part four :: tokyo

where oh where did the week go? i was sucked into a vortex of meetings, errands, plans, good intentions, and simply not enough hands or brain cells. i think part of it was also that poor little tonka had to have some major ear surgery and so i've been worried about him. he's doing fine [rocking a cloth blue e-collar - i'll spare him the embarrassment of showing you]

candy ferris wheel

{{this ferris wheel is in odaiba/tokyo teleport . there are 2 gigantic malls there - and a beach as it's along the bay.}}

i have been wracking my brain as to how to wrap up my trip to japan. it was such a good and long ride. i've slowly been uploading pics to flickr neighborhood by neighborhood trying to think about how to talk about the sites and sounds.

tokyo is like new york. there is no way to do everything you want to do - and there will always be something to see and do - no matter how many times you visit. it's also funny because it really is divided into "areas". you get your electronics in akihabura, you get your high end shopping in ginza... and talk about consumerist. no joke. there are so many stores, restaurants - shopping malls - it's like a sea of buy buy buy. i'm not even sure how everything stays in business?? [it is mostly packaged and presented very very nicely].

i think one thing that kept coming to mind [besides REPETITION] was how there is really a blending an meshing of old and new. almost to a degree contradiction. the traditional is embraced with such ferocity, and yet the new and technology are pushing forward. the only "old" buildings are really historical - or most likely owned by the same family/person for a long time. granted much was destroyed in WWII, but my friend said that when someone buy a building in tokyo they immediately tear it down an build a new one if they can. so there is this strange concrete landscape - and much of that actually isn't that engaging or interesting [not at all like the beautiful historical architecture of san francisco or new york].

in terms of art the mori art museum was one of the best contemporary spaces we saw. overall how the japanese hang a show/exhibition is so lovely. each object is given a respectful amount of space - and there are interactive elements that would never fly in the states [think climbing up into things - or no railings on high places]. there's sort of a belief that if you can't take care of yourself it's your problem and why should we deny an engaging activity to all for a few. it's rather refreshing.

ka-n, bi-n

we stayed in a neighborhood in chuo that was bit on the older side. very very close to ningyocho subway station. but it was also close to 4 subway lines. it was GREAT.

seasonal sweets

the neighborhood was filled with old style omiyage [gift] stores [gift giving is huge in japan. it's ritualized and formal and the gifts given often come wrapped elaborately] and kimono stores. above is a photo from the window of a store that specialized in tea ceremony sweets. sigh. our hotel overlooked a grenbelt with trees. this was SO unusual - while there are parks around there were very few wide streets that had such greenery. here are some caterpillars that were in the greenbelt:


it is so so true that things are just cuter in japan.....


this is the mascot of a drug company. you find these elephants in front of pharmacies.

pokeman swings at the first pitch

we went to a couple of baseball games. this was really fun. the japanese are SERIOUS about cheering. each team gets a section between the foul poles and when their team is up there is a constant loud cheer. each player has their own chant. when a team gets a hit or a score there's a whole ritual song/chant. they sell bento boxes at the games.... girls server beer from kegs on their backs. it's really different than games in the states [although the feeling of being a part of something is the same]. only in japan would a pokeman character be involved in the ceremonial first pitch - don't you think?

bbq fixings

i've also been trying to think about how to talk more about the food. above are the fixings from BBQ we had at our friends house. the food is really good [duh]. i had some of the best sushi i've ever had in my life. some of the tastiest snacks. and finding good things is really easy. even the corner am/pm [yes like the gas stations, no slushies or dried out hotdogs] stores have good onigiri [rice balls]. if you have never been to japan you HAVE to go to a basement of a department store. it's like food overload. we went to several different stores and experienced the high end and the low end versions. all good. if you can - get to a grocery store too - the quantity and quality of stuff will astound you. i was lucky enough to get some grapes [i loved japanese grapes as a kid. they are smaller - sweeter and the skin is sour. they really are different and so good].

we were also so lucky to be taken to a 10 course seafood meal by a family friend. 10 small courses - each presented on perfect plates - in perfect quantities, with flavors carefully balanced. a cold palette cleansing soup followed by some of the best ikura [salmon roe] i've ever had. i didn't take any pictures - but i have the experience roted in my mind.

drinks anyone?

