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.
I spotted this piece of street art by French artist Invader whilst I was out for a walk down Cat Street in Omotesando (if you’ve never been down there before it’s well worth a look with its custom made bicycle shop and good non-luxury brand fashion stores). Invader basically puts up these mosaics featuring retro video game sprites, particularly those from space shooters but he’s also done Pac-Man ghosts. I like his stuff and it’s not particularly common to see it so I thought I’d post this up for us all to enjoy, although nothing beats the real thing when you come across one or happen to notice it. That’s the great thing about good street art in my opinion: you never know when you’re going to come across one and when you do half of the satisfaction comes from finding it and half from knowing its origin. Invader has stuff in cities all over the world including Paris, London, L.A. and probably many others and you can see him at work in Banksy’s mockumentary Exit Through The Gift Shop.
I was out in Yanaka the other day with the intention of going to SCAI The Bathhouse (which was closed again – looks like I missed the recent exhibition although I’m sure it was listed as open on TAB), but this time I came from the main street, Kototoi Dori, instead of through the backstreets where the shrines and temples are, and to make up for my disappointment at not being able to go into the gallery I discovered this great cafe on the corner. I’m sure many of the people who have been to SCAI The Bathhouse are aware of this little gem, although if you don’t pay attention you could dismiss it as just another old style Japanese kissaten. From the outside this what it looks like. Apparently it’s been in business since 1938, but it has recently had new life breathed into it by Yuko Nagayama & Associates architectural firm who have been responsible for the mix of modern and retro inside.
The staff are young and fashionable and the coffee is really good. The homemade cake isn’t bad either, you can get both as a set for about ¥800 as of writing. It seems like a lot of cafe lovers come here to smoke cigarettes and read books while enjoying the atmosphere. The whole building shakes when heavy vehicles pass by and the furniture is just a shade too small for those of us over 6ft, but you put up with that to enjoy what for me is one of the best cafes I’ve been to in Tokyo so far. There are a stack of them in Omotesando, but isn’t that where everybody else goes? I’m taking my laptop next time and I’m going to make the most of my free refills.
Just a quick Japanese television commercial post as I’ve been loving this one just recently. Done in the style of a retro action TV series opening montage, it features Japanese women’s wrestling star Saori Yoshida as all 3 members of the Alsok Security Squadron! It may seem trivial to most, but this is one of the reasons I live in Japan. This style of advertising for a mainstream service like home security blows my mind!
Like any traveler, I love stumbling across relics from a bygone age, so I couldn’t help but take a picture of this Sony battery vending machine when I came across it on the street in Tokyo. It’s the only one I’ve seen of these, but there are lots of other examples of slightly antiquated technology dotted around the city and lots of bizarre vending machines besides. From looking at it, I would say it rarely gets used, if ever, but only stands now as a monument to a time when people’s need for batteries was at its highest in the 80’s or 90’s. I really like the multicoloured stripes on it.
In a similar move to the stricken Swiss national carrier back in 2001/2002, when they appointed media maverick Tyler Brûlé and his company Winkreative to reposition the brand, the similarly stricken JAL has also sought to bring back the glory days by reintroducing their original logo; the red crane on white. The crane is a symbol of Japan, and in the logo is found melded into the red-circle-rising-sun of the national flag. As well as inspiring national pride it also has the retro appeal that worked for Swiss. I’m all for it personally and can’t wait to see the first repainted 767’s on the tarmac in Narita airport appearing through April. I’m on my way back to the UK around that time with any luck so I’ll be passing through the airport then and will try to get some pictures.
The TiltShift Generator iPhone app by Takayuki Fukatsu is part of his popular Toy Camera series. Since moving to my new neighbourhood, I haven’t posted a picture of it as I usually do – so here is the view from my balcony (above) given the TiltShift treatment. Those not familiar with tilt-shift photography can get a definition from Wikipedia here, but the technique produces a picture that simulates a scene in miniature. For those interested in taking tilt-shift pictures themselves there’s the app mentioned in this post as well as another app by Michael Krause simply called TiltShift. The Michael Krause version arguably has more features, but I prefer the Takayuki Fukatsu one which also happens to have a better icon (very important!).
The mighty indy game devs Pixeljam, those who brought you Dino Run and Gamma Bros., are back with a new website, new games and some forthcoming project news. You can already experience the hilarious Cream Wolf and Mountain Maniac as well as some other new offerings, but check out Glorkian Warrior, currently under development.
I’m a little upset about this, because I just got back from a visit to the UK, and it looks like I’m going to miss Micro Men, the new BBC Four drama series telling the story of the life and inventions of the legendary ZX Spectrum creator, Sir Clive Sinclair. I had a ZX Spectrum 128k when I was a kid (that was to be my second computer, the Oric 1 was my first) and it was important in cultivating my love for electronics. I also know that Clive Sinclair was an erratic megalomaniac and genius, so with all the retro technological geekery piled on, this looks set to be an unmissable show.
UPDATE: Maybe you can watch it in BBC’s iPlayer (only supposed to be available to people in the UK) if you’re a wizzkid.
There’s a new Tron movie coming out from Disney Pictures and I can’t wait to see it. It’s going to be released at ‘selected cinemas’ – which probably means iMax. Whatever, I want to see it, not least because Jeff Bridges is back, but also because the bikes are back. Check out this teaser scene. My only gripe so far is that the bikes don’t turn at right angles any more and the filmmakers missed out on a golden opportunity to bring together modern special effects and a retro aesthetic. Instead, it’s all smooth and shiny and reflective with no repeated geometric patterns to mention. Via Motionographer
Looking from the window of the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line subway train on my daily commute to work I noticed this gloriously dated mural in Suehirochou station (which will spit you out in Akihabara, electric town should you take the main exit onto the street). I had to step off the train and get a picture of this retro masterpiece (above).
Yes, Uniqlo’s retro game T-shirts have been out for a while but the preliminary selection didn’t contain anything I really wanted to buy. When I heard they were coming out, I decided I might get the Galaxian one, but the design wasn’t so great I thought. Nostalgic T-shirt lovers now have a load more to choose from though, in the form of Uniqlo’s second wave of game tees. If I could just direct your attention to the Hadouken long sleeve, and, see that Metallica inspired number? Ghosts and Goblins! (The print says ‘Makaimura’, which means demon world village as the Japanese title for the game.) Thank you Uniqlo, and thank you Japan! If you want one of these, let me know in the comments thread. I just might run a few on eBay for those not lucky enough to get to a Japanese Uniqlo store anytime soon.
There’s a special place in my heart for the old Macs – I used to use Apple computers throughout university, back in 1996, and the boxes were still beige and the logo multi-coloured even then. Well, Macs have come a long way since, but the retro Apple look is ever popular – so one enthusiast (or team of enthusiasts, I’m not sure) has created this! It looks antiquated but it’s running Mac OS X Tiger! That must have been tricky.
When I was in England over Christmas, I saw some old photographs that reminded me of a computer my parents bought me when I was younger. It was the mid to late 80’s and I was probably around 9 or 10 years old when I got my first computer, this Oric 1 you can see above the text. Compared to all the breeze-block fashioned personal computers of the time, I think this was a design icon. Smaller and thinner than its counterparts and packing the same sound card as the one found in the Atari ST.
The computer used to be kept on a drawer that slid out from the video cabinet beneath the TV. In order to use it you had to squat or kneel in front of it. I used to play Hunchback or Zorgon’s Revenge when no-one was using the TV, or try to program it by guessing at the syntax. Zorgon’s Revenge used to give me the creeps in much the same way as Quo Vadis and Jet Set Willy. The games themselves were very surreal, and when you mixed this with the garish graphics and garbled, contorted sound there was something disturbing about it. A bit like the old Vectrex at my nan’s house.
I experimented with many of the early personal computers during the 80’s. My friends all had a different one: an Acorn Electron, a VIC 20, an Acorn BBC, a Dragon 64, an Amstrad, Commodore 64. They all sucked, but without them I probably wouldn’t be where I am now, so I have a right to be sentimental.
I’ve been using this retro flip style clock for my Mac recently. You can get yourself one over at 9031.com. I’m liking their retro site with the floppies etc. To install (if you use Mac), drag the .saver file out of the disk image and directly into the screen saver pref pane.
It’s certainly very useful to be shown what time it is full-screen whenever you’re not using your computer, but I’m still looking for a screensaver that just says the words “GO TO BED”.