Whenever I meet people visiting Tokyo or planning to visit Tokyo I always get asked the one question: what should I see here? Not wanting to be too obvious and giving the examples everyone has already heard of, my answer is recently this: walk across the Rainbow Bridge around sunset. Surprisingly few people do this. It is not a difficult walk, there is no entrance charge and the views are spectacular. At the end of the walk you are usually rewarded with an interesting visit to Odaiba, or you can do it the other way around and use the walk as a starting point for an interesting evening tour of the city. In the summer season the bridge entrances close at 20:30 and in the winter it close at 17:30. After closing you have 30 minutes to get out before the bridge is shut down for the night. I usually recommend the North promenade (see my previous blog posts about the Rainbow Bridge by clicking the tag) as it is much more scenic than the South promenade. A couple of weeks ago I decided to try the south side by myself and while not as good as the South promenade it is still worth a visit. The South promenade is also the one you have to use if you want to bring a bicycle over.
From the South promenade you have a splendid view of Odaiba island itself, as well as the Odaiba Island Battery Park, an old gun battery set up over a hundred years ago to protect Tokyo harbor from seaborne assaults. Luckily it was never really used and parts of it today is a just huge almost wild series of islands, one of which is accessible from Odaiba by a walkway. For the others you will need a boat.
The South promenade is also a good place for boat spotting if you are into that, as most passenger ships using Tokyo harbors pass underneath.
One of Japan’s most famous private television stations, Fuji Television, celebrates 55 years in business right now and is doing so with a fun and spectacular light show at its headquarter in Tokyo’s oceanfront Odaiba district. The show which uses most windows in their massive HQ in synched to music and is on between 1800 and 2300 hours every day with special shows on the hour and the half hour. The show will run until January 13th according to their website, which has videos and more information.
It is fun to take photos of fast moving light displays with a very slow shutter speed! The windows are lit up with very rapid patterns so some of these photos might not make any sense but I think you can spot a very colorful Mount Fuji in one of them.
The Comic Market, or Comiket for short, is Japan’s biggest indoor gathering hosted by a NGO. It started in the winter of 1975 as a market for young and aspiring comic book artists to meet, sell their books and to showcase their talent. Over time cosplaying fans would gather dressed up as their favorite characters and even corporations started attending. These days about 45 000 exhibitors apply for a spot in one of the 39 000 market places and about 600 000 people gather to attend the market. It is impossible to make this even justice in a single blog post but let me just say say it is massive, and the weather does not help either. There are two Comiket every year, one in the blazing hot summer and one in the bitingly cold winter. I tried the summer market once but didn’t last 30 minutes. The most popular comics sell out in a few minutes after opening and fans often make a point of cueing up before the event starts, which means that if you arrive early you might have to wait in line for a an hour or two.
There is no entrance fee and the NGO who manages the event (three main guys who work full time with this) relies on 3000 volunteers for everything from garbage collecting to crowd control. I know many comic fans who make a point of volunteering a year just to serve their time for the greater good of the underground comic community in Japan. When I say underground, I mean that most of the comics on sale break some copyright law or another but unlike western trigger happy media companies Japanese publishing houses accept and in some cases even encourage fan art and rewritings of their stories. You won’t find anything as vulgar as simply pirated stuff, but you will find that the authors of these “doujinshi” (同人誌 or self-published works) have spent a lot of time and effort on writing new stories for their favorite characters.
The open spaces around the many convention halls are taken up by cosplayers who make their own costumes in the likeness of their favorite characters. There are thousands of them and many times as many photographers and fans. Despite the seemingly chaotic situation there is a certain etiquette to be observed and things run surprisingly smooth. It is hard to move around in the crowd and the heat or the cold makes things even more difficult. I took these photos of some great looking cosplayers, it was exceedingly difficult to get good shots! I don’t know the characters but I am sure some readers might be able to point them out for us! The last photo is of two fantastically great looking people doing a Moomin cosplay! Snufkin and Little My, along with a couple of tiny home made Hattifatteners.
The last day of the 85th Comiket is today so if you are in Tokyo and hurry up you can still catch this event!
Winter fireworks festivals are not very common in Japan but throughout November and December there has been mini-festivals every Saturday evening in Tokyo’s oceanfront Odaiba district and I thought I should go see the last one for the year. I am terrible at taking photos of fireworks, I have absolutely no idea how other photographers do it. Maybe some of my readers can give me a few hints? The only thing I have figured out is that you are supposed to use a tripod. I own one but I haven’t touched it in 5-6 years. The fireworks festival was a great excuse to go out and the the Rainbow bridge in all its colorful glory once again. I was going to shoot from the bridge initially but the bridge closes for foot-traffic at 1800 in winter. Just a few days left of this year now, better make the best of them!