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William Gibson’s Futuristic Tokyo

The next question from my “What do YOU want to know about Tokyo?” post comes from nicky187.

I’d like to know how the Tokyo and Japan of today compares with the near future vision of William Gibson.

I have to admit that I needed to do a bit of research on this one – there were no softball questions from The Tokyo Traveler readers!

William Gibson is a science fiction writer who has authored a few books where Tokyo is prominently featured. In his 2001 article on WIRED, titled My Own Private Tokyo, Gibson claims “I wish I had a thousand-yen note for every journalist who, over the past decade, has asked me whether Japan is still as futurologically sexy as it seemed to be in the ’80s.” and he goes on to say:

“You can see more chronological strata of futuristic design in a Tokyo streetscape than anywhere else in the world. Like successive layers of Tomorrowlands, older ones showing through when the newer ones start to peel.”

In my opinion Tokyo is a richly layered city and new modern structures often sit beside ancient temples and shrines. Architects in Tokyo are known for their cutting edge designs and there is a never ending flow of construction going on in Tokyo. Some of the cities most interesting structures are featured in PingMag’s Architecture in Tokyo: Omotesando Street, Pt I.

An excerpt from William Gibson’s book Neuromancer describes Tokyo as follows:

“Now he slept in the cheapest coffins, the ones nearest the port, beneath the quartz-halogen floods that lit the docks all night like vast stages; where you couldn’t see the lights of Tokyo for the glare of the television sky, not even the towering hologram logo of the Fuji Electric Company, and the Tokyo Bay was a black expanse where gulls wheeled above drifting shoals of white styrofoam. Behind the port lay the city, factory domes dominated by the vast cubes of corporate arcologies. Port and city were divided by a narrow borderland of older streets, an area with no official name. Night City, with Ninsei its heart. By day, the bars down Ninsei were shuttered and featureless, the neon dead, the holograms inert, waiting, under the poisoned silver sky.” Source: William Gibson Books

The skyline of the city is much like Gibson describes and the phrase “the bars down Ninsei were shuttered and featureless, the neon dead, the holograms inert, waiting” is very descriptive and is a fairly accurate representation of the feeling emitted from some of the areas of Tokyo that are dedicated to night owls. Even some of the prominent spots like Shinjuku and Ginza look a little bit worn out and tired during the day but once the sun goes down and the lights come on there is a vibrancy in the air that is hard to describe.

Here is Shinjuku during the day:

Shinjuku again, this time lit up at night:

With a limited amount of research and without having read any of William Gibson’s books I would have to say that Tokyo does bear a resemblance to Gibson’s “near future vision”.

I hope this answers your questions nicky187. Stay tuned for the answers to other questions throughout June….

Photo Credit: Flickr, Shinjuku & Sunset over Shinjuku