The Eastern Capital

08/11/2013 13:48

That’s the meaning of Tōkyō, the world’s largest urban agglomeration, with about thirty-six million people in its metropolitan area. Tokyo won the title to Kyoto in 1868, along the Meiji Restoration and the decline of the shogunate, when Emperor was established in Edo Castle. Today the giant TV screens and neon lights displayed next to pedestrian traffic recalls some Blade Runner street scenes, especially when falls a thin layer of wistful rain.

Tokyo is so big that hasn’t just a city hall but a corporation that brings together twenty-three central districts, twenty six dormitory towns, one district, three towns, one village and four sub-prefectures corresponding to the archipelagos south of the city, the Izu and Ogasawara Islands. All ruled from Tōkyō-to Chōsha, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, designed by architect Kenzo Tange was begun in 1988 and completed three years later, in 1991. The most prominent building is a forty-eight stories twin tower. From its two twin viewpoints, located at 662 feet high, on the 45th floor, the conurbation stretches in all directions. From here the panoramic reaches Tōkyō Tawā, the Tokyo Tower Japan replica to Eiffel in Paris, built in the late fifties and outperforms the French in almost thirty feet. In a day without fog the view should reach the top of Mount Fuji. The city government complex occupies a block in the western district of Shinjuku.

Shinjuku is the modern city centre of Tokyo. Here are the electronics stores and large corporation’s tallest skyscrapers. Restaurants, hotels and nightlife centres. The busiest railway station in the world with three million people coming and going daily. ​​Ichigaya commercial area, almost an entire neighbourhood, and Harajuku, where are the pedestrian Takeshita dori and Omotesando dori with its fashionable shops and boutiques of the most renowned international brands. Kagurazaka is the area where most European residents live in, primarily French because they are close to the French Japanese Institute and School. Here there are also charming streets with neighbourhood shops where supermarkets are so clean that fish trays looks like plastic and there’s no shortage of onsen, the public baths where, after careful and thoroughly body cleansing, people soaks in hot water. The main street of Kagurazaka bounds old Edo Castle.

Eastwards, Chiyoda could be considered the historic city centre, with the Imperial Palace where once stood the Edo Castle and also are the famed Ginza and Asakusa neighbourhoods. Edo Castle was built in 1457, when is considered the city were founded. The Tokugawa shogunate established here its government in 1603. Edo means the river door, and it was in the mouth of the Sumida-gawa River. The Imperial Palace, home to the Emperor of Japan, was rebuilt after the Second World War where the castle stood before. Today people walk through its gardens, only public area, and relax in the surrounding streets closed to traffic during holidays and weekends, is the hokosha tengoku, the pedestrian paradise.

Ginza is the business district with major avenues with crosswalks crossings in six directions, where the first department store was opened, and here are the Sony Building and the Leica Gallery. Where Godzilla watches carefully the office workers while they stop for a lunch break eating a bowl of noodles on the street.

Ueno and Asakusa represent the character of old Tokyo, the back of the commercial districts of Shibuya and Harajuku. Ueno-koen concentrates the museums and art galleries. In the park is held each spring hanami, the feast to watch the flowers. East of Ueno, Asakusa also retains some flavour of the past, if that's possible in a city that was bombed to consciousness. In Asakusa is Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the goddess of mercy, Kannon. The entry is thru Kaminari-mon, the gate of thunder to walk along Nakamise-dori, the street that leads to the heart of the sanctuary, flanked by dozens of shops offering all kinds of souvenirs, handicrafts and worship objects for the temple. Once crossed Hozomon, the treasure house door, you enter the premises where is the main temple dedicated to Kannon-Bosatsu and the five-story pagoda. People place prayers containing their wishes on small wooden strips hanging by hundreds side by side on the outside of the temple.

Bayside is Tōkyō-to Chūō Oroshiuri Shijō the fish market of Tsukiji, the world’s largest, where everything is superlative in the country of miniaturization. Here are tiny sardines beside tuna pieces weighting seven hundred kilograms, algae and huge crabs. Up to two thousand tons of sea products pass through these walls every day, including fugu, or puffer fish, the fish known for its toxicity and served in some specialized restaurants in the city, eat more by thrill and risk, actually nonexistent, rather than by its taste. The puffer fish swells to defend his spikes, and the poison contained in the liver and skin is highly poisonous, can contaminate meat if not treated and cut carefully. The fugu is usually served with a drink made with the tail mixed with hot sake, hirezake, and the fish is cooked in several ways so the most common sort is fugu teishoku, a mixed platter. Each year, in Tsujiki market, are examined the chefs that should cook the fugu, they must prove their knowledge in safety and culinary skills identifying entrails and filleting all edible parts of the fish.

Shinjuku, and railway and metro stations are refilled by evening, some leave westwards for their dormitory towns, others arrive to spread by restaurants, bars and fashionable slums, where years ago, before the bombing and earthquakes, geisha premises were frequented, some still stands until the arrival of the rising sun.

© J.L.Nicolas


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