It was my last full day in Tokyo and I was determined to make the most of it. I began by wandering through the residential neighbourhood near my hostel. The streets were quiet, flat, straight and the houses were close together. It was a comfortable mix of living quarters and small businesses, but unlike Korea, nobody was shouting across the road to each other. (My girlfriend says that Japan and Korea are the England and France of Asia; I see the resemblance, except that, of course, the English are nowhere near as quiet as the Japanese.) Anyhow, I liked this temple for its abandoned quality. It clearly was in use, the paint was fresh, but no one had cut the grass:
In Shibuya I began heavy shopping at 109 Men’s and wasn’t that impressed. I was expecting crazy, glittery things but it looked like (and cost like) clubwear I’d see anywhere. I was deeply let down by the following, which turned out to be just a few t-shirts and cardigans:
Moving further afield, I went into a ‘bookshop’ that sold more expensive toys than books. Why, Japan, why?
Some of the other men’s shops were nice, but so expensive, and I soon turned my attention to nearby Harajuku, on the way passing a toilet so important it had its own expert:
I preferred Harajuku for its fashion-forwardness. Among the vintage shops, I found (and tried on) vintage kimonos, and similar-looking attire with different names and purposes. The thick 1960s fabric was beautiful, but I looked like a complete berk. Further along, I saw more Simpsons, but look closely and you’ll see these are neither golden-period nor Zombie Simpsons but reprints of quite early images, from around 1990. It struck me that, if pop culture waits 20 years to recycle images – 50s revival in the 70s, 70s revival in the 90s, etc. – then 2013 is high time for a classic Simpsons revival. Which is just terrifying.
I found a sample sale and had to resist spending $500 on gorgeous Japanese and French clothing. I could’ve walked out with an asymmetrical canvas blazer, a heavy black linen cowboy shirt, and a whale-bone button trench coat, but I restricted myself to essentials. It was so hard.
Travelling alone I tend to start exploring in the hopes of finding something. In this case I was looking for a supermarket in which to buy some scotch (since the selection is amazing and about a third the price of Korea), which led me to the Prada store…
A rather creepy wedding shop…
This guy, whose gorgeous design is compromised by safty.
One of my favourite photos of the trip, a gas station outlined in the evening light. The tree, lights and colours just work:
Japanese John Berger!
Tokyo was big and confusing, and I don’t think I’d go back without more local knowledge. But I saw some beautiful things. I was actually happy to be returning to noisy, hilly Seoul, where the subways work and dinner is cheap. I still miss the sushi.