Sketching Japan: In the center of it all in Tokyo’s Ginza district.
“I couldn’t really say I belonged to Tokyo and its coffee shops. But I had never felt this loneliness there. I could drink my coffee, read my book, pass the time of day without any special thought, all because I was part of the regular scenery.”
– Haruki Murakami
It’s a sunny Tuesday afternoon in Tokyo when I emerge from the Ginza subway station, on the hunt for a building I can’t remember the name of.
Sounds like a promising start to a sketching session, doesn’t it?
But after digging around online the night before and coming across a recent SketchCrawl of Tokyo (because yes! SketchCrawls totally exist! And I totally have to take part in one some day), I learned about a landmark called the Wakō Building.
Built in 1932, it sits right in the heart of the Ginza shopping district – i.e. the Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive of Tokyo, lined with Prada, Cartier, Burberry, Bvlgari and enough other luxury shops to make your wallet quake in its boots – and yet at first, the building I’m after is nowhere to be found.
I walk on, losing myself in the crowds, loving the vertical signs that hang from each storefront, until I notice the district section numbers (Ginza 4, Ginza 5, Ginza 6) keep growing larger. I still have much to learn about Japan, but I take this to mean I’m getting farther and farther away from the heart of Ginza, and thus farther away from the Wakō.
Not two seconds after turning around, it suddenly appears before me, with its famous Seiko clock tower chiming in two o’clock and its many windows reflecting the afternoon sun.
But not only that – right across the street from it is a two-story coffee shop called Le Café Doutor.
The café has beautifully curved floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the intersection and provide a perfect vantage point from which to view the Wakō – the only problem is that all of Tokyo seems to feel the same way, or so it seems on the packed second floor.
But only ten minutes later, a seat opens up and I sweep in, claiming my spot with a pearl iced au lait (otherwise known as an iced bubble coffee – as you might remember reading, I’m only mildly obsessed with any drinks containing tapioca pearls).
As I sketch, I keep looking out over the city spinning and swirling below me, feeling like I’m not only in the center of Tokyo, but in the center of the world itself.
I found the Wakō after all – and so much more.