By Antonio Malara
The trip to Japan, of which Tokyo was the first destination, was an idea born entirely from my sister. The great journeys like this one I'm about to tell or the one in Jordan have always been proposed by her, important destinations to which I have never pulled back. However, when we started planning this trip, it was February 2018 and the tensions between Trump's America and North Korea were very tense and threatened a nuclear escalation. Fortunately, the tensions between the two countries subsided so that winter I gave my sister the okay to visit Japan, a country I knew in part but which gave me great satisfaction. There was an image of Japan that I have always had in mind and it was a photograph of the city of Sapporo. In that image there was a large tree-lined avenue that divided two road lanes, alongside which there were tall skyscrapers. I have always liked the photo because it was futuristic and its symmetry has always led me to think on a subconscious level that the future could be perfect in the same way. However the city of Sapporo was not included in our tour but despite this I was still happy for this new and promising adventure. The other cliché I had about Japan was related to cartoons, more precisely I loved the scenes set in those back streets where the houses were surrounded by wooden fences.
If I remember correctly we left Rome between 2 and 3 PM and our flight to Tokyo lasted about twelve hours. We arrived at Narita airport around 11:30 am local time and on landing I made a fun discovery. From the plane, looking at the highway below, I noticed that the driver's side of the cars was the other way around, that is, on the right. I laughed at myself because I always plan my travels very carefully and despite having studied a lot about Japan, I was unaware of that detail. Our hotel was in the Shinjuku district and we got there around 12:30 PM. At the hotel we found that we were very early to be able to check in but the reception staff advised us to do a simple online registration which would allow them to be able to settle into the room right away. We opted for this solution and there I could see how the staff were extremely kind and attentive especially to solve problems. Initially I thought that we had come to the hotel with the perfect staff, then I realized that in Japan 90% of people are fair, kind, caring and peaceful!
Shibuya was the first and last place we visited in Tokyo, and in both cases it was my will without any problems endorsed by my sister. I had a curiosity to immediately see the Shibuya Crossing, the famous intersection that was always seen on TV where an incredible number of people crossed the road in opposite directions. In addition to seeing this thing, that part of the city gave me the impression of being the Japanese version of Time Square, a vibrant and unique place. In other words, I very much identified Tokyo with that street with skyscrapers full of lights and the intersection with the people crossing looking like ants. We arrived in Shibuya around 5 PM and already exiting the subway furiously we felt the impact of the multitude of people. It was an extremely crowded area but the comings and goings of people were in a certain sense orderly. At the intersection of the Shibuya Crossing then, also thanks to the wide view given by the large road, I was able to immediately admire the ultra-modern beauty of the place. The impact with the big signs with Japanese characters together with the countless people crossing the famous intersection, immediately gave me the feeling of being in Japan. It may seem trivial but it happens many times to be in a place that we imagined in a way and instead then revealed itself in another. Shibuya had its own personality, similar to Time Square in style but definitely identifying another type of metropolis. Seeing all those people crossing the intersection live was an incredible sight in a setting of modern skyscrapers and colored lights. Watching people cross and being part of them crossing the intersection were two different things and we discovered it immediately with my sister. In fact there was a certain synchronization in crossing; not only were there two virtual lanes, one for each direction, but it was definitely impossible to stop in the middle of the road, for example to take pictures because you were overwhelmed by the “human wall”. It was really like a human highway and it was impossible to stop suddenly. Once we had this awareness, together with my sister we came up with an idea to take pictures of ourselves in the middle of the intersection. In practice, while one of us was crossing, the other was waiting for him on the other side of the road already positioned to take the photo. Crossing the famous intersection was an exciting experience and with the excuse of the photos we have experienced this thrill many times. We stayed around Shibuya Crossing for about an hour during which we also noticed people dressed as Super Mario speeding down the street in small go karts. Probably someone rented them and you had to impersonate Mario to guide the go kart. Soon after we walked on the nearby Shibuya Center Street, a pedestrian street characterized by a reddish brick pavement that crossed two other similar streets. This area was a sort of commercial district full of restaurants, shops and mini markets, if I'm not mistaken there were also shopping centers. These streets were much smaller than the main one so everything was emphasized in an unreal way. From skyscrapers to signs with Japanese characters that glowed through lights. Probably that part of the neighborhood was the highest expression of the Japanese metropolis. There, without any doubt, I felt surrounded by the oriental cliché, both for the signs and for the endless people with Asian faces.
But as it got dark I could see how the large number of lights present there helped me to take photos at night as if it were day. This is something I love to do in the city where these lighting conditions are created. At each intersection there was a skyscraper with singular shapes and sparkling colors. I photographed the whole area a lot but certainly the skyscraper that fascinated me the most was Shibuya 109. This cylindrical building with a large digital screen in the center was a bit of an icon of a futuristic design district, like those recreated for certain science fiction films, a vision a little different from the skyscrapers of American cities. Shibuya Center Street was a place we went back to several times during our time in Tokyo. I liked being there in the midst of the multitude of people who looked different from me. Even the last night before returning to Italy, the last after the entire trip to Japan, we decided to spend it there, having dinner with a hamburger in the midst of the ordered chaos of that magical way.
But Shibuya wasn't just a place of skyscrapers and futuristic corners. Shibuya was a magical place that managed to catapult people from science fiction movie scenarios to fairytale movie scenarios. In fact, right next to the hectic and super-populated life of commercial activities, there was the huge Meiji Jingu Gyoen park inside which was the Meiji Shrine, an important Shinto place of worship dedicated to the souls of Emperor Mutshuito and his wife, the Empress Shōken. Together with my sister we visited the park taking one of the entrances from the south. After a few steps I found myself in front of a gigantic Torii, it was dark brown in color. This type of structure is located at the entrance of every Shinto place of worship, personally I had only seen them in photos. Live, it was love at first sight with the Torii probably because of its majesty but analyzing that gate, I realized that it was more due to its shape. Although it was simply formed by two columns surmounted by a sort of beam that united them, it was the shape of this "connection" that was the most fascinating part. In fact, being the ends bent upwards, they gave a sensation of motion to the entire structure that I personally did not perceive it as a static thing. This detail fascinated me and from then on I looked at any Torii with a different soul. Immediately after crossing the first Torii, we realized that the park was more of a forest. If it had not been for the wide road inside it, you could have lost yourself also because the vegetation formed by very large trees was very dense.
On the way we stopped in front of a beautiful work, it was the Meiji Jingu Consacrated Sakè Barrels. It was an exhibition of over 200 sake barrels, arranged in a row of about 36 by another 6 arranged in height. The barrels had been donated to the shrine as a sign of respect. To be honest that great wall of barrels struck me more for its grandeur and originality, I don't know if it can have a deeper meaning for the Japanese people that I clearly could not perceive.
Before arriving at the sanctuary we passed in front of another Torii identical to the one seen at the entrance but even more majestic because it was placed at an intersection of the path. Shortly before the entrance to the shrine there was another Torii, smaller in cream color that struck me even more than the others. I don't know if because of the color or its context, it certainly matched even better with the colors of the surrounding vegetation and the courtyard. I don't want to say that I was disappointed but once I got in front of the shrine, I noticed how modest in size it was. It was a completely wooden structure where seven steps led to the part formed by five columns, beyond which one stopped for the worship phase. In general, the area was very large and inspired calm and harmony and the Meiji shrine gave me the impression that it was a place made more for the spirit than for the splendor and majesty. After entering the sanctuary area we walked backwards and also on the way back we found ideas to enjoy the park as a location for taking pictures of various kinds, the natural beauty it had and the many views it offered was incredible.
As I said before, the park was huge and there was another part of it that we visited on a different day, it was Yoyogi Kôen, a park famous for the large number of cherry trees there. Even though it was out of season, we visited the park in hopes of seeing some cherry blossoms. Except for a small tree that I liked very much anyway, especially for the context where it was placed, the rest was completely bare. That place during the flowering is an immense space colored in pink, a view that unfortunately we have not been able to enjoy. However, another feature that I liked about the park was its proximity to the urban context. In fact, in a few steps, coming out of a skyscraper you could immerse yourself in that place full of green meadows, trees and ponds. In a second, the metropolis disappeared and was represented only by the top of some skyscraper in the distance. That place was truly magical, an experience different from how it can be inside Central Park in New York.
