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blog-L - (2009)


"Visiting Ueno Ameyokocho on December 31st, 2009"

"Ueno Ameyokocho - December 31st, 2009 " (091231-1522)

Walking - very slowly and with many bumps - through Ueno's Ameyokocho market on the afternoon of December 31st, 2009, last chance for shopping before the New Year's holiday (1/1-1/3) begins.

In the old days, stores were all closed then, so it was important to get shopping done by no later than the 31st, since you wouldn't be able to shop again until the 4th, but these days, a lot of stores are open on the 1st and most are open by the 2nd.  Still, the old habit is there and even if stores are open, it's good to not have to go out, and just relax at home over those three days.  上野のアメ横丁  (Recorded on Thursday, December 31st, 2009, at 3:22 p.m.)



"Christmas Eve in Tokyo, 2009 - Marunouchi, Yurakucho, & Ginza"

Continuing with my trip around Tokyo on December 24th, 2009, I visited the illuminated streets of Marunouchi and walked from there over to Yurakucho (and the International Forum) and Ginza:

"Osaki-Bound Yamanote Line Reflections" (091224-1704)

Vertical window view - interplay between inside and outside scenes as direct external light competes with reflected internal light and the scenes outside merge with the scenes inside.  山手線の夜の光  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 5:04 p.m.)

"Yamanote Line Symphony of Light & Sound" (091224-1709)

From door close to door open, complete vertical view from Shinagawa to Tamachi.  Acceleration sounds.  Verbal communication competing with cell phone text messaging in reflection.  Japanese and English announcements.  The nighttime city glides by outside.  Opposite direction Yamanote Line train speeds by in a blur.  山手線の夜の光 
品川駅から...  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 5:09 p.m.)

"Shinbashi to Yurakucho - Horizontal Night View" (091224-1716)

Complete nighttime horizontal window view from Shinbashi to Yurakucho on the Yamanote Line.  山手線の夜の光 新橋駅から、有楽町駅まで  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 5:16 p.m.)

"光都東京 Lightopia 2009 - Early Crowds" (091224-1727)

Early crowds of viewers for 光都東京 Lightopia 2009, in Marunouchi, near Tokyo Station.  Notice the verbal guidance of the traffic police.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 5:27 p.m.)

"光都東京 Lightopia 2009 - Sidewalk Stroll Before the Crush" (091224-1729)

Walking down a Marunouchi street with Christmas illumination around 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, before the crush of the late evening crowds.  光都東京 Lightopia 2009.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 5:29 p.m.)

"光都東京 Lightopia 2009 - Marunouchi, Towards Yurakucho" (091224-1731)

Walking through Marunouchi, over towards Yurakucho, taking a left to walk into a newly developed area with trees and a fountain, surrounded by office towers.  丸の内  光都東京 Lightopia 2009  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 5:31 p.m.)

"Strasbourg Christmas Market in Tokyo - 2009 (Entering)" (091224-1744)

Stumbling upon the "Strasbourg Christmas Market in Tokyo" from the side, I walk in to see a small merry-go-round, Santa posing for pictures, and a merry atmosphere.  国際フォーラム  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 5:44 p.m.)

"Strasbourg Christmas Market in Tokyo - 2009 (Walk-through)" (091224-1747)

Continuing through the "Strasbourg Christmas Market in Tokyo" - finally exiting at the entrance where people are furiously taking pictures of the event and themselves over the light-floor bar near Yurakucho Station.  国際フォーラム  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 5:47 p.m.)

"Between Yurakucho & Ginza - December 24th, 2009)" (091224-1840)

Walking down a light-decorated street between Yurakucho and Ginza.  有楽町から、銀座へ向かって  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 6:40 p.m.)

"Entering Ginza on December 24th, 2009" (091224-1841)

Continuing my walk into Ginza - crossing a main road and walking by a department store selling sparkling wine (on the street running between Ginza 2-Chome and Ginza-3-Chome).  銀座に到着、万歳!  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 6:41 p.m.)

"Early Crowds on Chuo-dori in Ginza - December 24th" (091224-1844)

Walking down Chuo-dori in Ginza as the crowds begin to thicken with the clock approaching 7:00 p.m.  銀座の中央通りのクリスマスイブ散歩  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 6:41 p.m.)



