Nestled among some of the plushest neighborhoods in Tokyo (Roppongi, Ebisu, Hiroo, and Shirokanedai), the shotengai (shopping street) in Shirokane Takanwa is a time machine permanently set to pre-boom Japan. Running for approximately 400 meters from Hikawa temple to Meiji Dori, the Shinohashi Shirokane shotengai features funky plastic streetlights, loudspeakers playing jaunty Japanese tunes from the 1960s, and is flanked with an intriguing concoction of small stores and restaurants.
Shotengai is a generic term for the traditional Japanese market street. Every respectable neighborhood has one, although the quality of local shops and restaurants varies widely from one area to another. What makes Shinohashi Shirokane so special is not only its nostalgic character, which clashes spectacularly with its posh surroundings, but also the quality of some of the establishments located along it.
In the 1980s Shirokane came to be considered as one of the most upmarket residential areas in Tokyo, and residents there – stereotypically wealthy and fashion-conscious – were humorously referred to as ” shiroganesi” , an imitation of “Milanese” for residents of Milan. The most famous street in this area is Gaien Nishi-dori, popularly known as Platinum Street (à£à†’-à£à†’ ©à£à†’ à£à†’à… é€à… ¡à£”Å¡à… ), a wannabe – and rather tacky – local equivalent of the prestigious Via Montenapoleone in Milan.
Although Shinohashi Shirokane shotengai is located just a few minutes away from Platinum Street, it was miraculously spared from real estate sharks and well-off Tokyo-ites in search for a prestigious postcode. It’s a refreshing change from the nearby expat hangouts, and is a fascinating destination for an afternoon walk followed by dinner in one of its unique restaurants.
One of the gastronomic highlights along the shopping street is a cosy izakaya called Karoku (à ¥ ¯à ¥”˜”Å¡à ¤ ¹”¦), a sort of local institution since 1964. Karoru is particularly famed for its tebasaki (fried chicken wings), and is favored by gangs of local salarymen who love indulging in greasy food and copious amounts of beer after a long day at the office. The place is run by the affable Yuko-san, who dishes out well-crafted izakaya grub while being affectionately courted by her loyal and increasingly tipsy clientele.
Further down the street we find Suzukiya (éà‹” ´à ¦à…“ ¨à ¥ ±” ¹), a traditional motsu (offal) restaurant. Motsu used to be a humble working class fare until it became fashionable in the 1990s after a wave of media hype. Although the motsu boom was short-lived due to the BSE scare in the mid-90s, the latest financial crisis rekindled Japan’s interest in cheaper meals such as motsu. Suzukia is family-run (the owners live just above the restaurant), and it’s only open during weekdays from 6:30 to 8:30 in the evening. Suzukia’s specialties are not for the faint-hearted, and include cow vagina, uterus, and colon. More conventional classics such as liver, tripe, and intestines are also available.
Those looking for a more familiar fare won’t be disappointed either. Just a few meters away from Karoku and Suzukiya, and in delightful contrast with its old-school Japanese surroundings, a small French bistro called Labyrinte serves spectacular traditional French cooking, with absolutely nothing light or nouveau about it. Well worth a visit if you’re not on a diet.
Around a hundred people gathered on Monday night at the Innovation Warehouse in London’s Smithfields area, to debate the effect Twitter is having on modern journalism in an event titled Twitter, The Butterfly Effect, and The Future of Journalism. “The media is not the message, the messages are the media,” once wrote David Carr in the New York Times, and it was against this backdrop that the debate kicked off. The assembled panel consisted of Paul Lewis, Special Projects Editor at the Guardian; Anna Doble, Senior Online Producer at Channel4 News; Andrew Walker, founder of Tweetminster; Steve Butterworth, founder of Flumes Media Limited; and Titia Ketelaar, UK correspondent at NRC Handelsblad.
The Guardian’s Paul Lewis started off by arguing that although social media has transformed journalism significantly in recent times, its impact on traditional newsmaking is massively overstated. Although such a statement surely didn’t please the eagerly meta-tweeting audience, there is indeed growing suspicion around news that breaks through Twitter and other similar channels. While there’s little that can be done to stem the flow of false information, a lot can be done to validate and analyze, which is where information professionals should come into play.
Lewis went on to suggest that the future of news reporting lies in the collaboration between traditional and social media, rather than competition, or even substitution between the two. He brought significant examples of recent collaborative efforts, such as the Jimmy Mubenga story, for which the Guardian extensively used Twitter to track down witnesses of the Angolan deportee’s death.
Tuesday afternoon saw Mark Stephens CBE, one of the UK’s leading legal minds and a veteran of WikiLeaks, discuss freedom of speech and censorship at an event called Freedom of Tweet: Censorship, Governments, Marketers & The Law.
The first prickly issue tackled by Mark Stephens was the boundary between the protection of privacy and of freedom of speech (or to Tweet in this case). How can we preserve peoples’ privacy when a platform such as Twitter acts as an open channel for gossip, rumor and, also, facts to flow? Looking back to a famous case of super-injunction in the UK last year, Mark stated that this type of measure, especially when applied to the media of a single country, is bound to be systematically circumvented.
“Impractical law is bad law,” once said Louise Bagshawe, a Conservative MP and writer, and you cannot keep things secret in this day and age because of Twitter and other social networking websites, which are outside British jurisdiction. Mark suggests that when it comes to individuals and companies seeking to protect their privacy (and reputation), legal action is somewhat outdated and ineffective, and a PR campaign is sometimes preferable, as well as considerably cheaper.
The second topic covered by the debate was the role of social media in recent events such as the Arab Spring and the London riots, and the way governments tried in one way or another to assert their control over social networks. Last year, Western public opinion gasped when Middle Eastern regimes completely shut down the internet in order to curb the flow of information in and out of their countries.
At the same time however, the UK government briefly considered closing down social networks in times of crisis–a discussion sparked by the riots that kicked-off in London and soon spread to other parts of England. Mark Stephens argued that even though modern democracies are struggling to manage the speed at which new technologies are being developed, this should not justify any limitation to freedom of speech, which remains a pillar of open and fair societies.