Tokyo is a mille-feuille city

Tokyo is a mille-feuille city

Since I moved to Japan I've been fascinated with the multi-layered architecture of Tokyo.

Compared to European cities, Tokyo spreads as much vertically as horizontally. Walking in the city does not feel like a flat experience, there's often something above your head and under your feet.

Here’s one of many combinations that can be found in Tokyo:

🚃  train line
🚗 suspended highway
🚶‍♂ pedestrian foot bridge
🏢 street level
🚇 subway

A shinkansen rapid train might even pierce through this mix, squeezed between skyscrapers, with restaurants piling up to the 10th floor.

Some of my French friends compared it to a mille-feuille pastry, which in French means “a thousand sheets”. I find it to be a perfectly cute metaphor.


My encounter with Shibuya felt something along the lines of “So this is what a futuristic city looks like.” Around the station, you might spend an hour exploring and never set foot on the ground level.

pedestrian bridge in shibuya, tokyo
pedestrian bridge in shibuya, tokyo
miyashita park, Shibuya, tokyo


It's considered to be a salary-man town, but I knew I had to come back the first time I went there. I particularly love how the Yurikamome line crawls between the buildings. This area also has a basement level which adds another layer of depth (the picture below was taken from the basement level).


Also a business area with a particular quirk. A wide lane of trees splits it in half. People crossing on the bridges appear as if they are walking on that river of trees.

Foot bridge above trees in Shinagawa, Tokyo


Coming from Europe, I am still unsure what to think of these multi-level highways. In Paris, I would consider them to be a monstruosity scarring the city. In Tokyo, they somehow add to the overall vibe of the city. In any case, as a photographer I'm fascinated by them.

Multi-level highway of the Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba, Tokyo


A striking feature of Tokyo to me is that the river banks are not taken advantage of. Some cities transform them into vibrant areas with shops and green walkways. In Tokyo they are simply roadblocks that must be overcome. The reason might be that rivers tend to overflow during natural disasters.

Highway and foot bridge above river in Akihabara, Tokyo

The truth is I am hungry for more, there is much more to be captured with this theme. At some point I might do a part 2, maybe with a different approach or framing.

Take care!


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