Omotesansdo was not a real district of Tokyo, it was still part of Shibuya and it was the commercial street with luxury shops. I got to know this place thanks to a blogger I follow on Twitter. This girl just before I left for Japan posted a photo of a very original place, a staircase covered with a series of fragmented mirrors that unusually reflected the surrounding context. When I contacted her asking where she was, she told me it was the "Tokyu Plaza", a shopping center. I was glad to have made this discovery and to have another original place to explore in Tokyo. During our stay with my sister, we visited Omotesando several times and also used as a “refuge” in moments of rain. The area was in fact a few metro stops from our hotel as well as from the center of Shibuya.
Clearly the first place we visited in Omotesando was the Tokyu Plaza and more precisely the mirrored entrance that I had discovered thanks to the blogger. The Tokyu Plaza from the outside was an original building beyond the staircase, it had a glass part that covered the first floors and then developed with a brown cladding and had various terraces with large plants. It was a decidedly irregular design and the apotheosis was the entrance. In fact, the entrance had a large central staircase and two escalators on the sides. The design of the mirrors that reflected anything was the coating that started from the outside of the building and spread to the inside. It was as if a giant bomb made of mirrors had exploded outside the building and the fragments had stuck all over the place. The most original view was from the inside of the building, or from the top of the staircase. From there the irregular panes reflected scenes from all sides; from the shopping center, from the street or from the buildings across the street. Basically we spent our time at Tokyu Plaza more to photograph the staircase and to have lunch in the restaurant on the top floor than to visit the shops inside.
As for the rest of Omotesando, the area was very elegant, clean and tidy. A large four-lane avenue was divided by a traffic divider also composed of green plants. Along the sidewalks there were a row of trees along the entire length of the street. There were all the shops with the big names, housed in buildings with a modern design. While walking I liked to look at and photograph these buildings but in fact I didn't find them particularly original until I arrived in front of the Hugo Boss shop. This building literally struck me, so much so that I immediately rushed to the opposite side to literally give it a photo shoot. The design of the building reminded me of Frank Ghery's Dancing House in Prague, at least part of it. Consisting of a series of narrow and long windows placed vertically, the building was made of exposed concrete and had the shape of an hourglass. Wide on top and at the base and narrow in the center. It gave the feeling of a rustic design yet to be completed but in my opinion it was beautiful. I took a series of close-up photos where the perspective emphasized even more the anomalous design of the structure and in fact that building was for me the greatest attention of Omotesando together with Tokyu Plaza.
Asakusa was a district located north east of Shinjuku and it was the most distant place in Tokyo we visited. Asakusa was important for being the home of the Sensō-Ji, a huge Buddhist temple complex that is the largest in the city. We arrived in Asakusa in the afternoon and after a few steps from the subway exit, I was hit by a building about six floors high. It was a glass building completely covered with thin vertical wooden flaps. It was original and created a contrast not only to the structure itself but also to the adjacent buildings. The entrance to the temple complex was right in front of this building and at the entrance which had a first gate that was modest in size. It was the Kaminarimon Gate, this structure had a giant lantern hanging in the center which was the main attraction of tourists. In fact, despite hanging from the ceiling, it was possible to touch the lower part of it by lifting the hands. While waiting for our turn, with my sister we also managed to take pictures under the lantern, after which we went through the gate. The next area was a very long line of souvenir shops which were in a sort of stand, located on the sides of the avenue called Nakamise. Although repetitive along the entire route, from this road it was possible to have beautiful views of the streets that intersected with it. Probably one of the most beautiful view was the one in the direction of the Skytree, the tallest tower in Tokyo. At the end of the avenue there was the Hōzōmon Gate, larger than the previous one which saw two other large lanterns hanging from the roof in addition to the central one. This area was also very populated but this gate was much larger so the surrounding space did not allow us to perceive the number of people. To the left of the Hōzōmon Gate there was the "Five-story Pagoda" it was the first time I had seen such a structure and I fell in love with it immediately. As well as the other structures it was dominated by the red color. But seeing live that architecture made of layers placed one on top of the other, had a different effect. His view changed according to our position and I must say that from below it was not appreciated as from a certain distance, the effect of emptiness that existed between one floor and another was lost. After the Hōzōmon Gate, there was a small garden that was right in front of the Pagoda and other shops always on the sides of the road that led straight to Sensō-Ji. The temple was very large, it had the same style as the gates we had crossed previously, even here there was a giant lantern, only the temple had a large staircase leading to the entrance. This was represented by five double doors, when we visited the temple they were closed, I don't know if for the time or because entry was not allowed. We took pictures under the temple and in the meantime it had become dark, so we could appreciate the beauty of it even with the night lights. Actually the whole complex had a different lighted look, so I started shooting and photographing structures I had already photographed before such as the Pagoda. The last structure we saw was the Yōgō-dō Pavilion which was located to the left of the Sensô-Ji. In spite of the beauty of the structure, the positive thing was its position, in fact the area surrounding the Yōgō-dō was also the one from where you had the most beautiful perspectives on the Pagoda and also on the distant Tokyo Skytreee.
