"Kagurazaka Summer Evening" by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass, Tokyo
Tokyo is a very different city from Kyoto, but there are some small parts of it where some of the old culture is still alive, one such area being Kagurazaka, near Iidabashi Station in central Tokyo. The "-zaka" part of the name means "hill" and "kagura" is (according to "Japan - An Illustrated Encyclopedia"), "a type of performance or ritual of Shinto origin that dates from early times and is still found widely in contemporary Japan. In popular usage kagura means any performance - often one of masked dancing - that is part of the annual festival of a local Shinto shrine." (Followed by many more details. If you're interested, get that book; it's a good reference block of wood to have.)
As the area was a shopping and entertainment area in the Meiji and Taisho eras, and Bishamonten Shrine and Zenkokuji Temple are there, I suppose the name comes from that type of performance occurring up on the top of the hill, where the temple and shrine are. (Above, far right) - Notice the women in kimono - that's not something you see much of in Tokyo these days!
Due to cars and worries about access in the event of earthquakes and/or fires, the streets in this country have been relentlessly widened, to the point where Japan is becoming quite a car-oriented culture, so it's quite a pleasure to walk on streets so narrow that cars cannot enter. When I'm behind the wheel of a car, I love to drive, but when I'm walking, I really hate fire-breathing machinery. This city must have been vastly nicer to walk around in before the advent of cars. A small taste of that awaits on narrow lanes like the ones below.
(Below, left) - Coming out of the narrow paths on the other side, the fire-breathing machines await. (Below, middle) - The area has a lot of shops & restaurants and is really quite pleasant, particularly when you think of how convenient it is, near to train stations right in the middle of Tokyo.
(Below, middle & right) - A sort of vertical gated community. I have mixed feelings about towers like this - on one hand I would probably like living in this one (or one similar to it) - up in the sky with a great view of the city, and only an elevator ride away from the culture of Kagurazaka. But on the other hand, these locked towers don't contribute to neighborhoods, what with their inhabitants locked away up there in the sky and with the tower looking down on everything, blocking the light. I wouldn't bother to say that, but the clean (and... antiseptic?) area around the base of that tower seemed to have no culture and to be sort of... cold and desolate? There's a feeling of being on the wrong side of a wall as you stand in front of it, looking up.
(Below, 2nd from left) - Building under construction - Tokyo is continually being rebuilt, so you get used to seeing things coming down and other things going up everywhere, all the time. Tokyo - city of eternal rapid change!
(Below) - More typical Tokyo streets. The shops and people give them life. Late at night when the shops are closed and the streets are largely empty, it's like any modern city on its streets without trees - a place that makes you long to be safe at home, under your own roof and away from the lifeless asphalt (Below, middle).
(Below, left) - Getting nearer to the base of the apartment tower. (Below, middle & right) - A modern restaurant with a nice atmosphere and outside terrace - new can be nice!
(Below, left) - The 50cc motorcycles are for newspaper delivery I think. (Below, middle) - This place seemed awkward, with very obviously manufactured "oldness". Old things have become so rare in Tokyo that they are now trendy, and people try to recreate what is almost extinct from the city for the sake of the atmosphere that people are beginning to realize they're losing. (Below, right) - The base of the tower.
(Below, left) - The entrance to the tower. (Below, middle) - A small park next to the tower. It's probably nice in the daytime, but didn't seem especially nice at night. (Below, right) - Heading back up the hill next to the tower.
Part of the problem with the atmosphere at night near the tower is the creepy color of the modern lighting there. Notice how different the color of the lighting is in the middle and right images above in comparison with the images below.
The area of narrow passageways above is not an extensive area, so as you hike around exploring Kagurazaka, you come upon car roads on the edges of the footpaths. Come to think of it - it feels a little like entering a forest where walking is the only locomotion, and then coming out feels like reentering contraption-laden modern times....
(Below) - Taken on a side street near the bottom of the hill near Iidabashi Station, the street is a little wider, but even streets like this are becoming rarer. Considering access worries, it makes sense to widen streets when possible, but the narrow streets of the city have so much more character - largely due to keeping the fire-breathing machines away, or at least limiting their visits.
(Bottom, left) - An out of sequence image taken earlier when I was walking up the hill (I needed one more image for this last set). (Bottom, right) - Back at Iidabashi Station (JR), waiting for the train.
Copyright 2007 by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass, Tokyo