Tōkyō

東京



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Tokyo is the extreme of everything. The largest, most highly developed and fully integrated metropolis on the planet boggles the mind. Yet for all the times the East Capital has been blown up or stomped down by celluloid monsters, it is a remarkably great place to be. It does take some getting used to though, and studying that infuriatingly spaghetti-like tangle of subway lines with a hangover was always a losing situation.

Our Japanese adventure started and finished in Tokyo with a total of five nights spent, first in Akasaka, and then to add to the confusion, Asakusa, on the other side of town. Tokyo is just so big that it's difficult to know where to start, and getting around still takes quite a long time simply due to the distances and line changes involved. But there was so much to see that it made writing this webpage a real challenge, to fit it all in to my usual limit of twenty five photos. Here's what made the cut.


Orange parade

While we were still wandering the streets of Akasaka searching for our capsule hotel, we chanced upon a series of parade type celebrations. Everyone was in good spirits as they carried some sort of box down the street, and interestingly, none of them were wearing shoes.



Matsuya Ginza department store down in Ginza district. I like the stark glass and white with the rising sun in this image.

Matsuya Ginza


Ginza shopping

Ginza district itself, which was partially closed to traffic for the public holiday going on that week. There were in fact three days off work for most folk.



Outside Suntory Concert Hall there was some sort of TV show being made, no idea what but we saw a few more examples of this during our trip.

Tokyo starlets in the making


Park Hyatt Tokyo

The Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku district, made famous as the setting of "Lost in Translation" with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.



Naturally we had to go up to the New York Bar at the top of the Park Hyatt, although I was in somewhat less glamourous company than Bill Murray was. A glass of Suntory 18-year-old each whilst listening to the live jazz and gazing out at the gently glowing skyline stretching as far as the eye could see was just the ticket. Then the bill arrived, and we nursed the rest of those whiskies real good.

New York Bar on top of the Park Hyatt


Shinjuku neon

Neon and the bright lights of Shinjuku district back down at street level.



The first time I walked into a Pachinko parlour I couldn't believe the noise - all those little ball bearings in this highly popular vertical version of pinball make an almighty racket. I had a go for 500 yen, which involved turning a knob and looking at incomprehensible cartoon images on a screen. I didn't really know what I was doing, but it can't have been totally wrong as I got my 500 yen back.

Pachinko players


Snug as a bug in a capsule

Back in our hotel, and this was my room, pretty neat?! There were 300 capsules in this tiny hotel, communal showers on the top floor and no women allowed. It had clearly been very cutting edge in the 1980s but was showing signs of age now. I felt like I was offshore.



Japan is big into video games, but it hasn't forgotten the glory days of such classics as Street Fighter, Pong and Space Invaders. Taito are seemingly still going strong, I was glad to see.

Classic Taito


Asakusa market place

Market stalls in Asakusa (not Akasaka) on the path up to a temple. I bought a keyring.



Old women burn incense in the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa. Also nearby was the headquarters of Asahi beer, with a large gold "thing" (a tadpole?) on the roof.

Incense burning women


Emperor's palace

In the centre of Tokyo the Emperor of Japan still lives in his palace at Chiyoda, and this is about all you'll get to see as a regular punter. No visitors allowed.



Chilling out in one of the gardens just outside the walls of the Imperial Palace. I stayed in a hotel once called the Imperial Palace in Marrakech.

Palace gardens


Just a small slice, please

The Tokyo fish market Tsukiji is listed as one of the must-see attractions in town, so we headed down early one morning to catch the action. Rather than getting out of bed early, we just sauntered along after a night on the razzle in Roppongi. This obliging chap cut us a few slices of the freshest sashima you could ever have, and even found us some soy sauce for dipping. Beats a kebab any day.



You will have undoubtedly seen Shibuya crossing before, as whenever a movie director needs "lots of Japanese folk crossing a road" this is where they'll head.

Shibuya crossing


Japan's Greyfriars Bobby

At Shibuya station stands the statue of Hachiko, the faithful hound who waited outside the station for his master's return, many years after the old boy had turned up his toes. Hang on, haven't we heard that one before…? Perhaps a long-lost cousin of Scotland's own Greyfriars Bobby.



When I was twelve I first saw the manga film "Akira", which frankly scared the life out of me. This area by Tokyo City Hall reminds me of places from Tetsuo's neo-Tokyo, especially with the two figures standing amongst all that concrete.

Scene from Akira?


Tokyo City Hall

The twin towers of Tokyo City Hall in Shinjuku are the tallest in town, although not stratospheric at 243 metres, due to the ever-present threat of earthquakes. It's free to go up to the observatory, and there's one in each tower, so you can see the views all round without having another tower blocking your view. How considerate.



Tokyo as seen from the top of the City Hall. The large green space is the Emperor's palace, and the tower at the top left is Roppongi Hills.

Tokyo as seen from the City Hall


Yoyogi Park and NTT DoCoMo building

Also near to Shinjuku is Yoyogi Park, which made for an interesting wander with all the Tai-Chi, strange group chanting and the occasional Harajuku girl going around. The building in the background is the NTT DoCoMo Tower, which resembles a giant grandfather clock.



There is no shortage of shopping in Tokyo, this is Omote Sando street which is another concentration of every type of store you can think of.

Omote Sando shopping


They'll be all the rage soon

Toyota have their own museum-cum-theme park in Tokyo, where you can drive Land Cruisers around a small test track, be driven in a robotic car around another track, or check out the latest innovations from the future. These reclining personal sedans, along with a trumpet-playing robot, were my favourites.



The Tokyo Tower was built in the 1950s for communications, and vaguely resembles the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but is a little bit taller. We didn't have time to visit the tower itself (I've also still not been to the top of the Eiffel Tower) but got a good view from the windows of the Tokyo Malt Whisky Society.

Tokyo Tower by night


The Rainbow Bridge

The Rainbow Bridge crosses part of Tokyo Bay to the reclaimed island of Odaiba, and carries two levels of traffic plus light railway lines. The bridge is so-called because of the way it is usually lit, but on that night it was the boats which were stealing the show.



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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2010