Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


Ginza (part 2)

In part 2 of my post on Ginza I’d like to show there is more to Ginza than beautifully presented stores selling up-market products. Where better to start than with a Ginza institution, Meida-Ya (pics 1 and 2).

Meida-Ya is an up-market grocery store (established in 1885) whose headquarters and flagship store is located in Ginza. Operating under the motto of “The Highest Quality for Everyone Everytime”, the business now operates a network of 12 stores across the Tokyo metropolis and 14 stores elsewhere in Japan, as well as two international stores in Amsterdam and Singapore. A visit to their Ginza store will show adherence to their motto, not to mention the temptation to try some of the goodies on offer.

Despite the dominating impact of the big name brands, there is still room for independent operators to cater to those shoppers looking for individuality and quirkiness. I was quite taken by the two shops shown at pic 3, one catering for a young contemporary market and the other specializing in kimono – the most traditional of Japanese clothing. The birdcage and the coolest umbrella stand (made from a converted violin) (pic 4) draw attention to the store and add further to its individuality.

Those wishing to preserve their credit cards can also find more reasonably priced goods by exploring the quieter side and backstreets, as shown by the small footwear store at pics 5 and 6.

Art galleries are quite numerous in the Ginza area and art lovers could easily spend an interesting day wandering the streets and enjoying the exhibitions on offer. What one finds is naturally dependent on the exhibitions at any given time, though one is likely to find work ranging from jovial Buddhas (pic 8) to antiquities (pic 9). One may even come across some mobile installation art, such as Ugueno (pic 7) parked curbside. I am unsure what the work represents, but I believe it may be an alternative and highly contrasting form of flower arrangement. Whatever the message, it was noticed on the streets of Ginza.

Ginza’s shops and offices support a large workforce, thus creating a demand for bars and restaurants where workers may relax and unwind. Pics 12 to 18 show a sample of the bars and eateries, many of which can be found in Ginza’s quieter streets and laneways.

Walking around Japanese streets, one cannot help but notice the distinctive manhole covers. Rather than cheap, nondescript covers, one frequently comes across eye-catching, decorative covers that enhance the streetscape, such as the cover captured at pic 19. It seems to me that applying this level of attention to such a utilitarian item is yet another way to create pride in local neighbourhoods.

To prove that Ginza is not all gleam and glitter, I have chosen to end this two-part post with pic 20 – a photograph of rubbish awaiting collection. Yes, even Ginza needs to dispose of its rubbish, but as can be seen, it too is very tidy and well organised.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


Cherry Blossoms Everywhere (Kyoto)

Objects that attract admiration and generate excitement are typically those that have a measure of rarity; yet this does not apply to Japan’s cherry blossoms, except in the sense that the season is short. Indeed, in terms of supply, cherry blossom is ubiquitous. They can be found almost everywhere. In public and private spaces; in avenues of serenely subtle colour and as solitary trees lighting up otherwise desolate places; in urban and rural areas; and in meticulously tended gardens or growing untended in their natural habitat.

Wherever they are found, they enhance the space and draw attention to their surroundings. To demonstrate this I have chosen a selection of photographs taken at various Kyoto locations, which contain two common subjects, namely buildings and cherry blossoms.

The first four photographs featuring old buildings are scenes that have doubtless been enjoyed for many seasons. The welcoming view of the Sakura blossoms framed by the temple entrance (pic 1) is an invitation to enter and enjoy an interlude of quiet contemplation. By contrast, the magnificent Sakura highlighted against the classic dark timbers of old Japanese temple buildings (pic 2) stops one in one’s tracks to enjoy the visual feast. Nevertheless, the sight of blossoms through the temple doors then draws one’s attention inwards.

The Hanami scene (pic 3) is another example of a beautiful Sakura tree, framed in this instance by the structure of the Sanmon Gate, itself the subject of an earlier post (January 27, 2014) where this photograph was previously shown. Completing the sequence of sakura and older buildings is Renge-ji (pic 4), a small temple admired for its gardens and where the Buddha statues appear to be savouring the visual feast within which they reside.

I am unsure as to the history of the old industrial building (pic 5) located near the Keage Incline – a favoured Hanami spot in Kyoto. The building’s proximity suggests it may have been part of the infrastructure for the Lake Biwa canal network, though every time I passed I couldn’t help but imagine a future life as modern loft-style apartments. Residents would wake to a wonderful view at this time of year.

Pics 6 and 7 show a wide and closer shot of Sakura trees lining the canal running alongside Kyoto’s International Exhibition Hall, where the modern architecture and the timeless Sakura coexist harmoniously in yet another example of Japan’s ability to blend the old with the new.

Following is a series of five shots (pics 8 to 12) of private residences alongside the Philosopher’s Path – another popular Hanami location, as well as a pleasant walk at any time. The Sakura show an ability to enhance various architectural styles and building materials, such as timber, corrugated metal and masonry.

This ability to enhance is further shown at pics 13 and 14, where older style buildings are lifted by the neighbouring presence of cherry blossoms in bloom. Finally, at pic 15, a contemporary apartment building is similarly lifted, suggesting that whatever direction future building developments take, there will always be a place for the ubiquitous and inspiring Sakura.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)