Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2014

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Asakusa Culture & Tourism Center

This year will see the completion of a really interesting new piece of architecture in one of the old parts of Tokyo, Asakusa. Built in so-called shitamachi (downtown), and coinciding with something of an injection of life into the area due to its completion at roughly the same time as Tokyo Sky Tree due open this may, the Asakusa Culture & Tourism Center starkly contrasts its surroundings with its modern, glassy facade and unconventional form.

It’s designed by Kengo Kuma and as you can see from the picture is made up of seven individual units stacked on top of each other. It sits directly opposite Asakusa’s most famous tourist attraction, Kaminarimon which leads through to Nakamise Dori and eventually Sensouji Temple. The building will be built on the site of what was the original Asakusa Culture & Tourism Center fronted by the Karakuri-dokei, an extremely kitsch mechanised clock from which animatronic figures would pop out on the hour like a nightmarish cuckoo clock. Obviously a big improvement, but I’ll still miss it anyway.

Such is the way of things in Tokyo. Old buildings disappear and new ones spring up in their place. It was only last year Kabukiza was demolished to make way for its modernised replacement. There are in fact a handful of new architectural projects taking place all around the city which I’ll try to post on if I get chance.


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.