Japan in sun and darkness

Like any good foreigner living in Japan, I almost always have a camera handy, ready at a moment’s notice to document the impressive and peculiar sites that are on offer. Statistically, the commute to work comprises a large portion of my visual experience, so I’d be remiss not to include some of what I’ve seen during the weekday…the Dentsu Building gleaming in the morning sun…

The weekend offers more variety, with visits to all corners of Tokyo, from Yanaka 谷中, to Iwabuchimachi 岩淵町, to Hibiya Park (Hibiya Koen) 日比谷公園.

The defining characteristic of most weekends is walking, or strolling. The Japanese word sanpo 散歩 has become more than my favorite word – it’s my guiding philosophy. Whether it’s discovering neighborhood shopping streets (shotengai 商店街) like this one in Senzokuike 洗足池 (map), or crossing the countless train crossings, a stroll through Tokyo never fails to reward the observant walker.

There’s the occasional exposure to traditional Japanese culture. Here is tousenkyo 投扇興 / とうせんきょう, Japanese fan-tossing, being demonstrated at a sake festival.

And there’s the discovery of strange sights, like the defunct movable Haneda swing bridge 羽田可動橋 (map) (Wikipedia)

I mentioned train crossings. There are plenty of those, trust me. There’s even a specific word for these: fumikiri 踏切:

And tunnels.

And river crossings, like this one in Shizuoka (map).

And, further south/east, past Kobe, the Akashi-Strait-Bridge 明石海峡大橋 (“Pearl Bridge”), which boasts the longest central-span of any suspension bridge in the world. It’s even more impressive in person (map).

And there’s Kobe. Historic, slender Kobe. During my one short visit to Kobe I was forced to sleep in a Love Hotel (more on this another time).

And timeless Kyoto, where it always rains…for me, at least.

Or Nagoya. Poor, anonymous Nagoya. Here is the entirety of what I know about Nagoya: they have a famous castle, it hosts a sumo tournament, Toyota is nearby, and some of their informational signage is in Portuguese.

Back in Tokyo there are fancy clothes.

And places of residence.

And reminders of how human this big city can be.

And reminders of how anonymous it can feel

And there is Mt Fuji, of course. Ready to show-off whenever skies are clear.

And Tokyo Tower (with Mt. Fuji, still trying to show-off).

Tokyo Sky Tree also vies for attention, in day and at night (seen here from the Yanaka neighborhood):

There’s education.

And a different type of education.

There are sunsets in Chiba and Ikejiri (near Shibuya and Nakameguro)

And occasionally a sunrise (the skinny tower at the right is an incineration plant smokestack).

Cute things.

And sinister things (but also kind of cute).

And the downright strange (e.g. Winnie-the-Pooh クマのプーさん in a hospital bed).

No matter how bright and sunny the day, dusk and darkness take center stage after sunset. Here, a memorable walk from Kagawa 香川, near Chigasaki 茅ヶ崎, to Shonandai 湘南台, at the outer edges of Yokohama city. The evening alternated between unsurpassed tranquility and the sonic violence of fighter planes returning to Naval Air Facility Atsugi 厚木海軍飛行場.

Most evenings, night fall is a magical time, the time when Tokyo really comes alive.

And at the end of long, satisfying weekend days, I sometimes fall asleep on a train, washed over with warm sluggishness, the occasional head of a stranger resting on my shoulder. Or alone. It’s generally safer that way.

See also:


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