"Christmas Eve in Tokyo, 2009 - Ebisu"

Like everything that looks similar to other countries on the surface, there are many detail changes and also fundamental changes in imported culture and ideas.  Here are some video clips from December 24th, 2009 Tokyo.

"Seibu-Kokubunji Line Old Three-Door Train" (091224-1232)

View of one of the older type three-door trains on the Seibu-Kokubunji Line as it comes into the station, and then a quick view inside, where you can see that more seating area is the advantage of fewer doors.  When it's really crowded though, this is a liability, as it's also more difficult to get on and off the train.  (Some train cars have six doors now for exactly this reason.)  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 12:32 p.m.)

"Rear Cab Reflections in Old Three-Door Seibu Train" (091224-1235)

View into the rear cab of an older type three-door train on the Seibu-Kokubunji Line.  Notice how the conductor hank-cranks the destination sign at the end of the video.  This train - being old - actually requires a human being at the controls to operate it.  The newer trains are increasingly automated and I get the feeling that drivers and conductors of manually operated trains have much more pride in their jobs than the drivers and conductors of computer-driven trains.  With the computer-driven trains, they're not doing much other than sit there monitoring the computer-driven controls.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 12:35 p.m.)

"Racing Chuo Line Trains - Cab View" (091224-1255)

Looking out of the front cab of an inbound Chuo Line train as it runs in parallel with another inbound train.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 12:55 p.m.)

"Boarding Yamanote Line at Shinjuku" (091224-1421)

Watching from a Shinjuku platform as a Yamanote Line train and a Chuo Line train come in - and then getting on the Yamanote Line train.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 2:21 p.m.)

"Ebisu 'Yebisu Skywalk' to Ebisu Garden Place" (091224-1622)

Walking on the moving walkways (one after another) that lead from Ebisu Station to Ebisu Garden Place.  An old spelling for "Ebisu" is "Yebisu" and it's still used for beer and the walkway, etc. (and for Ebisu/Yebisu Garden Place, but I'm ignoring the archaic spelling here for Garden Place in the interest of correct pronunciation).  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 4:22 p.m.)

"December 24th - Couple's Night at Ebisu Garden Place" (091224-1637)

Couple City in Ebisu.  December 24th in Japan is a little like December 31st in western countries in that it's popular for couples to go out for dinner and to certain parts of Tokyo that have Christmas lighting on trees and buildings (such as in Ebisu), etc.  Notice the young couples here and there in this clip.  This was taken just past 4:30 p.m. - later on it gets much more crowded.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 4:37 p.m.)

"Taking Ebisu Skywalk Back to Ebisu Station" (091224-1643)

Heading back to Ebisu Station in order to have a look at the Christmas lighting in Marunouchi.  The moving walkway is a good idea, but I think they should run it about three times faster than it goes now.  As it is, it runs slower than walking speed, which is being overly cautious I think....  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 4:43 p.m.)

"'Christmas Cake' & Sparkling Wine for 12/24" (091224-1648)

For whatever reason, it's a tradition in Japan to buy & consume strawberry shortcake and roast chicken on Christmas Eve.  The roast chicken part is easy to understand as an import from the west, but the origins of strawberry shortcake (referred to locally as "Christmas Cake") are harder to figure out.  A modified import no doubt.  In any case, in this video you can see store clerks (some dressed like Santa) selling Christmas cake and sparkling wine.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 4:48 p.m.)

"Ebisu Station Long Escalator to Street Level" (091224-1649)

Continuing down the elevated mall between the two ticket barriers to Ebisu Station (one above the platforms and one below); I then take the long escalator down to street level and have a look at the large Christmas tree on display in front of the station.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 4:49 p.m.)

"Past the Tree, Through the Gates, to Ebisu Station We Go" (091224-1658)

I walk past a Christmas tree and then through the upper level ticket gates (to Ebisu Station) and then down an escalator to the platform to take the Yamanote Line around to Tokyo Station.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at 4:58 p.m.)



"Setagaya Tram Cab View, Shimotakaido Crossing, Etc."

The last batch of video clips taken on December 16th, 2009, when I visited the Boroichi Street Market in Setagaya:

"Setagaya Line Tram Arriving at Tram Stop" (091216-1332)

Watching a Setagaya Line tram come in, and then walking aboard.  The last part shows the ticket and change machine - the same type that is used on buses.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 1:32 p.m.)

