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Mostar: Journey in Time

In the last several series’ about Mostar I focussed on the war thorn past of the city. While the past conflicts are still vivid and can by seen when wandering the streets one should not dismiss the long history of Mostar as an Ottoman town. The historic buildings are situated in a scenic way alongside the river with the well known bridge of Mostar, which was rebuilt after the war entirely, marking the center. It’s also the place where the well known tradition of bridge jumping takes place. There are several beautiful mosques, paying tribute to the Islamic belief still followed by the people living in this part of the town. Walking the old town of Mostar truly feels like a journey in time.

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The Sniper Tower

The Sniper Tower is an abandoned high-rise building in the war-torn city of Mostar in Bosnia-Hercegovina. The eerie site is officially closed down but is still in use as a space for graffiti art. During the Bosnian war 1992 to 1995 it was used by Croatian snipers to target the near-by square, also hitting and killing many civilians. Today there is peace luckily, but Mostar is still divided between Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks, the sniper tower marking the border of the two parts of the city and standing as a visible reminder and as a warning.

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Tokyo After Dusk

After the sun sets and the electric lights turn on the city of Tokyo changes its form. While during the day the seemingly endless sea of concrete and glass is roamed by people it gets surprisingly quiet by night. Unlike New York or other so called world capitals Tokyo generally sleeps at night. Japanese people work a lot and additional office hours are common, so sleep is valued highly. Hard to belief but even the sprawling subway system is shutting down service for night time, so it can be cleaned and maintained for the upcoming day. Of course there are exceptions as no city with the size and proportions of Tokyo can truly go to bed. Like in a fever dream people continue playing and gambling in places like the entertainment district Akihabara or go to Izakayas, a kind of Japanese pub, to meet people, eat and drink. And of course there are the lights illuminating the allies and streets of Tokyo, bringing day into the night.

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The Far East

The most astounding thing about the far east as I experienced it in Japan is that it is a busy place with people and cars everywhere you look, but still it is impossibly quite and calm at the same time. There is hardly any shouting on the sidewalks and beeping on the streets. Even cyclists won’t beep when passing by closely, but will rather slow down. There is an important sense of courtesy and carefulness in play here that can seem very foreign to a Westerner. Of course the culture is closely linked to the religions of the region, mostly Buddhism and Shintoism in Japan. So the feeling of quietness and serenity can be best understood in and around religious temples and shrines, which also tend to be beautiful places overall.

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Akihabara: Electric Town

With beginnings as a market place for electronics after Word War II today Akihabara is known as hotspot for anime and gaming culture around the world, here you’ll find five story high Sega arcades, as well as gaming stores which still sell Super Nintendo consoles and comic book shops with every anime figure in existence for display. You wander through streets with shining towers and large advertisements of virtual characters, while girls dressed as Anime figures invite you to themed restaurants. For relaxing you can also go to one of the cat cafes, where you can drink your Matcha coffee and play with pets. Japanese people though prefer to go to Pachinko places where they gamble for physical prices. Officially gambling is forbidden in Japan, so close to the Pachinko stores there are always small vendors where you can sell your prices and so transform them into cash. Yes it is a weird place and very much corresponds with the picture of weirdness we have of Japan. At the same time it seems unreal like something out of a Blade Runner movie. Though Akihabara certainly doesn’t represent the whole of Japan it is a physical manifestation of it’s modern popular culture and thus should be planned in for your Japan trip.

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