Show Menu

Healing Time

People come to Sensoji for all sorts of reasons. Superstition that your illness will be cured by the incense smoke from the cauldron of the goddess would rank high after ordinary tourism. But who’s to argue against a bit of blind belief? Could be just the thing to get you moving and focus your mind…

Read more

Cosmic Confection

People who love red-bean cakes often say Japanese sweets are healthy, but the truth of course is, they’re loaded with sugar. That’s what helps preserve them, says Mari Masuda, the madame of Tokutarou sweets bakery. She also lets you know, without a hint of reserve, that she is aged 74. You can’t help thinking ……

Read more

Outpost to a Dream

What else do you do up there? asks my friend Takahashi. Get the train to Horikiri, and just eat ramen? Yes, I say, just eat ramen. Some days, like in this heatwave, that’s enough purpose in life. Five stops from Asakusa. Negi ramen. Just get to Miyuki Ramen, beside the railway and the river. One…

Read more

Felt Tips of the Gods

You see your share of homeless men and women near the river. At least the worst of the cold is over for the time being. Spotting the aloha shirt makes you feel breezy. This guy is a bit of a fixture, one milky eye, height about 4 feet, brown as a nut. I am in…

Read more

Michio Yamauchi Photographer

I ran into the street photographer Michio Yamauchi outside the Hanayashiki amusement park. I knew him from a book project I had worked on, but we had barely spoken. He said, Asakusa during the holidays is a good place to shoot. I said, Sometimes I stand here to snap the roller coaster. He seemed willing…

Read more

Kimchi Cherries Lizard

I asked for it spicy and the master of this small Korean BBQ restaurant in east Ueno, who wore a chef’s hat and also took my order, put it through to his wife behind the kitchen window, and she made a stewed beef claypot lunch that was powerfully hot, just right for this warm afternoon…

Read more

Watching the Wheels

I jumped as the traffic lights changed and an oncoming horn blast caught me taking a picture of these buildings, standing in the middle of Meiji Dori in Higashi Mukojima. Couldn’t resist the rust and corrugated iron. Not to mention this fellow, who waved at me. Takao Iida was born and grew up in this…

Read more

Sesame Mucho

The family that sells oil together sticks together. Masajiro Isomura began wholesaling sesame oil and other cooking oils in 1935 at a building across the main road from here, but it was destroyed in the US wartime fire-bombings. Friends lent him new premises to help him restart, and now his eldest son Kyoichiro – the…

Read more

Life’s Work

Went to an exhibition in some abandoned nagaya houses on this rainy day in Sumida Ward, came across this dog-legged lane, a jumble of corrugated tin-clad factories merging with clapboard houses and some piles of stuff. As with many districts where people make things, there seems to be no council zoning. The neighbourhood feels as…

Read more

Climbing Frame

I chanced across a row of prewar nagaya, long houses, in working-class Kyojima, Sumida Ward, a couple of years ago, and wrote a short post lamenting their inevitable doom. Some are now scheduled for demolition within weeks. In the meantime, artist Haruchi Osaki has adopted three of them as part of a local project. He…

Read more