"Setagaya Tram - Inside View" (091216-1335)

Looking out the front of a Setagaya Line tram after visiting the Boroichi Street Market.  View of the driver's operation of the tram and a view of another tram passing by (going in the opposite direction), etc.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 1:35 p.m.)

"Jingle Bells Crossing - Shimotakaido Station" (091216-1348)

Waiting at the end of the platform for a local Keio Line train at Shimotakaido Station, I listen to Christmas songs coming from a local shopping street's PA speakers, and watch an express pass by.  After the express train passes by, the crossing gates open and people walk across the tracks.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 1:48 p.m.)

"Early Afternoon Inbound Local Keio Line Train" (091216-1351)

View of the inside of an early afternoon local inbound Keio Line train, with only about 20% of the seating being used.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 1:51 p.m.)

"Inokashira Express, Kugayama to Kichijoji (091216-1402)

Riding in an Inokashira Line express train from Kugayama Station to Kichijoji Station.  View out the cab (over the driver's shoulder) of the trip, including passing a couple of trains going in the other direction.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 2:02 p.m.)

"Kichijoji Inokashira Line Platform to JR Ticket Gates (091216-1406)

Walking from the Inokashira Line platform to the ticket gates for JR (Chuo Line).  There's some sort of construction project on the Inokashira Line platform.

This is one reason I think it's important to visually and audibly record this city - things change so quickly, if you don't keep a record of what's going on, the city changes from under your feet and it's hard to remember how it was before....  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 2:06 p.m.)

"Chuo Line Trains at Kichijoji" (091216-1409)

Watching a few trains at Kichijoji as the Chuo Line train I boarded came in.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 2:09 p.m.)

"Chuo Line Train Reflections" (091216)

Watching a reserved seat express train pass by from the front of a Chuo Line train.  The passing train is seen directly, through glass, and in reflections.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 2:13 p.m.)



"Setagaya Line & Boroichi Street Market"

Every year, on December 15th & 16th and again on January 15th & 16th, the Boroichi Street Market is held in Setagaya.  Being a large market and having a long history (about 430 years!), there is always a bit more on sale than the usual fare at street markets, so it's fun to walk around and see what you can discover.  It's sensibly held during the driest period of the year (important for all the old things laid out in the open), but it's also the coldest period of the year.  Having vivid memories of getting very cold several times before, I wore a thick sweater under a thick down coat and - helped by there not being much wind - actually wasn't very cold this time around.

The following videos are from my December 16th, 2009 trip out to Boroichi, including scenes on the Setagaya Line and at the market itself:

"Setagaya Line - Shimotakaido to Matsubara" (091216-1123)

Riding the Setagaya Line out to see the Boroichi street market held every year on December 15th & 16th and January 15th & 16th.  The Setagaya Line is basically a street car line, but the tracks have their own right-of-way, so the street cars don't run on the street.  Interestingly (or should I say "obviously"?), the street cars fall in the same category as buses for the fare system.

The recorded announcement says (in Japanese) "Thank you for using the Setagaya Line" and requests that people sitting in the "priority" seats give them up to pregnant women, old people, etc.  The live announcement suggests that those passengers going to Boroichi get off at the fourth station, Kamimachi.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 11:23 a.m.)

"Setagaya Line - Yamashita to Miyanosaka" (091216-1127)

Riding the Setagaya Line from Yamashita to Miyanosaka.  The large concrete overpass seen just as the car leaves Yamashita is the Odakyu Line.  At the Miyanosaka stop, I didn't go for a closer look, but it looks like they've got one of the older streetcars sitting there for historical reasons.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 11:27 a.m.)

"Setagaya Line - Miyanosaka to Kamimachi" (091216-1129)

Riding the Setagaya Line from Miyanosaka to Kamimachi, where I got off to wander around the Boroichi street market.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 11:29 a.m.)

"Boroichi Street Market - December 16th, 2009-1/5" (091216-1137)

First of five clips of walking around the Boroichi Street Market on December 16th, 2009, the second day of the two-day event, which is held every December 15th & 16th and January 15th & 16th.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 11:37 a.m.)

"Boroichi Street Market - December 16th, 2009-2/5" (091216-1138)

Second of five clips of walking around the Boroichi Street Market on December 16th, 2009, the second day of the two-day event, which is held every year on December 15th & 16th and January 15th & 16th.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 11:38 a.m.)

