Tokyo Neon

By Chris Jongkind

There is a uniquely Japanese environment, both beautiful and plentiful in Tokyo. While not high on anyone’s itinerary, if intentionally considered at all, the pulsating vertical neon lining the major streets is a quintessential Japanese spectacle. Futuristically sexy, visually stunning; reminiscent of, and responsible for, many movies set in the future, from Akira to Bladerunner.

In Hong Kong, the neon is horizontal, hanging over the street. In Vegas, it’s gaudy. The verticality is distinctly Japanese, rising and changing every 3m, symbolizing the business on each successive floor. The streets are left clear, forming vast illuminated canyons, a river of automobiles flowing at the base.

Looking west on Koshu Kaido

Looking west on Koshu Kaido

There are several areas in Tokyo to best see neon, each with its own style and atmosphere. The best example can be found northeast of Shinjuku station, looking east on Yasukuni Dori. Also near Shinjuku Station, take a look west from just outside the South Exit to see the Shinjuku Park Tower dominating the colossal neon canyon of Koshu Kaido.

Shinjuku's Yasukuni Dori

Shinjuku’s Yasukuni Dori

Outside the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya station, the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection is draped with radiating signage leading away in all directions. Akihabara’s Electric Town is a softer-spoken, subtle neon labyrinth with alleys meshing the blocks together, towering luminous beacons at each exit.

Shinjuku's Yasukuni Dori (street)

Shinjuku’s Yasukuni Dori (street)

At the heart of Ginza, take a look in four directions from the corner of Harumi and Chuo Dori, to see the tidier, ordered vertical lights of this upscale shopping district. Smaller, local versions can be found at virtually every station in central Tokyo as well.

Chris is a freelance photographer and writer. You can find more of his work on his website.

Shinjuku's Koshu Kaido

Shinjuku’s Koshu Kaido

Ginza's Chuo Dori

Ginza’s Chuo Dori

Shinjuku's Yasukuni Dori

Shinjuku’s Yasukuni Dori


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