Shinjuku was the neighborhood where we lived and although we always went back and forth, we never really visited it. Many times we dined there or went to buy something at the market but in fact we lived it more as residents than as tourists. There we had two metro stops as reference and basically we walked around them. However, our hotel was in the main street and the part near Shinjuku station was the one where there were symmetrical buildings with large colored writings. It was all those vertical glass buildings where many of them were covered with billboards. That part was very characteristic and I was able to discover it through a photographer I follow on Flickr. But in the time we spent in Shinjuku, with my sister we also walked the narrow streets that intersected the main one, in those streets there was more typical oriental architecture with small family-run shops or those very small houses nestled in the middle of skyscrapers. One night exiting the metro, we took a different route back to the hotel and I discovered a beautiful building all done with exposed concrete, literally a concrete block with no doors and windows. Shinjuku for us was a bit like this, the place where we lived and where we discovered places only by chance but not because we had planned.
The main reason for visiting Minato was the fact that this district was home to the Tokyo Tower. I’m a towers lover and I had put this one, which is one of the symbols of Tokyo, on my list. The Tokyo Tower has a design very similar to that of the Eiffel Tower except that compared to the French structure, it is characterized by the red-orange color interspersed with white stripes and by having an additional structure of several floors at its base. The tower, in addition to hosting shops at the base and having the observation platform, acts as a place where the antennas for the major Japanese televisions are located. We went to see the tower twice, however in both cases at night. To tell the truth we went back because I was not satisfied with the first photos I had taken. In doing so, however, I did not notice that I have never seen the tower during the day.
The tower did not have a dedicated metro stop, however this was not a problem because traveling along the roads to get under it, we crossed some intersections where we saw the Tokyo Tower with different and original perspectives. Moreover, unconsciously I took the best photos of the tower from a tree-lined road that led to it. This is because when we were right below, the perspective changed radically and since the whole area around was totally built up, it was difficult to find an interesting perspective.
At the base of the tower there was this multi-storey structure which, in addition to serving as an access, also housed shops. At that time, just outside the entrance there were a series of hanging wires that started from the structure and arrived in front of the gates. Hanging from the threads were what at first glance seemed to be only colored stripes, then looking closely I realized that they were reproductions of fish. After having made this discovery, I began to photograph that choreography with greater interest given its originality. Then we went inside to reach the observation platform located on one of the upper floors. At each tower I visit, I pay close attention to the panoramic observation point and I must say that except for the view from the Empire State Building, most of the towers have always disappointed me from that point of view. This is because it is not the height of the tower that makes the difference but the view of the city and New York in this respect is unrivaled. Tokyo like New York had many lights and skyscrapers and actually the view from the tower was impressive, however there was a problem. First of all, there was no external platform but the view was only through the windows, these unfortunately reflected the wall with a diamond-shaped mirror design that was in front of it. I must say that this was mainly a photographic problem but in fact the view of the illuminated skyscrapers was pleasant as long as you were close to the windows. Despite this, I managed to take some photos completely avoiding reflections. During the descent, in one of the lower floors we found a glass rectangle on the floor from where we could see down as if it were suspended in the void. Also in this case the fact of being in the night did not help with the view, however it was still a fun moment to step on that window.