"Boroichi Street Market - December 16th, 2009-3/5" (091216-1210)

Third of five clips of walking around the Boroichi Street Market on December 16th, 2009, the second day of the two-day event, which is held every year on December 15th & 16th and January 15th & 16th.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 12:10 p.m.)  Walking (very slowly!) through a crowded food section of the event.

"Boroichi Street Market - December 16th, 2009-4/5" (091216-1244)

Fourth of five clips of walking around the Boroichi Street Market on December 16th, 2009, the second day of the two-day event, which is held every year on December 15th & 16th and January 15th & 16th.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 12:44 p.m.)

"Boroichi Street Market - December 16th, 2009-5/5" (091216-1309)

Fifth of five clips of walking around the Boroichi Street Market on December 16th, 2009, the second day of the two-day event, which is held every year on December 15th & 16th and January 15th & 16th.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 1:09 p.m.)



"Ikegami, Yamanote, Inokashira, & Keio Lines"

Every track is a beaten track in Tokyo, but I've been off of my typical beaten paths, going about in the financial calm before the raging storm on the horizon that I hope to somehow evade....

"Ikegami Line - Coming into Osaki-Hirokoji Station" (091215-1449)

Looking out the cab of an Ikegami Line train as it comes into Osaki-Hirokoji Station.  (Recorded on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009, at 2:49 p.m.)

"Ikegami Line - Culverts & Tunnels" (091215-1453)

Running from Ebara-Nakanobu to Hatanodai, the train's old style (voice) recording (actually, not just old "style" but actually old I think) warns the passengers what not to do in ultra-polite Japanese.  Recordings on different train lines are similar, but have variations.  Unfortunately, new announcements may be becoming more similar and less interesting.  (Recorded on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009, at 2:53 p.m.)

"Riding Yamanote Line into Yurakucho Station" (091215-1646)

Looking out a left-side window of a
Tokyo/Ueno-bound Yamanote Line train at buildings flowing past.  Then getting off the train in Yurakucho and heading for the stairs. (Recorded on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009, at 4:46 p.m.)

"Transfer to Inokashira Line from Chuo Line at Kichijoji" (091216-1040)

Walking off a Chuo Line train and then transferring to an Inokashira Line train at Kichijoji. (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 10:40 a.m.)

"Coming into Kugayama on the Inokashira Line" (091216-1052)

Looking through the cab to the view ahead of the Inokashira Line as it speeds to and then stops at Kugayama. (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 10:52 a.m.)

"Keio Train Arriving at Meidaimae Station" (091216-1102)

Watching a Keio Line train come into Meidaimae Station and then load/unload.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 11:02 a.m.)

"Keio Line Trains Departing from Meidaimae Station" (091216-1103)

Watching a couple of trains departing from Meidaimae Station.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 11:03 a.m.)

"View from Keio Line near Shimo-Takaido Station" (091216-1105)

Looking out a left-side window of a Keio Line train as it nears and then pulls into Shimo-Takaido Station.  (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 11:05 a.m.)



"Yoyogi, Harajuku Station, Chuo Line, & Nakano"

Continuing some random travels in Tokyo, another batch of video clips:

"Walking to Yoyogi Station" (091218-1448)

This opens with a view of a passing Saikyo Line train at ground level (under the bridge in the back of the picture).  The Yamanote Line trains go by via the bridge.

Then I turn around and walk towards Yoyogi Station as a crow cheers me on (halfway down the street).  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 2:48 p.m.)

"Yamanote Line Trains at Yoyogi Station" (091218-1450)

Watching a Shinjuku-bound Yamanote Line train come into Yoyogi Station while waiting for a Shibuya-bound Yamanote Line train.  As the Shinjuku-bound train is slowing to a stop, the Shibuya-bound train comes in and I climb aboard....  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 2:50 p.m.)

"Yamanote Line from Yoyogi to Harajuku, Left Side" (091218-1452)

Looking out a left side window of a Shibuya-bound Yamanote Line train, and getting off the train at Harajuku Station.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 2:52 p.m.)

"Exiting Harajuku Station" (091218-1454)

Walking down the ramp inside Harajuku Station, then through the ticket barrier at the main entrance/exit and immediately crossing the street.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 2:54 p.m.)

