Tokyo, My Cut

Our photographer exposes the energy of Tokyo's street life—neon, anime, jagged architecture—as well as its quieter moments and whimsy.

By , Thursday, Nov 20, 2008, 11:02 AM

About the photographer
Originally from New York, Jun Takagi studied photography at the Rhode Island School of Design and now lives in Tokyo (though he claims, "I'll always be a New Yorker"). His photographs have been published in travel, food, and news publications; find out more at juntakagi.com.


Photo captions
1 I love that you can go to the beach, get a suntan, and even windsurf at Odaiba Seaside Park, not far from the high-rises and department stores of Ginza. Photo

2 An impeccably dressed Kabuki actress sizes up the competition. This almost 120-year-old Kabuki-za (theater) is to be rebuilt fairly soon. Earthquake safety standards were a little less stringent back then. Photo

3 The sphere observatory of the Fuji TV building in Odaiba—ideal for a super-villain's futuristic lair. Photo

4 The Imperial Palace, right in the middle of Tokyo. Like the royal family, it retains a low-key and timeless presence. Photo

5 Akihabara, where otaku ("fans," and sometimes "fanatics") hang out. In this neighborhood, cute young characters in sailor-type schoolgirl uniforms—possessing super powers, ray guns, and eyes larger than billiard balls—hold sway over nerdy young men. But not this guy. Photo

6 Sometimes, you just want an authentic, scene-free meal. This is a good bet: a bunch of skinny restaurants crammed together in a few alleys on the north side of west Shinjuku. Photo

7 I snapped a shot of these old friends taking a break in one of the alcoves of the Senso-ji temple gates, an ever more familiar scene as Japan's population grays. Photo

8 In ancient times, this statue of Raijin, the god of thunder, must have been a truly frightening sight to pilgrims at the Senso-ji temple. Now his fierce gaze guards a long line of gift shops. Photo

9 A solemn moment of prayer apart from the tourist crowds. I enjoy the quieter moments at the Senso-ji temple and the surrounding shitamachi (old town) of Asakusa. Photo

10 I'm partial to a little romance, and the Rainbow Bridge is one of the few Tokyo sights that always gets me. Photo

11 Miru dake desu (just looking). Photo

12 Every time I see this Louise Bourgeois spider at the Roppongi Hills complex, I wonder what they were thinking. The owner, building tycoon Minoru Mori, is famous for developing a wide web of buildings throughout Tokyo. The piece seems a little symbolically creepy here.... Photo

13 On the left is Akibanana (a banana cake's pink-haired mascot), and on the right is the prime minister of Japan, Taro Aso. Everything in Japan has the potential to be transformed into a cartoonish character. Except the royal family. Photo

14 A savory pancake topped with an egg and seaweed, the Ameyokoyaki is named after the street it's sold on, Ameyokocho. It's home to a great street market, from the fish sellers' patter to the "authentic" designer bags. Photo

15 Three young men—smoking isn't allowed until you're 20 years old—taking a tobacco time-out in Akihabara, the anime/computer game center of Tokyo. Photo

16 Compact mirrors at Venus Fort, a shopping mall styled after 17th-century European streets. The Japanese tend to like their kawaii (cute) factor combined with a little high fashion. Photo

17 The Tokyo International Forum building in Yurakucho resembles a fish or a ship. I can't decide. Photo

18 The ancient gate at Shiba Daimon on the road leading to the Zojo-ji temple and, just a little further on, to Godzilla's favorite target, Tokyo Tower. Photo

19 Kabukicho: Neon signs for everything. Mah-jongg, karaoke, moneylenders, Internet cafés, hostesses...everything. Photo

20 Shinbashi Station: that short pause after the cheerful departure jingle, just before the door closes. Photo