Leica M3 and Zeiss Sonnar

Drinking areas in Japan IV: Yurakucho with a Leica M3, Zeiss Sonnar and Portra 400…

… and a guest appearance from my Google Pixel 6.

Yurakucho is an area and station name, close to Tokyo station, between the expensive Ginza shopping area, the Imperial Palace, and the Marunouchi office, financial and shopping district. The area contrasts starkly with previous areas I have written about – it’s not a specific set of streets but restaurants and bars are scattered over the area and many are in the arches under the main train line. The focus is rather more food than drink and the clients generally don’t go to get drunk – though a proportion do end up that way – and are mostly out for a relatively inexpensive meal and drinks with friends and colleagues. A large number of restaurants serve lunch aimed at salarymen and tourists which means the area is popular at all times of day rather than being night-life focussed. In particular one cafe is famous, Benisica, as the creator of Japanese Pizza Toast (recommended), not pizza because of the thick toasted Japanese bread under the mixed topping, and far more interesting than just cheese on toast. Lunch with salad, a banana, and a drink is about €6. Another strong recommendation if you happen to be there, and can get a reservation, is Yurakucho Wine Club, a restaurant with an attached wine shop where you can buy from a wide range of wines and pay just corkage in the restaurant.

Yurakucho area, Tokyo
Cafe Benisica

Generally food in the area is good to very good while being a reasonable price, together with a pleasant and safe atmosphere – unlike some other areas. The majority of customers are salarymen but with a large proportion of female office staff going with female friends, as part of a larger mixed group or not unusually on their own. Of course the area is mixed with the ubiquitous Japanese girly bars and entertainment just round the corner, or next door, together with many clothes shops, Bic Camera next to the station, and Leica Camera store nearby. Restaurants are far from just Japanese cuisine – as well as wine bars, Italian and Spanish restaurants are common as are Indian, Thai and Chinese, together with others. Japanese restaurants are often focussed on an area’s cuisine, or a type of food, meat or fish. The railway arches themselves offer both restaurants and interesting photographic subject matter as well as memorabilia tucked away here and there. A narrow pedestrian route going under the train line has a few small restaurants but more interestingly on the opposite wall very old and badly decayed film advertising posters.

Yurakucho area, Tokyo
Decaying posters for Japanese films (Pixel 6)

I had bought my M3 camera about 10-12 years ago from a camera fair in Tokyo – it was in amazing condition, newly repainted black, what looked like new shutter curtains, a very clear viewfinder, shutter speeds sounded good and, wow!, by far the quietest M I had ever heard. It was between half and a quarter of the price of all the other M3s on the stall (about 30 I guess) so I wondered what was the catch, and asked why so cheap. A smart salesman would have said “Oh, sorry, we missed the first digit!” and started to negotiate but instead he said “because its fake”. Well, I thought, if its not a Leica its better. I think he meant it wasn’t an original black M3 – this was at a time when repaints were rare. So of course I bought it. I have subsequently used it a lot (and its showing marks from use) and always rolled my eyes at the softness of the shutter sound, like a gentle kiss on the cheek.

Yurakucho area, Tokyo
Chicken specialist restaurant
Yurakucho area, Tokyo
Ciao, under the arches
Yurakucho area, Tokyo
Japan food city
Hokkaido food city
Yurakucho area, Tokyo
A peek inside
Yurakucho area, Tokyo
Sweet fish (it says)
Yurakucho area, Tokyo
Meat focused restaurant, not sure about the girls

Thanks for reading

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2 thoughts on “Drinking areas in Japan IV: Yurakucho with a Leica M3, Zeiss Sonnar and Portra 400…”

  1. Nice series Geoff. Struggling with some of the shadows but the colours are beautiful, and it does bring back good memories of my last long-haul holiday before Covid struck.

    1. Thanks Michael. I like negative space! And yes Portra 400 hand held in low light struggles to record the dark areas in sufficient depth to make it worth recovering, plus what is there is generally not interesting anyway.

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