TPH Japan 2017

Japan Miyako-jima Shimajiri Mangroves | Travel Photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

04 Miyako-jima | Shimajiri Mangrove Forest

Flag JapanDay 04 | Miyako-jima

08.05.2017   |   Shimajiri Mangrove Forest

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2017 Japan Miyako-jima Cape Nishihennazaki | Travel Photgraphy by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

04 Miyako-jima | Cape Nishihennazaki and Ikema Ohashi

Flag JapanDay 04 | Miyako-jima

08.05.2017   |   Cape Nishihennazaki   |   Ikema Ohashi

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2017 Japan Miyakojima Sunayama Beach | Travel Photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

04 Miyako-jima | Sunayama Beach

Flag JapanDay 04 | Miyako-jima

08.05.2017   |   Sunyama Beach

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2017 Japan Miyako-jima Pension Ntsunaka | Travel Photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

03 Miyako-jima | Pension Ntsunaka

Flag JapanDay 03 | Miyako-jima

07.05.2017   |   Pension Ntsunaka


ANA kindly flew us to Miyako-jima with their Millenium Falcon. Upon arriving at the island airport, a shuttle took us to the rental car company. Miyako-jima is not really prepared for non-Japanese tourists and we had a lot of fun trying to convince the (rather nervous and only English-spoken) clerk, that we had indeed booked a kei car. We wanted to have the full Japanese experience of driving around in a tiny car with yellow license plates, but he insisted that we must take the upgrade to the next larger car – free of charge. Eventually we gave up and took it, because it also came with a complementary XXL navigation system. Can’t beat an old school map to find your way around, can you? And a lot of ways we found… most of them leading to spectacular views, but nowhere near the accomodation we had booked. Being totally lost, we tried to ask various locals, which resulted in a lot of polite smiles and eventually a pointer in the right direction.

Pension Ntsunaka

We arrived at Pension Ntsunaka just before sunset and were shown around the property by the friendly owners. The garden is little paradise and the house has a warm and cozy feeling to it. For lack of other words – it instantly felt like coming home. Shotaro Kawamitsu and his father built the house themselves and designed the garden. They are great hosts and helped us a lot with finding the best spots on the islands, good restaurants and a spa. The father successfully participated multiple times in the All Japan Triathlon when he was younger.

2017 Japan Tokyo Yarakucho Station Sunset | Travel Photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

02 Tokyo | Sumida River, Minato Park and Yarakucho

Flag JapanDay 02 | Tokyo

06.05.2017   |   Sumida River   |   Minato Park   |   Yarakucho

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Japan Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market | Travel Photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

02 Tokyo | Tsukiji Fish Market

Flag JapanDay 02 | Tokyo

06.05.2017   |   Tsukiji   |   Tsukiji Fish Market

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2017 Japan Tokyo Hibiya Park Food Festival | travel photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

02 Tokyo | Hibiya Park Food Festival

Flag JapanDay 02 | Tokyo

06.05.2017   |   Hibiya Park   |  Hibiya Park Food Festival

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2017 Japan Tokyo Shibuya Crossing at Night | travel photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

01 Tokyo | Shibuya Crossing

Flag JapanDay 01 | Tokyo

05.05.2017   |   Shibuya   |   Shibuya Crossing

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Sleepless in Tokyo

Flag JapanSleepless in Tokyo

Drive-by Snapshots   |   Published at Speedhunters.com


When opening the mailbox, there is a postcard between the bills and the advertisements that I already fished out curiously on my way to the apartment door. Where was it posted and who sent it? The dim light of the cold winter day makes me want to see a holiday greeting with palms on a beach, a lighthouse amid towering waves or a sunlit attraction. I turn the postcard to the front page and see… black. The entire surface is printed in a deep black, which in some places is weathered by mail sorting machines. Printed in one of the trendy neon colors it says ‘Berlin bei Nacht’ next to a crescent moon and a couple of stars.

Two decades later, during a nocturnal foray through the Japanese metropolis, I am thinking of this trend of the ’90s, whose remains can still be found sometimes in the back corner of a postcard shop. Who does not remember sending or receiving such postcards? Today we post status updates and Instagram stories on Facebook instead of sending postcards to family and friends.

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Unable to close even one eye, I lay awake in the tiny Airbnb room and quarrel with the jet lag. The inner clock has not yet adapted to the local time zone, although I have slept well during the long flight and the body is refreshed. But wait, jet lag is a good thing, isn’t it? It makes it possible to explore foreign cities when the locals sleep. Who knows what waits to be discovered at this time of the night?