The regret about Tokyo Tower was not coming back in the day and exploring all the streets around in search of an original perspective. Even today when I happen to see photos of the tower from different points of view than I had, I regret something that I am 100% guilty of.
Ginza was the destination where both my sister and I had distinct places we wanted to see. This detail led me to plan a very long and articulated itinerary that gave us mutual satisfaction. Known for hosting the high street of luxury shopping, Ginza had other interesting attractions in addition to this. I personally wanted to see two design buildings while my sister was attracted to the famous "fish market". However, upon our arrival, the subway station I had chosen, dropped us almost in front of the Tsukiji Hongan-ji Buddhist temple. This temple stood in front of a large square which was partly paved and partly covered with greenery. The architecture of the temple was very beautiful and imposing more for its width than height. The style was mixed with the central staircase and a series of columns along the entire facade. However, the two side towers and the central part had a design typical of Indian temples. Above all the upper central part a sort of arch, whose design developed in depth thus giving a three-dimensional effect. The atmosphere around the temple was pleasant and the number of people present there enjoying the day was not perceived because the area was very large. Moreover, I found some sculptures placed at the corners of the square very interesting, above all I was struck by a large marble sphere that rested on a folded surface as if to represent the weight of the sphere.
Before moving on to Namiyoke dori St. which used to be the famous fish market street, I could see another building lined with wooden flaps similar to the one seen in Asakusa. Looking back at the photos, I noticed how that kind of design was different and much nicer than the monotonous steel and glass. I honestly don't know what style it was and if there is a real architectural movement that represents the genre. In a few blocks we arrived at the famous fish market, the destination strongly desired by my sister. The neighborhood was a series of small streets full of food-related businesses where they sold everything, not just fish. The vendors also had exhibition space on the street as well as inside, and this made the space to transit really tiny. In fact, the area was extremely crowded and popular not only full of tourists but also of ordinary people who went there because in fact the neighborhood was a full-blown market. I had already had a similar experience during my trip to Shanghai so this was nothing new, however it was pleasant to return to a very different context than where I live. We started touring the area discovering that fortunately there were also other roads a bit wider and passable without feeling claustrophobic. In one of those streets we saw the most original sign for a restaurant; in fact, above the entrance door there was a large red crab and above it a gray tuna placed in a vertical position. The sign attracted many tourists, including us who stopped there to take many photos. After about an hour we stopped at one of the restaurants we had noticed during our arrival. There we ate sushi in the most original way and in incredible quantities. Inside there was an immense oval-shaped counter, above which a motorized trolley moved an incredible variety of sushi plates. It was enough to take the desired one and after consuming it, show up at the cash desk with the plates where the price was written. I liked this way of dining, above all it was relaxing to watch the sushi turn and wait for my favorite type, a wait that reconciled the appetite.
After lunch we took a route planned by me that had to take us on the way to see the design buildings that I had put on my list. That day I made a mistake and we ended up in the real "fish market" area. It was that area where the loads arrived and then the goods were sorted and then loaded onto vehicles and delivered. In fact, we were inside an area that was a mix of parked cars, warehouses and vehicles for sorting goods. Normally my sister gets mad when I make a mistake but this time she seemed interested in that different area. There, too, I took some photos, only at the time I didn't know that having pictures of that area would become a valuable thing. In fact was planned a radical redevelopment in that area for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 (which later took place in 2021). In other words, the real fish market has been totally demolished, leaving room for an immense parking lot.
Back on our path we traveled a large four-lane road that gave a very nice view of the skyscrapers, although we were not in the ideal position, however we stopped to capture that perspective. Walking we arrived on a beautiful stone bridge that led to the entrance of the "Garden of Hama rikyū. The garden was very large and the fact that you paid to enter, made us give up a visit that we had not planned. However, right at the entrance to the park there was a large wall made of brown stones, for some strange reason it attracted me and I stopped for a while to photograph it.
