Tokyo to Host the 2020 Olympic Games


Tokyo has won the bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, beating out Istanbul and Madrid. Bloomberg reports:

The Japanese capital was the bookmakers’ favorite leading into this weekend’s meeting of International Olympic Committee members in Buenos Aires, and defeated Madrid and Istanbul today in a vote by the IOC. Madrid was eliminated in a first round of voting after tying for second place with Istanbul, setting up the final vote won by Tokyo.

The winning bid to stage sports’ biggest event came on the city’s second straight attempt. While a lack of public enthusiasm doomed its bid for the 2016 Olympics, a March survey found 70 percent of Tokyo residents were in support this time. The government also billed the Olympics as a way to help Japan recover from a 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Parliament passed two motions in favor of the bid and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe broke into song during a March presentation to the IOC’s evaluation panel in which he said hosting the event was a long-held dream.

“Choose Tokyo today and you choose a nation that is a passionate, proud, and a strong believer in the Olympic movement,” Abe said in today’s final presentation. He was joined on stage by Princess Takamado, the first member of the Japanese Imperial family to address the IOC.

The Japanese capital, now festooned with the bid’s cherry-blossom logo, has emphasized merits such as financial stability, safety, cleanliness and convenience. Tokyo has put aside 408.8 billion yen ($4.1 billion) for building and upgrading facilities. Tokyo’s flagship project is the futuristic 80,000-seat National Stadium designed by London-based Pritzker Prize-winner Zaha Hadid, which will be built on the site of the 1964 Tokyo Games, an event seen as re-launching Japan on the world stage after World War II.

I will make it to Tokyo before 2020, but the Olympic Games there sound like a repeat visit would be in order…

Tokyo City Symphony: Projecting Music and Images onto a Virtual Tokyo

The Tokyo City Symphony interactive website is a digital project that allows users to project images and music onto a miniature version of Tokyo, built to a 1:1,000 scale. Combining all the musical contributions to create a single symphony, the site is a wonderful example of a community effort.

To demonstrate an example, user “roppongi hills” came out with this beautiful, mind-blowing video:


Click through to go to the website, where you can make your own projection onto Tokyo in three versions: Future City, Rock City, and Edo City.

Platforming Books, A Case Study via Art Space Tokyo

If you’re at all interested in the future of publishing, you should read Craig Mod’s post titled “Platforming Books.” In the post, he goes into detail how his book, Art Space Tokyo, went from a Kickstarter campaign for a physical book to a digital manifestation:

And so, in the last two years a simple, strong truth has emerged: The future of books is built upon networked platforms, not islands. More than any surface advancement — interface, navigational, typographic, or similar — platforms define how we read going forward. Platforms shape systems — those of production, consumption, distribution — and all critical changes happening in digital books and publishing happen within systems. Post-artifact books and publishing is not just about text on screens.

As part of our Kickstarter campaign, we promised a digital edition of Art Space Tokyo. We’re finally delivering on that promise today. But more than dump some files in your lap and run off, we want (as we are wont) to fully open the kimono.

So Art Space Tokyo exists as a physical book, an e-book, and on the Web. Why all three platforms? As Craig explains:

Art Space Tokyo needed a touchable home. An online, public address for all its content. We gave it just that: The entire book is there. All the interviewsessays and art space information. Everything has an address to which you can point.

Why do this? I strongly believe digital books benefit from public endpoints. The current generation of readers (human, not electronic) have formed expectations about sharing text, and if you obstruct their ability to share — to touch — digital text, then your content is as good as non-existent. Or, in the least, it’s less likely to be engaged.

I also believe that we will sell more digital and physical copies of Art Space Tokyo by having all of the content available online. The number of inbound links to the site should increase exponentially. is one of the largest collections of publicly available text about the Tokyo art world online. Organic search traffic should increase accordingly, and by having upsells on every page, the conversion to paid users should follow suit. We’ll report back with numbers in time.

Just because a collection of text is called a ‘book’ doesn’t mean it can’t act like a website. On we purposely broke the strict linearity of the physical Art Space Tokyo. The ambition is to extend the content indefinitely in more organic ways.

Craig’s conclusion on publishing:

If you’re a publisher wondering what to do, the lowest investment, highest return action in this liminal stage of digital publishing is to embrace open EPUBstandards. Unless you want to architect a cross-device platform with cloud syncing, hire a full dev team to support that platform, and iterate relentlessly as standards are hacked apart and reconstituted, then your best bet is to build off existing platforms.

A not-so-long time ago there were no digital books. There were no Kindles or iPads. There were self-contained objects. Objects unnetworked. The only difference now is that they’re touching, they’re next to one another. The content is the same. But that small act of connection brings with it a potential sea change, change we’ll explore as we continue to platform books.

A must-read in its entirety.

