I just got back from a short trip to Dresden. My parents treated us to the hotel, so we had to go with their choice of location in the fringes of the renovated old town. It proved to be a decent place and took us past the very interesting Pirnaischer Platz each day. Here, two buildings stood out, necessitating some further research.
I left Tokyo last Sunday – in style after a night out near Shibuya got finished off by a bowl of ramen at six am, followed by one of the first Ginza line trains back to the pad. Having been “home” in Berlin for almost a week now, it’s time for an overdue farewell post to Japan.
The Tokyo Olympics 1964 have been a recurring theme on this blog (here and here) because they fit in so nicely with the narrative of Japan’s economic miracle and reintegration into the world community. Another architectural manifestation from the Games is the Komazawa Olympic Park in Setagaya. The author of the book’s chapter on politics and avantgarde has chosen the complex as one of the insets. I took a stroll through the park to get a feel for the place.
I walked the second leg of my Yamanote Line circle trek today. Just because the route from Sugamo back to Gotanda was a little shorter (about 18 km), Tokyo decided to throw some pouring rain down on me during the last leg from Shibuya onwards. I was wondering how it would be to walk London’s circle line (27 km) or Berlin’s Ringbahn (38 km) in comparison.
Here in Tokyo, It felt completely safe to walk everywhere, from dark back alleys to busy station surroundings. It’s exciting to hear and see how each station has a slightly different feel to it, yet shares many of the same characteristics. Rush hour pedestrian traffic at the main crossroads gives way to complete solitude a few hundred meters down the road. Trendy upmarket areas near Harajuku versus makeshift homes for the homeless near Ueno; bright and neon-lit Shibuya and Shinjuku vs. the quiet small-town feel near Tabata.
Picking up the trek at Sugamo Continue reading
I had always wanted to walk the Yamanote Circle Line on foot and finally got around to doing the first half today. It was a good 20 kilometer march, ten of which I walked together with a friend of mine. The JR East operated line carries about 3.7 million people each working day, more than the entire London Underground network. The circle divides the city into two – the parts that lie within and those that lie outside. Almost every station connects you with another Metro or overland rail line. Cheap (love) hotels for those who didn’t make their last train, pachinko parlours and restaurants dot the areas around the stops.
The last few days of my stay in Japan are spent mainly outside. I’m borrowing a friend’s bike to maximise the ground I can cover in a day. Today’s tour was slightly hampered by a sandstorm that turned a lovely spring day into something dark and sepia-toned. I took a few photos near Shinagawa station in the south of Tokyo’s centre.
Taking on a topic as big as Japan’s post-war economic miracle for my book project requires a good structure and solid preparation. I have used this blog before to digress on economic topics (e.g. here and here) but have so far shunned the main prize: how did Japan manage to pull off one of the most remarkable episodes of economic growth in human history?
The flat which a friend of mine has kindly offered to me for the last two weeks of my Tokyo stay is a short walk from the Chinese embassy. With tensions between Japan and China running high, it is no surprise that protests take place here from time to time. Just as I was walking by this Sunday, two uyoku dantai (literally “right wing groups”) vans were trying to make their way through police blockades.
Just down the road from where I live (until Wednesday!), a building has been rising to the sky relentlessly, floor by floor since we arrived in Tokyo five months ago. On 1 March, a press release revealed (to me at least) what this is all about: it’s Mori’s new mega-project, now officially christened Toranomon Hills after the area it is situated in. It is the developer’s largest since Roppongi Hills got opened ten years ago and at the heart of the whole area’s redevelopment.