Tokyo Express (1 of 5): Cityscapes

In trying to capture the essence of Japan’s capital city in photos, I am reminded of the parable of the three blind monks and the elephant. Each monk was asked to describe what lay before him based on touch alone, and each came to a different conclusion based on the different part of the animal he felt. Similarly, one person’s limited perspective is not enough to holistically describe a metropolis the size of Tokyo. Someone who spent weeks or even months exploring the city’s many constituent neighborhoods still might not see the full picture, though he or she would undoubtedly have a better understanding than a weekend tourist.

No longer described as a single city, but rather as a metropolitan area, Tokyo is made up of 27 special wards (municipalities). Many of these wards are large, self-contained cities with their own unique aesthetic and cultural characteristics. During my brief visit to Tokyo I was able to reconnoiter several of these communities. However, given the limited nature of my explorations, I would be no better at describing the metropolis as a whole than the individual monks were at describing the elephant. Instead, I hope to convey Tokyo’s beauty through a series of photo essays that examine different facets of life in the world’s largest “city”. It seems logical that the best place to start with something so large is at the macro level, so here we go.

Storm clouds from a passing typhoon add an ominous dimension to the sky above Tokyo as seen from Japan’s tallest building, Landmark Tower in Yokohama.

5-Shot HDR @ 56mm, f/4, ISO 100
5-Shot HDR @ 56mm, f/4, ISO 100

Gloomy weather casts a pall over Minato as seen from Rainbow Bridge.

24mm @ 1/125, f/2.8, ISO 200
24mm @ 1/125, f/2.8, ISO 200

A fisheye view looking west from the Bunkyo Ward Civic Center observation deck reveals Shibuya (far left), Shinjuku (top left), Toshima (top right) and Kita (far right).

16mm @ 1/320, f/8, ISO 100
16mm @ 1/320, f/8, ISO 100

At 12,389 feet, Mt. Fuji can be seen from multiple vantage points in Tokyo on clear days. Here it rises behind Shinjuku’s skyscraper-laden business district.

200mm @ 1/100, f/8, ISO 100
200mm @ 1/100, f/8, ISO 100

Located at the southern end of the Imperial Palace grounds, Nijubashi Bridge is one of the most famous tourist sites in Japan.

5-Shot HDR @ 70mm, 1/250, ISO 100
5-Shot HDR @ 70mm, 1/250, ISO 100

Seen here through evergreen trees, the Imperial Palace overlooks a massive green space in the bustling heart of Tokyo.

200mm @ 1/250, f/4, ISO 100
200mm @ 1/250, f/4, ISO 100

Thousands of Japanese residents enjoy a concert and picnic on the lawn inside the U.S. Embassy housing complex during Friendship Day.

14mm @ 1/250, f/7.1, ISO 100
14mm @ 1/250, f/7.1, ISO 100

Pedestrians crossing the street near Shibuya station appear as ghosts in this long exposure shot.

70mm @ 0.5s, f/11, ISO 50
70mm @ 0.5s, f/11, ISO 50

The 2,080-foot-tall Tokyo Skytree is the world’s second-tallest freestanding structure, and features the highest observation deck.

5-Shot HDR @ 200mm, f/8, ISO 100
5-Shot HDR @ 200mm, f/8, ISO 100

The Flamme d’Or atop the pint-glass-shaped Asahi Beer Hall in Sumida weighs 397 tons and is supposed to represent the frothy head on a beer.

200mm @ 1/250, f/8, ISO 100
200mm @ 1/250, f/8, ISO 100

Check out these and more high-resolution shots in my set on Flickr!

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