Several weeks of Web research, making notes on Evernote to share between my Mac, Mac notebook and iPad accompanied by what felt like an endless round of reading and image gazing and I was just about ready to head for the airport.
Destination Tokyo. In my bag an almost brand new Fuji X100T, my trusty NEX-7 and several Leica M mount lenses – just in case.
Twelve days to see a city that’s been on my must-do list forever. Twelve days to collect enough photographs and information to compile InSight: Tokyo, the latest photographer’s DIY city manual.
As soon as your feet hit Tokyo’s pavements you know this is a special place. Everything works, the subterranean pedestrian malls keep you from the worst of the weather, buses are everywhere and the Metro is brilliant, if confusing at first.
Based on my reading, I’d elected to stay in Shinjuku – an excellent choice as it really is the heart of modern Tokyo. From here, there are few places can’t be reached directly by foot, Metro or bus. Around the centre of Shinjuku are shops, night clubs, a gay area and a red light district. A couple of blocks away is the unique Golden Gai – 200 of the tiniest bars you’ll find anywhere on the planet – most only seat 5 or 6 patrons.
A kilometre away is the Shinjuku Gyoen Park – here you’ll find falling leaves and spectacular colours in late autumn. Next door is Yoyogi, Harajuku (Tokyo’s Carnaby Street) and so much more that I could have spent my entire twelve days just exploring here.
I didn’t. On my list were Ueno and it’s temples, Asakusa’s seemingly endless shopping market, Akihabara, home of the bizarre Maidcafe and electronics central for Tokyo’s gamers, manga fans and electronics enthusiasts.
In between, the Ginza beckoned, the Imperial Palace demanded attention as did the city’s myriad of historical temples and museums, street food stalls, izakayas (yakitori bars which specialise in grilled chicken on a skewer), pubs, bars and restaurants. The more I discovered, the more I realised that I’d need to return to this extraordinary city and re-visit and experience anew.
For the photographer, it’s an absolute must. The Japanese themselves are polite, helpful and largely disinterested in a photographer in their midst. In a city where everyone has a smart phone in their hands with most using their camera as much as anything else, that’s hardly surprising.
Many of the airlines of the world are offering once-in-a-lifetime fares to far away places just now. If you can find a return flight to Tokyo in amongst their offerings, don’t hesitate…
InSight: Tokyo is finished and available now. It joins four other city Guides; London, Copenhagen, Istanbul and Cape Town and is available from the DearSusan Web site (InSight: Tokyo). All InSight Guides are US$7.99 and downloadable in PDF format, specifically for use on iPad and other tablets.
Coming soon; InSight Guides on Singapore, George Town (Penang) and Amsterdam.
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