Observation Posts: Watching Time Pass the Fun Way

It’s all very well to spend this month, as we have done, talking about “the year” in Japan but actually, what this actually means varies a lot per region. Each individual person also has their own sense of time. Time passes and the seasons change. But that doesn’t necessarily make every year the same. There is a pretty accurate way to get an overview of the unit of a year, though, and that’s through a making a observation from a fixed point or place. Japan has had these kinds of posts or measuring stations since ancient times. The modern equivalent is turning on a web cam and letting it record whatever happens at the same spot for 24 hours, 365 days of the year.

We started looking around for websites that featured “observation points” in Japan today and we found that in the digital sphere there are some truly unusual ways to record the passing of time.


Tokyo Skytree


Tokyo’s newest landmark is the Skytree, which opened in 2012, and this website presents visitors with daily shots of the skyline and the new east Tokyo tower. The quality of the photos is really good.



Okay, this is a must for Japanophiles. It features images updated live every few minutes of one of Japan’s most famous temples so you can enjoy watching the Kyoto landmark in all its majesty wherever you happen to be logging in.

Japan’s Towns and Cities, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year



Even in Tokyo, Akihabara is a pretty special place. This website streams footage of Akiba from one of its signature places, the Radio Kaikan. Just watching the people walking by is fun.



Tono in Iwate Prefecture is famous for the “Tono Monogatari” and it is also said that Kappa once lived here. This website features a live stream of Tono, the idea being that perhaps the mythical Kappa are still alive today somewhere in the area. If you fancy yourself as a bit of an UMA hunter, then be sure to check this website regularly and you might just catch sight of a real Japanese cryptid. Saying that, since there’s no lights, at night it’s completely pitch black.

Vending Machines


We previously noted how you can tell what season you are in by what the vending machines are stocking, and this website goes one step further on this theme. It runs daily snapshots of a vending machine to analyze in micro detail how it is changing.

Wash House


Wash House is a laundromat chain in Kyushu and on this website it streams live footage of its branches. Well, it might be practical for customers — you can see how many laundry machines are free before leaving the house with a bundle of dirty clothes — but what about privacy issues?!


Futaba, Fukushima


Futaba is where the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and its ongoing crisis is located. The town today is almost entirely a no-go zone due to the radiation leak and so this camera feed was set up so that people could always see their hometown, even if they can’t go there anymore. However, there’s also something rather chilling about the images of the abandoned streets.

Animals + Onsen = Chilled-Out Monkeys

Jigokudani Monkey Park


It’s not just people who like a dip in a hot spring (onsen), you know. The monkeys who bathe in the Jigokudani springs have made the Nagano Prefecture tourist spot famous and this website means you can watch the relaxing primates in real-time. At night there’s almost no light so it’s hard to see, but during the daytime you can observe lots of tourists coming to see (and photograph) the monkeys.

Human Beings

sushi live


As the name suggests, this website streams footage of a sushi restaurant. Needless to say, it’s limited to business hours (11:00-14:30, 16:30-22:40). They say that you should watch and learn from a master, so budding sushi chefs should definitely check this out for some tips.

Raman Jiro


Ramen Jiro is famed even among the gazillions of ramen joints in Japan for the volume of its servings and their taste. The person who wrote this blog seems to be a bit of an aficionado and posted records of their almost daily visits to eat at the restaurant. Kind of like a Japanese noodles version of “Super Size Me”, unfortunately it has not been updated since the end of last year but just going over all the variations in the previous meals has a certain value to it.

  • Leslie

    Interesting concept for a New Year’s article, nice! Thanks especially for sharing the Jiro Ramen blog. I tried this ramen in Kyoto once; it was so enormous! It was garlicky and delicious but I must admit I couldn’t finish it.