Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A few words about Tokyo

You know you're in Tokyo when...
Yes, that's a giant beetle on the side of that building. Photo ©Darren Bradley
I've already written about my time in Kyoto here, and Naoshima Island here. But no trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to Tokyo. When I was there, I heard it called the most beautiful ugly city in the world. I would agree with that assessment. 

We actually spent most of our time in Tokyo. We rented an apartment there, as we wanted to live like locals and experience it beyond what tourists would normally see. Our apartment belonged to a Westerner (a Canadian), and was on the 45th floor of a tower on a man-made island in the Shibaura district, not far from the Ginza. Here's the view from the place: 

Quiet New Year's Eve in Tokyo
View from our rented apartment in the Shibaura District of Tokyo. This was on New Year's Eve. Note the absence of fireworks or other festivities. New Year's is one of the quietest nights in Tokyo. Photo ©Darren Bradley
A lot of people I know don't like Tokyo. It's a concrete jungle, too large, too crazy, etc. But to be honest, if I were to live in Tokyo, it's where I'd want to be. I loved all the neighborhoods. And there was always something going on. I loved how easy it was to get around (especially compared to other Japanese cities). And I loved that there was more access to European culture and food than anywhere else in Japan (I love Japanese food, but still...). 

Most of all, I loved the architecture. Here are some examples: 

The Ginza/Shimbashi: 
Nakagin Capsule Tower
The Nakagin Capsule Tower (Kisho Kurokawa - 1970) is one of the most well known modernist buildings in Japan, and is also the most threatened. The residents would like to demolish it and replace it with a more modern tower. It's death warrant has been signed but demolition has been put on hold temporarily. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Offices
Kenzo Tange's Shizuoka Press and Broadcast Office (1967) is another classic. 
Mikimoto Building by Toyo Ito (2005). Photo ©Darren Bradley

Mikimoto Ginza Building
A peak inside the Mikimoto Building by Toyo Ito. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Tiffany Building
The Tiffany Building by Kengo Kuma (2008). Photo ©Darren Bradley

DeBeers Building
DeBeers Building by Jun Mitsui (2008). Photo ©Darren Bradley
Tokyo International Forum
Tokyo International Forum by Rafael Vinoly (1996). Photo ©Darren Bradley

The area around Omotesando and Aoyama is like a museum of modern architecture. It seems like every well known architect in the world is represented with at least one building here. 

Tod's Building by Toyo Ito (2004). Photo ©Darren Bradley

Chistian Dior
Christian Dior Building by SANAA. Photo ©Darren Bradley

The Prada Building by Herzog & de Meuron (2003). Photo ©Darren Bradley

Another view... Photo ©Darren Bradley

Tokyu Plaza
Tokyu Plaza by Hiroshi Nakamura (2012). Photo ©Darren Bradley

Asakusa is known for its Buddhist Temple. But there's also some interesting modern architecture there. And Kappabashi Street, nearby, has a lot of character. It's known as the place to buy kitchen and cooking supplies. But it also has some interesting buildings and is very typical of Tokyo architecture. 
A moment of Zen ?
Doesn't this look like fun? This is the entrance to the Temple at Senso-ji in Tokyo's Asakusa District. Photo ©Darren Bradley

The Visitor Center across the street from the temple is more my speed... 
Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
Asakusa Cultural Tourist Information Bureau by Kengo Kuma (2012). Photo ©Darren Bradley

And a few blocks from there is Kappabashi - the Chef's District. 
In the context of Tokyo, a giant cartoon character on a building seems normal. Beetles, too. Photo ©Darren Bradley

For more on Tokyo architecture, stay tuned for part 2...

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I've always wanted to visit Tokyo! I've heard so many things about the city, and I feel like I'd fit in perfectly. By the way, the view from your apartment is lovely! The architecture looks beautiful. I hope you can give us a list of places to visit - it would seriously help us out. Thanks in advance! :)

Jeffery Ramsey