Crossing the large road intersection near the park we went to Gomon-dori and after a couple of blocks we were in front of one of the building I wanted so much to see: the Nakagin Capsule Tower! This building was completed in the early 1970s and stylistically was part of the metabolist movement. The building consisted of many housing capsules for residential or commercial use. More than the idea itself, I was struck by the finished style of the building; a series of capsules that united in a certain way gave a figure. Unfortunately over time the building had undergone serious deterioration and poor maintenance led to the decision to dismantle it, which took place just last spring. When I got under the building, as often happens to me when I'm excited about something, I don't manage the situation as best I can. We were under the building, at the intersection with Kobikicho-dori and from there I started taking dozens of photos. Together with my sister, we searched for an ideal angle by taking pictures with two different cameras. Although we stayed there a lot, in the end I always took pictures from the same perspective, a bit strange because I was right under the building. In reality, the best perspective to photograph that building that no longer exists, was to be in the middle of the Gomon-dori, the great road next to it. However, admiring the building was very pleasant and we actually noticed its state of neglect also highlighted by protection nets placed on an entire side. At the time, I didn’t think that a few years later they would demolish it otherwise I would have tried to take “celebratory” photos. Unfortunately I underestimated this hypothesis and after our visit we continued the journey.
Before arriving at the second building I wanted to see, we passed Ginza Chuo City, the main street with luxury shops. We left that visit for later but crossing that street I was struck by the symmetry of the skyscrapers, shortly after I would also discover the originality of some of them. This time we walked a few more blocks but it was worth it because being in front of the Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Center was a unique experience. This was another building of the metabolist movement and was basically a cylinder with about 13 modules attached to it. The modules were triangular and in fact they were overhangs placed along the cylinder. The structure was asymmetrical and gave me the impression of a giant and three-dimensional antenna. It was brown in color and the windows of the modules reflected the blue light of the windows of the opposite building, a strange but interesting effect. Compared to the Nakagin Capsule Tower, this building had ample space all around so it was a pleasure to photograph. There I was able to devote myself better to immortalizing the building and I took much better photos that make the figure of the building better.
After seeing the buildings of the metabolist movement, we went back and walked through the Ginza Chuo City, the shopping street we had glimpsed earlier. Immersing yourself in this street was a decidedly extravagant experience with unexpected implications. Surely in the big cities there is expected of the original skyscrapers but those seen in Ginza were a step ahead. Two things were striking about that palaces; the eccentric design of some of them and the varieties of skinny buildings that I thought were specific to homes but never thought of seeing them in the very central street of luxury shops. One of the first eccentric design buildings I saw was that of the Yamaha; a large glass window that covered two floors and then a much bigger glass with checkered decorations with a predominance of yellow to which black, white and various shades of brown were added. I can't say how many floors it was high because the window was a single piece and the openings could not be distinguished. Right next to it was an example of a skinny building, a building that sold luxury watches, another of the same design was the Damiani shop. We are talking about buildings of at least six to seven floors that were scarcely four meters wide. But exploring I must say that some of them could be no more than three meters wide, they seemed fake as much as they were thin. Another beautiful design building was that of Uniqlo; five floors that were a transparent window where I could see the whole interior which was mostly white in color. The Sony building was also beautiful; a white corner block with three-dimensional decoration that was interspersed on two levels by low windows that cut the entire facade horizontally.
Another interesting building whose façade I did not photograph was the Mitsukoshi Ginza, a large department store that we visited and took the opportunity to take a break. This building had a restaurant bar on one of the upper floors that overlooked a terrace paved with teak that ran all around a green lawn. I had never seen such a park on top of a building. I liked the flooring very much and it was a pleasure to walk on it and see the children playing or sitting on that surface that gave me a sense of cleanliness compared to a traditional floor.
After recovering with a cool drink, we moved on to see Ginza's last interesting place, the Sukiyabashi intersection, which has a road that could be crossed on foot in six different ways. This intersection was Ginza's Shibuya Crossing and had two beautiful design buildings facing each other. One housed another Tokyu Plaza and was all glass with a three-dimensional effect. The other was the one with the large "Fujiya" sign, this glass building also had a wave front design that gave me the impression of movement, a different design to the squared one typical of skyscrapers. In Sukiyabashi we limited ourselves to taking only photos and we didn't cross the intersection like in Shibuya this because the street was not crowded with people so the effect was not like that of Shibuya. That was the last place we saw in Ginza, a neighborhood we didn't return to due to lack of time but not of desire.
