Living in Tokyo’s 23-ku has many benefits, and detractions too I suppose. However, one of my great pleasures is the early morning commute across town. Many years ago I decided to ditch the usual meek-gray-mouse-crammed-onto-the-Ginza Line experience for a motorcycle.
While I used to transit the stations where white-gloved attendants helpfully force more commuters into the carriages (unlike other Tokyo myths like underwear vending machines, this regularly still occurs), it was not the crowded claustrophobic nature of the trains I decided I did not want to endure, but merely that I was missing out on much above ground activity for the hour or so my journey took.
So, my surface commute now takes me by Yoyogi-koen, the home of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, past Harajuku and the regular sight of curiously dressed foreigners looking for the local cosplayers that evaporated years ago, under the Shutoko Expressway and through the Marunouchi skyscrapers, past the Prime Minister’s residence and the Diet and countless Toyota Century-borne suits, through Ginza and the kimono-clad oba-san alighting from their many Lexuses.
Past the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department headquarters one morning, I chased a snarling Hakosuka as its hipster-hatted driver rowed up and down the gears on near-empty roads. Looking like a playback scene perhaps from Grand Turismo, the driver was obviously enjoying the stoplight starts and the sweeping curves around the Imperial Palace.
A few days later, on the way out Inokashira-dori, a recently re-Shakened and largely unmolested AE86 was making the evening commute.
Though I drove an S660 for JNC a few weeks ago, there are still very few on the roads. So it was interesting to see a red one last week filling the route past Yoyogi-koen with its little turbo whine, and to contrast it in size to the full-size cars on the road.
The wide avenues give way to meandering lanes, and in a local shotengai a Showa-era shophouse finds a new use as a part-time preparation garage for a rally-ready Lancer Evo.
Occasionally too, I’ve seen a fellow rider who takes his daily commute seriously. On his second Honda CrossCub 110 in as many years, he suits up each day with the full catalog of off-road protective gear — perhaps more suitable for the Ginza Line than the usually benign Tokyo traffic.
With the occasional heavy snow, typhoon, or nihonshu consuming dinner sometimes forcing me off my barge-like Maxam onto the trains, I do not mind as I know my bike is waiting for me at home with an old construction camera in the storage box to snap the ever-interesting sights in daily Nihon Life.
Skorj is a photographer living in Japan and co-founder of Filmwasters.com.