A few words of praise: Congratulations to the Japanese athletes who helped Japan achieve its highest ever Olympics medal tally in London. おめでとうございます。

Now that the XXX Olympiad – or London 2012 – has come to a close and the torch passed to Brazil for 2016, the push to secure the rights for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games will no doubt intensify.

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I finally got around to checking out the Shoji Ueda exhibition at the Fujifilm Photo Museum in Roppongi. 

A lifelong Pursuit of Modernism − the Photographic World of Shoji Ueda is a grand title for the modestly presented exhibition – almost an afterthought in a space that houses Fujifilm’s entire catalogue of products, which is in itself a fascinating exhibition – but it’s definitely worth a look.

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Tokyo is not only one of the world’s great cities, it is also the best shopping destination on the planet.

We’ve just published an e-book guide to the best shopping in Tokyo’s most dynamic district, Shinjuku.

iSHOP TOKYO shinjuku, a NEW iPad e-book published by mapp : : tokyo, is now available FREE on the Apple iBooks store through iBooks on your iPad.

iSHOP TOKYO shinjuku has useful general information on Tokyo, from transport to holidays, it provides Japanese language tips and authentic gift and souvenir suggestions, hotel and dining ideas and general shopping information as well as detailed notes on Shinjuku’s most interesting stores – with address details, maps, pictures and website links.

Published with Apple’s iBooks Author, iSHOP TOKYO shinjuku is compatible with iPad and iBooks 2.0. You can download iSHOP TOKYO shinjuku from Apple’s iBooks store via the iBooks app on your iPad. We hope you like it.

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Mika Ninagawa’s anticipated second feature was released in Tokyo a week ago. Helter Skelter (ヘルタースケルター) explores fascinating themes of narcissism, modern day idolatry, the beauty industry and the commodification of ‘talent’. Fans of Ninagawa’s Sakuran won’t be disappointed as the movie’s visual styling is gorgeous and the director’s surreal, psychedelic directorial touches are in full flight.

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mapp : : tokyo has been in hiatus for a few months now. As of today it’s back. And it has a new approach. To date, posts have tended to be in essay form and topics approached with a cultural and historical slant. Future posts will still focus on design, culture, art, fashion, food and Tokyo’s retail scene, but they will be less wordy; more fragments, street-snaps, news snippets, items of interest and photo essays – and in the mix there will also be the occasional surprise.

Oh, and mapp : : tokyo is now also on Instagram. You can follow us at mapptokyo.

With the previous post, tokyo’s yamanote line, mapp : : tokyo published its 100th post. It’s a milestone worth reflecting on – an indulgence, I know, but I’ll make it short.

This blog actually began as an idea for an iOS app, but for various reasons, it morphed into a website that is part magazine, part travel guide, part cultural anthropology and part tribute to one of the world’s great cities, publishing new content on Japanese culture, design and media on a weekly basis, creating a digital tapestry of – as the blurb says – cool stuff in Tokyo and Japan.

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Tokyo is a vast city. Its unique urban ‘center’ is actually a cluster of business and commercial hubs, most of which form a rough circle around the heart of the city: the Imperial Palace, some entertainment districts and well-heeled residential neighborhoods dotted with foreign embassies, temples and parks.

Public transport is part of the ethos of Tokyo’s culture – especially trains and different stations even have their own signature tunes, with Takdanobaba famous for using the theme music of Astro Boy. The city famously has an extensive transport network featuring one of the world’s most sophisticated rail networks, comprising an array of private and public train and subway lines; there are even the mandatory hi-tech monorails. The jewel in the crown is the Yamanote line, Japan Rail East’s loop line, identified by its lime green strip livery and station signage. The Yamanote, or 山手線 – Yamanote-sen, is the line that connects the city’s most important transport hubs, its business and government centers and its top shopping and entertainment districts. It’s the line that acts as a conduit for commuters who feed into it from Tokyo’s suburbs and beyond, using many of its stations as interchanges.

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The rhythms and facets of Tokyo are seductive; the hyper-metropolis is a beguiling alien world for the tourist; a never-ending grind for the salaryman; an intoxicating shopping bazaar for the well-heeled; an amusement park for the young.

Yet beyond the city’s 23 wards and out past the greater Tokyo area, at all points of the compass, the rhythms are predictably mellower, the seasons more pronounced, and some great experiences are to be had. Here’s a small taste.

Original images copyright : : winter onsen : jake jessop; rinno-ji : jason collin; torii ocean : charles glover; kamakura daibutsu : j-cha-ya

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One of the enduring postcard images of Japan is of a snowcapped Mount Fuji dominating the background, while a sleek, white bullet train cuts through the frame. The shinkansen, as it’s known in its homeland, is not only the sexiest train set out there; its serpentine silhouette cutting a futuristic path through the landscapes it traverses, it is the quintessentially iconic image of Japanese design and engineering ingenuity.

Original images : : copyright fuji train : mega-tapety.info; bullet : oimax @ flickr.

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Original images copyright – clockwise from top left :: visvim 2011; limi feu 2009; matohu 2009; phenomenon 2011

To the casual observer wandering through Shibuya or Shinjuku, it would appear that Tokyo’s fashion culture comprises the global chain store brands that dominate the area’s landscape: H&M, Forever 21, Bershka, Topshop, Zara and Gap. These, in addition to the country’s own mass-market fast fashion chains, Comme ça du mode, Uniqlo, Muji, and fashion labels like Paul Smith, Takeo Kikuchi and the boutiques of OIOI, seem worlds away from the avant-garde heyday of Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and co.

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