Tokyo from above

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16 days in japan series

On the 9th day of our adventure in Japan I was turning 30 years old. Usually I don’t care about this day, don’t really like to make a thing out of it, and often forget that it’s supposed to be special. But we were in Japan after all, and booked the trip to overlap this week so we had the chance to do something really unusual in the most unique (crazy?) city in the world. More on that particular event on tomorrow’s post.


Got on the JR Yamanote line and switched to the Metro subway line so we could get out in Asakusa. This is a very turist-y area because it holds, arguably, the most famous temple in Tokyo: the Senso-ji.

As such, it has developed this life around it, comprised of a big shopping street leading to the sacred grounds, and tons of entertainment around, including an amusement park that opened in 1853 as a flower park. photo photo photo photo

Lena bought me a pair of beautifully handmade chopsticks, we visited the temple and walked around the block looking for little idyllic streets.

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We then spotted the Tokyo Skytree behind countless rows of buildings, standing above them all but really far away. It’s actually kind of funny to look at a photo featuring the tower, like the one below, where you can compare it to other buildings but completely unaware that it’s kilometers behind them.

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The Skytree was completed just under 3 years ago, it stands 634m tall (2080ft), making it the second tallest structure in the world, and it’s a marvel of modern engineering.

From its sheer height, to earthquake resistance, to the speed of the elevators (600m/minute!!), to what it holds on top, inside and below — a huge shopping mall, restaurant at the top, broadcasting antennas, etc.

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The views from the top observation floor? Stunning. And scary. But not because it’s a tall building; in fact, it’s so tall that any anything in the ground just looks like toys. Any feeling of vertigo you might have vanishes when you see the Lego bricks below.

When I say it’s scary it’s because only then you can see the mind-blowing vastness that is Tokyo. You’ll see city as far as the eye can see, and it goes beyond that, only stopping for a breath where the water meets the Tokyo bay.

Simply crazy to see otherwise giant buildings when you walk in between them turn into miniatures in the largest urban board in the world.

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The final shot

Hi there, welcome to my blog! I'm Filipe Varela, a designer at Automattic passionate about photography and video. In this site I post photos from my journeys across the world — a slice of life. Browse through the archive or check the homepage for the latest posts.

7 thoughts on “Tokyo from above

  1. maique March 11, 2015

    WoW!!!! Lovely, as usual, sir… :-)

    And maybe you’d be interested in this :

    1. Filipe Varela March 11, 2015

      Amazing stuff and beautiful shots. Really interesting to see Tokyo from another perspective and especially hear such disparate thoughts about the country. Wish I knew about that abandoned amusement park before…gotta go back one more time!

      Thank you!

      1. maique March 11, 2015

        Really glad I could talk into another visit.. I was afraid you wouldn’t want to go back again ;-)

      2. Filipe Varela March 11, 2015

        I’ll take any excuse I can. :)

  2. Toyko Tower | mutelife* March 26, 2015

    […] by the ever-expanding metropolis and its surrounding buildings, and so it was replaced by the Toyko Skytree as the main hub for TV and radio broadcasting in […]

  3. Jeff Bell May 27, 2019

    I have really enjoyed looking at your photos of Japan. You have a great eye and unique style. I am headed there for 3 weeks in June and your blog got me excited to go.

    1. Filipe Varela May 27, 2019

      Thank you so much for the super kind words, Jeff — truly appreciate you leaving a comment.

      Don’t know if you need more visual stimuli, but you can see more posts about Japan on this blog by viewing the tag: or you can also see the site we’ve created for our first trip there:

      Thank you again, and enjoy that beautiful country!!

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