The New Year’s Holidays are a little peculiar in central Tokyo. Many (if not most) Japanese spend the holidays traveling somewhere, either abroad or back to their parents or relatives around Japan. This means that Tokyo is a bit more deserted, a bit quieter than usual around the New Year. Quite a few shops are closed as well, which makes it even less interesting for people to go into town. This does not deter tourists though, and walking around for example Ginza or Omotesando at night on the 31st or 1st is a bit like being in a tourist theme park, no locals and no shops open.
Still, window shopping is an acceptable pastime during these times, so I joined the tourists and did a bit of walking around on the relatively people free sidewalks and streets of central Tokyo.
Here are some photos of Omotsesando at night, not around New Year’s though.
Earlier this year saw the start of an interesting commercial preservation project in Tokyo’s Yanaka/Ueno area. Three traditional houses built in 1938 were renovated and turned into a joint restaurant/shop project, with a cafe, a tiny beer hall and a clothing shop (amongst others). The three buildings surround a tiny courtyard/garden and gives a great insight into how life looked in the old Ueno area 70-80 years ago. When I visited it had been open for a few months but were still quite crowded with a steady stream of foreign tourists and locals visiting the shops. The idea, to preserve old buildings and make them commercially viable is fantastic, and instead of turning this little corner of Tokyo into a parking lot (as was the original plan) it is now a bustling tourists attraction employing a dozen people or more. Ueno Sakuragi Atari is well worth a visit! You can find much more information, photos and access information on their official website. The renovation aspect of the project has its own Facebook page as well. Very interesting if you are into architecture!
This post will not be remembered for its aesthetic values, but it might be useful for tourists in Tokyo over the eager to get some Christmas shopping done! Feel free to disregard if commercialism is not your thing! If you are into character goods, seasonal souvenirs and christmas shopping for young and old children, I recommend giving the shopping arcades beneath Tokyo Station a visit. There are lots of tiny promotional stores down there with lots of peculiar toys and characters, some famous (Like Pikachu wearing a train officer’s hat), while some are very not famous outside of Japan. I took these snap shots last year passing through the arcade, but I think similar shops are open this year’s Christmas as well!
Not far from Tokyo’s downtown Nezu subway station you will find the tiny and remarkably charming gallery Maruhi. If you look really well that is. It is almost hidden away in a tiny nearly 100 year old house inside a tiny alley not wide enough for even two people to walk down. When I visited the gallery had an exhibition called Kuronekoten, showing the black cat themed work of nine different artists, from sculptors to kimono weavers. I dare say that Maruhi is Tokyo’s best hidden gallery, and if you are in the area it is well worth a visit. Finding it is part of the fun!
Even if you are not into the art the building itself is nothing short of amazing. It is a very careful restoration of an old 1917 (Taisho-era) pawnshop (hence the large safe!), and quite beautiful inside. My photos do not make it justice.
The next show is a ceramics show running from November 21st to 29th, you can read more about the gallery and the coming shows on their Facebook page here or their homepage here (all in Japanese of course!).