“…we’ll wait a little for a signal to turn green before entering Earl’s Court station, apologies for the inconvenience” the voice on the tannoy said to a chorus of groans, moans and a choreography of rolling eyes. Framed in a corner of that Piccadilly Line car, hot and bored, I wished I could grow wings to fly away, once and for all, from London, the city least suited to be a megalopolis.
It’s in moments like these that I wish I could move back to the sort of provincial town I grew up in or, if I really had to stay in a large city, to a place whose infrastructure wouldn’t shut down on weekends or crumble to pieces every other day. Inevitably in such moments, my memory brings me to what I found to be the most relaxing, polite, clean, safe and remarkably efficient megalopolis I ever had the chance to visit: Tokyo. These are photos from my time there a few years back; even if I never felt like I could live there forever, I cannot deny that, today, I miss Tokyo immensely.
An expressway sneaking away from Roppongi, cutting in two a borough made of tiny and impeccably neat streets.
The Dentsu Building, by Jéan Nouvel
A normal day on the Yamanote Line, where trains run every other minute, aren’t regulated by a Jurassic signalling system and people don’t run bayonet charges to gain the best seats at every station.
The viewing deck of Roppongi’s Mori Tower on a rainy afternoon. We spent some time there after visiting an exhibition of Ai Weiwei and, for the entire time we’ve been there, I was half-expecting a synthetic owl to fly gracefully from one corner to the other.
Ueno junction, one (of many) drunken nights.
Catching a Nozomi Shinkansen at Tokyo’s Central Station
I seem to remember they were playing a Goldfrapp tune at that time.
One of Japan’s best inventions: plastic, see-through umbrellas. They were priced at 99 Yen and had the power to make a rainy Saturday in Ginza dori a remarkably happy experience.
Even on a rainy, windswept day Tokyo looked full of charm.
Every major station in Tokyo has its own corollary of skyscrapers, shopping areas and loud megascreens, but Shimbashi had a new, interesting concept for Japan: a public square. Not knowing what to do with it, the council had turned it in the only public smoking place of the areas, in a blatant attempt to mimick Beijing’s atmosphere.
Shinjuku’s business district is a deliciously démodé cluster of skyscrapers built in the 1980s, at the height of the bubble economy. Tokyo’s most daring new buildings might now be found elsewhere, but Shinjuku has remained a very nice place to walk with head pointed up.
Not many cities can boast such an impressive City Hall-cum-free-observatory, located in the two towers at the top. You’d seriously expect Godzilla to show up and this tower to morph into a robot to fight it off.