there is just no limit in terms of drink choices :). my friend said they are constantly coming up with "new" ones - and some are retired from time to time. there are vending machines all over that sell every kind of drink you can think of. i had some that i never saw again anywhere. [and they are less sweet than drinks here. really good]


in harajuku - the trendy young neighborhood where you can also buy $2000 levi jeans. kiddieland was one of the best toy stores we visited.

airstream burgers

also in harajuku. how cute is this burger stand??

wooden wishes

a stones throw from all the trendy impossibly amazing stores and youngsters [who currently are imitating the 80's LA rocker look] is a big park and shrine. meiji is just beautiful. it's so quiet and serene. and it has some of the tallest tori gates. [you definitely have the pilgrimedge feeling here.]

craft books

ok crafty people. if you want to die and go to craft heaven in shinjuku is okadaya . 7 floors of craft supplies [only of the cute variety]. above is the top floor of JUST craft books. [i snuck a photo]. this is one part of it. the place isn't huge, but it's FULL. and across the way is 9 floors of fabric goodness. a very dangerous place.

also in shinjuku is the muji flagship store. um yeah. i don't think i need to say anything other than will they open one on the west coast please??

weathered gate

one of my absolute favorite neighborhoods was asakusa . that perfect blend of old and new - trinkets + really great crafts. 2 of the best tenugui shops i saw anywhere. we went when there was a chinese lantern festival . it seemed as though every grandma in toykyo had come out for the occasion. so cool.


detail of a lantern.

celedon phone

asakusa is a big area. surrounding the temples are lots of shops and "fun" places. a small amusement park, a sports park, a bowling - alley. above is a phone i wanted to steal from the bowling alley.

kappabashi dori

also in asakusa is the restaurant supply area. kappabashi dori . it was decorated with the above amazing streamers. this is the hood for knives, plates and that FAKE FOOD [yes we couldn't resist - something came home with us].

dry goods

my other absolute favorite place was tsukiji . it's where the famous fish market is. the market itself is amazing and not at all limited to fish. there are also some fantastic restaurants tucked between the stalls for vegetables and pickles and fish flakes and.... you can get everything you could possibly dream of to eat here. i would love to be able to do my daily shopping here. next time we go to japan i dream of staying in a place with a kitchen so we can shop and cook !

shopping bags

these are the traditional shopping "bags" that people were using in the market. i wanted to bring one home so badly, but couldn't think of how to get it on the plane [we were already at our carry-on limit].

blue baskets

the area is just bustling. there are walkers, scooters, men hauling carts and wagons, and these very odd 3 wheeled mighty cars . if you don't look where you are going you WILL get run over. and it's busiest and most exciting early in the morning [when i am least alert!]


this was the backside of some of the stalls. i loved the decay. if you go to tokyo and you love food. this is MUST.

well.... i think that's actually it. all the photos [divided into neighborhood] are here . if you have any questions about anything i'd be happy to answer.

next post i'll show the exhibition.... and then we'll get back to "normal" around here [what is that exactly?]. i have been tagged by several folks to do a meme - so that's on the way too.

if you have a minute - go check out ship of fools . we're having a really great discussion about the year of magical thinking....

have a GREAT weekend!


shari said…
i'm just in awe of your wonderful trip. so interesting and so much visual inspiration. thank you again for sharing it with us. also, did you do any drawing in japan? inquiring minds want to know...happy weekend sweet friend! xoxo
wendy said…
wow...this is so awesome...your time...your words...your photos!
can't wait to see the installation.
Meredith said…
i am so enjoying your photos and your writing about your trip to japan. the photos are absolutely gorgeous. thank you!
sally said…
[sigh] Your descriptions and photographs make me want to visit Japan even more now. I'm sad your Tokyo posts are over! =(
risa said…
i think you should seriously consider a second career as a travel photographer/writer. i looooove my virtual trips with you.
dandelion said…
I completely agree with Risa, you write much more eloquently than most guide books and your photos are fab! I especially love the caterpillars!...x
I love love love love love, wait, I love it all! But, the fake food??? I LOVE it! At my local suchi joint, I always beg for them to seel me the most fab fake food suchi clock! I want it sooo bad. I might end up paying a ridiculous amount for it one day...
The sushi must have been unreal!! And all those drinks, and and and, a 7 story craft store? And the pinata like thingies.. And, how in the world did you ever come back???????? It must have been amazing!!! xxxooo
Alison said…
Your photos have just mesmerised me - I could have commented on all of them (like Martha). What a wonderful trip you have had :)
Sonnja said…
I am so enjoying your photos,
thank you!
Kind Regards,

louise said…
What an amazing trip you had... I'm overwhelmed by all your fantastic photos, so much colour, I almost had to step back from the screen when I scrolled to your supermarket photo. How does anyone choose a drink over there... there is too much to choose from.

