You’ve bought your ticket, packed your bag, now you hover above the colorful lights pulsing through Tokyo as you descend, closing the gap between you and the beginning of a five-day adventure through one of the greatest cities you’ve ever been to. But, you don’t know it yet, right? Because you’re just about to land…
And if you’re me, you cram as much as you can into a tight package of a limited amount of days and nights: you visit the bars, swilling Junmai and Sapporo between heavy bouts of eating too much ramen as you’re swallowed whole by an atmosphere made up of the sounds of noodles being sluuuurped, of eggs being boiled, of pots and pans clanking about, of explosive laughter coming from a group of dapper businessmen — every single one dressed in a black suit — who have been recently relieved of their responsibilities. And that’s before your Night On The Town, a night that starts off with a trip to one of the many bars of Golden Gai — the heavy metal and horror-themed bar Deathmatch in Hell, to be exact, because you have an unhealthy affinity for all things horrific and heavy — chugging more Sapporo while you chat with the owner, Evil Dead playing on an old TV that’s surrounded by vintage pin-ups and VHS tapes behind him. And then, upon your leave, you sluggishly make your way around a damp and chilled night that settles over Akihabara (*warning: area may cause Photosensitive epilepsy). You see everything from the nostalgic (used Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo consoles for sale) to the head-scratchingly bizarre (used panties sold out of a vending machine). Then, once you’ve left the first Night On The Town behind, you’re roused abruptly by the morning light coming through the paper blinds like sharp and glowing blades, you climb out of bed and move fast into the direction of the first cup of coffee you can get your hands on. It doesn’t matter to you, what cup of coffee you get, because by now you’ve tried a few different cups from a few different cafes and they’ve all been perfect, the score stands at 3 and 0 — the odds are working in your favor.
You walk up and down the streets simply admiring; admiring the cherry blossoms in full bloom in Ueno Park, the people of Harajuku dressed to the nines, sumo wrestlers of the Meiji Shrine training behind frosted windows, all of this interspersed with eating more ramen, drinking more Sapporo, all while you try to find a single trash can on the street to toss away a single candy wrapper, wondering to yourself How, then, is the city so damn clean? Your brain can’t comprehend it, so you just pocket the trash and forget about it until you’ve left the city. Day turns to night, bringing karaoke, more neon color, and yes, more ramen and Sapporo. Day comes once again, bringing the sounds of gongs and birds, the somehow perfect lighting for photography no matter the hour, and an amazing culture to the foreground, history cemented into temples and shrines. You spin around endlessly, devoting every second to discovering new things yet still haven’t seen it all. Five days is not enough time to see Tokyo — to really feel like you’ve seen enough. But that’s why it’s the greatest city you’ve ever been to, right? because it keeps you wanting more, even after you’ve left.
Evan Cunningham is a producer and photographer from LA currently traveling around the US in his ’99 Chevy Tahoe. Recently he and his wife returned from a 10-month Round The World trip. You can see more of what they saw, through his lens, on his website www.ercunningham.com.