An intensely orange sunset plays out across the sky. Tokyo’s traffic-fugue floats upward into the high-rise canyons. The city’s 24-hour, open-throated roar—akin to a fog-horn blast—plays pedal tone to random pizzicato horns. Three-beer laughter from the salary men at the corner izakaya riffs over a siren’s yowl, and bicycle bells jangle as Tokyoites leave work.
Tokyo transforms after the sun slinks into night. Now burnished with neon and noise, previously shuttered bars and restaurants glow invitingly, their menu boards pushed onto the sidewalk. Music pulses up from subterranean caverns accessible by steep, narrow stairways. Shops lining the streets sport a jumbled pastiche of merchandise.
Seagull-voiced girls and raw-throated boys call out: Irasshaimase! Welcome, come! Blaring tunes and megaphone announcements smear into a wild discord that fights for dominance over garish signs. Even the sidewalks underfoot buzz against the feet.
Of course, the night-character varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.
None of Shibuya’s or Akihabara’s racket will do for Ginza. There the purr of money hums in throaty engines of luxury vehicles. Ginza’s clerks—in immaculate maquillage—bow and murmur irasshaimase like acts of contrition. Sumimasen. Our fine manners may have inadvertently disturbed you. Behind them the luxury brands stand like temple icons with the same aura of otherworldly promise and false hope.
Asakusa’s is a more constrained and sedate bustle.
Tokyo, Asakusa by Night. Video by Warren den Engelsman. Used with Permission.
Back of most main thoroughfares no high-powered thrum of night life reaches the narrow streets. Bicycles lean unlocked against walls. Potted plants cluster near doorways and under shuttered windows. Laundry hangs from balconies. Power lines knit the rooftops overhead. Here at day’s end is the familiar place of family and repose: home.