Photo Walk at Tokyo Midtown, Roppongi

Tokyo Midtown

 

Roppongi Hills ain’t the only premiere  multiplex in town, or even in Roppongi: Tokyo Midtown, located on the “good” side of the Overpass, has its share of cultural/commercial/residential/entertainment/etc. facilities, including no less than five art and design galleries – two of which I visit on a regular basis: Fujifilm Square and 21_21 Design Sight (sic). In fact, I checked out the newest 21_21 Design Sight exhibition, “Imagemakers”, on a recent — and rainy — Thursday. Along with some interesting and eclectic exhibitions, 21_21 has two things going for it: the Tadao Ando designed concrete exhibition space, and a camera-friendly policy. I’d post some pictures from the Imagemakers exhibition here, but I don’t wanna ruin it for others: the exhibition, or the policy…

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Friendly to Locals and Visitors Alike

Golden Gai

Truth is, the scene in Golden Gai has changed a lot in the last couple of years as more visitors have discovered the place and as some, at least, of the 200-odd bars in the area look for new clientele. One popular blogger recently called it “One of the most poorly kept secrets of Tokyo”, which sounds about right.

These days, there are a lot of visitors meandering the alleys between the bars, looking for places to drop in for a drink. This hasn’t “ruined” the place in my opinion, though twenty-year regulars may disagree.

What this means for you is that you should feel totally comfortable and confident visiting Golden Gai and, while there are still many establishments that will only welcome people who can hold a conversation in Japanese, some others are happy to host the international crowd.

So go to Golden Gai. Start perhaps at the large karaoke bar near the entrance called Champions where you will likely see a large crowd of young visitors. Then spend some time and walk, and pop your head into any place that catches your eye; the narrow stairs to second-floor places can be intimidating, but there’s some real gems upstairs! You’ll know soon enough if you’re welcome. If you don’t find anywhere that speaks to you, then Albatross can be your “safety”: I’ve been there many times, and while the bartender doesn’t speak much (any?) English, it’s a friendly place and you’ll likely meet others from the international set. Albatross has two floors, so don’t be turned off if the first floor is packed.

 

Godzilla! (spoiler alert: the little boy survives...)

Godzilla! (spoiler alert: the little boy survives…)

Not to be outdone by rival and neighbour Roppongi Hills with its 66 Doraemon, Tokyo Midtown managed to lure humanity’s frenemy Godzilla to the backlot. And, apparently, to pose for photos. At least, until August 31, when I guess he has to get into character for his upcoming (2018) sequel…

As part of its Summer 2014 festivities, Roppongi Hills life-sized Doraemon statues in 66 poses — and the kids and families who have come to visit the world’ favourite robotic cat from the future…

A peaceful Shinto shrine in the nightlife heart of Shinjuku

Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono Shrine

Not the most likely location, maybe, but one of Tokyo’s major Shinto shrines lies at the end of either of two nondescript paths. The name Hanazono means “flower garden”, so you can think of this jinja, “shrine”, as a secret garden just outside the Golden Gai and Kabukicho nightlife neighbourhoods of northeast Shinjuku.

Apparently the shrine comes alive several times a year, including the Grand Festival in late May, and Sundays for flea markets.

The rest of the time, during the day at least, the shrine’s grounds make for a quiet retreat from Shinjuku’s bustle. Leastways, it felt that way when I visited the other day, during a welcome break from Tokyo’s August heat wave.

I took the pictures posted here with my (new!) Olympus e-p5 digital camera and M.Zuiko 18mm f/1.8 lens – a pretty sweet combination, I must say! The new electronic viewfinder really makes a big difference, especially for someone such as I who really has a hard time seeing screens in bright sunlight. I shot the stills in RAW and, after applying lens corrections in Lightroom 5, also added my usual tweaks including vignettes, exposure adjustments, and one or two other light treatments – my usual secret ingredients!

Narita Airport Terminal 1 Underground Passage

Narita Airport Terminal 1 Underground Passage

Got back a couple of days ago from my annual visit to my “other” home, Toronto. Yes, it was a great trip, thanks for asking.

I always have mixed feelings on leaving Toronto and returning to Tokyo. On the one hand, I really enjoy visiting family and friends and familiar haunts (such as the public reference library, and the UofT campus – I know, I know… 24-hour party people) in my old hometown. I love to walk, and Toronto’s streets and alleys make for great walking – and the weather usually co-operates by cooling down overnight and staying that way into the morning. All the hassles of daily life in T.O. (oh the TTC! ooh construction!!) don’t really get to me: I’m on holidays! nowhere to be, nothing to do. Perfect Zenlike simplicity. Streetcar delayed? Hey, isn’t that a Starbucks over there? Sweet. I could just retire into my Golden Years… Read the rest of this entry »

Naoshima: a traditional island fishing village in the Seto inland Sea with, you know, traditional contemporary art and architecture by the likes of Tadao Andao, Yayoi Kusama, and Claude Monet.

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Read Kate Morgan’s “4 Reasons to visit Naoshima” on lonelyplanet.com, among other sites, for more details and practical information.

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