Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


Looking for Old Tokyo – Asakusa

If one is looking for old Tokyo, one must visit Asakusa given that it is seen to be the centre of Tokyo’s shitamachi (low city) districts. Whilst this post focuses on showing examples of old Tokyo, I should say that my visits to Asakusa were not strictly for this reason and I will post photographs offering other glimpses of Asakusa at a later time.

If I had to select one image that says “old Tokyo” from this and previous posts in this series, I would select the delightful old house shown at pic 1. Coming across this old place was as if one had stepped back in time and one hopes that buildings such as this will survive for many years to come, thus giving us a glimpse and a sense of what old Tokyo was like. However, when one considers that the house is within a fifteen to twenty minutes walk of Tokyo Skytree, perhaps all we can do is hope.

One may imagine that in times past the residents of the house would have patronised nearby shops such as those featured in pics 2 to 6, whose quintessential charm continues to be relevant today. Each of these stores has a story to tell that is, in turn, woven into Asakusa’s story.

Other examples of old Tokyo can be found (pics 7 to 12) by walking the streets, where the old and new exist side by side such as in pics 11 and 12. For the most part I found the blending of old and new to be quite aesthetically pleasing, perhaps due (as in pic 12) to the design similarities carried over into the new buildings.

Memories too are created among the old buildings as in pic 8, where a teacher can be seen setting up his camera before rushing back to join his students for a photographic memory of their trip to Asakusa. Who knows what will become of these buildings, especially when the average life of buildings in Japan is said to be in the order of twenty years. Nevertheless, whatever they become, these students have a memory of how it once appeared.

It would be remiss not to include a photograph of Senso-ji (pic 13), Asakusa’s major attraction and Tokyo’s oldest temple, which dates back to the seventh century and will be the subject of a future post.

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


Looking for Old Tokyo – Mukojima

Mukojima adjoins Kyojima and was, therefore, a logical area to look for examples of old Tokyo. Located on the east side of the Sumida River, Mukojima was fortunate during the 1945 bombings to avoid the extent of devastation experienced elsewhere. Whilst this has resulted in well-preserved shitamachi (low town) zones, there is also much evidence of an area in transition as new developments have followed the opening of the nearby Tokyo Skytree in 2012.

There was a second agenda to my walk through Kiyojima and that was to find geisha, given that Mukojima is one of the few areas in Tokyo where real geisha train and work. I could have joined an organised tour and been guaranteed success, but I much preferred to simply wander and trust in luck and instinct. As can be seen from pics 11 to 14, the mission was accomplished.

After wandering the streets for some time I came across an area that just felt right and decided to wait on a corner and play “paparazzi”. Well, after a short time I heard the familiar clip clopping sound of footsteps and the jangling associated with the hair ornamentation worn by trainee geisha on their way to engagements. A short while later an older woman came by (pic 14) carrying her shamisen, a stringed instrument used to accompany geisha during performances.

This post marks my 50th post and although it has taken longer than I had expected, I would like to thank those people who follow, read and comment on my blog. Your participation is most appreciated and I hope you will continue to find the blog interesting.

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