In December while walking around in Yokohama I took these two snapshots of cold and dark harbor area. Where I’m originally from winter nights are often brighter than winter days but on a clear night in Japan, the sky just goes pitch black. I have been in love with the Yokohama skyline since I first saw it, and I think I will never fall out of love. Yokohama is a great place to be!
If you have a fine, free day in Tokyo, head down to Odaiba before the sunset so get some fantastic views of the Tokyo skyline from the ocean side. I am not sure why, but for some reason the skies we get here in Tokyo is much better than the ones I had when I grew up in northern Europe. Maybe a southern sky is just more dramatic?
If you’re lucky you might catch a performance or festival as well, just like I did last time I went there. A small group of Taiko drummers had set up to perform, a couple of adults and three teenagers from Hachioji performed for free in the wonderful last light of this early evening. Even on very hot days Odaiba is usually cooler than central Tokyo thanks to the sea breeze. Just in case you are overdosing on festival shots lately, I throw in a couple of sunsets for you as well! Enjoy!
A lot of big cities around the world are famous for their skylines, but for some reason this is different in the case of Tokyo. Perhaps Tokyo is just too big, too spread out to make a famous skyline possible? Here’s one that you won’t see too often, the Ikebukuro skyline as seen from the south. Ikebukuro is the “capital” of Northern Tokyo and commuting center tying the northern Kanto area with central Tokyo. It is also the first major station (together with Ueno depending on your train line) you’ll reach when traveling in from Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki or Nagano prefectures. Although Ikebukuro is not as overwhelmingly huge as Shinjuku station it comes in as a close second with a large number of train lines coming into the area: Shonan Shinjuku line, Seibu-Ikebukuro, Tobu lines and Yamanote Line to mention some of the train lines, and Marunouchi, Yurakucho and Fukutoshin subway lines. Second meaning, the second most populous station in the world!
In this photo you can easily spot what was once the tallest building in Japan, the Tokyo Sunshine City tower at 240m. It was completed in 1978 on the site of the old Sugamo Prison where Japan’s war criminals were held, and some executed. Today Sunshine City has a large and rather nice hotel and a huge shopping mall. It’s also just across the street from the famous otomedori (or Virgin Street, in English) which is the female version of Nakano Broadway or Akihabara (i.e. where female anime and manga fans hang out).
Ikebukuro isn’t even on the top 25 of the list of places to see in Tokyo, but for a very large part of the population in this area of 25 million people, it is a vastly important area. If you really want to understand Tokyo, this is a good place to visit. In 2007 Ikebukuro Station had an average of 2.71 million visitors daily, I suspect this number is now closer to 3 million thanks to massive developments in the area north of Tokyo and the opening of a new subway line effectively tying a straight line between Saitama and Yokohama. Click the tag for Ikebukuro to find all my posts featuring things and places in or close to this area!
Despite being a seaside town there are very few places where the average person can actually access the ocean in Tokyo (the Wikipedia page mistakenly narrow it down to two but I can think of a few more places). The whole of the waterfront is either covered in concrete or industrial areas and it’s quite possible to live an entire life here without ever seeing the water. Which is why I so often visit Odaiba, a huge man made island in the middle of Tokyo Bay with an excellent view of the Tokyo skyline. Odaiba is accessible by train or bus on bridges or by subway. In the summer there are events almost all days of the week and one of these was this lantern festival I attended a few weeks ago. The beach facing Tokyo (alas, no swimming allowed here) was covered in paper lanterns, quite a beautiful spectacle. If you have the chance to visit Tokyo, try to get at least half a day for Odaiba!