Golden Gai

Tokyo at Night: Ramen & Golden Gai

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Starting the night with dinner at Ippudo Ramen.

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This is Golden Gai, a network of narrow alleys that are sometimes only wide enough for a single person to pass through. It is home to dozens of tiny shanty style bars, eateries and clubs, and my single biggest regret from our Tokyo trip is not going into any of them, Especially since this picture was taken from our hotel room! So close and yet so far. Damn jetlag.

The story of Golden Gai is one of survival. In the 1980′s, many buildings in Tokyo were set on fire by the Yakuza so the land could be sold to developers, but Golden Gai avoided this tragic fate through the protection of its supporters, who took turns guarding the area at night. What stands today might be one of Tokyo’s most charming little neighborhoods, and the perfect place to get your drink on.

Some of the bars here can only serve 5-8 people at a time, that’s how tiny they are.

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Asakusa, Tokyo

Asakusa, Tokyo

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We made our way out to Asakusa specifically in search of an amazing little tempura restaurant we’d read rave reviews about: Tempura Daikokuya. We of course got lost trying to find it, but it ended up being great because it allowed us to discover the gem of a neighborhood that is Asakusa. While Asakusa is mostly famous for its buddhist temple, Sensō-ji, it’s also unique in that it has a more traditionally Japanese atmosphere than other neighborhoods in Tokyo. Due to bombing during WWII, most of Tokyo’s buildings are less than 50 years old, but there is a higher concentration of buildings from the 1950′s and 1960′s in Asakusa than in any other part of the city.

This part of Tokyo is a throwback to another era. No futuristic skyscrapers or giant plasma screens blinding you with advertisements. Just small shops, peace and quiet, and the sense that this is a place where you could actually get to know your neighbors.

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Tempura Daikokura
1 Chome-38-10
Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo, Japan
81 3-3844-2222

my camera collection olympus-om-1-and-omd-em5-side-by-side-comparison Left: Olympus OM-1 | Right: Olympus OMD E-M5 I've never talked about my camera collection here before because it was constantly changing. For a long time, it consisted of a great DSLR which I invested in expecting to keep it for years to come, a digital point and shoot, and a bunch of vintage film cameras. I was pretty addicted to acquiring the latter, and one of my favorite past times was scouring the glass cases at thrift stores for treasures. Last summer, during what I dub "The Great Purge," I did a massive overhaul/cleaning out of my material life. I donated about half my closet to Goodwill and applied the same no-mercy culling to my beloved camera collection. I was tired of owning things that I didn't use and wanted to minimize and keep only what was essential and practical. DIGITAL After doing a ton of research, I sold my DSLR and made the switch to a mirrorless micro 4/3 system - the Olympus OMD E-M5. After using this camera for more than 8 months now, I can say with certainty that it was a great decision. When I had a DSLR, I only carried it during special occasions: vacations, special events, birthdays, etc. And because those occasions happen only a handful of times a year, I found that my camera stayed on the shelf unused most of the time. It was large, heavy, and hard to integrate into my everyday life. It's worth mentioning that my DSLR was on the large side anyway, a Canon 7D, and that there are smaller ones on the market that might be easier to tote. In comparison, my E-M5 is tiny and weighs just a few ounces. I use a fast prime pancake lens on it (the Panasonic 20mm f1.7) , so the whole combination is featherlight. It has made all the difference, especially when I travel, and I really felt its advantages when we were in Europe a couple months ago vs. my trip to Asia in 2012 when I distinctly remember feeling burdened by my camera. FILM Because small and light are priorities for me, I sold most of my vintage camera collection, including a Canont FTb (heavy) and Yashica Electro GSN (bad viewfinder), and replaced them with an Olympus OM-1, the predecessor to the E-M5 I use for digital. It shares the petite physical characteristics of its digital counterpart, and like so many other vintage cameras, is a real beauty. I also have an Olympus mju ii / Stylus Epic (a film point & shoot), and a Canon A2/A2E (passed down to me from dad). I'm totally sentimental, so I like to believe that each camera has its own special something, especially the film cameras. After making these changes, I've been happy with my collection. The motivating force behind "The Great Purge" was thinking about my lifestyle realistically, not aspirationally, and letting that guide my choices. I am not a professional photographer, nor do I use my camera for work purposes, so a Canon 7D didn't really fit into my lifestyle. I'm a photography enthusiast with a major love of travel, so something small made a lot more sense, whereas it might not for someone else. Do you shoot film, digital, or both? Do you have any favorites in your own collection?

