When the sun was out and the sky clear, Ueno, and even more so its Ameyoko market street, were once almost embarrassingly regular destinations for me and my camera. “Where did you go today?” my wife would ask, but before I could even answer, my decidedly sheepish look would have already given the game away, and with mock, wide-eyed surprise, she’d exclaim, “Ueno, again!”
Despite managing to trick her into guessing wrong every now and then, it invariably was Ueno, again, but with its gifts of lovely light and fascinating people, how could I not give in when the conditions were ideal?
I thought about this the other day when I went back after a fairly long break. It had been a similarly long while before that as well. The sky was blue, and timing wise the light was just right, but with Tokyo still in a quasi-state of emergency, and masks very much the norm, it was a stark reminder of why I’ve become something of a stranger. It’s just not the same. Eyes are the window to the soul and all that, but uncovered faces are infinitely more interesting. Sights that will hopefully return in the not too distant future, but until then, here are some people from Ueno of the past.
About a month ago I posted photos of a huge and truly distinctive Japanese public housing complex. Known as danchi, these once modern concrete structures are now slowly disappearing as age catches up with them and far more desirable buildings take their place.
It’s a shift that isn’t the least bit surprising, as unlike that aforementioned behemoth, the vast majority of 1960s and 70s danchi are fairly modest in size. Invariably they are also incredibly utilitarian in design, just like the very dated apartment blocks below. The key difference with these, however, is that they are just a few minutes walk from Omotesando — one of the fanciest and most expensive areas in the capital.
With that in mind, it’s undoubtedly the last kind of accommodation you’d expect to see in such a neighbourhood, but with half of them gone already, and the rest being prepared for demolition, it’s presumably the last time it will be seen as well.
Last year I posted a series of photos that featured some Tokyo citizens nicely in synch with their surroundings. Since then I’ve managed to take a few more, so here’s another instalment of colour coordination that includes bleak concrete, and much more unexpectedly, a big cat.