Industrial Light and Magic

The area of Tokyo I live in is famous for its natural display of autumn colors. Some of them seem determined to make it through winter.

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The sun is setting soon, and I decide to follow the tracks to Shinjuku, on foot. I have travelled this route many times by train, but I have no idea what lies in between. I want to find out. At my local station the trees are draped in lights where leaves are missing.

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The sight between stations is less charming. The track is a massive concrete structure towering over the surrounding sea of two- or three-story houses. It cuts right through them, a station every half mile.

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There is a pattern. Next to each station is a supermarket. A variety of smaller shops line up along a street that leads deeper into the neighborhood. Some are highly specialized and have only a few items on display that sparkle in their show cases.

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I do not know how this business model might work, but apparently it does. Tokyo seems to have a heart for small businesses that have fallen prey to franchises in other big cities of the world. The sun is gone when I reach the outskirts of Shinjuku.

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I leave the residential areas behind me and enter the business district.

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I take the metro to Shibuya, just a few stations on the Yamanote-Line.

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I pass under an icon of holidays past, that soon will be gone …

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… and step into the light.

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Illuminated panels tell me what waits for me on the different floors of each building.

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Business is three-dimensional around here. I do not know what this scene is intended to tell me, but it sure tells me something about light.

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Candles could not do the trick, I guess. There is light all around me, carrying messages, telling me what to do or not to do. Illuminated trucks circle through the streets, glowing from the inside.

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All kinds of brands join the battle for attention. Local ones …

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… some of which apparently sell immortality.

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A global brand offers chicken.

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I was told that this brand is very popular during christmas time, because the man in the red and white panel looks just like Father Christmas. I do not know if the story is true, but I heard so many strange stories about the interaction of japanese and western culture that in this context it makes sense. I was told that in Japan “everything has meaning”. It just might not be the kind of meaning you expect.

Another light shows me the entrance to the local embassy of the magic kingdom.

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After a while I get hungry.

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I wonder why …

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Menus shine in the night.

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Sometimes it is the restaurant that glitters.

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I choose a place.

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I sit down in front of two rails and a touch screen. Trays with sushi, cake, soup or beer rush by on the rails. My fingers order two sushi dishes. This time the tray stops right in front of me.

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Just like magic.

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