Hidden Tokyo

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this five-year-old New York Times article profiling hidden Tokyo, but it’s a good one:

Tokyo, especially after dark, is notoriously hard to penetrate. With its winding mazelike streets, the city is a challenge for even seasoned taxi drivers. (Many bicyclists have GPS devices on their handlebars.) So imagine hunting down the restaurants, bars and clubs that are stashed away in patchwork alleys, nondescript apartment buildings, faceless office towers and basement stairwells illuminated by red bulbs.

Discreet, out-of-the-way bars have been a staple of Japanese culture for decades. Before World War II, Tokyo was filled with these pocket-sized dives — called nomiya (counter bars) — with space for just six or seven stools. Behind the counter was a proprietor, whose role was both confidant and caregiver to the regulars. When the city was rebuilt, however, most were bulldozed in favor of larger, glossier, more Westernized offerings.

Now a younger, postwar creative class is reviving nomiya culture — with a decidedly modern spin.

There’s a store called Not Found:

Not Found, an appointment-only clothing boutique that opened last winter, is among the latest to play this card. Wander down a main thoroughfare in Azabu Juban near Roppongi and you might stumble across it. From the sidewalk, it looks like just another concrete office building with a signless door. The rail-thin space, which carries only a few articles of precious clothing hanging behind thick-glass displays, was opened by the 33-year-old founder of a tech company as a sort of luxe closet for his closest friends.

“Imagine trying to find the words ‘Not Found’ on Google,” Ms. Fall said. “There’s about a million entries. It’s brilliant camouflage. Japanese are hobbyists and obsessives. They’ll trek to a little town so they can eat a certain type of asparagus or mushroom that’s only available a few days out of the year because that’s when it’s in season.”

Whenever I make my first trip to Tokyo, I’ll come back to this article.

Tokyo Overtakes Luanda as Most Expensive City For Expats

Earlier this year, we saw a report that Luanda (in Angola) was the most expensive city for expats. However, a new survey has Tokyo topping the list:

The analysis uses New York as a base city and measures the comparative prices of more than 200 items in each location, such as transport, clothing, food, household goods and entertainment. Housing costs, which are also included, are critical in the ranking as they are often the biggest expense for expatriates.

A pair of blue jeans costs $174 in Luanda while expats in Moscow pay about $9.60 for an international newspaper, Mercer said. In Tokyo, a cup of coffee runs about $8.15 and the monthly rent on a luxury two-bedroom unfurnished apartment is $4,766.

I pay $1.61 for a cup of coffee every morning, so compared to a cup that costs $8.15 in Tokyo, I’m happy where I am…

The Culture That is Japan

This is a fascinating piece on the culture of Japan. Over the last twenty years of recession, the Japanese have traveled abroad and returned with acquired international tastes. In fact, as the piece attests, Japan may be a better destination than its foreign counterparts where the product is made. If you want to test fine French cuisine, head over to Tokyo rather than Paris, and this piece explains why.

Japan has become the most culturally cosmopolitan country on Earth, a place where you can lunch at a bistro that serves 22 types of delicious and thoroughly Gallic terrines, shop for Ivy League–style menswear at a store that puts to shame the old-school shops of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and spend the evening sipping rare single malts in a serene space that boasts a collection of 12,000 jazz, blues and soul albums. The best of everything can be found here, and is now often made here: American-style fashion, haute French cuisine, classic cocktails, modern luxury hotels. It might seem perverse for a traveler to Tokyo to skip sukiyaki in favor of Neapolitan pizza, but just wait until he tastes that crust.

An interesting factoid about the quality of food:

Though many Japanese foodies and critics deride the Michelin Guide for a perceived ignorance of traditional Japanese food culture, the publication of the first Red Guide to Tokyo just four years ago signaled a tectonic shift in the international culinary scene. In the latest guide, 247 of Tokyo’s restaurants have stars—almost four times the number in Paris, and more than the total number in London, New York City and Paris, pointing to the spectacular appeal of this city to foreign palates. 

It’s no surprise to see the top ranks of Japan’s Red Guide populated by tiny sushi bars and extravagant kaiseki restaurants, but each year there are also more and more non-Japanese restaurants earning stars for their creative cooking. One of Tokyo’s three-star establishments—an honor awarded to only 15 restaurants in the main cities of Europe but to 16 in Tokyo alone—is Quintessence, which serves contemporary French food created by a young Japanese chef named Shuzo Kishida.

On Japanese bars:

It’s this embracing of bartending as a vocation that makes Japan’s bars better than those anywhere else in the world. There’s also the hyperspecialization encouraged by the fact that bars can be so small—and that almost every narrow pursuit can find enough customers to at least break even. But maybe the central reason this city is so amazing for drinkers is that the quest to find the best is, by definition, a Sisyphean task.

Read the piece to find out about Katsuyuki Tanaka, an owner of a coffee shop who requires his baristas to train for at least a year before they can serve espressos.

I’ve never been to Japan, but from what I’ve read, the country is quickly becoming the best place in the world in which to eat, drink, shop, and sleep.