Blog Archives

Tsukiji Market

So I’m back in Tokyo for the Rugby World Cup (and having a great time; a few pics here), and I finally made it to Tsukiji fish market! Even after living here for over a year, and having made so many visits to the city before &

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A Local Shrine Combat Festival in Ikebukuro Honcho (Tokyo)

So one Sunday afternoon a few years ago while living in the Ikebukuro Honcho district of Tokyo my hungover ass was woken up far earlier than intended by the sound of drumming and rhythmic shouting coming along the street:

Tokyo local festivalTokyo local festivalTokyo local festival

A parade was coming my way,

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Photos of an Ultra-Nationalist March I Witnessed in Tokyo

When I was living in Tokyo a few years ago I sometimes used to walk half an hour from my place down to Ikebukuro if I needed to do a little shopping or whatever. On one occasion as I got near the station area I could hear a crowd calling in response to an amplified voice,

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The Owls of Ikebukuro

A few years ago I was living in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district while teaching English a few miles away in Shinjuku. Ikebukuro is written 池袋, and the second character bukuro happens to sound very close in pronunciation to the Japanese word for owl fukurō. The entire district has taken this little linguistic coincidence to heart and adopted the owl as its symbol –

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Tokyo’s Controversial Yasukuni Shrine and Yushukan Museum

Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo

This isn’t a politics blog. But when I travel I like to learn about the history of the places I visit, and to at least somewhat get a handle on the political landscape. Fact is that politics & history are closely intertwined, and if you travel without paying any attention whatsoever to those things you’re travelling with your eyes half shut.

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An Ode to the Crows of Japan

Crow at Osorezan

One time while living in Kyoto… “I went for a midnight stroll around Mt Inari, the red gates picked out against the snow, and with the sounds of the city muffled to nothingness, the night deathly quiet and utterly still save for the flakes tumbling silently down,

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Neo Tokyo: dystopian dreams

While I do despise the YouTube algorithm as a radicalisation & bullshit engine that human society would be better off without, I must grudgingly admit that it does occasionally dig you up a gem.

It suggested this beauty recently after I’d been listening to some of the 

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A Few Random Things to Do in Tokyo

Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Bay

If it’s your first few days in Tokyo, chances are you have a to-do list including the usual spots like Asakusa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Meiji Shrine. But how about if you’ve done all that before? If that’s the case, here are a few random ideas for some cool stuff to do or places to check out in Tokyo –

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Tokyo’s Niche Shopping Districts

Tokyo’s quite an amazing city for shopping – if you’re looking for electronics, home furnishings, toiletries, medicine, beauty products, luggage, clothes, etc, you can find them all over the city; the myriad department stores and big chains like Uniqlo, BIC Camera, and Donki Hotei make it easy to find whatever you’re looking for.

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Gundam Got An Upgrade

The new Gundam statue in Odaiba

Having never seen an episode, I know very little about Gundam other than that it’s a classic Japanese anime about giant mecha robots defending the Earth, or something like that – I’m more of an Evangelion fan, though to be fair that could be described the exact same way!

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Kowloon Walled City, Kawasaki

Reproduction of Kowloon Walled City at Anata-no-warehouse, Kawasaki

I first heard of Hong Kong’s old Kowloon Walled City in William Gibson’s Idoru (which is a great novel if you’re interested in sci-fi & Japan), which features a virtual reality community based on it.

Reproduction of Kowloon Walled City at Anata-no-warehouse, Kawasaki

A lawless, ramshackle,

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The Best Places to See the Autumn Colours in Tokyo

Autumn colours at Tokyo Imperial Palace East Gardens

Seeing the cherry blossoms in spring probably tops the wishlist for most travellers visiting Tokyo, but an equally awesome time to visit the Japanese capital is during the autumn colours (the Japanese word is koyo, 紅葉, literally ‘red leaves’). The cherry trees are first (and least spectacular),

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Tokyo, Blade Runner, and 2049

I first came across this lovely video montage of Tokyo cityscape footage set to the mournful tones of the Blade Runner score while writing this post about Ghost In The Shell; with the Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049, about to be released, the gods of the Youtube algorithm just (perhaps not so) randomly served it up again as part of my morning Youtube spiral (recommend hitting play and listening while you read):

The footage is great,

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Shinjuku Walking Tour: skyscrapers, old-time alleyways, and Kabukicho red light district

Skyscrapers in Shinjuku

If it’s your first time in Japan‘s capital and you want to get straight to the heart of the action, try this walking route through Shinjuku (from Tochomae Station to Shinjuku Sanchome Station) taking in skyscraper city views, atmospheric old-time alleyways, and a glimpse of the city’s seedy underbelly in the neon-soaked twilight zone of Kabukicho.

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Golden Gai: a treasure trove of old-school Tokyo alleys and funky little bars hidden away in Shinjuku

Golden Gai

Golden Gai (ゴールデン街, Golden Street) is a series of narrow, ramshackle alleyways tucked away in East Shinjuku, a tiny little pocket of Tokyo full of tiny little bars, untouched by the development of the postwar economic miracle that saw most such streets in Japan‘s capital replaced by office towers and shopping developments.

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Omoide Yokocho (Memory Alley) aka Shomben Yokocho (Piss Alley!): Shinjuku dining and drinking

Omoide Yokocho (Memory Alley) aka Shonben Yokocho (Piss Alley), Shinjuku

If you’re a fan of sci-fi noir such as Blade Runner or Ghost In The Shell, you’re in Tokyo, and you’re looking to scratch your cyberpunk itch in the neon-lit alleyways with their pokey little bars filling in the cracks between the city’s skyscrapers and infrastructure,

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Ghost In The Shell: chasing ghosts in Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

This week saw the release of Ghost In The Shell, a live action Hollywood remake of the classic (1995) Japanese anime movie (itself based on the original manga by Masamune Shirow). The casting of Scarlet Johansson in the lead role caused some controversy (as her character –

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The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo

There really is no better time to visit Japan‘s capital than the first week of April; the days are warm, the evenings cool, and the sakura (cherry blossoms) bring the city to life in a 3-day burst of colour, booze, and an existential appreciation for the fleeting beauty of life.

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