Tokyobling's Blog

Marunouchi Light Up

Posted in Places by tokyobling on November 20, 2015

It is the time of the year when everyone and everywhere in Japan does their best to lighten up the winter darkness, and this means lots and lots of light up events around the country. I took these photos last year of the decorations at Marunouchi’s Nakadori district, the Wall Street of Japan. This year will probably be similar, so if you want to brighten up your winter, please head over to Marunouchi and have a look!

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Tsukishima Shotengai – Store Fronts

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on October 9, 2014

Last night most of Japan saw a complete lunar eclipse which although impressive it not really photogenic. So instead I picked a few photos of storefronts that I took in Tokyo’s central Tsukishima (月島) district. The name translates to Moon Island. Tokyo is not all gleaming skyscrapers and huge modern buildings, there is also quite a few houses and shops that have probably never seen a renovation budget over two figures, and I love these. Almost all of these stores are family run business, often with the owners being way past retirement age. In Japan pension payments are not connected very much to your income so it makes sense to keep working even after 65 and it also explains why several of these stores are not all that concerned with profit maximization. I always make an effort to shop in stores like this. Most items are slightly more expensive than in the big brand stores but there are enough items much cheaper so on average I think it evens out. It is also a great chance to chat to people you would never ever meet otherwise, as most of the owners are very happy to have a conversation with the purchase (most, but not all). One of my favorite mom and pop stores is a fruit seller in my neighborhood. The first time I went in there the owner, an old lady of way past 90 was sitting down resting and her energetic son of around 70 rushed down to help me with my purchase, sparing his mother. He claimed that his mom was way too old to “risk her heart speaking to handsome gentlemen like you” so naturally I had to buy some extra to reward his excellent sales pitch. It is still the only place where I put money down for fruit!

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Okuno Building Gallery – Ginza’s Oldest Apartments

Posted in Places by tokyobling on August 17, 2014

Ginza is known for money, riches, luxury brands and high fashion, it is a city in the city for people who have wealth or who like to spend it. Ginza has always been associated with money, even the name Ginza comes from licensed coin minting operation in the area back in the Edo period of Japan (in this case it was established in 1612). In the 1870a Ginza was one of the first areas of Japan to get western style brick buildings as a way of attracting investment and showing of Japan’s newfound sense of modernity. But what happens when former luxury houses grow old? As times and fashions move on the buildings remain standing and although most of them are torn down, the second oldest building in Ginza, the Okuno Building remains standing. Constructed in 1932 as a luxury apartment complex the building survived World War II and the building boom of the 1980s it is now one of the oldest apartment buildings in the country, the oldest in Ginza and the second oldest building in Ginza overall (the oldest is the Daiichi Ginza Biru, 第一銀緑ビル, constructed in 1924). Up until a few years ago there were almost identical buildings in Harajuku and Ueno but they have gone under the wrecking ball. In 1932 it was still extremely unusual to have people living in western style concrete buildings. These days the former apartments and shops have been converted to about 50 working galleries, artist’s studios and small artisan shops.

The interior matches the exterior perfectly and is wonderfully old, rusty and worn down. Flaking paint, bent railings, deep ruts worn into the concrete floor, it looks more like an abandoned ghost complex than a working building. During weekdays and weekends there’s a steady stream of people coming in and out of the building. With so many galleries there is an opening almost every day and new and old artists mix and meet in the narrow corridors. Some galleries are modern and ultra-hip, using high tech and the showing the latest fashions, others look more like your old Granny’s collection of antique toys. You are never likely to be able to visit all the galleries but there’s always enough of them open to make it worthwhile to visit the building.

Even the elevator is an original working antique and manually operated meaning that you have to close and open the doors by yourself. There are stern warnings to not forget to close the doors after you leave. You don’t see many elevators like this any more and most people I saw entering the building took one look at it and then opted for the stairs. Me included.

I hope to go back soon and get better photos, but for now, here are the (scary looking) interior corridors and stairs. It feels like going on urban ruin safari even though the building is still functioning and in the middle of the most expensive shopping district in the world! I would love to meet someone who actually experienced living in this building! The address to this building is Ginza 1−9−8 and the best subway exit is Ginza Itchome Station, Exit 10.

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Ginza Window Decoration – Window Shopping

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on May 28, 2014

Walking around in Ginza one late afternoon I spotted this funny looking window decoration, mannequins ensnared by a chameleon! This particular street crossing is one of the most interesting for window shoppers or professional decorators everywhere, never have I seen so many and such elaborate or expensive decorations in one spot. Any designer, decorator, shop manager or merchandiser would do well to take monthly walks along this street. For more examples of window decorations in Tokyo, just use the tags at the end of the post!

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