Good lord. It might not be the best stationery and pen store in Tokyo, but the Ginza flagship Itoya has to be the slickest and most impressive. 9 floors in the main building plus a cafe and a three story annex in back, dedicated to pens.
Such a pleasure to wander its floors even if you do not buy anything.
People use the word magical too much, especially in reference to Tokyo.
But I now get it because I did have several moments when wandering and looking and searching in solitude that I felt myself transported from this world into another place of waking dreams, a state of mind where anything felt possible, where the air felt pregnant, moments where anything could happen, intersections where I could choose a direction and never return to the life I’ve lived and known.
It was like walking through the gauzy cloth of a Murakami story, a Miyazaki film, a ukiyo-e woodblock print made manifest and real.
This one night I paused by this subway station and its few passengers and watched the trains come and go, the still water reflections confusing my senses, the music of the city lulling me into a trance. Time was not moving. Or it was racing ahead. It did not matter. There would be another train soon.
In Tokyo, you can find all sorts of wild and deep holes to dive deeply into, places where specific flavors are nurtured and taken to their fullest.
One such place is Nelken (German for carnation) in Koenji. A simple small cafe full of warmth, oil paintings and an astounding sound system. Dark wood, crushed red velvet chairs and a brandy coffee. Sit back and close your eyes and the wall of sound embraces you, selections from the vinyl collection and the occasional CD are all classical. The day I visited it was Brahms, a violin concerto played in it’s entirety. An older gentlemen customer in front of me sat with his head bowed, eyes closed, posture relaxed and slack.
He only opened his eyes when the last movement concluded.
A subway ride west from downtown Tokyo, Nelken is a place to sit and drink and enjoy a private concert with the masters.
I don’t know why, but I cannot stop shooting crosswalks. I think it is just the collision of humanity and the geometric and graphical nature of the crosswalk. People are also a bit captive and can’t escape my lens. My shots are not always successful and I do catch myself repeating myself, taking similar shots in crosswalks around the world.
But I do like this one.
Tokyo is a city that richly rewards those who wander.
I did not step inside but was content to watch the customers leave from one of the holes of this store / amusement park.
To find out more, read the TimeOut Japan blog about this destination.
I have a simple rule when I am traveling or doing my wandering thing: when I see a line of locals waiting for a restaurant, I must abandon my plans and also get in line. Even if I have just eaten, it does not matter, because this has nothing to do with hunger. Traveling is about experience and if you can, experiencing a place like a local as much as you can. I know that the chance that I will ever return to a place I have visited is very low, so these are always once a lifetime opportunities.
My cousin who lives in Tokyo took me to this soba place in Chiyoda and the day was sunny and hot and the line was long, wrapping around the corner. She apologized profusely and suggested that we go someplace else. I told her I was fine with waiting because the long line of locals was very enticing. We waited about 45 minutes to get a table.
My God, that is some soba. One of the best meals I had in Japan and there were many exceptional meals.
To read more about this restaurant, read this article from The Japan Times.