I had the great blessing of traveling to Tokyo for a few days for work. I’ve done many business trips and as a habit more than a rule, I’ve never liked to take a camera along. Plus the rationale is that my wife would probably have more need of it with my kids and their activities – which is true. However, now with my SX-70 and Impossible, it really gave me an opportunity to see this quick trip through the eyes of instant imagery and nothing – else. Nothing else to fall back on. Here is the result.
I’ve stayed in many places in Tokyo before including Shinjuku, Shinagawa, and Osaki, but this was my first time in Ebisu. It is truly a beautiful area. Close enough to Shibuya and Shinjuku but far enough to be more chilled-out, less hectic, and I got certainly got the feeling – of being a bit more up-market.
Ebisu JR Station, Ebisu Garden Palace
I didn’t have much time in Tokyo so I had to make the most of my Sunday to try and visit my usual favorite places and some new ones. First stop, first thing in the morning was of course Harajuku and Yoyogi Park.
Harajuku JR Station
After breakfast I made the long walk into Yoyogi Park. I’m told it’s about a 1 km walk in and out, but the walk is truly beautiful. You flanked by beautiful trees and wonderful Japanese monuments.
After the relaxing walk, which is done on uneven pebbles and stones, you reach the magnificent Meiji Jingu Shrine. This is a popular site for wedding photos for couples and to catch glimpses of ladies in Kimonos. Unfortunately for me there wasn’t any wedding taking place at this time nor could I get a decent shot of a traditional Kimono dressed lady.
The shrine houses many areas of worship for which no photography is permitted, and this is something really personal to each individual. In this day of the iPhone, many tourists take quick pictures. I didn’t, not because of how the SX-70 shutter would sound, but more as a mark of respect. Alongside the main area of worship is the place where anyone is invited to leave behind their prayers on wooden plaques called Omikuji. I won’t pretend I know the tradition of this and I know many people including tourists leave behind well wishes for peace and so on, but I remember once reading that the purpose of such plaques was to actually write your bad fortune, and place it within the shrine, so that when you leave the place, you leave behind your bad luck and move on with your life.
Leaving Harajuku, I probably couldn’t have chosen a place more opposite in terms of it’s opulence. I know Shinjuku and Shibuya are well know for their materialism and dedication to street fashion. But in terms of pure snobbery, brands and high society, nothing fits that better in Tokyo than the Ginza district. So of course I had to visit the Apple store (and yes, it just the same as the London one and the California one and the rest). The stairs are the same. The lifts are the same. The table material is the same. It’s just as crowded. I was, I have to say, a little bit disappointed at the lack of any cool and locally inspired “Japanese” Mac / iPhone accessories, games or toys.
And this disappointment spread further went I visited Akihabara next. I left after 10 mins. You see Akihabara is The Electric City. It is the place my wife and I went and became crazy at all the Mac inspired peripherals and gadgets more than 10 years ago. When everything from printers to drives were inspired by the colorful playfulness of the iMac. That seemed to be dawn of so many cool and weird trends. Now it seems as if the war is over and Apple has won. Everyone has a black (or white) smartphone. They’re all made of glass and touch-screens. No colors. No attachments. No off-shoots. You want accessories? Here are 50 million iPhone and iPad covers, knock yourself out. Long-time Mac users will remember the awful round mouse that came with the iMac. Well it was in Akihabara before that I purchased Yo-Yo’s in those exact shape, color and dimensions as gifts. It was here that they sold Mac Color Classics with RISC PowerPC chips. Playful times, lost to the touch generation.
I spent one night visiting Mono Comme Ca in Shinjuku to get some things for my wife. We both love this brand, Japan’s greatest street fashion brand that has never been exported. You could buy and use something from Uniqlo, from Muji; but you have to go to Japan to shop at Comme Ca.
Shinjuku is famous for it’s red light district but is really a pretty safe place to wander around and soak in the city lights. I’ve even stayed here with family on many occasions. It’s lined with shopping centers, game shops, restaurants, record shops, bars…if all you know of Japan is a stereotype of bright lights, street kids, Yakuza in suits and love hotels – you won’t be disappointed with Shinjuku. But that’s really selling the place short. Like I said Comme Ca is here. As are about seven different specialized outlets of Disc Union, Japan’s answer to Tower Records that really puts it to shame. If you collect Vinyl, you’ll want to visit one of the outlets here. Shinjuku JR station is also the busiest station, IN JAPAN. Just being in it is a sight to behold.
And of course, I couldn’t leave Tokyo without visiting the Impossible Project Space – home of Impossible Japan. It was great to actually meet with Jun, president of Impossible Japan and make friends with a very helpful staff, Tatsuya Sudo. While at Impossible, I was SO CLOSE to again owning a White Ojaga SX-70 and Jun was fantastic in letting me try out at least 4 different potential white cameras. Unfortunately, I just didn’t get a confident feeling in them. They sounded to me, a little laborious in their mechanism when ejecting a piece of film. I also had the opportunity to sample first hand the new Impossible Instant Lab, a prototype of the Kickstarter project that will allow users to create analog prints from their iPhone photos. I didn’t try it out personally but the sample images there were stunning.
The Impossible Tokyo Project Space & A Line-up Of Coach-Inspired SX-70s’
Too soon, my short trip to Tokyo was over but it was a very good one from both a personal and professional point of view. One though, obviously couldn’t leave Japan without enjoying it’s wonderful food. I left remembering my “home-cooked” local restaurant’s Ebi Curry Rice and Sapporo Beer.
Till next time Tokyo.
Truly my favorite City of Blinding Lights.