Scenes from Lost Tokyo


If this were a film, I would call it Lost Tokyo, or maybe Hidden Bounty of Lost Tokyo. Or maybe Lost Bounty of Hidden Tokyo. But whatever I might call it, there’s no doubt that that’s Jorge up above, standing next to the original Ultraman, who’s currently schilling for pachinko parlors because he lost his last job in 1967 to Ultra Seven, Ultraman Ace, Ultraman Taro, Ultraman Leo, Ultraman Tiga, and the rest of the entire standing army of surplus Ultra labour.

And speaking of film, all the shots below are analogue, taken with one or the other of the Voigtlanders that I own. Lately I’ve been keeping my digital cameras in backup mode because I always seem to be far more satisfied with what comes out of the tiny celluloid vault at the back of the film camera.

Here’s Nancy and I in the miniature hotel room we shared in Tokyo. When Nancy arrived with her luggage I hated to have to inform her that it would be taking up the last little bit of floor space left in our room. However, the Sumisho Hotel, which is where we stayed, was absolutely fantastic in every other respect. The rooms were clean and tidy, the staff was ultra-friendly, there was free in-room internet access, and most importantly of all there were two large and lovely Japanese-style communal baths in the hotel in which to melt yourself into relaxation after a hard day of fish marketing.

Oh those Harajuku girls!

Here’s Courtney in Harajuku. She’s not quite a Harajuku girl, but how cool does she look in those white glasses, with that white fur-like thing (whatever it is) dangling around her neck like a rabbit boa? Courtney is a total camera ham and — I swear to god! — this is the most natural picture I was able to get of her during the whole week or so that we were hanging out together.

On December 31st we took a brief walk through Meiji-jingu, which was being prepared for the three million or so people who would be visiting during the oshogatsu (new year) holiday. It was relatively quiet while we were there, but banks of lanterns had been erected, and areas of the shrine were cordoned off, including the inner building of the main shrine area itself. A lot of fun was had buying luck charms, including a charm for luck in passing the driving test. The big question is, will the mojo transfer over to American-style driving tests, or is this a Japan-only charm? Theological schisms have erupted as a result of far less pressing questions.

Tessa. Wind in her hair.

This is the owner of a really cool used clothing store in Nakamaguro. Nakameguro, which reminds me a little of the Hayes Valley area, has tons of interesting boutiques, small galleries, restaurants, and a famous bookstore. We had lunch at a café built into the bottom half of a Taisho-era house that had exposed rafters and beautiful wooden sliding doors. Afterward we walked upstairs where there’s a small shop that sells a variety of handmade and limited-production goods. These shops line the Meguro river, which itself is lined with cherry trees that are supposed to be splendidly beautiful during cherry-blossom season.

My favorite place in Nakameguro, however, is a place that we didn’t get a chance to go to. It’s a ping-pong lounge that’s located quite literally in an apartment. You need to walk down along the apartment building — past the bicycle parking, the trash cans, and the mailboxes — and then up a rear flight of stairs to the second story where you find a door that’s entirely unmarked except by apartment number. Unfortunately, we were there too early and the lounge wasn’t open yet so we couldn’t go in. The person on the other end of the intercom had a very nice voice though.

This is the best trompe l’oiel photo I’ve ever taken. Nancy checks her watch in front of a giant Tokyo subway billboard.

This is the famous Center Gai (センター街 sentaa gai) “scramble crossing” in Shibuya, which is supposed to be the world’s busiest. And here’s a bird’s-eye view.

Here’s Kobachan in front of Herzog and de Meuron’s Prada building in Aoyama. So greeny.

Mart at Asakusa Station after our hatsumode visit to Senso-ji.

Here’s a shot of Tarokun, Kobachan, and Jorge at Ebisu Station after a particularly glorious night of yakitori. Tarokun and Kobachan know all the best places!

Tessa and Leon engaged in the thrilling act of mistaking the signifier for the referent. If I could get drunk off of signifiers I would simply write the word “liquor” over and over again on a stack of Post-it Notes and blissfully slip them onto my tongue, one after the other. In the real world we had to buy our liquor with that magically symbolic facilitator of exchange, the ever-signifying dollar. (Of course, in this case it was actually yen.)

Leon basks in the most glorious winter weather that Tokyo has ever seen. Not only was it warm the entire time we were in Tokyo, it was sunny and blue for five days in a row. Unheard of. A celluloid dream.


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