owner (I think) placed a group of cats on the sign here, and immediately attracted a sizeable crowd. A crowd that, to a man, proceeded to saturate the area with cellphone cams, compact point-and-shoots and large SLR cameras.


The best kind of place to enjoy food and drink in Tokyo is in a low-end izakaya, the kind that caters to salarymen on their way home. Service is prompt, the food usually good and plentiful, and the atmosphere is pleasantly relaxed. I try to make a point of going to places like this whenever I'm here.

Practice makes Perfect

The last day we went to Yokohama. The weather was not good, but there were still plenty of people using the harbour walk to practice skateboard, rollerblades or, like here, bicycle.


  1. Nice pics. Were the Asakusa pictures taken at dusk as well? Didn't know it gets lit up like that.

  2. Asakusa was at night. Perhaps they light it only during festivals and the like.

  3. Funny, on Saturday two weeks ago I was sitting on exactly the bench you have photographed in Ginza in front of Tiffany, taking a series of photos for a timelapse, freezing and eating mochis that my friend had just received as an omiyage.

    I'm assembling a short movie of that and some other timelapse series I did that day. Not nearly of same quality as your great photos, but in a way it's a look at Tokyo in the same spirit. If you're interested I can post a link to it here once it's done.

  4. Timelapse sounds like a great idea! I thought a bit about that at the time; people keep sitting, then leaving again, and it was fun just to stand there and watch them.

    Please do post a link!

  5. Thanks. I just finished the timelapse. Watch it on my blog:
    or on Vimeo for full HD:

    The second sequence was shot from your bench. Not super exciting, I would say - basically I was just setting up the tripod here and there without too deep considerations. And it was cold! So couldn't hang around for too long :)

  6. Love Jimbocho. If Our Man only has a couple of hours free, he loves to browse the book town, sad old man that he is.


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