Tokyo, you know, it’s like this. After I’ve been there 48 hours I start to go crazy, and there’s this question: how do the people manage? I mean the lousy weather and the endless concrete and the absence of silence, never a rest for the eyes or ears either, and the crowds and the crowds and the crowds.

Somewhere in Roppongi

Somewhere in Roppongi.

But then, when I haven’t been to Tokyo for a year or so, I start to think of the nice people and the food and drink and intensity and good times and cool stores, and most of all the dazzling fact that it does manage, gets through each day to the next. Then I start thinking about how I can manage my next visit, because I miss it.

Somewhere in Asakusa

Somewhere in Asakusa.

I’ve written before: Tokyo doesn’t need me to understand it and doesn’t need me to like it and at the end of the day it doesn’t need me to be there. Which is one reason I like it, but I won’t ever understand it; that’s another reason to like it.

Somewhere in Akihabara

Somewhere in Akihabara.

Pix Pix Pix · Whatever you may feel about the place, pro or con, there’s no denying that it’s a photographer’s paradise. I took a ton, and I’ll run one or two a day here for the next little while, with words too.


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From: Janne (Jun 14 2007, at 02:41)

I live in Osaka, not Tokyo, and the atmosphere is rather different (pushier and louder, but also friendlier and more open than Tokyo). It is also a very big, dense Japanese city, though, and I think you can generalize the experience at this level.

I realized after a while here that you quickly do get used to crowds and noise (when I go back to visit Sweden I find town centers gloomy, empty and eerily quiet). But I also found that the lack of reading ability has a lot to do with the sense of disconnect you get as a visitor.

We're used to being bombarded with text and graphic messages of all kinds, constantly feeding us information about our surroundings in a semi-unconscious manner - "that way", "Fresh bread here!", "corner of X street and Y alley", "this is a dentist office, nothing else", "we're closing at 7 on saturdays" - that help us navigate complicated surroundings. But when you come to Japan, you're suddenly cut off. You got messages screaming at you from everywhere, but you've gone deaf and blind. You are, for a few days, functionally illiterate, and you're cut off from a constant information source deeply embedded in your daily life. That the iconography and visual design is rather different than European or American doesn't help. This, more than anything else, is what creates that sense of deep, confused disconnect. I wonder if visitors to Beijing or Seoul experience the same thing?

Trust me, once you start to learn to read the language most of it is just as banal as public texts are everywhere else :)


From: Eric Bréchemier (Jun 15 2007, at 12:41)

Hi Tim,

I totally share the magnetic attraction/repulsion feeling that you expressed regarding Tokyo (I happen to be in Tokyo this week for business as well). Nevertheless, I found a small OASIS of quietness and style located in the Tokyo International Forum:,139.76377&spn=0.001031,0.002511&z=19

It is like a temple of glass covered by the hull of some kind of aerial ship, with a long slope leading to a well-earned panorama of the city. In the bottom, a friendly city square where a few people enjoy the shade of green trees on benches.



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June 13, 2007
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