Prowling my world, camera in hand

14 December 2010

Week 49: Tokyo

Filed under: — Administrator @ 08:28

The three main trademark offices in the rich world are EU’s OHIM (where I work), the US Patent and Trademark Office, and the Japan Patent Office. Together, the three offices form something called the Trademark Trilateral, and they meet once a year in a formal setting, taking turns to host the meeting. This year it was JPO’s turn, and so last week I found myself in Tokyo together with 5-6 colleagues. We spent three full days in meetings, Tuesday through Thursday, and I stayed in Tokyo until Sunday. This was my second visit to Tokyo, so I had decided to skip some of the standard tourist sites like the Meiji shrine and the Imperial Palace and instead try to get a feel for the city by spending time in both the glamourous and less glamourous neighbourhoods. This is an initial selection of mainly people pictures and small details, arranged chronologically and covering the period from Sunday 5th December through Friday the 10th.

I rarely take pictures from airplanes. But the plane that took me from Munich to Tokyo had unusually clean and scratch-free windows, and the views of the desolate landscape of the north-eastern corner of Russia were simply amazing. This is truly the edge of the world:


Alternate 1
At the hotel in Tokyo, arrows indicate where to step when entering the revolving door. Japan is a place where nothing is left to chance:

Alternate 2
After arriving in late afternoon, I took a shower and headed out for a walk. Our hotel was on the edge of Roppongi, a rather posh neighbourhood of office buildings, embassies, and of course shops, bars and restaurants. Outside a pet shop:

Alternate 3
Christmas decorations outside the Tokyo Midtown shopping centre. Christmas is a big deal in Japan, and in a refreshingly honest way. Since few Japanese are Christian, there is no religious content whatsoever. It is all about the commercial aspects, pure and simple:

Alternate 4
Tuesday morning I took a walk around the hotel. Our hosts were nice enough to start the meetings at 10 a.m., so there was ample time for morning walks. I was surprised by the relatively high number of bicycles in Tokyo despite the absence of bike paths. Most cyclists use the sidewalk, but this guy was simply braving the morning traffic:

Alternate 5
Tokyo is a crowded city, and so the vegetation there is, is looked after and appreciated. The trees have information signs, like in a botanical garden:

Alternate 6
A miniature garden next to a busy road. Ark Hills is the name of the nearby hotel and office complex:

Alternate 7
Two workers take a nap in their lorry:

Alternate 8
Next to the hotel there was a small supermarket where I bought riceballs wrapped in nori and soft drinks. I looked around, of course, and was struck by the high prices of fruit:

Alternate 9
This was the view from my hotel room:

Alternate 10
Japan is one of the world’s most advanced countries, and high tech is everywhere, in many ways. I was impressed by a nice feature of my hotel room. There was a heater in the bathroom mirror so that an area of about one square metre was free of steam immediately after exiting the shower. No need to wipe the mirror etc. before starting to shave:

Alternate 11
Another thing we noted about Tokyo, especially in comparison with other big Asian cities, was how clean the air was. On Wednesday morning we could see Mount Fuji between the skyscrapers from the 16th floor of the Japan Patent Office:

Alternate 12
The ground is also clean. Although many people smoke, the pavement is almost 100% free of cigarette butts:

Alternate 13
Thursday evening we went to Ginza to look at the shops and glitter. I avoided entering the department stores, focusing on the people in the street instead:

Alternate 14
A Christmas Cupid lurks on a Ginza street corner. The Japanese mix and match various aspects of Western and their own culture to create something unique, albeit kitschy at times (but in a nice way):

Alternate 15
Another ingenious Tokyo device. To park, you put your car on an oversized “lazy Susan”, it rotates 90 degrees and you can drive into the parking garage:

Alternate 16
Inside a bar in Ginza where I enjoyed a nice selection of Belgian beer and some nice girls sitting nearby:

Alternate 17
A rather scandalously dressed woman (my daughter’s words, not mine!) spotted in a Roppongi supermarket:

Alternate 18
An underground walkway in the Roppongi-itchome metro station. This was taken Friday morning, at which point the meetings were over and I was free to explore the city during the next two days:

Alternate 19
I started the day in Asakusa, site of the famous Sensoji shrine, but also full of delightful small streets, shops and restaurants. Photography is popular in Japan, people are photographing each other all over the place:

Alternate 20
Another photographer in Asakusa. No effort was spared to get just the right angle:

Alternate 21
The main street leading to the shrine is full of shops and restaurants and very crowded, but just a few metres away is a parallel street where one can see peaceful scenes like this:

Alternate 22
Kitty come home:

Alternate 23
This is the cold and flu season, and face masks were everywhere:

Alternate 24
Another street in Asakusa. A group of young people were walking up and down the street, singing and chanting in a manner similar to the Hare Krishna folks, but I never found out whether they were some kind of sect, or whether they were just out having fun. I suspect the latter:

Alternate 25
During the meetings, we had our lunches and dinners at posh places, courtesy our hosts. Now that I was on my own, I preferred to go to the kind of places where ordinary people ate:

Alternate 26
This very generous, delicious and inexpensive lunch kept me going for several hours:

Alternate 27
Another Tokyo cyclist. Note the cigarette:

Alternate 28
Later that afternoon, I went to the huge BIC camera store in Shinjuku. An incredible place, much bigger than B&H in New York, but sadly the prices were much higher too. So I looked around without buying anything:

Alternate 29
I finished Friday in Shibuya, the entertainment district, especially for young people. The weather was good, and there was lots of street life–some of it commercially oriented:

Alternate 30
I went for dinner at a restaurant where every dish was 270 Yen (or 284 Yen with tax, still very cheap). Here another technological convenience is visible–ordering is done using the touch pad at the table, so no need to wait for a waiter to come by to check if you need anything. You just put in your order, confirm, and a few minutes later it appears at your table. I greedily ate four dishes, washed down with 3 beers and a large glass of plum brandy at the end, and still spent less than 22 Euro:

Alternate 31
Young girls in Shibuya go for the “cute” look:

Alternate 32
Shibuya in the evening made me think of a Friday night scene at an English town centre. But here nobody was throwing up and there was no undercurrent of violence:

Alternate 33
Finally, just before descending to the metro to go back to my hotel, I saw this girl waiting for someone:


  1. Hi Nathan

    You captured everything I remember of Japan and Roppongi – but it appears you missed
    the jazz joints or will they be issued in the next release ?

    Thanks for sharing pictures of one of my favorite destinations – Japan

    Comment by Joseph Low — 14 December 2010 @ 09:44

  2. A very nice week, inspiredly captured as always. The lurkin cupid and the Asakusa photog are my favourites.

    Comment by Deed — 14 December 2010 @ 22:09

  3. Hello Nathan. Thank you for sharing your pictures of Tokyo with us ! Lucky you ! 🙂 This is a city I would really love to visit
    one day! And with these wonderful pics you just strenghthen my idea. 🙂 Cheers

    Comment by Maria — 20 December 2010 @ 08:18

  4. great photos Nathan. Thanks for sharing them. Domo rigato 🙂

    Comment by Dan — 23 December 2010 @ 13:58

  5. Hey Nathan…Christmas Cupid…great seeing!!!


    Comment by Montie — 12 January 2011 @ 04:54

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress