Tokyo street life

Posted on May 16, 2015 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments



People-watching is my favourite pastime when I travel. I enjoy immersing myself in the surroundings and observing the quirks and odd sights. Sometimes being an outsider enables you to notice interesting sightings that are often neglected by the locals. What is 'norm' to the locals may be fascinating to the outsiders, our perceptions of our surroundings tend to change as we become more familiar with them, making us less aware and less curious over time.

I believe that traveling grants us opportunities to refresh our senses, embrace the unknown, generate new insights; and hopefully, see our familiar world with fresh eyes when we return.


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The enduring allure of traditional kimonos


Tokyo is spellbinding because it is full of contradictions and it is unlike any other cities in the world. It is technologically advanced in many ways, and yet very traditional at the same time. And these contradictions are palpable in the streets... from fashion to architecture, it is the contrasts that the city so intriguing.

In this day and age, there are not many modern women who would choose to wear traditional costumes as their preferred dress code. In most East Asian countries, the younger generation is more interested in Western trends and fashion; yet it is in Japan that I still come across women of different ages wearing kimonos on the streets.

I think the traditional kimono is beautiful, and it has an enduring allure that stands the test of time. When I see a Japanese woman in kimono in the street, I become transfixed by its exquisiteness and versatility. It can be youthful, glamourous, elegant, sophisticated or subtle; and it conveys the unique qualities and characteristics of each individual. The Chinese cheongsam has a similar effect (think Maggie Cheung in "In the mood for love"), yet we seldom see it being worn nowadays except in tacky Chinese restaurants!


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Whilst many visitors like to visit popular shopping areas like Shibuya, Ginza and Shinjuku. I prefer to spend time wandering (and getting lost) around the laidback and maze-like Yanaka and other less touristy districts. I am a flâneur at heart, and if I have unlimited time in Tokyo, I would idle my time away in the streets everyday.


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Top: The bustling Shinjuku district; 2nd to 4th & 6th rows: Nihonbashi


In recent years, an area that has been going through some regeneration is Nihonbashi, one of the oldest districts in Tokyo. The area has the most stunning art deco style department stores in Tokyo, traditional crafts shops and architecture. Now with the new Coredo shopping complex, the vibe of the area has changed significantly, and the ubiquitous cranes also indicate that more changes are on their way.


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Man-made 'nature' on the streets


The Japanese generally prefer their cities looking pristine and tidy, so the global street art/graffiti phenomenon has not affected Tokyo as much as other major international cities. However, in some trendy areas like Harajuku, Shibuya and Meguro, you may be lucky to come across something interesting if you look hard enough. If you are interested in the city's graffiti scene, then check out Tokyo Graffiti index to locate the works.


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Bottom two rows: Graffiti in Shibuya


In Japan, sometimes unexpected art may occur when we look down on the pavements! The Japanese have managed to turn the unappealing manhole covers into works of art in the last few decades. In different prefectures, you would find specifically designed manhole covers, and many of them are inspired by flowers or local spots of natural beauty. The concept is a wonderful way to make the streets more attractive and a surprisingly effective marketing tool!


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Pavement art... Manhole covers, station platform art and ceramic tiles depicting old Tokyo in Nihonbashi


This post was posted in Tokyo, Photography, Travel, Anything Japanese, Street life and was tagged with Tokyo, graffiti/ street art, Japan, street life