One thing that Japan may not be well known for is pastries and cake. Man, you can’t walk around Tokyo without finding a patisserie or bakery, and I mean really, really nice ones. Every day we were in Tokyo we would get up and out of our hotel early at 5am, to miss (most) of the rush hour commute and also to experience lots of different places for breakfast. Looking at these pictures from Akihabara, makes me think of the awesome breakfast we had that day. Mmmm.
Anyways, on to what was one of the longest and most awe inspiring days we spent in Japan. Starting in the morning in the district of Akihabara, a super vibrant area of Tokyo centred around shopping and all things Otaku. (Geeky). Referred to as “Radio Town” since WW2, the district has a long history of being a hub for all things electronic, although in more recent years it has developed as area full of games arcades, anime and manga stores and maid cafes.
We visited Yodabashi camera, a sprawling 10 floor department store selling everything, and I mean everything you could possibly want if you like technology. From cameras to clocks. Rice cookers to killer robots. Well, maybe not that last one. As someone who loves cameras, video games and anime; Akihabara could be considered my heaven or perhaps a personal nightmare. There were just too many shops and not enough time to see it all, enough money to buy it all, and space to carry it all in our luggage back home.
Our next stop after the best 80pence-a-plate sushi I’ve ever had, we headed back to our hotel in Shinjuku, making a quick detour back via Shibuya crossing, this time at night, to get a sense of the atmosphere and intensity of it all lit up. All I can say is that although it was just as busy and overwhelming to be in Shibuya during the day, it really doesn’t compare to the vibrancy and sheer unique character that Tokyo has at night time.
Here you are, in one of the most vibrant and densest populated cities in the world, in one of its busiest districts, next to a train station serving 2 million commuters a day. Your senses are being overloaded with sounds, and light and smells. And then you take one turn off into a side street, and you find well, not what you expect.
Tiny, smoky alleyways, back to back with bars big enough for 3 people. Full to the brim with salary men who have finished work and are grabbing a beer before getting the last train home. This was an awesome eclectic mix of old and new, rustic and modern. I remember walking down these alleyways in awe and thinking my nearest reference point to this was something out of Blade Runner or Akira. I had never experienced anything like it. It was surreal.
It was these unexpected, intense discoveries of the hidden stories within Tokyo that had the biggest impact on me on this trip. There is an absolutely huge cultural and historical context to Japan that you have to experience to begin to ever understand it. I am determined to go back to Japan soon, with a better understanding of the language; and to sit in these bars, ask questions and experience Tokyo nightlife as fully as I can.
All images were shot with a Canon 6D, with either a 24mm f1.4 or 50mm 1.4.