Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2018

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In The Glitter

This is the movie I made to celebrate the millions of neon lights in Tokyo. In Tokyo you can’t see the stars at night due to light pollution, but that’s OK, the Japanese made their own constellations. Next time you’re in Tokyo at night, remember to look up!


iPhone Castlevania Encore of the Night

iPhone Castlevania Encore of the Night

If you’ve played the original PS1 version of this game, you have to get this iPhone version! It’s based on the cult Konami classic Castlevania – Symphony of the Night, famous for its musical score (hence the title). This new iPhone version is actually a puzzle-based RPG, unlike the original which was an action RPG platform game, but it still retains the original music! I was going to play this game whilst travelling on the Tokyo Metro, but I ended up playing it at every opportunity, as should you.
Download Castlevania Encore of the Night from the App Store


Happy New Year 2010!

Tokyo from Mori Tower

It’s the end of a decade and as you can probably tell, I’m in Tokyo. I saw in the new year on the top floor of the Mori building in Tokyo, at a party that featured DJs from United Future Organization and Kyoto Jazz Massive but I couldn’t tell you for sure if I caught the performances of either one. It was mayhem and the place was absolutely huge. You couldn’t miss however, the stunning panoramic views of the city and the famous Tokyo Tower. The night was not so cold and crystal clear and it was a good chance to remind myself just how massive Tokyo actually is. In this new year I’m going to try to see much more of it, projects allowing. At the turn of midnight, Tokyo tower lit up in white displaying ‘2010’.

Tokyo Tower 2010

Having cleared my head after the actual event, it was then time to participate in the traditional practice of ‘Hatsumode’, where people visit shrines and temples to pray for good fortune and purchase religious trinkets and lucky charms. I got myself an all-purpose talisman and threw some coins in offering and of course prayed in front of the shrine. In order to do this I had to wait for 2 hours, but I was able to watch a documentary about the shrine (Meiji Jingu near Harajuku) on a huge TV screen to kill the time as we all shuffled slowly up the approach.

Meiji Jingu Hatsumode

And then all that was left to do was to file back out and get back on the train, but not before sampling some of the festival fare on offer at the many traditional food stands lining the route. I ate buttered potato to try to warm up enough to make it as far as Yoyogi station. I feel very positive about this year – it was definitely a good thing to be here in Japan for the transition as I plan to be here for the foreseeable future, but I’ve got a lot of work to do this year if I want to achieve my goals. What they are exactly are only known to me and the Deities at Meiji Jingu.

Leaving Meiji Jingu

Happy New Year, and good luck in 2010.


Merry Christmas 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Today is Christmas Day, and this year I’m spending it in Japan. This morning I watched Tom & Jerry’s The Night Before Christmas and Disney’s A Christmas Carol while eating one of the two Christmas cakes from the fridge, played the fresh copy of Super Mario Bros. Wii for an hour, then went to Tokyo Midtown for the illuminations and the Christmas market. The picture you can see at the top of this post was taken there. I’m about to have dinner, but unfortunately it won’t include roast turkey this year. That’s OK, it’s been a pretty good day!

Merry Christmas and a prosperous and productive New Year from Tokyo Story!


Tokyo Tiger Bear Bombing

Tokyo Tiger Bear Bombing

Whilst walking home the other night, I spotted this original piece of ‘bombing’. Someone had used marker pen to customize a small bear toy and left it on top of a crossing junction box. Underneath that was their tag, I’m guessing. I was lucky to notice it, I usually wouldn’t after working all day.

NOTE: The poor quality is due to the mobile phone camera I used to take the shot.


