| Feb 2, 2007

Cabbages and kings

Those who live and work in Itabashi are hesitant when it comes to tallying up the highlights of this northwestern Tokyo ward. “There’s really nothing remarkable here,” says ballerina and homemaker Chieko Muraoka, 37. “It’s quiet and small-scale, but we like it that way.” ...

Chiyoda's good circulation

| Jan 5, 2007

Chiyoda's good circulation

Many consider Chiyoda the heart of Tokyo, and no wonder. The ward pumps lifeblood in and out with circadian regularity. During working hours, Chiyoda’s population swells to an estimated 850,000 people who pulse through the business arteries of Yurakucho, Marunouchi, and Akihabara. By midnight, ...

Katsushika a cut above all your expectations

| Dec 1, 2006

Katsushika a cut above all your expectations

Many of Tokyo’s award-winning swordsmiths choose to live in Ka-tsushika. Why? “Land has always been cheap here,” said Shoji Yoshihara, 61, designated an Important Living Cultural Property of the ward and deputy head of All Japan Swordsmiths Association. “The process of making swords is ...

A wave to Setagaya

| Nov 3, 2006

A wave to Setagaya

Home to approximately one tenth of the total citizenry of all of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Setagaya houses 800,000 people, the same figure as the population for the entire island of Oahu, Hawaii. At both places, people seem to have come in waves. Thirty thousand ...

Animal magic in the jungle of Setagaya

| Oct 6, 2006

Animal magic in the jungle of Setagaya

Taxi drivers claim that, unless you’ve lived there all your life, Setagaya is nearly impossible to navigate. Major thoroughfares pulse straight across the second largest of Tokyo’s 23 wards, but off the highway a maze of tapering, winding one-way alleys will often as not ...

Slow train coming downtown

| Sep 1, 2006

Slow train coming downtown

Arakawa Ward snuggles like a puzzle piece in the bends of the Sumida River. The third smallest of Tokyo’s 23 wards, it has an intimate, unpretentious atmosphere that matches the attitude of many of its residents. Asked what makes Arakawa special, locals and even ...

Shibuya's got glamour, and more

| Aug 4, 2006

Shibuya's got glamour, and more

Anyone with more than a week in Tokyo has spent some time with Shibuya’s mascot, Hachiko, waiting and watching thousands of individuals merge on cue into a tsunami of mass determination and consumerism, a scramble of humanity. Life’s big questions can surface at such ...

Reach for the sky

| Jul 7, 2006

Reach for the sky

Sumida Ward spans an area that has endured ruinous fires, floods, plagues, and seismic as well as economic jostlings. Residents of this battered part of the city nonetheless have always kept their pride buoyant and their spirits aloft. Even when the chips are down, ...

How not to lose your cool with the kids this summer

Jul 4, 2006

How not to lose your cool with the kids this summer

July and August are brutally hot across most of Japan, and for parents with young children at home, the challenge is on to somehow enjoy the summer without getting bitten, burned or bummed out. My neighbor’s solution was to build a loose replica of ...

The hidden charms of Nerima

| Jun 2, 2006

The hidden charms of Nerima

Do you have daikon ashi (giant-radish legs)? Let’s hope not, as the Japanese metaphor usually applies to fat, lard-white and water-laden gams. If the daikon in question is from Nerima, however, it’s no insult, as the northwestern ward’s famous daikon is a long, slender ...