Show Menu

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

Oranges and Lemons

The last Sunday of last month I met a man selling oranges and mandarins at Shirahige Park, north of Asakusa, from a truck marked Kitagawa Pig Farm. His wife makes jams from mandarins and figs. Her mandarin jam is something else. Sweet and bitter like marmalade, but delicate. Yoshihiko Naito is a fourth-generation farmer from…

Read more

Pink Portal to Time

Tumbledown drinking house standing alone near the Yanaka graveyard, a woman tending a pot-plant in the doorway, light snow flurries, a brown and white cat sips water from a plastic basin. Pink peeling signboard, the lettering fading to the west up Kototoi-dori, a long way from Kototoi bridge and the Sumida River back at Asakusa.…

Read more

Draining History

They’ve pulled the plug at Asakusa Kannon Onsen bathhouse, the Waters of the Goddess of Mercy. You might hope with a name like that, this fountain of youth could live forever. But the truth is, it was long circling the drain, with broken glass bricks, dripping water and crumbling concrete. The cloudy spring water and…

Read more

A Life in Shoes

Shoemaker Masahiko Harada left his sliding doors open to the breeze. It’s unusual for a Sunday, when he normally pushes the old frames shut to go play shogi, Japanese chess, on the other side of Asakusa. From the crossroads by Kototoi bridge, you can just make out the open doorway of his rust-clad workshop, the…

Read more

For Whom the Bell Tolls

On a normal day Kanegafuchi’s prospects look bleak. Stores stand shuttered down the long straight shopping street. The two-lane thoroughfare crosses a sort of isthmus west-to-east, above Asakusa, almost connecting the rivers Sumida and Arakawa. The direct morning and evening sun have hammered the buildings and awnings, fading the paint and fabric. Some of the…

Read more

Enough Rope

You don’t really want to buy string. You just want to luxuriate in some shadows in this minimally stocked store. Away from the humid clutter of Edo Dori. The front part was originally a barracks, temporary housing, erected after the 1945 US bombing raids. Katsuo Uchida’s father began business in 1948. The district was only…

Read more

Left Right In

The aisle at this used-books shop in the former redlight area of Hatonomachi separates more than the shelves; on the right are titles on nationalism and on the left are socialism and freedom. Owner Shigefumi Inaba coined the name, Usami-do, literally Right Left Look Store, to cater to everyone. Of course, left and right are…

Read more

Ryo Watanabe Metalworks

These quiet objects by Ryo Watanabe are made of metal, the noisiest material to work with. Watanabe treats it like a living thing. Some effects he gets by scorching, others by a slower form of chance; stacking his sheet steel out of doors under the elements, moving it once in a while. It might take…

Read more

Read Write

Hiroshi Ochiai was a sports journalist until March of this year, when he reinvented himself as a bookstore owner, opening Readin’ Writin’ near Tawaramachi Station, behind the Lemon Pie cake shop. The shop is in a former lumberyard building and is entirely self-funded. His renovations make the most of the height of the room, with…

Read more