Tokyobling's Blog

Akihabara Street Corner

Posted in Places by tokyobling on February 5, 2015

Just a snapshot of one of my favroite street corners of Tokyo, in the trendy anime haven of Akihabara.

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Sprite Vending Machine – Akihabara

Posted in Places, Stuff by tokyobling on February 4, 2015

Passing through Akihabara the other day I noticed this vending machine that only sells Sprite, nicely decorated with images from the Aokana TV anime. At first I wondered wether this actually drives sales for either Sprite or Aokana and then I remembered that I had just taken four images of it. So yes, I assume it does at least attract attention!

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Manseibashi and Akihabara at Night

Posted in Places by tokyobling on March 13, 2014

One of my favorite places in Tokyo was always the Manseibashi Station platform that spent a large chunk of both the last and this century in slumber – one of Tokyo’s few remaining ghost stations. Last year however it was finally revived with a great looking shopping arcade, balcony overlooking a canal and a fantastic cafe up on top between the tracks of the central Chuou Line train. I blogged about it last year after the renovation was complete and I still love going here every now and then, although I am not the only one – that cafe I mentioned earlier actually sells out of food most nights! Last time I went there they said the only thing we have left is black coffee, so if you go, go early!

A few days ago I passed the station just after the sun had set and the last light of the day was almost gone. The old platform looks even better at night. There is something special about red bricks that you just can’t translate into concrete. They feel alive, and their strength and longevity means that they can last for hundreds of years, accumulating raw history – the wrinkles and spotches of red bricks in old Tokyo buildings have everything from bomb shrapnel holes to modern signs. The special look and feel of red brick, or akarenga, as they are known in Japan, gets even further enhanced because there are so few of them. Red brick walls are incredibly difficult to earthquake proof and even the ancient romans solved the problem by adding copious amounts of reinforced concrete to the core of their brick structures (I am sure the Manseibashi platform also has a concrete heart but at least the cladding is the original red bricks). In fact the first architect to finally solve the problem of building with red brick walls in earthquake countries was Josiah Conder (1852-1920) by using reinforced metal bands embedded in the mortar between the bricks, effectively tying the walls together. You can see an example of this in the fantastic Mitsubishi Ichigokan building in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district. The Manseibashi station platform building is a perfect example of a building that is valuable, lovable and useful, so much that it survived Earthquakes, bombing raids, urban development and modernist architectural fads. It is not a mere space to which people adapt but an organically and historically evolved living building. I am sure it will be around for the future generations to come many centuries from now.

As a contrast, the last photo shows the totally utalitarian and disposable modern Akihabara on the other side of the canal, that represents a different form of beauty, where the brutalist architecture of concrete were unable to withstand the pure commercial and creative onslaught of unabashed humanity. You can see the signs of human activity literally crowding out every inch of ugly bare concrete helplessly drowned in a sea of humanity.

Sorry for this public love letter to a city – I just had to get it out!

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2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan

Posted in Places, Shops by tokyobling on March 5, 2014

In Tokyo people do their best to make the most of any little space they can find and recently the space underneath the elevated rail lines are getting some much needed revitalization by the Japan Railways Urban Development Corporation. The spaces underneath the railway lines have always been used for various things, storage areas, shops, restaurants and even galleries. The 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan is the latest of these multi-use spaces, underneath the Yamanote line between Akihabara and Okachimachi stations. Well, it is not all that recent actually. The space is shared by a number of artisan shops and craftsmen, selling everything from kaleidoscope kits to plastic art. If you are into crafts and handmade items it is great place to visit.

The name is the usual portmanteau that Japanese corporations love! 2k540 is a railway term for the distance from Tokyo Station, two kilometers and 540 meters. Aki is short for Akihabara and Oka is short for Okachimachi (the place is about 1/3 of the way closer to Okachimachi station than to Akihabara station). Right now there are about 46 shops and galleries and 4 cafes and restaurants. I couldn’t try any of them out since they were all full when I visited on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The official website is here, unfortunately no information in English so far. The stores also do not allow photography so the photos are little limited!

It is very easy to find your way here even without a map. Just get off the JR Okachimachi station and walk towards Akihabara along the elevated railway. Or the other way around.

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