Hot on the monster’s tail: meeting Godzilla ゴジラ in Tokyo

On my first visit to Japan I naively assumed I would encounter Godzilla paraphernalia everywhere. This misunderstanding can be traced to my complete ignorance of Japanese pop culture; not only did I not follow current trends in manga or anime, but I hadn’t even heard of such icons as Doraemon ドラえもん, Ultraman ウルトラマン, Anpanman アンパンマン, or Sazae-san…

Shinjuku from the Takashimaya department store rooftop

Some wonderful views from the rooftop of the Takashimaya Shinjuku 新宿タカシマヤ department store (map). (1) Looking west towards the Park Hyatt and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building 東京都庁: (2) Shinjuku-sanchome to the northeast: (3) Looking south towards the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building NTTドコモ代々木ビル: (4) And looking southeast towards Tokyo Tower: For old photos from the rooftops…

Planned community: Mejiro Cultural Village 目白文化村 (1922)

Originally posted on the tokyo files: urban design 東京の都市デザイン:
Mejiro Cultural Village 目白文化村 めじろぶんかむら was a luxury residential area (高級住宅街) said to be modeled after Beverly Hills (source). I will provide some of the general details, but if you are interested in the details of this development, I suggest you refer to the following website, which is…

Tsune Nakamura Atelier Museum 新宿区立中村彝アトリエ記念館

While writing about Ikebukuro’s post-WW2 black market, I learned about the arts movements that thrived west of Ikebukuro station prior to World War II. There were so many artists that the term Ikebukuro Montparnasse 池袋モンパルナス was coined, an obvious reference to the Bohemian Parisian neighborhood. Other terms include “Nagasaki Atelier Village 長崎アトリエ村” and “Sakuragaoka Parthenon” さくらが丘パルテノン, which were concentrations of artists’ studios, as…

From train to tree: Golden Gai, Toden streetcar, and Shinjuku Promenade Park

Whenever I watch an old Japanese film. I see all these terrific scenes of old Tokyo and just have to know where they were filmed. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times it isn’t. The other day I was watching a compelling yakuza movie,「無頼」より 大幹部 Burai yori daikanbu (1968), aka Outlaw: Gangster VIP. It stars Tetsuya Watari 渡 哲也, the handsome…

Satoko Kitahara, Maria of Ants Town 蟻の町のマリア

(1) Ants Villa and Mary of Ants Town This post is about a name and a place. The name is Satoko Kitahara 北原怜子  a.k.a. “Mary of Ants Town” (1929-1958). The place is 蟻の街, Ari-no-machi, meaning “Ants Villa”, “Ants Town”, “City of Ants”, etc. Ants Town was formed in the wake of World War 2 as a legal cooperative to house and…

The kawaii singularity: learning to love our (adorable) robot overlords

The kawaii singularity is near: robots too cute to resist. In February we were exploring an upper floor of 3331 Arts Chiyoda (map), a creative space in the old Rensei Junior High. The halls were silent, well-insulated from the first-floor crowd. We almost returned downstairs when we noticed activity in one of the classrooms. It looked like an adult-education class: men and women of various ages…

Class dismissed: the ghost schools of Yokoze and Hanno, Saitama

I’ve never been a Japanese school-child, nor have I ever attended school in the early 20th century, yet I feel nostalgic for old-fashioned Japanese schoolhouses. This may have started while watching movies like The Rickshaw Man 無法松の一生 (1958) or Carmen Comes Home カルメン故郷に帰る (1951). Scenes from: The Rickshaw Man and Carmen Comes Home My love was cemented when I…