The City of Tokyo in Poetry

by Lakshmi Kalarikkal

The city of Tokyo is structured like a poem, soaring mountains flow into deep valleys, while babbling streams undercut the sounds of trains. A unique beat hums across the metropolis. This rhythm has made the Tokyo in poetry truly lyrical. Some of the poetry that brings me home is transcribed below.

  1. Tokyo by Ceyhun Mahi

“All places of Tokyo change at night,

Streets are flowing rivers of gleamy light,

Lit-neon signs glowing at every sight,

Under the glamorous buildings up high,

Who are standing under the blue night sky.”

Mahi’s poetry is a beautiful account of what Tokyo, specifically the Shibuya ward, is like illuminated only by the shine of the moon. The Hachiko dog, who has been memorialized as a statue and in movies, stands as a faithful guard to this region’s many enterprises that stay open late into the night. There is plenty to do, whether you desire a quick drink, a fierce game or a soulful night of karaoke. Shibuya, at night, is particularly beautiful and worth visiting, when its giant advertisement boards shine the brightest, when its streets are filled with people, and the music is loudest.

  1. Blossoms by Dennel Kessler

“Forty-eight floors up, a God’s-eye view

a man practices tai-chi on a tired patch of grass

he is measured, beautiful

families rest under new-green trees

in Yoyogi Park this early spring Sunday

Mt. Fuji rises like a myth, fading

to illusion in the gathering smog.”

Kessler captures classic elements of Tokyo, tai chi combined with the serenity of the Yoyogi park, which is the largest park in Tokyo. Unlike most parks in Japan, the cherry blossoms in Yoyogi are sparse, the park is known for its gingko tree forest which turns a burnished gold in autumn. Its location next to the Meiji shrine and a five-minute walk from the Harajuku station makes it an extremely convenient place to visit and provides it with an air of serenity that is unmatched while the slumbering giant that is Mt. Fuji stands guard in the distance, watching over the city in its entirety.

  1. Slouching Toward The Monsoon by Rob Urban

“Lost in the dim

streets of the

Marunouchi district

I describe

this wounded city in an

  unending internal

monologue as I follow

the signs to Tokyo Station and

descend into the

underground passages

  of the metro,

seeking life and anything bright

in this half-lit, humid midnight.”

~Rob Urban

One of Tokyo’s busiest commercial districts, perhaps Urban describes Marunouchi as wounded, perhaps due to the constant flow of crowd in its streets, like a freely bleeding wound. Once home to Japan’s most powerful feudal lords, Marunouchi was located on the outer moats of the Edo castle which is where it gets its name which literally translates to ‘within the circle.’

  1. Untitled by Kobayashi Issa 

“bickering in the long night

in a nook

of Sumida River”

~ Kobayashi Issa

We simply can’t close out a discussion on Japan’s poetry without including a haiku, which is Japan’s best known poetic movement. This particular haiku describes a lighthearted argument on the Sumida river which cuts right through North Tokyo and then turns Eastward. The river takes you on a ride to all of Tokyo’s best locations, from the Tokyo Tower’s awe-inspiring views to the Ryogoku district, the heart of sumo wrestling in Japan. A thousand cherry blossom trees on both banks make this river one of the prime locations from March to May. A river right out of folklore, this place is a must-visit spot.


Published by Mizu City

Dear Reader, I have a little something to share about cities. These are my own thoughts, emotions, troubles, and passions. If I don't write, they burden my mind. I try to pen them down into stories. I hope they resonate with you.

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