Tokyo is a city is a city of amazing diversity, and nowhere is that more evident than in its modern architecture. If you stay away from one of Tokyo's main business centers for just a couple of years, chances are you will hardly recognize the skyline when you next visit. Tokyo doesn't just have one district of skyscraper and high rise buildings. It has several, each of which is probably the equivalent in size to many of the world's major city skyscraper districts. And Tokyo has incredible diversity in its modern architecture. From small police boxes and capsule hotels, to the Mori Tower at Rappongi Hills, and the huge office towers of the Nishi Shinjiku district. Many Tokyo buildings are very unique in design and shape, as compared to the propensity to build plain rectangular glass bricks in many other world cities. Of course Tokyo has its share of these, but it also has great variety. Tokyo is a good place to view the work of Japanese architectural firms, but the good work on view is not just Japanese. Tokyo offers opportunities to architects from all around the globe, so it is a great place to view a strong representative collection of modern buildings.
It can be difficult to find a lot of the smaller modern buildings in Tokyo, due to its sheer size, and entrenched messiness. While there is certainly great modern architecture everywhere in Tokyo, overall town planning seems to be of little interest, or maybe it is just considered impossible to control. Japanese cities and urban areas are very messy, and because of that, usually fairly ugly.
Curved lines of Washington hotel in Nishi-Shinjuku, entrance to the Museum of Contemprary Art in Koutou-ku, landmark Nagakin capsule tower in Ginza and the famous Asahi building in Asakusa.
At street level you have huge amounts of traffic, both private and public transport, overhead electricity wires in such numbers that you cannot believe anyone could figure out who is serviced by them, tiny laneways jammed with restaurants and bars packed so densely that even finding the entrance to many of them is a challenge. So many of the architectural gems get buried in this mess, totally hidden from view behind their taller neighbors.
I am not an architectural photographer, nor a student of architecture, but I do like to see it, and photograph it. The many unique shapes of the modern architecture in Tokyo make for interesting photographic challenges, and can produce very satisfying end results. It can also be very difficult, first to find and get to the buildings, and second to avoid the obstructions that prevent you getting a clear view. Another legacy of the messiness, and lack of overall planning.
Mori tower, Roppongi Hills at night, the Dior building in Aoyama, an unusual apartment building in Nishi-Shinjuku, and a futuristic Koban (police box) in Ueno park.
Working around Nishi Shinjuku office area is easy, because the streets are wide, and largely deserted (everyone is in their office working!), and all of the services are hidden away, so we don't have to contend with overhead wires. And areas like Shinagawa are fine, because of the height of the buildings, and the openness, but step into old Shinjiku, or Akihabara, or most areas where there is a mix of old and new, and the problems are myriad.
Tokyo City offices at Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinagawa office tower, Small office building in Harajuku and the Vuitton shop behind Rappongi Hills tower.
But if you are interested in good, diverse modern architecture, then Tokyo must be on your list for a visit. It will take you many days to get to it all, and to see it all. And you can have a lot of other fun in Tokyo while seeking it out. These photographs here are by no means definitive of Tokyo's modern architecture, just a few buildings I have captured in my travels there. But I have included some links at the end of this piece where you can find many good photographs, and a great list of good Tokyo buildings and their architects. So if your appetite is whetted by this story, do a little research, seek some map locations, pack your camera gear and come on over.