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22 Jan 2005: The Heat Is On

A picture

First Steps

When in Tokyo, I was always fascinated that in the denser areas such as Shinjuku, shops would be found wherever space could allow them. Whether you were down the darkest back streets or several metres below the ground, there was always someone running some business. And I'm not attempting to imply anything shady, either, although there was a great deal of that too (go have a wander around Kabukicho).

I always perceived this as a great contrast to London, but the truth was, I had never really explored London. Back in 1999, I lived in Amersham and I was your daily long-distance commuter. The journey between work and home was usually an hour or two, which meant on most days I was one for getting home as quickly as possible.

Where I lived in Tokyo, it was easy to get to interesting places quickly and this encouraged exploration. Aki and I used to walk a lot and, to us, became somewhat representative of our time together in Japan. Now that we're in the UK, we're just starting to stretch our London legs. Our current dwelling is backed up against the Thames and located in the centre of an industrial zone so walking around here isn't much fun.

We are making efforts, though, as evidenced by some of the photos you will find this month. For example, on January 2, Aki and I travelled to Oxford Circus in London just to go walking. During the walk, my suspicions were confirmed and I realised I had underestimated London somewhat - one of the minor reasons I wanted to come back to the UK - and there was much to see here. Although not quite matching the insane shop density of certain areas of Tokyo, you can find shops in the unlikeliest of places, selling the oddest of things.

However, having said that, I decided instead to take a picture of a fairly ordinary shopping arcade we came across, embedded in Oxford Street.