Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2018

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Biscuit in Sendagi/Yanaka

I was so impressed with Sendagi I was planning on moving there having visited the area just last month for the first time. Actually, I’d been to Yanesen (nickname for the area comprising Yanaka, Nezu, Sendagi) many times before but only to Nezu and Yanaka for some reason. On the walk into Sendagi from Yanaka Cemetery I went down Dangozaka, a small street on a gentle slope that ends at a crossing in front of Sendagi station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line. There are lots of interesting shops and even some good-looking drinking places and cafes but about half-way down was Biscuit, a shop which is owned by Japanese artist Masami Takewaki. The address is officially Yanaka but I feel like it’s more a part of Sendagi based on its proximity to Sendagi station and I actually made the mistake of thinking it had a Sendagi address when I started writing this post, hence the strange title. What you see above is the postcard designed by the artist herself. What’s interesting is the ‘O’ in house is stuck on as a sticker over the printed background.

The shop is interesting, although mostly geared towards women with its retro dolls and accessories, but it also has some good stuff for your house and some (mostly German) retro board games and even stationery. There’s wrapping paper and cards in there literally dating from as far back as the sixties and maybe even further. One of the reasons I liked it is because I’ve never seen a shop that sells these kinds of products before, and the rest of the neighbourhood is worth visiting too so if you’re out for a walk I recommend checking it out.


Japanese Illustrators for Monocle

Reading Monocle, I always wondered who did the illustrations in most of the issues. There are guest illustrators from time to time, and one of them is a Japanese guy called Akira Sorimachi. His work reminds me a little bit of the guy that did Uncle Tory for Suntory Whisky, Ryohei Yanagihara in that it has the same retro feel. Recently Sorimachi has created a poster for Monocle (part of which can be seen above), and also a range of cards. Monocle’s illustrations are superb, and most of them are done by Japanese illustrators. Other artists who have created illustration work for Monocle Magazine include Satoshi Hashimoto and Gaku Nakagawa. Check out their work below.


Tokyo Metro Book Share

If you go to Nezu station on the Chiyoda subway line of the Tokyo Metro you will find these unusual bookcases in the shape of metro trains. The books on the shelves can be read whilst sitting in the driver’s compartment of the fist carriage, or you take them with you to read on an actual subway train. It’s things like this that I like most about this city, and that’s the communal nature of the way things work here and how everyone looks out for one another and they aren’t always trying to get one over on someone else, etc. People in Tokyo also don’t feel so desperate that it’s necessary to steal books, and have a great enough sense of civic duty to make sure they return any book they borrow after they’ve finished with it. That’s also why there is no litter on the streets here, I suppose.


Tintin x Nanoblock

I was in Yurakucho’s new Loft store the other day and I saw these great new Nanoblock sets featuring objects and craft from the Tintin comics. Nanoblock was actually born in America, but has seen some popularity in Japan and they’ve even got special Japanese sets featuring Japanese landmarks such as Tokyo Tower and I think I even saw a Sky Tree. The great thing about these are you can actually build your own miniature versions of whatever you like, so you could for example put together your own Kyoto Kokusai Kaikan. In the Tintin series there are four sets:

The Rocket:

The Shark Sub:

The Unicorn:

Moulinsart Castle:

They were probably released as a result of the recent Tintin movie. I’m liking the rocket, and I think it’d make a good Tokyo Tower if you got bored of it. I was always a big Lego fan growing up, so I might have to pick one of these sets up.


Katsuhiro Otomo / AKIRA Exhibition – Gengaten

For me this must be the exhibition of the century: a 3,000 piece gallery display of the work of Katsuhiro Otomo, creator of the legendary AKIRA manga and, of course, animated adaptation. Also on display will be Kaneda’s famous red bike, and I’ve heard they even let you sit on it! The red jacket is also available, and you can wear it too apparently. Included in the exhibition are ALL of the original pages and drawings that were used to create the whole manga series of books, some 2,300 of them. The exhibition is being held at 3331 Arts Chiyoda which is a gallery converted from a high school located not too far from Akihabara, north of Suehirocho metro station on the Ginza line. It runs until the end of May, so surely this one is not to be missed. It’s probably worth coming from overseas especially to just see this exhibition! All proceeds will go to charities supporting victims of the Tohoku disaster.




Whilst out in Yurakucho I spotted this MUJI Book on sale in their Tokyo flagship store. The book has been released to commemorate MUJI’s 30th anniversary and offers an insight into the history of this unique ‘brand’, covering the products and the philosophy behind them. It also includes input from designers including Naoto Fukasawa, Kenya Hara and Takashi Sugimoto. Lots of great photography and whitespace throughout!



Norwegian Wood Movie

Norwegian Wood Movie

Currently showing in cinemas throughout Japan is the movie adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s literary masterpiece, Norwegian Wood. The story is set in 1960’s Tokyo where the main character, Toru Watanabe, is a university student. In the book he develops relationships with two very different women – Naoko, who suffers from depression and Midori who is lively and outgoing. I read the book shortly after I came to Japan and I remember one of the cover notes read something like:

“Such is the exquisite, gossamer construction of Murakami’s writing that everything he chooses to describe trembles with symbolic possibility.”

