KCP Alum Nolan Good Explores Tokyo Streets (Part 1)

Tokyo, where the KCP campus is located, is well-known for both its new and old world charm. In this 2-part post, KCP alum Nolan Good shares with us what makes Tokyo streets incomparable and special. Thanks, Nolan!

In much of the world, cities are arranged according to the car. Residential and commercial areas alike are criss-crossed by wide, multi-lane roads, and traffic dominates. In nearly any American city one can choose a direction to begin aimlessly wandering and find themselves walking in a straight line through a grid. Not so in Tokyo.

An example of Tokyo’s hidden residential streets. Often, they are too narrow for cars to bother, making them perfect for walks in the sun.

While some Japanese cities like Kyoto were meticulously planned to occupy an even grid, Tokyo grew organically over hundreds of years to become what it is today: one of the world’s most advanced cities which, paradoxically, is traced along the outlines of old agricultural and fishing roads. Make no mistake: Tokyo is in its own way scrupulously organized, but in a way that makes sense of a semi-random spiderweb of labyrinthine streets rather than replace them. Each road in Tokyo carries several layers of history and iteration and its often difficult to know where one stops and the next begins. Because of this, taking an aimless walk through town is an incredible experience.

Some beautiful flowers. Tokyo’s aesthetic shifts for each of the four seasons.

Not only is there an abundance of tranquil pedestrian streets nearly devoid of cars, but they twist and turn in constantly unexpected ways. During my time at KCP, I frequently lost entire days to exploring the streets surrounding my dorm building in Ikebukuro. I would choose a direction, pop in my headphones, and go walking just to see what I would find. In Tokyo, only the largest and most central streets have names. Because of that, navigation requires an understanding of the spatial relationship between neighborhoods, districts, and landmarks. To see how far I could get from Ikebukuro and still find my way back using stand-out buildings and horizon markers was like playing a puzzle game that came with a constant stream of interesting cultural lessons and delicious food.

Stay tuned for Part 2!