"One Evening in Minowa"
People are often surprised to discover that Tokyo is not - for the most part - a 24-hour city. Most shops close fairly early and the entire train system, serving 30,000,000 people, comes to a complete halt each and every night (except December 31st) at around 12:00 midnight (starting up again at 5:00 a.m. the next morning). I visited Minowa on a weekday evening at around 7:30 p.m. and nearly all the stores there were already closed.
In the picture above, the lines in the blur of light from a passing train are from electric poles, and are not the space between train cars at it seems at first glance.
One possible reason for shops closing so early may be that Tokyo (and much of Japan) is in the wrong time zone! The sun comes up at about 3:30 a.m. in late June and always sets earlier than it seems it should. My unofficial estimate is that the clocks in Tokyo are two, or maybe even three hours too slow in the summer (there is no daylight savings time here), so imagine that 7:30 is 9:30 and it makes more sense that stores would close early.
In the middle picture above, there is some sense of the immensity of Tokyo. (Minowa is the last stop on Tokyo's last remaining streetcar line.)
A note about the photo on the left (above). Local area shopping streets like this are aren't doing so well, what with people doing more and more of their shopping at new large stores and not at small shops. Not quite on the same scale as what's happening with big-box discount retailers on the other side of the Pacific, but a similar trend seems to be under way.
Copyright 2005 by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass, Tokyo