Tokyo, Japan’s capital with good mixed of the old and the new—from the traditional and heritage culture in tea, pottery, hot springs, cherry trees, temple to trend-settingly icons in Pokemon, Maneki-neko, Doraemon, Gudetama, Godzilla, to creators of Nano blocks, sashimi, ramen, udon and green tea.
Upon reaching the Narita Airport, I was first greeted with “Time for Taiwan” campaign ads designed by Winkreative, the London agency who is also the team behind Monocle. And it makes me wonder on the standpoint of Japan between Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, China or Singapore. Clean streets and punctual transport was what I was greeted next.
The print advertisements, promotional items are very visual focal and often in striking colours as opposed to the buildings. The buildings here in Tokyo are monotone. Either concrete, bricks or tile of muted colour palette. Murky green, pastel pink or grey. While the visuals in the logo signages or the billboards light-up the place instead. It’s hard to find advertisements around here. They are mostly in cabins, train stations and not on bus stops, unlike Singapore or Hong Kong.
How can good visuals play a part in tourism as well as everyday living?
No spotting of any ad placements on their bus stops and walkway to the metros.
Warning signs have been made beyond fines and made beyond just the usual no smoking, no eating and drinking icons while colours of road signs, metro signs and way-finding are in green. And you will see a lot of corporate identity donning red or green.
The signages aren’t boring to look at.
A decade ago while I was a student tour guide showing Japanese students around in Singapore, there was an incident that I still remember vividly—they clean their own spills, return their own trays. Claps. In Tokyo, it’s hard to find any bins here though and the trash here are required to be sorted out between burnable and non-burnable items. Maybe this way the people understand and believes they are part of building and upkeep a nation’s building and cleanliness. Will this uphold the belonging that our Singapore government has always been looking for?
Earthquake or disaster drills were drilled since young. Kids even built their own, played their own playground. Resilience and independence are being nurtured. A culture so strict that there seems to have a self inflicted stress for no failure. A highest rate for suicides with causes be it exams or employment.
Master-Apprentice relationship still exists. Professionalism and forced workaholic. You would be surprised to find out that their trains run later on weekdays than on weekends. People really work that late during weekdays even they have no more pending task for the day. Maybe this is why people can spend and really spend on weekends as lifestyle expenses have been saved up on not spending on weekdays.
Metro trains are on time and almost as old or at least reasonably old enough like the Tube in London, it doesn’t break down often and they don’t introduce their national hotspots. In trains, eating and drinking are allowed but talking on the phone have been refrained. Taking photograph on your phone is not prohibited but it’s encouraged that it’s taken with sound.
Smoking is prohibited in public parks but most of the hotels, bars and restaurants are still permitted with smoking. The air is clean maybe because of the cold weather. It’s hard to sweat here. It’s less easier for your books to get spots and yellowish.
Land in the city area is scarce here considered the population and being earthquake prone, there has been an restriction to how tall each building could go. Rooftops in the apartment and high rise have not been utilised but is the high percentage of suicide cases reasons against using them? There is still a property agent shop here which is also apparent in New York, London and even Hong Kong and Taipei. Does that mean Singapore is not a friendly country?
Bins are rare here and thrash and recycling collection comes only on certain days of the week. You could spot rare sitting of over-sighted dumping ground.
Unlike New York, there are not many street dog walkers here in the city. Maybe it’s because getting a pet in shops cost around 1500SG$. And the bills of a trip to a vet here aren’t cheap. Stray animals are hard to be spotted here also. And likewise, didn’t get to spot any basketball court here either. If there are, they will probably be indoors. Space constraints yes and that would also mean a lack of interests in the sport and the lack of quality if you were to compared New Yorkers and the NBA over in the west. It’s weird knowing the fact that Slam Dunk anime was such a hit. They do have baseball fields though.
In Shibuya for example, you will see a lot of a sizeable amount of unique local brands and outlets comparable to the global overseas franchise. One would be Suit-Select, that will work in Japan but not Singapore as not many corporations will require you to have full suit as your corporate attire.
You can see a lot of local set up also. LOFT, Tokyu Hands, Tower Records, Ito-ya, Isetan, to name a few.
Makes me wonder about the urban planning in Singapore—that if you bring convenience to heartland, will people want to make a trip to the shopping district anymore? Maybe that’s why Orchard Road is failing. We see too many global brands more than local set ups. And in Singapore, we even have a Uniqlo, Zara in our neighbourhood malls.
There isn’t any night market in Tokyo like Singapore though if compared regionally with Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul. However, they probably make it up with open till late night arcades and game shop where you can spot a lot of otakus.
A country sporting creativity. Design Fiesta, New York’s TDC and ADC are being brought in and having a Tokyo version. And recently there’s D&AD Tokyo too and according to one of the organisers Naoka Higashi, Tokyo Art Book Fair closes in more than 12 thousand visitors last year. There’s also GGG. JGDA and you can also find corporations starting their own organisation to promote and cultivate art culture too in TOTO Gallery, Recruit Gallery.
You would see benches rounding trees, advanced toilet bowl and lots of nice architecture here and more importantly many are designed by their local architects. And despite many not knowing English, their architectect and artists, can be internationally famous. Tando Ando. Sou Fujimoto. Shigeru Ban. Atelier Bow Wow. Toyo Ito. Junya Ishigami. Yoshitomo Nara, Chiharu Shiota, Daido Moriyama.
The publishing market is crazy here. For independent and commercial magazines that are doing so well, to name a few, Brutus. Premium. Casa. Popeye. Quotation. A+D. Studio Voce. There are tons of books also and there’s even a market for publishers just to translate foreign titles in Japanese. Though to note, the designs for the book covers are lacking too, if we were to compare with Taiwan and Korea. The designs of the music albums in general has been a disappointment. Same for the pop music. Most of the girl group still going for the kawaii-but-weird formula. No wonder K-Pop are blooming, and MTV are still in trend globally.
Form a day of walking trail from Harajuku to Shibuya, to Daikanyama, to Ebisu.
Museums. Mori Art Museum. 21_21. National Art Centre.
Galleries. Opera City Gallery. Blum & Poe. Galleries at NaDiff, and top floor of Shibuya Hikarie.
Bookstores. Tsutaya, Kinokuniya. Shibuya Booksellers and Publishers. POST. NaDIFF. Utrecht. Aoyama Book Centre.
In fact all the bookstores and galleries don’t have a fishing bowl for namecards. Maybe they take their namecard exchange really seriously.
Office is termed as press room.
The salad craze and cold-pressed juices have yet to get caught on in Tokyo.
And I was surprised to find the younger group here less likely to speak better English than their elders or seniors. And Japanese rarely will check you out when they walk but they will still be all smiles.