Tokyo’s shitamachi is reverse – “basically the opposite” of the vibrant areas of Tokyo like Shibuya and Harajuku that most people associate with the metropolis. Literally “low city,” shitamachi is traditionally the physically low part of the city, east of the Sumida river. It’s not trendy but subdued and relaxing, which is why illustrator Shinji Tsuchimochi likes it so much.
Three years ago he was living in Higashi-Nippori and was taking many photographs of Tokyo’s shitamachi. This led him to begin to draw the many scenes of local life that wouldn’t necessarily be chosen for postcards but were endearing nonetheless. In an episode for Toco Toco, Tsuchimochi describes how his passion for Tokyo’s shitamachi led to a 3-year project: 100 Views of Tokyo.
In the episode, which recently aired on French TV, Tsuchimochi talks about wabi sabi, why he sometimes incorporates imaginary creatures into his work, and introduces some of his favorite spots like the Saboru café and Yamada Shoten, which carries old books but also ukiyo-e prints.
Toco Toco, currently on episode 43, features Japanese creatives who introduce some of their favorite places in Tokyo. All their episodes are available on YouTube.
Although inspired by shitamachi, Tsuchimochi’s 100 Views of Tokyo encompasses all of Tokyo. And the book is available through the Spoon & Tamago Shop.