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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.