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…

A fishing village, then a Sky Tree mystery

Part I: the fishing village The existence of Tsukudajima 佃島 is no secret (map). The Japan Times has written about it (“Casting around in Tsukudajima“), bloggers write about it (佃島~島の名残り “Tsukudajima ~ island remnants”), and it’s easy to access from central Tokyo (it’s a 6-minute ride from Shiodome Station via the Oedo-line). Tsukudajima, until modern times, was a small…

Ad Balloons on the Ginza: Float, Young Advertisers! (1890-1989)

In 1890, an Englishman named Spencer jumped from a hot air balloon with a parachute in Tokyo’s Ueno park. His exploits would be memorialized by Kikugoro, a famous Kabuki actor. Advertising was a key element of Spencer’s act, and balloons would become used prominently in Japanese advertising throughout the 20th century.

The rise and fall and rise of Asagaya Housing danchi 阿佐ヶ谷住宅

Originally posted on the tokyo files archives 東京ファイル:
The Asagaya Housing danchi 阿佐ヶ谷住宅 came to my attention while researching a separate danchi for another post: Ghosts of Showa: the Karasuyama apartment complex, gated communities, & the fight for Tokyo’s soul. I promptly visited, twice, in 2012, and immediately caught danchi fever. Now I’m a full-fledged danchi moe 団地萌え (danchi geek/nerd). I even started to write a comprehensive history of danchi and…

Thus Another Day in 1959 Tokyo

Originally posted on the tokyo files archives 東京ファイル:
Keisuke Kinoshita 木下惠介 was a wonderful filmmaker. In the half-dozen films of his I’ve seen, he creates an effective balance between humor and sadness, optimism and cynicism. Visually, his use of real-world locations provides a rich visual library of what Tokyo and Japan looked like in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s. In The Eternal…