The book was brilliant, but I haven’t seen the movie yet. What reviews I have heard seem to rave about it, so those in Japan should make every effort to catch it before it closes. Those outside Japan, watch out for it when it comes to DVD this year.


One of my photographs gets printed on the back cover of the 2011 Hobonichi Brochure!

Hobonichi Brochure

I’m certainly not a professional photographer, so I’m particularly pleased to have one of my photographs printed on the back cover of the new 2011 Hobonichi Techou Brochure! I mentioned the Hobonichi Techo line of personal organisers in a previous post because they’re actually really well designed. It looks like next years collection is going to feature a collaboration with non other than Yoshida & Co.’s Porter bag label. Thanks go to Erica for sending it in – it’s the one on the right with the rainbow in the picture above. Taken back when I used to live in the projects!


Monocle Tote Limited Edition (exclusively for subscribers)

Monocle Tote

Monocle are now offering this limited edition tote bag for every subscriber. It’s made in collaboration with Porter, the legendary Tokyo bag company that readers may remember from a previous post. I personally love the design and everything about it. I haven’t subscribed yet, but I’m seriously considering it. That is, if they ship to Japan.


Monocle x Beams

Monocle x Beams

I love Monocle. So I was interested when I saw this Monocle x Beams collaboration watch while on a shopping spree in Tokyo’s Ginza district on Saturday. I didn’t buy one, but it should be noted that Ginza Beams does a good line in skinny fit jeans.

UPDATE: The pic on the left was shot at the store using my mobile phone.


Haruki Murakami – 1Q84

Murakami 1Q84

Famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s new novel 1Q84 has recently hit the shelves in Japan and has been met with enthusiasm by his hardcore fans and Japanese book-reading public alike. I have to admit, after reading a couple of his novels, I really like his style. There’s something about his writing that seems to draw parallels with Japanese film. Slow, deliberate, vaguely haunting. Of course, this new book is already on the cards for being a best-seller in Japan, and no doubt once we get foreign language translations, it’ll do the same abroad.

The book reportedly features Murakami’s trademark surreal narrative and slides between the stories of two people, a man and a woman, looking for each other. The book deals with themes of love, violence, social issues, emotion and family ties. The title is an intriguing one. Most people say it is either inspired by, or is a homage to, George Orwell’s 1984 as the Japanese title is pronouned ichi-kyuu-hachi-yon (1-9-8-4 in Japanese), or perhaps relates to an event in Murakami’s personal life around that time (Murakami’s books are known for containing semi-autobiographic references).

Regardless of the title, when the English language version goes on sale later this year I’ll have a copy in the front pocket of my Porter at all times, alongside the trusty DSi – staple entertainment for train journeys.


Metropolis Calendar 2009

Metropolis Calendar 2009

I just want to mention the Metropolis Calendar 2009. For those of you in Tokyo, you can get yours now, if you haven’t already. I got mine in January from the tourist information stand in Keisei Ueno Station (the line that you take to get to Narita Airport). The pic that you see above appears on the September spread of the calendar, and was taken by my good friend Trent McBride. Congratulations Trent!


Little Old Bookstore of Kuramae

Little Old Bookstore of Kuramae

I’ve been walking past this place for months and I wanted to take a picture of it. It’s a very small, old bookstore, based in one of the oldest buildings in the area. An old woman clad in kimono tends the shop which is open onto the street. A small oil burner keeps the place from getting too cold in the winter months and if you do go inside you can find piles of books everywhere you look. They all look old or used, and in places the shelves have broken and the rows have collapsed down on one another. I can’t read the books at all, but I like going in and looking at the retro covers with the funny typefaces – much to the bemusement of the woman who watches me from the back. I should buy a load just to use to decorate my bookshelves, you can get one for as cheap as ¥100 (about 70p or $1).


Brrr, this isn’t good.

Brr, this isn't good.

This is what it looks like as you exit Inaricho Sta. at around 5.30am after staying up all night in Shibuya. I’d forgotten I’d taken this picture. I just found it in my camera. The wind is pretty strong in Tokyo at the moment, and it blows into the entrances and exits of the metro stations. As your walking out feeling delicate after not sleeping, or having just woken up after half-an-hour’s sleep on the train, it chills you to the bone. I’ve done a lot of not-sleeping recently, and I’ve also got into the habit of sleeping on trains in the early hours of the morning and riding past my station, out into the suburbs and beyond.


Scion x Shin Tanaka

Scion x Shin Tanaka

The cool Japanese car manufacturer Scion has teamed-up with Giant Robot and Japanese paper artist Shin Tanaka to create these awesome paper models. If you can grab yourself a copy of Giant Robot magazine, you can make one of your own with scissors / scalpel and glue. I’m on the hunt for one!

If any fellow Tokyoites know where we can grab a copy of Giant Robot magazine, let everybody know in the comments thread!