Before finishing this thought, I’m already dressed and stand outside the tiny house in the narrow street. Left or right? It doesn’t matter. Those who have no destination will not get lost. When the lights switch to green, I start walking.

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Tokyo is a huge metropolis, but contrary to many other major cities around the world, most of the inhabitants sleep at night. Moving quietly through the residential streets, I admire how close the homes are spaced. The distance often corresponds to the width of a German license plate. It is a prosperous area, judged by the amount of European cars parked in open garages and integrated carports.

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Again and again, there are little details, like the anime figures glued to the dashboard of a Volvo 850 wagon, which bring a smile to my face. While approaching the end of the alley, I can hear a sound from the crossroad. Rapidly rotating tires mingle with the silence as if an invisible DJ gently fades in a new tune. A Toyota Hiace ambulance flashes past, without sirens out of consideration for sleeping residents and the flickering red light is reflected off a parked R33 Nissan Skyline.

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As I move on, I notice the transition from residential to a more commercial area with shops between the houses, with neon signs illuminating the parked cars. A shoe salesman has set up his goods on the covered corner of a house, which will disappear again in the trunk of his W140 before dawn. Since I’m the only passerby far and wide, I wonder who the nice elderly gentleman sells his shoes to. Unfortunately, we do not find a common language to clarify this question. When I tell him that I’m German, he smiles and directs the conversation, which consists of just a few words but many gestures, to his vehicle and we quickly agree that it is of outstanding quality and perseverance. He is really happy that I want to take a picture but doesn’t want to be part of it himself.

The kind gentleman directs me to turn left while imitating the sound of a V8 engine and simulating steering movements. A hearty laugh and a polite bow to say farewell encourages one man to wait for customers and the other to continue walking. I follow the direction indicated and, crossing a fenced bridge, notice that the expensive public parking lots are mostly empty at night.

The homes give way to luxurious shops. In front of a building with spectacular architecture, I take a picture of a Nissan Cedric taxi waiting at the traffic light and muse over the beautiful picture. Otherwise, the streets in the area are empty. I have time to let my thoughts wander.

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In Japan, other people’s possessions are respected rather than stolen. Therefore even expensive aftermarket wheels are stored in open garages and high-value supercars are parked outside.

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Most private underground garages are not equipped with access barriers, providing me the opportunity to take a look at the parking deck of a large apartment complex. Many new hybrid models, rows of minivans and kei cars.

But what is that? In the far corner hides what will become one of my favorite pictures of this journey. Peacefully, a lowered full‐size Dodge van and a lifted Suzuki Jimny share a niche. The contrast couldn’t be bigger. Only in Japan.

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A few blocks down the road the sounds advertised by the shoe salesman are audible, immediately evoking memories of another continent. I smile from ear to ear, because the scene is so surreal. In between the typical Tokyo taxis, dozens of shiny American cars cruise with burbling exhausts.

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A weird but wonderful contrast that accompanies me all the way to the world-famous Shibuya intersection. Upon arrival, I indulge in the unique atmosphere and enjoy watching the nocturnal hustle and bustle with a glass of matcha and rest the tired legs.

The subway suspends service at night and because my budget doesn’t allow for a cab ride, I walk back to the tiny house and fall asleep fully dressed.


Sebastian Motsch

sebastianmotsch.com   |   Instagram drivebysnapshots

[This story was published on Speedhunters.com in September 2019.]

2017 Japan Tokyo Tower at Night | travel photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

01 Tokyo | Tokyo Tower

Flag JapanDay 01 | Tokyo

05.05.2017   |   Minato   |   Tokyo Tower

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2017 Japan Tokyo World Trade Center Happy Window | travel photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

01 Tokyo | World Trade Center

Flag JapanDay 01 | Tokyo

05.05.2017   |   Shiba   |   World Trade Center   |   Tokyo Tower Sunset

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2017 Japan Tokyo Ginza Parade | travel photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

01 Tokyo | Ginza Parade

Flag JapanDay 01 | Tokyo

05.05.2017   |   Ginza   |   Ginza Parade

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2017 Japan Tokyo Imperial Palace East Gardens | travel phootgraphy by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

01 Tokyo | Imperial Palace East Gardens

Flag JapanDay 01 | Tokyo

05.05.2017   |   Imperial Palace East Gardens

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2017 Japan Tokyo Chiyoda Hie Shrine | travel photography by Sebastian Motsch (2017)

01 Tokyo | Chiyoda Hie Shrine

Flag JapanDay 01 | Tokyo

05.05.2017   |   Chiyoda   |   Hie Shrine

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