Sunday, 18 November 2012

Japan V

Arriving in Tokyo, busier, noisier than I realised from our less than 24 hour stay here at the start of the trip. So many shops, shopping centres underground and in high rise buildings, shopping centres merging with one another so you hardly realise where one ends and the next begins, as though both the Westfields, and Brent Cross and Oxford Street have all been connected together. It is possible to walk for miles underground through connected subways of shops, and all are open from early morning to 9pm, 10pm. Sales assistants stand in the doorways, rattling off a constant stream of words, enticing you to buy. Merry jingles play out from sound systems, promoting the shop.

Buying day tickets to the sumo tournament, sitting high up in the unreserved seats. So much ceremony, before each match the giant men slapping bellies and thighs, squaring up to each other before retreating for a handful of sacred salt to throw across the ring, squaring up again, once again retreating to the corners for a sip of sacred water or a wipe-down with a flannel, finally squaring up for the final time, beginning the bout which sometimes then, after all the posturing and preparation, lasted less than five seconds. Being given info and gossip on the wrestlers by the two elderly gentlemen to our right, with much help from M's Japanese translation app.

A visit to Rockfish, a whiskey bar, for highballs. Getting chatting to the Japanese man next to us, an hour long conversation in a mix of Japanese and English, turns out he knows someone who works on M's project. He is so delighted to meet us, to practice his English, that he picks up the bar tab. I'm once again amazed and touched by the friendliness and generosity of the people here.

The attention given to the mundane, cherry blossom and antlered deer on manhole covers. Toilets like nothing I've ever seen before, heated seats, flushing noises to disguise the human bodily sounds, spray and bidet cleaning functions of variable pressure, laser activated flushes.

A minor earthquake, gone 2am, suddenly waking to the gentle swaying of the building on the 9th floor, lasting no more than a couple of seconds. In the morning, having to confirm with each other that it wasn't a dream.

A visit to Shimokitazawa, an area further out from the centre of Tokyo, all vintage shops and independent cafes. I love to look at the quirky accessories made by up and coming designers, and oggle at the high prices in the vintage stores - largely European sourced. A delectable slice of cake in a cafe tucked off the main street, layers of light as air sponge, cream, strawberries.

Seeing those things you've only ever seen as pictures, or in films, a distant Mt Fuji rising majestically from the clouds into blue skies, a red tori gate, floating on saltwater. Cocktails last night in the New York bar at the Park Hyatt hotel, 52nd floor, views across Tokyo, lights as far as the eye could see in all directions. Dark, polished tables, attentive waiters, breathtaking view. Another scene from Lost in Translation, recreated. 


  1. Looks like you had an amazing holiday, so many great photos.

  2. Stunning! I love the photo of the bird soaring in front of the mountains. Is it bad that I almost drooled on my keyboard from looking at the piece of cake? :) Thanks for sharing photos. I think japan is now on my "one day" list.

  3. Good explanation and photos, Perfect Japanese Design.
    by the way i have seen a gallery in Paris, which has nice japanese art pieces
    check it out thanks....