The alleyways of Ginza, filled with colorful lanterns and cramped little restaurants, provide a smoky paradise for any street photographer. When walking through the thin paths, you can feel the heartbeat of Ginza in these alleyway veins. Yakitori stalls are cramped and crowded - claustrophobic but in an excitingly good way. Life thrives in these small spaces that come alive when the sun admits defeat to darkness, causing people to act like fireflies attracted to the artificial lights. Locals and foreign visitors all congregate near the train tracks, drawn in by the intoxicating aroma of cooking food.
When researching places to visit and the must do things in Tokyo, "Yakitori Alley" will certainly be among many of the lists, if not all. It is an authentic experience, one that is unmistakably Asian, as opposed to materialistic shopping streets that could look at home in any busy city. After taking part in a Tokyo Streets and People Photo Tour, I decided to head to these confined spaces and put my newly learned skills to use. With smoke floating around the light given off from radiantly lit lanterns, intimately sized restaurants full of diners and men and women walking down the restricted alleys all fused together to provide an invigorating photographic environment.
Taking photos isn’t the only reason to visit Yakitori Alley, of course, as it is famous for its food. There aren’t many places that you can eat at that have this street ambience. Unfortunately, I had eaten beforehand so didn’t try any restaurants, but the hypnotic smell of food was enough to convince me to return without a camera next time and simply to eat. Many of the restaurants and bars only hold a few people, making for a very harmonious setting. This will allow foreigners to really socialize with Japanese locals and enjoy a few drinks in a uniquely placed bar.
Those who have been living in Tokyo for a while may feel as though the area is too commercial, with people standing outside their restaurants trying to lure in passersby. They may also feel that the food is unnecessarily priced, and that you can have a better meal elsewhere for less of a fee. However, when visiting Tokyo for a limited time period, this is something you have to experience, even if you just walk down the alleys amongst the smell of cooking food and rows of vibrant lanterns.
This is a visually unique place that even if you walked through every night, it would still hold a magical feel each time. For me it was like being in a Wong Kar-Wai film, the Hong Kong director so famous for his films that are a kaleidoscope of color in tight spaces.
Yakitori Alley is located just a few minutes walk from Ginza Station, under the Shinkansen train tracks. Close to it is a place that easily rivals Shibuya crossing in my opinion. The large dazzling building with Fujiya (a confectionary store/restaurant chain) in big letters at the top is a phenomenal backdrop at night, with colorful taxis whizzing by before people rush over the crossing. I was happy that it was raining a little on this particular day, as it allowed for great pictures. I love how many different umbrellas you see in Japan; you really see some intricately designed and colorful varieties that add to the already fashionable aura of Tokyo. I am also a massive fan of the see-through umbrella, which allowed me to take my most favorite photograph I have ever taken so far!
The photos are some of my favorite shots from my first night in Ginza, easily the most thrilling and potent place of Tokyo I have visited so far.