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Tokyo by Night

- jeeff - Friday, April 22nd, 2005 : goo

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i've always been a night owl, ever since i was old enough to begin setting my own bedtime. it goes hand-in-hand with being a computer buff, i suspect. as an adult i've gotten into the habit of long walks in the dead of the night, when everything is still and quiet and i can feel everyone around me asleep. this continued in tokyo, and i came to regard the city by night as my tokyo.

at night the old prostitutes gather under the shelter of the darkened shopping arcades, sitting on camp chairs and staring at passers-by. the drifters and homeless men sleep in their cardboard shelters, shacks often made and remade nightly. they line the street, thousands of them. businessmen on the sidewalk get drunker as the hours pass. train cars get noisier and more crowded as midnight approaches, then they all stop. taxis take over the main streets, and karaoke comes drifting out of the alleyways. some time around 3am the city comes as close to stopping as it ever will.

image 1033^ ginza's san-chome (block #3) intersection. the special red brick buildings in ginza were supposed to withstand bombing and fire, but every single last one collapsed during WWII. front and center is the wako building, the only major structure that survived. from here, general macarthur ran the occupation forces after the war. my office was across the street.

image 1034^ most road-work is done at night, while traffic is comparably light. it seems like the entire grid is constantly being upgraded. the number and variety of warning signs and beacons is incredible. the example above is pretty tame. the construction workers are nearly outnumbered by crews of baton-wavers, temp workers who mechanically wave at traffic, unless they're replaced by mannequins.

image 1035^ chuo-dori has express lanes that tunnel beneath the traffic lights. interesting idea. in a related note, traffic deaths in tokyo recently fell to a 48-year low, and nobody could understand why. the hypothesis was put forward that traffic is so bad now that nobody can get enough speed or momentum to hurt anyone else.

image 1036^ shibuya on a friday night.

image 1037^ one of many platforms at JR shinjuku station. shinjuku station is the biggest train station in the world, and japan's largest commuter rail hub. there are over 50 separate exits on a half-dozen levels. i often got lost down there.

image 1038^ home sweet home. my building, straight ahead, was one of the few remaining post-war concrete boxes left. new regulations in 1981 ensured much safer, earthquake-proof buildings in the future. with anything built before '81 you're taking your chances. my place had old-style appliances and quaint wood-framed walls. a novelty for travellers, but also pretty spartan. the concrete walls and floors were cracked from constant tremors, the paint flaking off too. still, it makes me sad to think that my home is slated for demolition sometime soon.

more night photos here:

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Marc: come.. to the offworld colonies.

Anonymous ( very awesome

Peter: 22nd Apr 2005 - 19:08 GMT

wow, jeeff, this is great! shibuya totally reminds me of times square. 23rd Apr 2005 - 03:11 GMT

how much is your rent there and how does one go about moving there?

Jamie: 24th Apr 2005 - 00:51 GMT

Yet more japanese resplendency. I love that you are posting here lately.

jeeff: 24th Apr 2005 - 19:32 GMT

manhattanboy - that's a big question. many countries have working holiday agreements arranged with japan so that people can visit and work for 12-18 months. but the US doesn't. if you have a university degree it's quite easy to get a large english-teaching company to sponsor you for a work visa. i don't want to do them the favour of linking them, but if you web search for "teach english in japan" no doubt you'll find the big players pretty easily. you can stay in japan indefinitely, as long as the company continues to sponsor you. unfortunately, the larger companies are usually the worst to work for. many people go over to work for a larger company, and once they're in japan they jump ship to a smaller, more enjoyable company. this is all teaching english, of course. other than that, you'd need some pretty impressive special skills to get a visa.

yann: 26th Apr 2005 - 09:14 GMT

fuck I love toky ! it s like time square but everywhere. thanks a lot for all these marvalous pictures.

