Walking around Tokyo #2

Tuesday morning; people mentioned to me the existence of a Tokyo area inhabited mostly by old people, called Sugamo (google map). It seemed pretty unusual to me, so I thought it was worth a visit.

Sugamo’s main commercial attraction is its clothing stores, a must-visit for elderly women who come for the area’s signature fashion statement — rose red underwear. In the Asian medical tradition, red undergarments help heat the body. And while some may doubt there is more than a psychological effect, red undergarments have become a top gift for Japanese in their 60s. “For the past 15 years, our old lady customers have been asking us for red things,” said Hideji Kudo, who runs the Maruji clothing store. The store offers a complete collection of clothing in the same red — from lingerie to trousers and even hats. “People in their 80s buy apparel that’s obviously for elderly people. But people in their 60s want clothes that make them look young — and those are more difficult to design,” Kudo said. He said that newly retired people who are still in good health, and suddenly have plenty of free time, will sometimes travel up to 100 kilometres (60 miles) to shop at his store.

I honestly haven’t seen that many elders in the area.. but still, it was a quite interesting suburb to visit, with a real feel for tranquil Tokyo life you surely don’t get in the downtown areas. First thing, I ran into a nice little temple:

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Right after that the main shopping street starts..

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Shortly afterwards, another temple with a monk begging outside:

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Local products

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The famous ‘red shop’ and other local attractions:

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And I also had the guts to visit the local hairdresser (who obviously didn’t even know the difference between ‘yes’ and ‘no’). But she did a fantastic job for 2000 yen..

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Next stop, Shinjuku, the TMG sky-scrape (google map).

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎 Tōkyō Tochōsha?), also referred to as Tokyo City Hall or Tochō (都庁) for short, houses the headquarters of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which governs not only the 23 wards, but also the cities, towns and villages that make up Tokyo as a whole.
Located in Shinjuku, it held the title of the tallest building (by roof height) in Tokyo, at 243 meters (799 feet), from 1991 to late 2006, when it surrendered its title upon the completion of Midtown Tower. The two top-floor panoramic observation decks are free of charge to the public and contain many gift shops. They are open till 11 pm on weekdays. Use of cameras is permitted, but tripods are forbidden.

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The view from the top is amazing – I wish I had the time to go back there at night – but still I felt quite inspired and took a few shots of the breathtaking panorama.

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I quite liked the many patterns emerging from the buildings’ facades:

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Next I take the subway to the stylish Roppongi area (google map).

Roppongi (六本木 Roppongi?) is a district of Minato, Tokyo, Japan, famous as home to the rich Roppongi Hills area and an active night club scene. Many foreign embassies are located in Roppongi, and the night life is known to be popular with locals and foreigners alike. It is in the southern portion of the circle described by the Yamanote Line, south of Akasaka and north of Azabu. The Roppongi area received a major economic boost in 2002–2003 when the Izumi Garden Tower and the Roppongi Hills high-rise complexes were completed. These projects brought high-end office and condominium space to Roppongi for the first time. The Tokyo Midtown project, which was completed in 2006, and includes the first Tokyo Ritz-Carlton Hotel, continued this trend.

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.. i get a quick shot of a business man interesting in cats at a local pet-shop

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.. and then I enter Tokyo Midtown, which features also a nice photography museum by Fuji:

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A really nice art installation: thin water threads fall down from the ceiling into an illuminated large water bowl; a 3d sound system fills the environments with bell sounds which are triggered by the movements of the people in the hall…

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..moving in towards the inner wards of the shopping centre…

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.. then I start a long walk down Aoyama Dori (almost 2 km) towards the Shibuya area…. it’s dark already, and I immerse myself into the end-of-day metropolitan atmosphere..

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… an unusually long sofa

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.. and some interesting cake-decorations….

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… finally I get to Shibuya (google map):

Shibuya (渋谷区 Shibuya-ku?) is one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, Japan. As of 2008, it had an estimated population of 208,371 and a density of 13,540 persons per km². The total area is 15.11 km².
The name “Shibuya” is also used to refer to the central business district of Shibuya Ward, which surrounds Shibuya Station, one of Tokyo’s busiest railway stations. Shibuya is known as one of the fashion centers of Japan, particularly for young people, and as a major nightlife area.

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So many people and shops; I’m actually kind of fed up of all the audio-sound pollution in the streets so I quickly hide into a Taito store to check out what’s the situation with Japanese gamers. Unsurprisingly, they have a few super-size video games I’ve never seen before..

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… and off to dinner at a delicious sashimi restaurant nearby…

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That’s the end of my experience in Tokyo. My legs hurt, so I quickly head back to the hotel and get some rest.

The following morning, on the way to the Shinkansen that would take me back to Osaka, I almost get stuck in the 8:30 morning madness.. herds of office robots promptly getting into position.. seems a pretty alienating context really. I happily get back to the peace an quiet of my uni campus in Osaka….

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2 Responses to “Walking around Tokyo #2”

  1. Ummm … maybe you *did* see a lot of old people in Sugamo – but their red underwear rejuventated them so much you didn’t notice?

  2. Ooops, I meant “rejuvenated”. 😦

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