Camera Talk: My Collection

olympus om 1 and omd em5 side by side comparison 11 Camera Talk: My Collection

Left: Olympus OM-1 | Right: Olympus OMD E-M5

I’ve never talked about my camera collection here before because it was constantly changing. For a long time, it consisted of a great DSLR which I invested in expecting to keep it for years to come, a digital point and shoot, and a bunch of vintage film cameras. I was pretty addicted to acquiring the latter, and one of my favorite past times was scouring the glass cases at thrift stores for treasures.

Last summer, during what I call “The Great Purge,” I did a massive overhaul/cleaning out of my material life. I donated about half my closet to Goodwill and applied the same no-mercy culling to my beloved camera collection. I was tired of owning things that I didn’t use and wanted to minimize and keep only what was essential and practical.

DIGITAL

After doing a ton of research, I sold my DSLR and made the switch to a mirrorless micro 4/3 system – the Olympus OMD E-M5. After using this camera for more than 8 months now, I can say with certainty that it was a great decision. When I had a DSLR, I only carried it during special occasions: vacations, special events, birthdays, etc. And because those occasions happen only a handful of times a year, I found that my camera stayed on the shelf unused most of the time. It was large, heavy, and hard to integrate into my everyday life. It’s worth mentioning that my DSLR was on the large side anyway, a Canon 7D, and that there are smaller ones on the market that might be easier to tote.

In comparison, my E-M5 is tiny and weighs just a few ounces. I use a fast prime pancake lens on it (the Panasonic 20mm f1.7) , so the whole combination is featherlight. It has made all the difference, especially when I travel, and I really felt its advantages when we were in Europe a couple months ago (vs. my trip to Asia in 2012 when I distinctly remember feeling burdened by my camera).

FILM

Because small and light are priorities for me, I sold most of my vintage camera collection, including a Canont FTb (heavy) and Yashica Electro GSN (bad viewfinder), and replaced them with an Olympus OM-1, the predecessor to the E-M5 I use for digital. It shares the petite physical characteristics of its digital counterpart, and like so many other vintage cameras, is a real beauty. I also have an Olympus mju ii / Stylus Epic (a film point & shoot), and a Canon A2/EOS 5 (passed down to me from dad). I’m totally sentimental, so I like to think that each camera has its own certain je ne sais quoi, especially the film cameras.

After making these changes, I’ve been really happy with my collection. The motivating force behind “The Great Purge” was thinking about my lifestyle realistically, not aspirationally, and letting that guide my choices. I am not a professional photographer, nor do I use my camera for work purposes, so a Canon 7D didn’t really fit into my lifestyle. I’m a photography enthusiast with a major love of travel, so something small made a lot more sense.

Do you shoot film, digital, or both? Do you have any favorites in your own collection?

Tokyo Arcade Mania

Tokyo Arcade Mania

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We spent an embarrassing amount of time in arcades while we were in Tokyo, but I swear it couldn’t be helped. Take, for example, the first picture above which is the exterior of a five story tall arcade in the middle of Shinjuku. Five! The bottom floors were mostly claw machines and other prize games and as you went higher up in the building you’d hit racing games, fighting games, and finally at the very top, an entire floor dedicated to Purikura machines! It was every adolescent nerd’s fantasy land, so of course we were right at home. Especially H.  I had a hell of a time prying him from the clutches of those claw machines – he was obsessed, I tell you. I do have an adorable collection of stuffed animals now to show for it, though. I spent most of my time in the Purikura machines, and it was there that I got to see COSplayers in the wild for the very first time. The girls pictured above were decked out in matching little bo beep/maid costumes complete with wigs. We never made it to Harajuku this trip, so it was the wackiest Japanese fashion moment I witnessed while we were there.

Follow along with the rest of Tokyo here.