Japan Trip, Part 1 – Tokyo

We started with Tokyo for three nights. The airport is actually about an hour and a half outside of Tokyo and not the most interesting of drives in. In fact, Tokyo didn’t appear that spectacular on the way in. I think it’s a city that takes a while to get used to in terms of where to find what and it’s an altogether different prospect than many other centralised capital cities. Think of about six London’s glued together and you’re somewhere close.

This is the crowd I was with. From the left to right: Ann Lakshmanan, Jo Lintonbon and Robert Blundell.

As you’d expect, there are a number of rather tall buildings in Tokyo:

The dry dock in Yokohama:

We found what appeared to be a modern interpretation of Tower Bridge in Yokohama. The large ferris wheel can be seen in the background:

There was also this rather impressive hotel overlooking Yokohama harbour:

The ferris wheel in Yokohama is also quite impressive, although unfortunately I was with a bunch of cowards so couldn’t go on it:

Japanese signs were frequently incomprehensible and the diagrams don’t really help. As far as I can tell, this sign means that anyone with hands or feet isn’t allowed past:

Being with a group of architects, I was forced to visit Yokohama ferry terminal. Fly all the way to Japan, and the first thing we do is go and look at a ferry terminal… There weren’t even any ferries there to see, although there was a lot of wooden decking:

See: wooden decking:

The bus park and taxi rank from the terminal roof was a nice composition, I’ll give it that:

And there were things to look at from the top of the ferry terminal, like boats and a large bridge:

A view looking down at the entrance to the terminal restaurant (which was excitingly closed):

The signs were there to keep me entertained at least. “There’s no getting over the fence” I rather liked. I know I’ll never quite get over it:

The view back to Yokohama from the terminal roof. The rather large hotel from an earlier photo can be seen to the left:

More pictures of wooden decking from the ferry terminal. Apparently the building was designed as a regular shape but someone sat on the model the day before submission and they didn’t have time to rebuild it, but it still won. (That’s my theory anyway.)

I also found somewhere interesting to put my feet:

Inside the ferry terminal was just as “interesting”:

It had quite a crazy roof inside, though. This was also based on a model that had been squashed:

Away from the terminal and into a temple park, this wall of sake flasks was impressive:

The temple itself was quite a typical shape that we were to see a lot of over the next couple of weeks:

The gateway was rather impressive:

As was the gate to the temple area (which was made of wood):

Later that evening we also saw a London Routemaster bus. It seemed to be advertising something, but it’s always good to have something familiar when you go abroad (even if they’re getting rid of them from London):

From there, it was back to more architecture. No more the dizzy heights of a ferry terminal for us; we were now looking at a Prada shop designed by European architects:

The logo of the Prada building:

The Prada shop’s cladding was made from bubble wrap making this the second building of the day we’d seen that was a literal enlargement of a model:

This view inside shows some of the whacky shapeness of it:

Tokyo itself wasn’t as hectic as I’d imagined, but it was very well lit up as this streetscape shows:

Another feature shop, called “Tod’s” (which I haven’t heard of):

The Louis Vuitton shop:

The Christian Dior building was probably the most pleasant of the bunch:

A shot of just some of the huge amount of neon advertising there is all over Japan. This piece of Tokyo doesn’t really convey how overwhelming it all is:

Carp were a feature of nearly every pond and this is a shot from our tenth floor room in the Takanawa Prince Hotel in Tokyo:

We started the second day in Tokyo with a visit to Ueno Park. As it was the start of cherry blossom season the crowds were fairly big even for a weekday but there were some impressive shots of blossom:

As well as the cherry trees there were also a few temples in Ueno:

A guide we had later told us that lions are often placed to guard shrines, but don’t guard the temple. So: remember that if you want to steal a temple, as long as you leave a shrine alone then you’ll be fine:

This rather bizarre hotel building was also visible from the park. It looks like some kind of 70’s experiment but is actually remarkably new, and hopefully built to withstand earthquakes:

Flyovers and walkways were ever-present in Tokyo but were somehow done in a more assertive way by the Japanese than we have in England. Flyovers did what they needed to do, walkways went where they needed, and as long as the two didn’t bump into each other all was fine:

The streetscapes of Tokyo were still quite impressive in daytime with the amount of advertising they carried:

There were also a few very strange buildings. This one seems to be for a crockery manufacturer (or something) and has cups for balconies:

Towards the northwest of Tokyo we found a bustling market (selling mostly tack, it has to be said). In case you’re wondering, the people with masks on aren’t bandits but, as far as we can tell, were wearing face masks so they didn’t spread germs. As with so many things there, it’s an eminently sensible development that I can’t see ever being adopted in Europe.

At the end of the market was a temple complex with a tall pagoda:

This temple was next to it:

On the way down towards the river and along it we saw more glorious modern architecture. This time, the Asahi headquarters by Philip Starck, complete with golden turd on the roof. (Apparently that’s how it’s also known to the locals, although it’s supposed to be Asahi’s flame logo.)

The Asahi turd does, however, make a rather attractive hat, as Ann is here demonstrating:

Download all photos in high res (over 200mb total)

Next: Japan Trip, Part 2 – Nikko

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