Teaching a class at Siggraph Asia gave me the perfect excuse to check out Tokyo. It really is an amazing city, with a unique blend of tradition, futurism, and general crazyness.

My buddy Alex came along on the trip, he was an invaluable help preparing the talk as well as the ideal company. Without Alex I would have gone completely lost in translation. Although we were planning on travelling around in Japan, Tokyo itself was baffling enough to keep us busy for a week.

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    Tokyo Tower

     

    The Eiffel Tower? In Tokyo?
    Sure, they call it the Tokyo Tower, but seriously... Would expect some more original ideas for a tourist trap. But there's a great French restaurant in front.
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    Benten Hall Shrine

    Ueno Park

    It was the jet lag that drove me out shooting panoramas at 6 AM. That's when I discovered this little shrine on an island in the middle of a lake.
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    Shrine Interior

    Ueno Park

    As I'm sneaking around the shrine, suddenly a monk opens the doors. I use all my best Japanese lingo by pointing at my camera and asking "Photo??". To my big surprise he waves me in.
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    Small Shrine

    Ueno Park

    Right next to the big colorful shrine is another one. This shrine looks much more serious, like it's been holding a dark secret for centuries.
    I didn't dare to enter.
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    Subway Lights

    Shimbashi Station

    Notice how clean the subway station is! Also notice that there's no trashcan anywhere! This is the biggest mystery of Japanese culture: How come all these people make no litter?
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    Japanese Entrance

    Ogai Mori House

    Turned out that our hotel was a historical landmark, formerly the residence of the Japanese poet Ogai Mori.
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    Tatmi Room A

    Ogai Mori House

    Linked withI wish this would have been our hotel room. But no, it's part of Ogai Mori's house. I suspect he was parttime Ninja, training right here.
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    Tatami Room B

    Ogai Mori House

    Linked withWe snuck into this room, through several closed doors. I guess it's used for wedding parties or billionaire business dinners. Or serious NInja training.
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    Salon

    Ogai Mori House

    Mister Mori called this nicely decorated salon with winter garden his own. I think every writer should live like this, especially when writing technical books on HDRI.
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    Teahouse

    Hamarikyu Garden

    Hamarikyo Garden is a secret gem in Tokyo, a place of scenic beauty. It used to be the villa of Shogun Tokugawa, and later a strictly imperial hangout spot. Now anyone can have a tea here.
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    Bridge A

    Hamarikyu Garden

    Linked withSeveral cedar bridges hop across the tiny artificial islands, crossing the Shioiri Pond. All that in the shadow of the Shiodome skyscrapers.
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    Bridge B

    Hamarikyu Garden

    Linked withArtificial? Yes.
    Cheesy? Sure.
    Testeless? Never!
    That's the essential difference between Disneyland and the Hamarikyu Gardens.
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    Harbor Hill

    Hamarikyu Garden

    You can also get here by waterboat, on a trip from Asakusa along Tokyo's skyline. In the background you can see the Rainbow Bridge, which is awesome to cross by train.
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    Shiodome Stairs

     

    And this is how that train comes into Shiodome. The entire complex is a giant subway-mall-maze, built three levels underground. Hotels and offices are mixed in these skyscrapers.
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    Courtyard

    Shimbashi

    Linked withThe maze connects with the neighboring district Shimbashi. It's impossible not to get lost here. We had so many "How come we're here again?" moments.
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    Subway Wall

    Shimbashi Station

    Linked withI'm fascinated by these light walls in the subway. It's the perfect studio lighting, especially when everything is so miraculously clean.
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    Shiodome Night

     

    In the Shodome district these walkways connect the skyscrapers for miles, as do giant malls in tunnels.
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    Park Hotel Lobby

     

    Our second hotel, with this lobby in the 25th floor. It's such a fancy hotel, at night I ran into a team of 5 guys in jumpsuits and hard hats dusting off the tree.
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    Future Town

     

    Linked withThe new conference center is an obsurd construction of 4 giant pyramids on their tip. It's called Tokyo Big Sight, not without reason.
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    Tokyo Big Sight

    Conference Center

    Linked withInside, we happened to run into a pet con. People carried dogs, cats, and giant lizards around.


Also check out the amazing view from our fancy room at the Park Hotel Tokyo!

Tokyo Hotel in 490 Megapixel