When you walk around in Tokyo it’s easy to forget that large parts of this city didn’t exist a few hundred years ago, but sometimes we are reminded that we’re actually walking on reclaimed land by old piers left over, kilometers from the ocean, or signs and temples and names that tell of a long lost connection with the ocean. The area called Tsukiji today was mostly still ocean water until the mid 17th century when it was reclaimed by some very dedicated workers and clever engineers in feudal era Japan. However, at one spot near the Tsukiji fish market harsh waves made work very difficult and land was washed away almost as soon as workers could reclaim it. In order to bring better luck to the project some priests floated an image of an inari god (Inari Myojin) on the water and from then on worked progressed without any further problem. To praise the gods for their help a shrine was erected and named “Namiyoke” – protection against waves. To this day people come to this shrine to pray for safe voyages and to avoid misfortune.
In June every year the shrine hosts a lion festival, called Tsukiji Shishi Matsuri, where two large lion heads are paraded around Tsukiji, and although most ancient wooden lion heads have been destroyed two of them remain to this day, safe since when they were carved in 1848. In the old days the shrine was also connected the clan in charge of Owari Province, the world famous Tokugawa clan. Owari is the old name for the western half of modern Aichi prefecture.
A word of caution though, the industrial areas of Tsukiji are very much still working, unlike many western cities where light and heavy industry has been pushed out of the city centers there is still a lot of noisy production going on in Tsukiji. It’s absolutely not a pretty area, and can look just as grim and run down as any city in Europe or North America. It didn’t help the cause of Tsukiji that I took these snapshots on a cold, windy, over cast day either. Think of this shrine as being very much blue collar. It’s a factory shrine for hard working people. It’s not pretty, but it seems to be working well for the people who pray there!
Awhile ago I was walking along Sumida River, one of Tokyo’s great waterways at dusk with my camera and snapped these of the Tsukiji harbor area. If you look at the photo of the dock you can see the trucks at the ready to receive the catch straight from the ships, 24/7. As I walked I also caught one of the many tour boats cruising the river from Asakusa to Odaiba and back. Very colorful!
Time for another batch of photos from one of my photo walks earlier this year! Here’s the Sumida river area around Tsukiji, a face famous for being the main Tokyo fresh fish market. Going here for your sushi is ruinous both for your appetite and for your wallet. I once had sushi at Tsukiji and since then I can’t enjoy ordinary sushi anymore. It’s just that different. This day was bitingly cold and the sky was as grey as the river itself. A grey afternoon sky is much better than a clear blue sky when it comes to a photo walk though! Less strained eyes, less sunburn and less blown out over contrasty images. Win-win, in other words! You might think I’m going a little sky crazy in this series, and you might be right. Living as I do in central Tokyo means that I almost never get to see a full sky or a horizon. There’s no horizon in these images either, but a river is the next best thing I think. Tokyo has several rivers and there’s always interesting things to see on or near these!
Unlike in European cities (and I assume most North American cities as well), Japan has pretty lax laws on regulations regarding the look of buildings, this means that within a single block, anywhere in Tokyo you can have every imaginable kind of material, color, look, design or purpose of a building. Old wooden buildings from 1946 can be seen next to a gleaming sky scraper in steel and glass, while in the middle of a busy banking district you might find a lumber yard or a corrugated metal storage shed full of boxes of machine parts. When I first arrived in Tokyo this was probably what surprised me the most, the total lack of uniformity among buildings in the same block or on the same street and such a huge variation in looks and purposes. Some people love this, some people don’t agree with it, but for the most part this is what gives a lot of Tokyo it’s character. Among bigger Japanese cities Tokyo is also special in having a quite noticeable difference in general look and feel among the different areas or wards, at least I feel that there is more variation inside Tokyo than in many other Japanese cities that I have visited.
While walking around Ginza and Tsukiji the other week I took these photos to just show a mixture of buildings and streets in central Tokyo, an area that peaked economically in the 70′s and early 80′s. There’s a handful of older buildings left, and a few newer buildings that really makes this part of the city so varied. I can’t pretend to think that all of these buildings are beautiful, but I wanted to show you something less blingy and maybe more “everyday” boring here on the blog. Personally I think that these old buildings, the holdouts from another age, are the most interesting. I always wonder what kind of people or businesses still call them home? You can also tell that Ginza is a rich area, even their old semi-abandoned buildings are clad in copper, which must have been very pricey back then. As a tourist to Tokyo, these streets are not high on your priority list of places to experience I think! Enjoy!