Want to see what’s going on in Tokyo right this very minute? Here’s a selection of some of the best live webcams. All of the cameras are running in real time (none of that “updates every ten seconds” nonsense), and you can control them yourself. Just click on the images below and away you go.
Now, you may think that people only use umbrellas when it’s raining. You would be wrong. In Tokyo it is now perfectly acceptable to use them at the merest whiff of the wet stuff. This has lead to the phenomenon of Mass Umbrellaism, where large groups of people open umbrellas before exiting train stations, supermarkets and shopping centres.
Scientists believe that many Tokyoites – sucked in to the alternate realities that mobile phones and Nintendo DSs provide – are so distrustful of their real-life surroundings that they cannot rely on their own senses: they may be drier than a Martini in the Gobi desert but if the weather forecast says it’s raining, then it must be raining.
Tokyo’s top three Mass Umbrella hotspots:
1. Shinjuku Station’s South Exit
2. Ichigaya Station, Chiyoda
3. Hankyu/Seibu department stores, Ginza
Well, that might be overstating it somewhat, but I was interested to see that design agency Atkins has revamped Oxford Circus with a very Shibuya-esque spin. Now all that’s needed is people. Lots of people:
I went to Shibuya and Harajuku yesterday for some shopping and a bite to eat. Google Japan were doing one of their “Things you can do with Google” promotions (“Googleで、できること”), which I’d heard about at Danny’s Tuesday night dinner (more stuff about this from Ken and W+K). The sign says “Fly in the sky in Shibuya”:
There were a set number of tickets available throughout the day for people who wanted to take part. There was no shortage of balloons:
Here some staff members were preparing to attach the first flyer of the afternoon to the balloons:
By this time lots of people had gathered round to see what was going on. The first flyer – a girl in her early twenties – was helmeted and attached to the balloons by several sturdy-looking ropes. Finally, after quite literally minutes of anticipation, the girl was released:
Well… that wasn’t quite what the crowd were expecting, although the girl did seem to enjoy herself. So did this chap:
It’s a short walk from Shibuya to Omotesando: one of Tokyo’s poshest streets:
This is the interior of Omtesando Hills, which was opened in 2005 and designed by Tadao Ando. The shops are eye-bleedingly expensive:
Omotesando Crossing is where Meiji-dori and Omotesando meet. It’s always busy around here:
Roadworks along Meiji-dori. I like the illuminated traffic cones. They would serve as a fantastic addition to any university student’s bedroom:
This is the exterior of Uniqlo’s special UT store, which is a short walk towards Shibuya from Omotesando Crossing:
As you can see, Uniqlo now sell Japanese women in conveniently-sized plastic containers, and at very reasonable prices:
Oh, so they’re just t-shirts then. How disappointing:
Part three of our “Is Japan Expensive?” series looks at clothing. For most newcomers to Japan who don’t speak the lingo the most likely line of employment will be as an English teacher or assistant, usually with one of the big “Eikaiwas” like Aeon, or through the government-sponsored JET programme. When you leave your home country you’ll have to fit all your worldly belongings in one large suitcase, and of course things can – and do – go missing. There is also the Japanese summer to contend with: 36 degree heat and 100% humidity will leave your once pristine shirts with horrible yellow stains around the armpit area, and thanks to the uselessness of most washing machines here (cold water only!) you’ll find them impossible to completely remove.
Basically, you’re going to need some new clothes.
For this week’s comparisons I’ve chosen either identical items of clothing or similar clothing from similar shops. I’ve only picked three items because, to be honest with you, the list could have gone on forever!
As you can see, all items are cheaper when purchased in Japan. The Diesel jeans might be something of an exception, as Diesel stores in Japan seem to sell jeans for a significantly higher price than rakuten.com does (¥30,000 plus). Is this the same for the UK as well?
The polo shirt from Uniqlo is likely to be of a lower quality than its Marks & Spencer counterpart (probably a cotton/nylon mix), hence the much lower price. I highly recommend Uniqlo for basics (vests, underwear, etc) because it’s so cheap. They also have a spiffing t-shirt campaign running at the moment called UT, which has an equally spiffing website (take a look!). There are some limited-edition Metal Gear Solid 4 tees for sale at the moment (see here).
For work clothes, such as shirts and suits, Japan – or at least its main cities – provide an incredible range of shops to choose from. The Suit Company sells affordable clothing for 20-somethings who don’t wish to break the bank. One of the best features of The Suit Company is the variety of shirt sizes they offer, especially in sleeve length: compared with the average Japanese customer I have very long arms – very much like a shaved orang-utan – which has resulted in one or two disastrous purchases in the past.
In conclusion, if you’re of average height, and are not overweight, you will probably have little trouble buying clothes in Japan. Big feet can be a problem, however. Shoe shops usually stock sizes up to 28cm, which is a UK size 9. They do have sizes bigger than this, so you don’t have to wander around barefoot or anything, it’s just that your choice of shoes/trainers will be a bit more limited.
For shoes and trainers, ABC Mart is a good place to start, and if you’re a real trainer fanatic I strongly recommend exploring the streets of Shibuya (throw the map away – exploring is more interesting without one!).
Next week we’ll be looking at the biggest expense of them all: housing and rent.
(Prices calculated using 26th June’s exchange rate: #1 = 212.94)
…it’s Tokyo Tower, innit? I finally went here on Sunday, after living in Tokyo for two and a half years (I’m quite sure it will take me another 5 years to climb Mount Fuji). Apparently it’s 9 metres taller than its French counterpart but is less than half the weight. I was expecting the observatory floor to be at the very top, but in fact it’s located around half-way up the tower. Still, even at that height, and thanks to the fact that the surrounding buildings are fairly low, I could see all of central Tokyo. It’s an absolutely amazing skyline come night-time, in fact the only time Tokyo looks truly beautiful is when the stars come out and the neon lights are switched on.
Hachiko Crossing is just outside Shibuya station. Shibuya station is the third busiest in Tokyo – after Shinjuku and Ikebukuro stations – which makes it also the third busiest station in the world, handling 2.4 million passengers each day. To put that into perspective, imagine the entire population of Birmingham using the same train station over the course of a single day. Imagine that, then add another 1.4 million people.
For the past eighteen months I’ve had to ride a Shibuya-bound rush hour train to get to work each morning which, as you can imagine, is bags of fun. From next week I’ll be working in a different area of Tokyo. The good news is my new office is slap-bang in the centre of the city, the bad news is I have to pass through Shinjuku station in order to get there. Shinjuku station is hell on earth during rush hour, thankfully I don’t have to actually get off and change trains, but will no doubt be squashed against the windows like some kind of giant bluebottle when the suited masses jump on board.
Oh, and the Starbucks Coffee shop you can see in that photo happens to be the busiest cafe in the world (Wikipedia is proving very useful today). It’s also about ¥50 more expensive than other Starbucks stores, which you can find absolutely everywhere in Tokyo these days. It makes you wonder what people did before Starbucks appeared. They probably hung around on street corners, drinking cans of “Strongbow” and sniffing marker pens.
P.S. Thanks to everyone who sent us Christmas cards and prezzies this year. So far the ones we have received have survived the journey in one piece!