"Boarding Yamanote Line for Shinjuku at Harajuku" (091218-1541)

I watch a Shinjuku-bound Yamanote Line train come in and then climb aboard.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 3:41 p.m.)

"Local Between Okubo & Higashi-Nakano Stations" (091218-1549)

Looking back towards Shinjuku (on the left side of the train) while I ride an outbound Sobu Line (or local Chuo Line, depending on what you want to call that line) train between Okubo and Higashi-Nakano stations.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 3:49 p.m.)

"Higashi-Nakano to Nakano - Right Side View" (091218-1551)

Looking out the right side of an outbound Sobu Line (or local Chuo Line, depending on what you want to call that line) train as it runs between Higashi-Nakano and Nakano Stations.  As the train I was on dead-ended at Nakano Station, there are announcements saying so as I get off the train.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 3:51 p.m.)

"Back Streets of Nakano" (091218-1604)

Walking around on the back streets of Nakano before meeting a friend and having a drink in a small shop in this area.  There used to be areas like this here and there throughout Tokyo, but they've been tearing them down at a furious pace and now they are nearly nonexistent.  The few places that remain are turning into cheesy areas like theme parks for people to get an easy nostalgia fix, but the very thing they aim to see has been mainly destroyed and all that's left is a facade.  This area is actually still real.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 4:04 p.m.)

"Small Shops & Restaurants in Nakano" (091218-1648)

A quiet area with an atmosphere that feels as though it hasn't changed much in two or three decades.  Two or three decades might not sound like very long, but in Tokyo, 20-30 years is like 200-300 years in cities where tearing down anything that is slightly old isn't such a passion.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 4:48 p.m.)

"Running Parallel on the Chuo Line" (091218-2249)

Looking out the window of a late night Chuo Line kaisoku (rapid) train at a local (or Sobu Line, depending on what you want to call that line) train as the trains go from station to station, running alongside each other.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 10:49 p.m.)



"Musashikoganei Station, Ogikubo, Shibuya, & Meiji Shrine"

Thrown off the beaten track against my will, I am at least glad to be able to take new images at new locations during the day for a change, since most of my pictures lately have been night images:

"Musashikoganei Station Platform - Lunchtime View" (091217-1123)

Standing on the newly opened inbound platform of the still-under-construction new Musashikoganei Station (it's new in the sense of being rebuilt; there has been a Musashikoganei Station there for a long time) - watching a reserved seat express train pass and looking around at the angles and (near) noontime lighting.  (Recorded on Thursday, December 17th, 2009, at 11:23 a.m.)

"View of Old Chuo Line Train from Cab of New Type" (091217-1130)

Looking out the right side of the cab of a new type Chuo Line outbound train as it passes an old type Chuo Line inbound train.  Then watching the platform flow by as the train pulls into Kokubunji Station.  (Recorded on Thursday, December 17th, 2009, at 11:30 a.m.)

"Ogikubo Station Platform 11:12 a.m." (091218-1112)

Views of light and shadow on the Chuo Line platform at Ogikubo Station while inbound and outbound trains come and go.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 11:12 a.m.)

"Shibuya Station Platform Jungle Walk" (091218-1249)

Walking down the Shinagawa-bound Yamanote Line platform just after stepping off of a train.  The train was a little behind schedule and packed like a morning sardine run train, so the (live) platform announcement is asking people to take the next train, which they say is running right behind this one.  And sure enough, before I can walk all the way down the platform, the next train comes in.

Just as loading/unloading begins for both trains, there's a recorded female announcement saying that there are wide gaps between the train and the platform in places (caused by the curvature of the tracks & platform), so to watch your step... I fell into one of those gaps at this station once, so I think that's a valid warning!

A final comment on this one: The sound of marching feet!  This sound is the theme music for the morning commute in particular, when people are just focused on getting to work on time and are not talking.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 12:49 p.m.)

"Shibuya Scramble Crosswalk, Friday, 12:55 p.m." (091218-1255)

Walking across the famous Shibuya "scramble" crosswalk.  As usual, there are high school students walking about.  I used to wonder why you see high school students (easily identifiable by their school uniforms) walking about all over the city at all times of the day and night, and all days of the year; but with the size of Tokyo (30,000,000 in the greater Tokyo area, including Kanagawa, Chiba, & Saitama), you get used to seeing a little of everything, all the time.  Also, what with oddball school holidays, special events, after-school study at jukus, and constantly changing schedules, multiplied by the vast number of schools in Tokyo, I've come to not find the students-everywhere-all-the-time phenomenon unusual.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 12:55 p.m.)

