PingMag is back! And our offices are in, well, a slightly unusual corner of Tokyo.
No swanky Shibuya shared office or flashy Roppongi headquarters for us. We are plying our modest editorial trade in the northeast corner of the city in the shitamachi (old Tokyo) area of Uguisudani.
Most people have never heard of Uguisudani or, if they have, it’s for one reason alone (we’ll get to that in a moment).
First off, there’s the name, with its nearly un-articulable double vowels: “Uguisu” and “dani” (or “tani”) – nightingale valley. The rather quaint and nostalgic moniker derives from a possibly apocryphal tale that nightingales were brought from Kyoto during the Edo period and released here.
Actually only the station is called Uguisudani. The area itself is Negishi, bordered by Ueno, Iriya and Yanaka-Nippori. Negishi is an area that permeates with old Tokyo history, particularly calligraphy and Rakugo storytelling.
To get our readers acquainted with this under-appreciated Tokyo town, we embarked on a mini walking tour, snapping away as we went.
To start, you reach Uguisudani on the JR Yamanote Line.
While you may struggle to find nightingales in Uguisudani today, inside the station the birds still greet arrivals, though you have to look down to spot them.
High art it’s not, but we rather love this peculiar display stand inside the station and its regularly changing exhibit.
This is the South Exit of Uguisudani Station, with a mini taxi park outside.
Ah, here is what Uguisudani is essentially famed for: love hotels. While there are heaps of hotels clustering in the backstreets of Shibuya, Shinjuku, Gotanda et al, Uguisudani’s are particularly known for liaisons which, shall we say, are of the procured variety.
This narrow bridge takes you over the railway tracks to Iriya and Negishi.
Steps then guide you down to a mini alley called Asagao-dori (morning glory street).
The intrepid can explore the love hotel district, which is actually very quiet. It even has its own park.
Over the other side of the station there is this amazing shrine, located right above an izakaya.
A large highway overshadows the main road.
Mind your head crossing the road.
We found some fantastic little places in the backstreets, including this key-maker, which has photos of cats (the owner’s?) in its window.
And then this coffee shop, decorated with the mini craft knickknacks it sells.
A second-hand furniture and appliances shop also stocks funky retro LPs.
Contrast these micro pleasures with the surprising grandeur of this school in Negishi.
A slightly lonely-looking bridge takes you up to the road over the railway on the north side of the station.
In minutes you are in Ueno Park and all its imperial elegance.
You can see how close Uguisudani and Ueno really are.
From our office we get a good view of the highway. We also love this “rooster” bell tower.
As the working day ends, back in Asagao-dori this yakitori restaurant always gets busy.
And night is when the hotels seem to come alive in vibrant neon colors.