Capital of the East

I used to live in Shitaya (下谷) in the old Shitamachi (downtown) area, just up from Ueno. I lived in a sharehouse in an old nagaya (tenement house)...

Tokyo is of course the ultimate megalopolis, and there are many centers to this sprawl, many Tokyos if you like, one for each of the functions that it performs. According to the map, Tokyo Station seems to be the center of the city, but this is not necessarily the case. For photographers, Tokyo might be Rainbow Bridge on a sunny afternoon, the towers of Shimbashi, or the mad scramble of pedestrians crossing at Shibuya. Odaiba is a little Tokyo in itself, ... Shinagawa, port city, gateway to the south...

Satellite Panoramic Map of the Area around 35 52' 19" N, 139 28' 29" E
Satellite Panoramic Map of the Area around 35 52' 19" N, 139 28' 29" E

There are 23 wards (ku) in Tokyo. I lived in two of them, and in my 10 years living there, I probably visited most of them. Often, one of my preferred ways to get around, was to walk. Interestingly enough, they all seemed to have a character and an aesthetic of their own. Around Nippori, a lot of the trees are lined by willows. Kanda is all overhead train lines...

To me Tokyo (along with New York, and Hong Kong) epitomize the phrase "concrete jungle". It is an ecosystem of human habitation which is vertical as well as horizontal -- subways beneath the streets, and penguins on a skyscraper roof. You can go up to 10 stories in an office block and find a nightclub or jazz bar, or an outlet selling rare Adidas.

It's an indoor as much as an outdoor world, and three-dimensional (just like a jungle, with its different layers of ecosystems.) However, in amongst the concrete jungle, scraggy, desolate, rusty remnants of the natural order remain.


Before there was Tokyo, there was Edo. Before there was Edo, there was Musashi.


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