"Meiji Shrine Drum Beating at 2:00 p.m." (091218-1402)

In Kyoto, Nara, Kamakura, etc., there are large and impressive temples & shrines galore, but not so many in Tokyo.  Meiji Shrine, sitting near Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Shibuya is a popular tourist destination and one of the main places people come to in Tokyo during the New Year's holiday to pray for the New Year.

When the drum beater started beating on the drum, I saw the guard wave away some people from the inside area who wanted to take pictures, so I was reluctant to aim the camera through the opening, but you can see someone doing that in the video, so maybe I should have walked the camera up closer....  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 2:02 p.m.)

"Tree-lined Path at Meiji Shrine" (091218-1429)

Looking at the large trees lining one of the paths into Meiji Shrine while the crows provide part of the background soundtrack.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 2:29 p.m.)

"Walking Through Light & Shadows at Meiji Shrine" (091218-1430)

The paths into Meiji Shrine are gravel-covered ones like this.  At New Year's, there is quite a symphony of gravel crunching as thousands of people march into the shrine.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 2:30 p.m.)

"Trains Passing by in Shibuya Suburb" (091218-1440)

A Narita Airport Express train passes by headed for Shinjuku, and then a Yamanote Line train headed in the other direction (for Shibuya) passes by.  Passing trains, blue sky, white clouds, graffiti, kindergarten, building towering over Lyle, bare trees, harsh light.  A typical winter scene in Tokyo.  (Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at 2:40 p.m.)



"Street Band, Kinokuniya, Yamanote Line, & Takeshita-dori"

Video clips.  From a street band and Kinokuniya Bookstore in Shinjuku, to a few Yamanote Line train clips, and Harajuku's Takeshita-dori.  I've been running around off the beaten a path a bit, which I'd like to explain, but it's a bit complicated, so let's just have a look at the videos:

"Shinjuku Street Band - December 8th, 2009"

Two-man street band in Shinjuku - near the south exit/entrance to Shinjuku Station.  It might be that I'm going by Shinjuku at the wrong times, but there seem to be far fewer street bands there than when I took a series of Shinjuku street band videos in October of 2008.  Of course the weather is nicer in October than December, but I didn't see many this year in October either.  Considering how I often saw the police going around last year shutting down performances, maybe it's become nearly impossible to perform there now....

"Foreign Language Section of Kinokuniya Bookstore" (091209-14:40)

Walking around on the foreign language floor of Kinokuniya Bookstore in Shinjuku.  Well - actually, this bookstore near Shinjuku Station is sitting within the boundaries of Shibuya, but since there is (or was, I haven't been there in years) a Kinokuniya Bookstore in Shibuya which is not only within Shibuya, but is near Shibuya Station, it's less confusing to refer to this one as one of the Kinokuniya Bookstores in Shinjuku.  (There's another Shinjuku Kinokuniya Bookstore near the east exit/entrance of Shinjuku Station that is within the boundaries of Shinjuku.)

Since the vast majority of Tokyo residents get around by train, most places are referred to the name of the nearest surface JR station, unless the area is particularly famous, like Ginza and/or is accessed by subway (which tends to have stations closer together.)  In fact, the vast majority of people I've asked have no idea that this bookstore is - address-wise - within Shibuya, since it's right by Shinjuku Station, but once you cross the main road after coming out of the south exit, you're in Shibuya.

"Leaving Shinjuku Station via Yamanote Line" (091209-15:01)

Accelerating out of Shinjuku Station, watching the full length of the platform slide by.  This video continues until just after crossing the first bridge out of Shinjuku Station on the way to Shin-Okubo Station.

"Trains Near Shin-Okubo Station" (091209-15:01)

Shin-Okubo Station.  View of other trains running in parallel with the Yamanote Line tracks, and then the stop at Shin-Okubo, with the old style "The doors are about to close! Hurry!-Hurry!-Hurry!" bell, which was used all over when I came here in 1984, but has been mostly replaced by more melodic sounds, coded to specific stations.  The new system is definitely better, but still, I feel some nostalgia for the old Rush!-Rush!-Rush! bell for some reason....

