Tag Archives: Travel


Akihabara, some time in 2016.

Some of these photos were published elsewhere at the time, but the site they once appeared at has, I recently discovered, now disappeared, so I thought I’d put them up here.

I’d gone to take photos at an anison event. Anison means animation songs, but what it actually equates to is a mish mash of anime soundtracks, synthpop, future bass, electro, hip hop, breakbeats, drum and bass, guitar solos, 8-bit retro noises, genres I don’t know the name of, if names even exist, and whatever else you feel like throwing in there.

All accompanied by syrupy anime visuals on the walls, and glowsticks in hands.

Akihabara, over on the east side of the city, is the otaku capital of Tokyo, of Japan, and, by extension, of the world, and this felt like its soundtrack.

I might go back to the club sometime, if it’s still around.

For now though, while Tokyo stays in for the end of the winter, nostalgia will suffice.

The Golden Hour

It was bright and sunny in February. I loaded up camera and tripod in the front basket of my ¥15’000 standard Japanese commuter bicycle, the kind everyone rides to the stations in the morning, and dropped down the steep roads north of Tama River, then hit the elevated tarmac by the side of the waterway, and headed east.

It was late afternoon by now, as I’d let myself be delayed at home, by nothing other than my own procrastination. I had a sense that delay might turn out to be a good thing though, depending on how far down the path I was when the sun started dipping low in the beautiful, clear blue sky.

All I knew was that I was cycling in the direction of Tokyo Bay, and Haneda Airport, and, on the other side of the river, Kawasaki and its vast, waterside industrial zone.

And I was right, it turned out, about the timing.

Afternoon faded to twilight.

Then twilight dilates into night.

Picnics and strolls by the water meet fishing boats, as steaming, fire-topped chemical complexes become visible in the distance on the south side of the water, and as the river curves, widens, and opens up into the bay, Haneda Airport dazzles into view, radiating brilliantly while passenger craft descend at speed from across the light-specked sea.

After getting lost in the highways serving the airport, I double back through an underpass, cycle across a broad, busy road bridge to Kawasaki, and steer left, through increasingly vacant streets, and into the dark and intimidating industrial zone.

It hums and smokes. Its overwhelming structures vibrate forcefully as it operates, sucking in air and emitting menace. Its corners and gaps harbour cold, lightless water. And though the whole expanse is rumbling with mechanical activity, its roads are empty, and there’s hardly a soul to be sighted, nor a voice to be heard. A single truck speeds up an access route, an alarm goes off, and is silenced, and, after forty or so minutes of exploring, and still not even penetrating deeper than one edge, it’s a relief to call it a night and get out, return to organic life, and cross the bridge back to the north side of the river.

It’s a long ride home now, hungry and tired. Back along the side of Tama River. That broad, black channel of water, that slices an avenue of tranquil darkness through the nighttime sheen of the city, and the glow of the suburbs, and the reeds and the wind.

Mukojima: Not Quite Anywhere

Tokyo isn’t all neon and black rain. Traverse east, and you’ll find parts of the original city–within the confines of the area covered when it went by its former name, Edo–which are difficult to classify. This is the old, or the original, or the sometimes down-at-heel side of town.

In 2012 construction of the tallest structure in the country was completed on the East side of the metropolis. Sky Tree stands at 634 metres tall, is bright white, and functions as a broadcasting tower, complete with viewing platforms, and a commercial complex at its base.

But just to its side is Mukojima. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was an industrial and entertainment area, and it still contains some traditional establishments in which geisha are employed. However, it’s not a tourist area and it can seem like there’s nothing there. Except an atmosphere.

It’s desolate, just a little. Run down with empty plots, but also some modern houses with shiny, new cars parked outside. Slightly industrial, a hint of commerce, some parts residential, but also nothing in particular. Too quiet. Left behind but right in the middle. Dusty, blasted by a hot wind and baked in the dazzling midday sun. It’s still there, holding on yet unhurried, and dominated now by every vertical metre of Skytree, which can be seen from all over Tokyo, marking out Mukojima like no other district is marked out.

But still, not quite anywhere.

Get off the train at Asakusa, crowded with tourists looking at the famous Sensō-ji temple and the historical streets around it, and you can walk to Sky Tree. Just cross Sumida River and head for the unmistakable tower, and you’ll find yourself walking through Mukojima, which might, or might not, distract you.

















Tokyo and its environs are so vast and diverse that you could write a separate book about the blocks around each individual train station, and there are a lot of train stations.

Here are some images of Shinjuku. A central hub itself divided into distinct districts, making it a city within a city.

It doesn’t sleep, but it ebbs and cycles. It generates its own energy, perpetually.

Have faith in Shinjuku. No matter how long or how far you are gone, or what you do while you are absent, it will never judge you, and it will always take you back.



Golden Gai, in East Shinjuku. A couple of blocks of narrow, interconnected streets and alleys in which are clustered almost two hundred tiny, fascinating bars. As you sniff whisky, sake, or over-carbonated lager, you can listen to heavy metal, jazz, Japanese folk music, or just drunken rants and smoky laughter, depending on which door you happen to have tentatively creaked open. The area attracts misfits, bohemians, tourists, and on Friday nights nearby nine-to-five workers who are through with social fakery, for a few hours at least.




The grounds of an urban temple, Tenryu-ji. Just a few doors down from the temple is Antiknock, a basement punk club. A little further and you’ll come to Takashimaya, a huge, upmarket department store. Traffic speeds by on the busy road at the front, heading toward the expansive station complex. But in here are stillness, gravestones, protective statues in a row, and a large temple bell. On the rear side of the grounds, a residential block contains aging apartment buildings and houses that back right up to the graveyard, their curtained windows overlooking rows of grey stone, before which are incense, flowers, and other left offerings: cans of coffee and beer, packets of cigarettes, the everyday items the departed once enjoyed.




Gunkan Higashi Shinjuku. Constructed in 1970, the building’s name means Battleship East Shinjuku, and it was designed by Metabolist architect, Youji Watanabe.

Having fallen into disrepair, the naval-inspired structure came close to demolition, but its unique presence was saved, and in 2010 it underwent renovation and now contains living and commercial space.

Commanding and bizarre, yet slotted neatly into a perfectly normal row of nondescript urban architecture, it creates an imposingly memorable juxtaposition.

And when you’ve had a look from every perplexing angle, and Shinjuku offers–knowingly, inevitably–the timely pull of abandonment, you will be just a few minutes tread from the wayward, drunken swagger of Kabukicho, and all its wasted reminders.