View From the Balcony: Kotobuki, Kuramae

Kotobuki, Kuramae

Here’s how it looks when I stand on my balcony (at night), in my new neighbourhood of Kotobuki. I’ve only had chance to have a short look around, but already I can tell this area is going to be so much better than Shinagawa (which I can’t recommend at all; too boring and no atmosphere). Already I’ve found an old paper merchant, a german beer bar, a small shrine nestled between old buildings, and a retro camera shop, and that’s just on my street! A little farther afield, and you’ve got a traditional Japanese toy shop, an incredibly old-looking bookstore, and lots of shops specialising in the model robot kits you can get over here. There are several toy companies on my street, and you can see the Bandai headquarters from my balcony, so it would seem, unbeknown to me, that I’ve moved into the area of Tokyo specialising in toys. Christmas shopping is going to be much easier, but I’ll have to take less clothes with me when I return to the UK for the holidays. I fly back to Japan on New Year’s Day. I thought it would be a nice idea to be sipping champagne at 30,000ft on a Virgin Atlantic flight to Tokyo on the first day of 2009. Time will tell if I’m right or not, got to watch I don’t get into too much of a mess welcoming in the new year.


The 5 O’clock Chimes of Takanawa

The 5 O’clock Chimes of Takanawa from Stephen Smith on Vimeo.

I shot this footage from the balcony of my apartment so I could capture the strange music I’ve been hearing every evening at 5 o’clock. When I’ve been walking in my neighbourhood, I’ve been looking up under the eaves of public buildings and at the pylons and powerlines, trying to work out where it comes from, but I can’t find the source. So everyday at the same time, you get this haunting melody drifting through the cold night air. Today it chimes out my last evening in the neighbourhood of Takanawa, Shinagawa before I move on to Kuramae near Asakusa tomorrow.


Unreported Parallels of Lupin III and Castlevania SOTN

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

Unreported Parallels of Lupin III and Castlevania SOTN

Last night I finally got around to watching perhaps the only film by Hayao Miyazaki I haven’t seen: Lupin III, Castle of Cagliostro. Whilst I was watching it I found lots of similarities to the amazing PSX game by IGA and his team at KCET, ‘Castlevania: The Symphony of the Night’.

Both my heroes in their own right, Miyazaki and IGA seem to have cross-pollenated. Seeing as the anime film was made in 1979 and the castlevania game in 1997, it’s obvious who borrowed from who.

The first of the similarities I noticed was the Castle of Cagliostro itself. It looks almost identical to the castle in the opening sequence of the Castlevania game, especially the tall tower with the connecting bridge and the four turrets on it’s corners. I thought this was likely to be a coincidence, but then later the film culminated in a scene where a gold and silver ring had to be taken to a clock tower in order for a secret passageway to a hidden treasure to be revealed.

This exact scenario takes place in the Castlevania game also! Both clocks also feature a goat’s head and strike 13 when the rings are used to activate the mechanism. In both the film and the game the hands of the clock come into alignment when the rings are used (in the film the Count of Cagliostro is crushed between the hour and the minute hands).

Just an interesting little known fact, I thought. I Googled it, but couldn’t find any articles about it on the web. If anyone else knows of any other similarities, please put them in the thread.


The Last Train from Shinjuku

The Last Train from Shinjuku

This shot was taken as we pulled out of Shinjuku station at 12.39 on Saturday night. As you can see, it’s sea of suits, and as the train lurches they slosh up against the sides of the train and you get caught in the current. Suprisingly, it’s not annoying at all. It’s pretty hilarious, actually. The train is so ridiculously full that you can’t help but laugh (and take pictures).


In My Beautiful Neighbourhood

In My Beautiful Neighbourhood

This is just around the corner from me, and I’m always up here lately. Here it is, well lit up at night, Ueno near Okachimachi.


Tokyo Night Driving

Tokyo Night Driving

I only ever thought I would travel through Tokyo on the subway, rarely by Taxi as it’s too expensive. I would never buy a car to use in Tokyo, because there’s no point for me. Now, having travelled out of, and back into, and through Tokyo in a car, I think it’s the best way to travel through the city in terms of getting a grip on the geography, and seeing some cool urban landscapes. It was a beautiful spring evening the other day, and then at sunset we were just coming back into Central Tokyo and ended up speeding through the streets as the lights were starting to come on, and the neon started to appear.