I hope Tonka is feeling a little better.

xo lj

PS I'll be sorry to see the end of Japan, thanks for being such a perfect tour guide.
bugheart said…
such amazing
and thoughts...
i especially
love thoughts
on the juxtaposition
of old and new...
so different
each culture
history and
it's so hard
not to
want to
buy buy buy
in japan...
is so darned cute!
i would have
in the craft
Tiffany said…
I've been outta the blog-loop for a bit and read your last 3 posts in one sitting...oh, Lisa, those images! They are phenomenal! I feel like I've been on vacation looking at those images and reading about your experiences. Thank you so much for taking so many pictures.
gracia said…
Piles, repetition, stacks of all things marvelous and all things ripe for a photo... I'm loving your Japanese photos, Lisa. I'm loving hearing of your travels, your experiences, of patterns spotted, and highlights, observations and more.
see you, g xo
Zoe said…
Your photographs are amazing! I'd love to go to Japan. The ferris wheel shot is my favourite and oh! that craft shop!!! Why is there nothing like that here?! I know what you mean about muji...we used to have a store here years ago and they closed it down...em, why????
simple me said…
you may as well keep the poor tonka out of bloggers' site but I couldn't help but to laugh at the image in my mind of his blue cloth e-collar. I always laugh when I see the poor creatures like that. mean, I know :)
anyway I hope he is doing well and fully recovered by now.

Tokyo is colourful and busy as I've always imagined it to be.
this idea of tear buildings down and build new ones has become common practice over here too. almost only historic buildings and "family buildings" resist. unfortunately many beauties are lost forever ... but there you go, evolution.

it is so wonderful to read all these descriptions about tokyo.
thank you! I think I'm going to start saving :)

love the image with the phone.

have a wonderful week
mary said…
your trip sounds amazing, lisa. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and photos with us.

I've never been to Tokyo, but can just imagine the overload I would get if I visit. Thank you for the report!
amy dawn rose said…
thanks for sharing lisa- what a wonderful trip. and a big kiss for tonka.
poppy said…
oh man - so much to take in, and absorb. beautiful images , how do you remember it all? loved that airstream! i really enjoyed seeing all of these and your stories.

hope tonka is feeling better.
This is indeed a great write up!
Hugs for (((tonka))).
abby said…
Wow, wow, wow!
Thank you so much for this! Your pictures are amazing and your words really write a great story. I have immensely enjoyed living vicariously through you. I think my favorite pic is the back of the stalls...
hope your tonka is okay-
lisa s said…
hi friends! wow... thanks for all the kind comments.

let's see... risa... i wish i could be paid to travel and write about it. how do i get on that?? :)

jan - i write a lot down.... and the photos help me remember

and to everyone - tonka got his stitches out this week and is doing much better. he gives you all hugs and kisses!! [thanks for asking/caring]
cruststation said…
I have been back and forth over this post in awe...words. I love how you experienced the Japanese way of life (not just as a tourist)-you would be my guide of choice if I ever visit Japan. The tea ceremony sweets are beautiful, picture from the baseball match is so cute, just like in the cartoons! Delicious food and craft stores, what can I say? Love the images from the old part of Tokyo too -btw where are the people? :)
comfies said…
i just discovered this post through gracia's blog! i'm in tokyo right now! here for a few days and then on to kyoto. never been here before and not much of a world traveller, so as you can imagine, i'm feeling excited. overwhelmed, but excited. it's also boiling hot right now, there's a heat wave... your descriptions and pictures are just wonderful - so glad to have found you and thank you for sharing it all. i'm going to look at your flickr pages...
amisha said…
i could just look at these travel posts for hours! you have such a way of capturing moments... i am not being very articulate right now but i am just so enamored of your photos and your impressions of japan. i want to go to tokyo soooo much, it's crazy.
i owe you an email very much too! thinking of you my dear.

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