Akihabara was a destination strongly desired by my sister so I did not study the destination due to her knowledge about it. This neighborhood was famous for being home to electronics, video game, comic and adult stores. It was also possible to find collectible toys and I was hoping so much to find an item that I have always wanted since I was little, namely the Voltron robot.
We arrived in Akihabara in a late afternoon and immediately outside the metro the atmosphere was totally different from what we had seen in Tokyo until then. Not only was the neighborhood full of the type of shops I mentioned, but these used a very particular and scenographic "human" marketing. In fact, there were many girls with costumes and makeup that were specific to the type of shop they advertised. Moreover, the neighborhood was characterized by the usual large colored signs which in this case made a lot of use of anime cartoons. Wandering through the streets of Akiahabara it was a mix between carnival and open-air theater, the signs with the big comics, the colors and the girls in costumes created a dimension that felt more dreamlike than real. Akihabara struck me immediately and when I saw the beautiful SEGA building at an intersection, I was amazed. Actually I had already seen the building in some photos but live it was much more beautiful. All red with geometric designs and the logo in blue. For me, SEGA represented youth, my first video game console I had and in general the carefree adolescence. All this suddenly manifested itself in Akihabara in the form of a design building, so in an instant I had it all; the memory of childhood represented by a design building which is one of the interests I have now as an “adult”. It goes without saying that at that intersection we spent a lot of time taking pictures because I wanted the perfect one.
In Akihabara we not only walked around the skyscrapers but we also visited some shops, one of which had about 8 different levels where you could find everything. Between books, movies, comics and toys, you could get lost through all the levels. With my sister we separated to optimize the time and personally I started looking for Voltron. After a long time there, I couldn’t find my favorite robot but I eventually bought some adult comics as a souvenir. That day my sister regretted a purchase she hadn't made and after leaving the store, she wanted to go back because she was feeling guilty. In the meantime, the shop was closing but after a long negotiation with one of the managers, my sister was able to go back inside and complete the purchase, a memorable moment!
After the adventure of the shop, it began to get dark and Akihabara was transformed further. All the signs, the colors of the buildings were emphasized thanks to the lights, at night the neighborhood was definitely an incredibly dreamlike experience. We spent some time wandering around in search of the latest souvenirs and then we returned to reality by taking the metro.
During the visit to Tokyo we also visited Mount Fuji but I will talk about that in the next post which will be the second dedicated to Japan. The discovery of this country, which took place starting from Tokyo, was definitely that of the modern side, of skyscrapers and towers. Despite, as I wrote at the beginning, there were places like Meiji Jingu Gyoen, a huge park in the heart of the city, Tokyo remains characterized by the modernity and frenzy of the metropolis. Years ago during a group trip, an architecture professor told me that Tokyo changed every time he went to visit it. This because there was a culture of not preserving historical memory through buildings that were promptly demolished and new ones were built in their place. A bit of what happened to the Nakagin Capsule Tower and I honestly can't think of going back to Tokyo and never seeing that building again. Probably this was the feeling that the professor wanted to express when he talked about this city and on the one hand I am happy that it is not an experience that I can have soon. Because I liked Tokyo, a “city inside the city” that in my own way I have identified it with many places I have visited. Before leaving, we had an idea of Tokyo as a superfluous but mandatory destination, yet not really representative of Japan. Maybe that's a little bit true and this will be discovered as I publish the other posts on Japan but as I said at the beginning, I have had the feeling of being in a different place, both from Europe and America. In general, the experience in Tokyo was very interesting and stimulating and only if I’ll return, I’ll be able to make a deeper assessment of the point indicated by the professor. Surely if I were to return and find completely different and unrecognizable places, I would be hurt from the point of view of historical memory, of my personal identity with a place. However, I would perhaps be happy from a photographic point of view, sure to take some pictures that seem more abstract than real because of modern architecture.
Pictures: Antonio Malara
Camera: Nikon D800