elaine: 26th Apr 2005 - 10:38 GMT

tis fab, really. actually, did you ever read a book called 'angry white pyjamas' by robert twigger? it's really really good, your brief description of your apartment suddenly put it in my mind. there are lots of reviews of it on the interweb if yr interested, it's about an english bloke who goes to tokyo, is teaching english, and signs up for a martial arts course, I don't know how that strikes you, but it was one of my fave novels ever

jeeff: 28th Apr 2005 - 15:38 GMT

never heard of it or him. i'll have to look it up. i'm kind of put off by a lot of things i see in the media about japan/tokyo. it's hard to reconcile my viewpoint of japan as a "home" with the typical western view of it. example: i watched 'lost in translation' before i left canada and i quite enjoyed it. but after coming back, whenever i see a trailer or clip i kind of cringe.

Dave: 27th May 2005 - 07:30 GMT

Wow.... Tokyo looks beautiful. I am gona be taking a trip there around Aug 19 of 2005 for 2-3 weeks. Im staying with an exchange student from my school in Canada. I can tell im gona need to get a lot of memory for my cam...... or maybe just pick one up while im there.

elaine: 27th May 2005 - 07:40 GMT

do a little research in advance - if your electricity is a similar voltage it will be ok. it might just be UK that is incompatible with everywhere, but out voltage is so high that if you take appliances to USA they don't get enough juice from the supply, and you have to get a transformer for US things here or they get overwhealmed. i did have a mac at one point that had a switch at the back which would accommodate both, but frinstance i couldn't get my camera battery to recharge in USA

jeeff: 27th May 2005 - 11:15 GMT

check out

the electrical system in eastern japan (including tokyo) is compatible with canada and the states, as long as you don't have anything with a 3rd prong. when i went, i took a power bar and pulled the 3rd prong out with a pair of pliers, and then i could use all my 3-prong plugs with that (computer stuff mostly).

elaine: 27th May 2005 - 19:04 GMT

i like that link. i used to work in a theatre in the LX dept, and used to make the boys explain electricity to me, which was more fun than it sounds, as it is a lot less categorical than you would think - frisntance in a ship the ship is earth! philosophically fascinating, i thought. one of these sessions involved the history of why we have such strong electricity and why other countries don't, in particualr france, who also dont go in for pylons by the way. i love all that kind of thing

sergio : 26th Jul 2005 - 21:40 GMT

tokyo is cool i love to drift and the nights are beautifull i just love japan sincearly japan drifth club

Charles: 12th Jan 2006 - 21:59 GMT

This is tokyo I know and the picture I mad but couldnt made that nice... Shibya 109, streets by night its just missing kids playing basball in empty streets by night;) thanks

Noamii: this is fuckin good photos

aer suzuki: yup. very cool post.

brittney tremblay: these are badass pics

Yoshi: 8th Apr 2007 - 21:13 GMT

Wow... what great views, similar to the train station that I was last at(subway). The pics are kind of empty; i remember kids playing in the streets at night. Where were these pics exactly taken at? May you post it?

dannigirl: 8th Jun 2007 - 02:26 GMT

woah! the photography is everlasting isnt it just?
creating such an empty effect- which is exactly what you
feel on the cold harsh streets of tokyo at night..
great work soldier! Xx

hinata: 22nd Mar 2008 - 21:01 GMT

these pitures r cool and it lets
u look in tokyo a little bit and
see there city.... it must not be
loud at night.

hinata: 22nd Mar 2008 - 21:01 GMT

these pitures r cool and it lets
u look in tokyo a little bit and
see there city.... it must not be
loud at night.

Muffin: 13th May 2008 - 18:58 GMT

Very lovely. Though, they don't show much of the bustle of people and brigthly lighten signs that appear at night.

ashlei henderson: 29th Jun 2010 - 06:14 GMT

ive always wanted to go there,just me and my family...

Simon: 6th Sep 2010 - 11:12 GMT

especially the last shot drew my attention - very atmospheric shot

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