What’s the Story?
Head out into a different Tokyo, one that’s older, quieter, and surprisingly ramshackle. Walk the streets of old neighborhoods and see how life has been lived for decades. Explore old districts now under the watchful eye of the huge, ultra-modern Skytree. Experience an off the beaten track side of a tourist favorite, and a unique red light district with a very dark past.
What We’ll Shoot
We’ll shoot a mixture of architecture and people. Learn how to capture this old side of Tokyo: get advice on composition and tips on how to frame the often striking juxtaposition of old and new. For human subjects, you’ll be coached on how to get the best candid shots, while also gaining that much needed photographic confidence, not just during the workshop, but more importantly, in your future travels.
Where We’ll Explore
Our walk will start in east Tokyo’s Hikifune. We’ll explore the traditional area’s narrow streets and alleyways, taking in the old way of life, and the neighborhood’s predominantly older inhabitants. Then, via Skytree and the back streets of Asakusa, we’ll pass through the Yoshiwara red light district and eventually finish our walk in Minowa, an old shopping district that harks back to the days of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.
Mark and Deborah –
We were familiar with Lee’s photography from his Tokyo Times photo blog and Instagram feed and thought this would be a great way to see the older, grittier side of Tokyo we would be unlikely to find easily ourselves. Lee is a friendly down to earth guy and he made us feel at ease the moment we met at Hikifune Station.
We hadn’t gone far before we were walking streets and passing buildings from a different era. The contrast with the nearby Skytree was stark and made for some fascinating photographs.
Lee’s knowledge of the area and Japan in general is deep and fascinating and peppered with insights we would never have picked up on our own. We saw many unique locations and buildings in various states of ageing and decay, including a long abandoned house with plants growing inside pressing themselves against the old glass windows, possibly the world’s smallest and shabbiest Airbnb, and a couple of lovely old ladies sat on the edge of a small plot who were amongst many people Lee knew and exchanged a few words with.
We looked at the wares of old style shops that can’t have changed for decades, and the locals who rely upon them. We also took a break at a wonderfully atmospheric old coffee shop and learned yet more of the Tokyo that lies just behind the new, hi-tech and neon Tokyo everyone sees.
The hours passed by in the blink of an eye and as we parted we felt we were saying goodbye to an old friend. All in all it was a wonderful experience which enriched our knowledge of Tokyo. We will definitely be back for a tour next year.
Thanks for the great tour on Sunday. I’ve been working my way through the pictures I took, and I have a lot that I really like. The places you took me are so interesting visually. I’ll be back once a month for quite a while, so I hope we can go out again. Also, it was great talking to you about photography in general.
Experiencing Tokyo’s old neighborhoods through Lee’s eyes was so interesting. It’s nothing like a standard guided tour, and the fact that a standard tour would never take you to these neighborhoods is just the start of it. Any tour guide can talk about a building you’re actually looking at, but Lee is just as fascinating talking about a building that isn’t there anymore. He’ll tell you how there’s real community in these old neighborhoods with people stopping to talk to each other on the street and in shops, and the next minute he’ll actually be having a conversation with an elderly gentleman, commiserating about a big condo going up across from some old shops. If you’re unfamiliar with these parts of Tokyo, I can’t recommend these tours too highly – and even if you are, as I am, it’s an experience you wouldn’t have on your own.