Yesterday was primarily spent exploring the Akihabara neighbirhood of Tokyo. This place is the center of electronic supplies and video game culture in the city. There are many small through block arcades selling everything from CPUs to terabyte external hard drives as well as tools and chips. You can shop around market style for about seven square blocks and walk away with a computer.
The arcades, alleys, underside of train viaducts, and extremely narrow “pencil” buildings contain shops, arcades, and restaurants in every floor and basement. These myriad pencil buildings, ubiquitous through the major cities in the country, are apparently the result
of a hefty property tax placed upon those inheriting land. It makes more sense financially to most to split their land into a number of parcels for development, warranting the extra thin profile. I saw a hair salon and spa yesterday that was recently completed and maybe ten feet wide!
I finished the day by revisiting golden gai in kabukicho to see what the upstairs bars were like in these tiny two story buildings to be surprised by greatly efficient spaces like a submarine. I measured a plan for one with the gracious owner who was very curious about my “rare” interest in Roji (alley) spaces.
Tokyo is amazing. I have only seen a sliver of it, but it is like New York City, but encrusted with programs, primarily food and drink. Every alley, train viaduct, or blank wall for that matter, have some program. The train system here is far more advanced than new York or most anywhere, you cab get to many main things in 6 minutes which is remarkable for a city of this scale and magnitude.
Last night, after visiting the awesome notorious diagonal Shibuya intersection, I met up with my thesis professor from Oregon, Hajo Neis, and we were given a great tour and evening in Shimokitazawa, a neighbirhood full of alleys, energy, and activity, but threatened by a massive arterial road that could soon divide it. We were taken to a local karaoke bar the size of a small closet in a very interesting building that housed a public theater on top and about 15 of these tiny individual bars all around the bottom, it was a fantastic hybrid!
Beginning this Tuesday, November 9th, I will embark on my last fellowship trip to Japan. I will be visiting Kyoto first, then Tokyo via Osaka and the Ise shrine. My journey will last two weeks, please find my itineraries below and email me with any additional places you think I should see. Stay tuned for what should be the greatest alley adventure yet!
Also, the application deadline for the upcoming 2011 emerging professional travelling fellowship is December 15. Feel free to contact me regarding the application or anything else.