"Shin-Okubo to Takadanobaba via Yamanote Line" (091209-15:02)

The full run from Shin-Okubo Station to Takadanobaba Station, including all of the Japanese and English announcements about Takadanobaba, and some of the platform announcements in Takadanobaba.  There are views of Seibu-Shinjuku Line trains running parallel with the Yamanote Line (from which this video was taken).

"Yamanote Line from Mejiro to Ikebukuro" (091209-15:06)

Leaving Mejiro, a Narita (Airport) Express train goes by in the other direction, followed by (on different tracks) a Yamanote Line train.  Nearing Ikebukuro, the train passes under a Seibu-Ikebukuro Line bridge, and a Seibu-Ikebukuro Line train can be seen curving to the left and heading for Ikebukuro.

After arriving in Ikebukuro, I step off the train and have a listen to the station announcements.

"Yamanote Line from Ikebukuro to Otsuka" (091209-15:09)

The full length of the Yamanote Line platform at Ikebukuro Station, and part of the journey to Otsuka Station.  View of the inside of the train included.

"Yamanote Line from Otsuka - Partway to Sugamo" (091209-15:12)

Nearly the full length of the platform at Otsuka Station, and part of the journey to Sugamo Station.  Both Japanese and English announcements on the way.

"Yamanote Line from Sugamo to Komagome" (091209-15:14)

Accelerating past the platform at Sugamo Station, and rolling over to Komagome Station.  Both Japanese and English announcement on the way.  Announcements at Komagome Station, as well as Komagome's custom "The doors are about to close" melody and recorded bird sounds (used at many stations unfortunately).

"Yamanote Line from Komagome to Tabata" (091209-15:15)

Accelerating past the platform at Komagome Station, and the trip over to Tabata Station.  Both Japanese and English announcement on the way.  Announcements at Komagome Station, as well as Komagome's custom "The doors are about to close" melody and (again) recorded bird sounds.

Bird songs....  It's getting so that when I hear bird sounds, I think "Gee - that sounds like the Yamanote Line!".  Naturally, the idea is to imagine a nice forest somewhere as you walk down the asphalt platform, but the effect may be to make someone who (eventually) finds themselves in a nice forest, to imagine the asphalt platform when they hear real birds....

"Harajuku Takeshita-dori, Southeast Stroll" (091218-14:57)

Walking away from Harajuku Station down Takeshita-dori in a southeast direction.  This clip starts from just before entering the street and ends at the other end.  Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009, at about 3:00 p.m.  In spite of the cold, the women are basically dressed about the way you'd expect them to in summer.



"Chuo Line Left Side Commuter Views"

There are many interesting stations on the Chuo Line, but the passenger density of the line doesn't make for the most relaxing commutes!  On December 4th and 7th (Friday & Monday), I ended up near a door, so I could take pictures out the window.  December 7th was interesting, as it was the first weekday that the new inbound section between Kokubunji and Mitaka was used.  Of the four video clips listed below, the first two were taken from the new inbound elevated section, and the last two were taken further down the line, past Mitaka.

"Chuo Line - Inbound from Kokubunji-A" (091207-08:20)

Looking out the left side of a Chuo Line train running on the newly constructed elevated rails.  They elevated the outbound rails first, and then (after constructing the elevated portion for the inbound tracks next to the elevated section for the outbound), the inbound went into use this month.  Construction is still ongoing of rebuilt stations.

"Chuo Line - Inbound from Kokubunji-B" (091207-08:25)

Beginning with a diagonal view as the train passes by a newly opened inbound platform at a station still under construction (thus the white background).  (As this was a Tokubetsu-tsukin-kaisoku [Special Commuter Rapid], there were no stops between Kokubunji and Shinjuku.)  Along with elevating the rails between Mitaka and Kokubunji, they've rebuilt the stations in that section, with construction ongoing.

Also views of residential houses and apartment buildings that are fairly typical for areas within Tokyo, but away from the central area.  (Actually, there's still some of this look to central Tokyo, but the central area is increasingly becoming a large high-rise zone.)

The end of the video is where the newly elevated section comes back to ground level just before Mitaka.  Just after Mitaka, it is elevated again.

"Chuo Line - Inbound from Mitaka" (091207-08:29)

Diagonal view of built-up area along tracks after passing Mitaka.  From here on in to Shinjuku, basically the area around each station in this stretch is build up, and the areas between stations are a mix of individual houses and apartment buildings.

