Archives for posts with tag: neighborhood

We already passed the mark of an urban planet: more people are living in cities than on the countryside. If change is to come, it must happen in cities. Yet the common tide is high, and inertia is strong.

Tokyo Mosaic urban manga directions
This episode concludes a chapter that saw Tokyo moving us, through an astonishing spiritual diversity, distinct neighborhoods, living traditions on the streets, unexpectedly rewarding sights and curious encounters. At this point, movement itself turns out to become difficult, though. Gaining perspective makes hungry for more, yet directions aren’t easy to figure out in a maze of contrasts, overflowing options and paths.

So I invite you to stay tuned for the following chapter leading you into the next level of urban discovery: patterns of a labyrinth commonly known as Tokyo. (tbc)

While some were right about Tokyo becoming a precious place to me, most were wrong about the specific reasons. The supposed heaven for manga freaks did nothing but make me go away. Ikebukuro was different.

Tokyo Mosaic urban manga Ikebukuro chameleon cat
It’s not one of the famed neighborhoods, and from what I’ve heard it’s not all too well seen, with its subcultures and rough atmosphere.

If the chameleon cat I met there needed a name, I’d probably call it Makoto. You don’t need to watch the related dorama to agree: feisty cat or delinquent fella, whoever deeply loves his hometown is truly entitled to shout out this feeling… Ikebukuro is the best, 池袋最高! (tbc)

*Ikebukuro West Gate Park is one of the best TV series I’ve ever seen, it unites everything I like: from urban Hip Hop subculture to a charming delinquent neighborhood with its stupid-handsome heroes. I’m seriously thinking about translating this kind of story to the setting of Berlin. Somehow, sometime.*

From the places I’ve seen in Tokyo, this neighborhood made me think most of a “Kiez”, which in Berlin doesn’t only mean the area where you live, but the places and corners where you feel at home.

Tokyo Mosaic urban manga distant yet familiar shimokitazawa
Laid-back atmospheres are contagious. If the cozy dinner chitchat in episode 12 made me think I should come  back to Japan, Shimokita helped me to figure out where I’d first search for a place to stay. (tbc)

*For German-speaking readers: the SPIEGEL article that called my attention in 2010 points out some more parallels between Shimokitazawa and similar areas in Berlin.*

Stormy weather is approaching the city, yet in the metro I see a barefoot beauty with blonde dreads taking a seat in front of me.

Berlin barefoot metro beauty

This reminds me of a “Death Note” dialogue, where the always good looking, psychopathic main character named “Light” asks his opponent, the always messy, strange looking and sharp minded “L”, about the reason for his sloppy look (– a style so many watching and cosplaying fans grew fond of). I don’t remember the exact percentage, but L basically informs Light how significantly his thinking capacity diminishes when he forces himself to dress and behave “correctly”.

On the backside of my metro ticket I take a quick sketch note of barefoot beauty, phone stuck to the ear, legs crossed and slightly swinging to the rhythm of her conversation. Looks like I found my daily inspiration.

And the storm still keeps us waiting.

Gee, how I love Berlin, at times.

… on a sunny afternoon in Berlin, Wedding, I see reflections of light transforming the other side of the street.

This is when the charm of living in a neighborhood like mine becomes obvious to me.

sunny afternoon Berlin window beauty
You don’t need to share the tastes of your neighbors, it’s sufficient to watch. Every now and then, a smile will haunt the corners of your mouth, amazed by the odd diversity even a small urban radius can be made of.

When it comes to the the attention economy specific to Berlin, fashion is a key factor. People got their very own ways to create distinctiveness without exactly screaming for attention. In no other city have I seen its dwellers “inventing” themselves at less monetary costs and to more surprising effects. It’s a matter of re-contextualizing the most banal things in a fresh way. Just one example of a glimpse I caught lately, cycling my way through a western district of Berlin:

Berlin street fashion chic manga style
No matter what you wear, make it appear as the most normal thing, and the strangeness will stand out all the more. Put a typical mailman’s uniform on your weekend’s stroll through the neighborhood, visibly on no whatsoever mail delivery duty, and be sure to catch some glances in a city that is trained to ignore.

‘Where did she get that jacket?’ would I have asked myself, if my own urban journey hadn’t immediately taken me away, to the flow of further bizarre encounters. What exactly do I like about this city? At the sight of its notorious oddness, I have to keep wondering.

Something about Pharrells 24 hours of happy-Video is hypnotizing, in a good way.

To let a diversity of people dance to the same, simple tune reveals so much of their personal moods, yet by switching from one to another you can see the beauty of it all. To make it happen in different places tells you more about local atmosphere: where do passersby join the dance, where do they just look, where do they start to smile at the unexpected sight?

dance movements comic

I guess what makes improvised dancing beautiful has something to do with its closeness to everyday life: based on repetitive moves and variations, it could go on eternally. And enjoyably so.

urban-glassesSometimes, the most delicious moments in life manifest themselves in small pauses. Singing birds hidden in the greenery of trees beside your window, the humming and clicking sound of a skateboard roaming the heated asphalt, a light summery breeze patting the leaves and drawing luminous movements through the shadows of things.


When the concert hasn’t begun yet and you sit on the stairs of the church entrance, watching the lazy street at your feet. When the baby still sleeps, the mom has just gone out and bright rays of light dry the linen on the balcony where you sit, relax and wonder what’ll happen next.


Sometimes, it’s best to accept the smallness of life and to savor its amplitude through moments in between.