Shoto Incongruities


One of the curious aspects of Tokyo living is the often cliched perspective of the new vs. the old. The fall-back standard for no-need-to-think international correspondents who like to show keitai girls in yukata, shinkansen and rice-fields, cosplay and temples, neon and whatever.

As occasionally the case with easy observations, the truth is sometimes buried in there too. The residential area of Shoto, in Tokyo’s West, is no exception. Mixed in with some of the most expensive residential real estate in the world are black wooden houses dating from post-War rebuilds. Nestled next to the house belonging to the head of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department — and his own personal police station — is a set of one bedroom apartments occupied by night workers. Behind the massive house and pre-War Alfa Romeo collection of a famous Japanese actor, lives a struggling photographer. On the same block as an ex-Prime Minister, is an old cotton shop where the woman owner still gets her water from a well.

Tokyo is like that.


So between the house with three Bentleys and the Lexus LF-A showroom, the cars too show a vast range of incongruity. This RT40 Toyota Corona coupe lives on the same street as the New Zealand embassy (admittedly down the cheaper, Sheep Fancier, end of town):


This Nissan President is around the corner from a house that occupies the whole block, rented by a US software monopoly for its chief counsel at US$15,000 per month (the house, not the car):


Over the road, this Origin is often parked in the street next to a set of old shops.


In a lesser area, on the other side of Yamate-dori, one of two Mitsubishi Jeep J37 wagons seen running around the area is regularly parked:


This rather tasty, mint Gloria is often parked next to an ex-Prime Minister’s house:

Digging deeper, you can find next door to a well-know yakuza boss — and perhaps stored for him — are the rattiest Silver Shadow and Type-35 Bugatti I have ever seen. A few streets away is parked a mint 1956 coupe and a 1963 convertible Karmann Ghia. A well known writer who brags that his second wife is younger than my daughter, lovingly polishes his XK-120 on weekends, his landlord owning two or three Honda S800 (I could never count as he secretly sneaks into his garage only on weekends).

Unlike other countries in Asia where the old is often shunned, and only the new is seen as appropriate, Japan, Tokyo, and Shoto embrace the old with the new. Sometimes leaving it to fall apart in their back gardens too.

Skorj is a photographer/journalist living in Japan. You can see more of his work at Magnesium Photos.

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11 Responses to Shoto Incongruities

  1. OCTC said:

    Very true on that last paragraph.

    Don’t get the mentality of having new things all the time. As if new is necessarily better…

    Great article.

  2. Nigel said:

    Just getting a glimpse of how a people live and their surroundings tells you a lot about those people. (It is like taking a trip too Shoto. Thank You.)

  3. Toyotageek said:

    Yours words and photos bring back some fond memories. Domo.

  4. This is a great post. Really gives us USDM cubical cowboys a view into Japan. Very cool.

  5. moominsean said:

    Yeah exactly what I find fascinating about Japan. That mix of new and old.

    …and nice Corona!

  6. Alan said:

    Excellent story and pictures, fascinating subject and you really nailed the atmosphere you were trying to depict.

    PLEASE let’s see the vintage RR and Bugatti!! PLEASE PLEASE

  7. Ben said:

    Great post, Skorj. I always thought Toyota Origins were rare, but you have managed to snap two of them!

  8. Koich said:

    ps. Shoto or in kanji 松濤 is pronounced “Sho-Tow”

  9. slickwrick said:

    that bootlegged toyopet!
    did a fine job customizing it. or they are manufacutred like that?
    looks nice!

    • Ben said:

      slickwrick: That’s a Toyota Origin, a limited edition car based on the Toyota Progres sedan, but made to look like an S30 Crown.

  10. Sarcasmo said:

    Liking that Origin… why can’t Toyota manufacture cars like that for over here. I take it that car is RWD.