One of my favorite places in Tokyo for a casual walk is still around the Tokyo station area, especially on the Marunouchi side. The station just looks fantastic after the renewal and the new light up at night. Since I first visited Tokyo station the area has gotten better and better options for viewing the station from above as well. First it was the viewing balcony on the Marubiru (Marunouchi Building), then the Shinmarubiru balcony and last year we got the roof garden at the JP Tower (or the KITTE). Tokyo Station and the Marunouchi area just keeps getting better and better!
In the Edo period that lasted until the second half of the 19th century, the area today called Marunouchi was the area between the many defensive moats of the castle and palaces that is today the Imperial Palace. Today the area is bustling with people and activity but even in 1910 the area was famous for being pretty much deserted after seven in the evening. If we look at Marunouchi even before that, the area was the home of many feudal lords and nobles, and when the castle was being built, Marunouchi was famous for being a beautiful piece of land near the ocean. About a hundred and fifty years ago when the emperor had moved to Tokyo and the feudal lords had been ordered to return to their provinces, the many abandoned houses in Marunouchi had a negative impact on local law and order, and female office workers and factory staff were ordered to start work at 6:30 instead of the normal 5:30 to ensure their safety. It is hard to imagine Marunouchi as once having been considered dangerous! In 1890 when most of Marunouchi was sold to the Mitsubishi shipping company, it was said that the grass was so tall you could lose a rickshaw in it and people quickly jokingly changed the name from Mitsubishigahara (the fields of Mitsubishi) to Tobakugaha (the fields of gambling). When the shipping magnate was asked what on earth he was planning to do with such a huge field of abandoned wasteland he jokingly replied “Well, I might just plant some bamboo and even keep a pet tiger”! 「なあに、竹を植えて、虎でも飼うさ」
Who said Japanese business men didn’t have a sense of humour? Today Marunouchi land prices are some of the highest in the world.
2013 saw a record high in the number of foreign tourists, probably helped more by the record low yen (thanks to Abenomics) than any number of “Cool Japan” tourism campaigns. These days of sharing, on social networks and websites (not to mention blogs!) require good Internet access though, and that can be both expensive and difficult to find here in Tokyo. There are plenty of spaces that offer free wireless Internet access but few that also offer the use of computers to actually access the Internet on. So in the service of the tourists that plan to visit Tokyo in 2014 I’d like to present one of my favorite Tokyo cafes that offers all the computers you need, Cafe Salvador right in the middle of Tokyo’s own Wall Street, Nakadori. The place, considering the location, is very reasonably priced and you couldn’t ask for better service. If you are in the area and need to rest your legs or update that blog, this is the place to visit!
It is located on Nakadori between Tokyo and Yurakucho station and apart from coffee, snacks and computers, there are also lot of magazines to chose from.
One of the areas of Tokyo that has changed the most in the last decade is without a doubt the stately old Marunouchi, between Tokyo station and the Imperial palace. The area has seen several huge new builds and massive renovations that shows off the areas importance as the financial center of Tokyo. Celebrating 10 years in 2014 is the Ozao, a collection of four interlocked building of which the two largest have 29 floors above ground and four floors below ground. The name, in typical Japanese fashion is an abbreviation of the O in Otemachi (the neighboring area to the north of Marunouchi) enclosing, the slightly modified AZ of the Japanese word for play (“asobu”), it also stands a short for Office and Amenity Zone, as well as the obvious connection with the word oasis. A lot of Japanese concepts, buildings, services and organization make their names like this!
The public area of Oazo has quite a few shops, free wifi, cafes and one of the bigger book stores in Tokyo, the Maruzen, with a large and fairly good selection of foreign language books (mostly English and French). The book store itself has an in store gallery that often has nice exhibitions of luxury oriented arts and craft.
To get to Oazo simply exit Tokyo Station at any of the Marunouchi exits and turn right. Walk down to the end corner of the station and you will find the massice Oazo right in front of you. I am sure there will be plenty of events and celebrations come August and September when they celebrate Oazo’s birthday!
Although as a dance form, Awaodori has a 400 year long history it was not properly formalized until the first half of the last century and one of the first teams to form that still exists today is the legendary Gojyahei, which formed in 1946. This team is active in the main Awaodori festival down in the southern Tokushima prefecture and when it performs there it can field about 300 dancers and musicians in one go. Here in Tokyo we very rarely get to see teams that are that large or with that kind of fame so naturally I made sure to visit one of their very few guest appearances in Tokyo, at the KITTE in front of Tokyo Station in the Marunouchi district. The performance was absolutely flawless, as can be expected, and much too short for my liking. Even the Tokushima prefecture maskot (Sudachikun すだちくん, after the Tokushima citrus fruit the sudachi) made an appearance and showed remarkable dancing skills for such a plump figure!
The event was part of a promotional campaign for Tokushima prefecture, with performances at the massive Furusato Matsuri in Tokyo Dome as well as several performances by Tokushima teams and local Tokyo teams at Haneda Airpot. I have still never visited Tokushima prefecture, but one day I hope to gather enough courage to do so. In my mind Tokushima prefecture is the most attractive and fantastic of all Japanese prefectures, maybe I am afraid to be disappointed!