Notice how quiet it is inside the train... people very rarely talk during the morning commute.  Late Friday night outbound trains are a different story!

"Chuo Line - Diagonal View, Koenji to Nakano" (091207-08:41)

Between Mitaka and Shinjuku, the only place the main Chuo Line (not the Sobu Line, which is also known as the local version of the Chuo Line) trains can pass other Chuo Line trains is Nakano, so typically, morning rush period express trains creep along after Mitaka until nearing Nakano, where they can pick up speed, pass a train waiting at Nakano Station, and speed on in to Shinjuku Station.  This video shows the view from just before Koenji Station (one station from Nakano Station), until just after Nakano Station.  The train is still accelerating as the clip ends.  (Nakano Station is where the buses are - the waiting train at Nakano Station is on the opposite side of the train from this view.)



"Chuo Line Views, Morning Shinjuku Station, Ginza Demonstration, Etc."

More video clips.  First of a demonstration I saw on the edge of Ginza, then a few Chuo Line views, a few views of Shinjuku Station during the morning rush, and a couple of Yamanote Line clips.

"Demonstration Near Ginza, December 4th, 2009"

On my way to Ginza I ran into a group of teachers demonstrating against requirements in public schools related to displaying the nation's flag and standing and singing the national anthem.  Their stance, if I understand it correctly, is that it's one step towards nationalism, and they believe students and teachers shouldn't have patriotism forced upon them.  But I don't know the exact details - for that, I suppose there's something on-line.

"Scrolling Buildings - Chuo Line, December 2009"

Buildings scrolling down through a slightly fogged lens (due to a large number of breathing bipeds on the train, cold temperatures outside, and the proximity of the train window's cold glass to my camera lens).

"Chuo Line - Dramatic Clouds, Autumn Colors" (Dec. 2009)

The view out a left side window of an inbound Chuo Line train during the morning rush - recorded at about 8:36 a.m., on December 4th, 2009.  It had rained the day before, so the air was clearer than is often the case (although the air tends to be clear in the winter).  The train was running slower than usual due to the large number of trains on the rails in the morning.

"Residences Beside Chuo Line, December 4th, 2009"

Slowly gliding past residences next to the elevated Chuo Line tracks in a morning rush commuter train.  Recorded around 8:42 a.m. on December 4th, 2009.

"Picking Up Speed - Chuo Line, 8:47 a.m."

Accelerating in an inbound Tokubetsu Tsukin Kaisoku (Special Rapid Express) on December 4th, 2009.  It's special because it makes very few stops, but it's not very rapid, due to there being too many trains on the rails, so it gets stuck behind slow-moving trains.  Nearing central Tokyo, there are more large buildings than further out on the line, which has mostly residential housing next to the railway.

"Morning Chuo Line Platform at Shinjuku - 8:52 a.m."

Just after stepping off of a Chuo Line express train at Shinjuku Station - working my way towards the stairs in order to transfer to the Yamanote Line.  Unless you're in front of everyone, there's no way to hurry really in these situations; you just have to plod forward with the other sardine bipeds.  (Recorded on December 4th, 2009.)

"Morning Transfer to Yamanote Line" (Dec. 4th, 2009)

Transferring from the Chuo Line to the Yamanote Line via the over-the-tracks route (you can also transfer by going under the tracks).  (Recorded on December 4th, 2009 at around 8:54 a.m.)

"Shinjuku Yamanote Line platform, Dec. 4th, 2009, 8:55 a.m."

Arriving on the platform for track-14 (Shibuya/Shinagawa-bound Yamanote Line), and Track-13, (Akihabara/Chiba-bound Sobu Line) at 8:55 a.m.  During the peak morning rush, they run eleven-car trains on the Yamanote Line (ten cars for the Sobu Line) every two or three minutes, but there are a *lot* of people who use the Yamanote Line, so all of the trains are fairly full (in spite of the large number of them), and if one of them is a couple of minutes late, it ends up looking like the scenes in this video on the platform.

Incidentally, they basically number the edge of the platform next to the tracks here, so - locally - they call track-14 platform-14 and track-13 platform-13.  Never mind that tracks 14 & 13 use the same platform.

"Yamanote Line View - 8:58 a.m., Dec. 4th, 2009"

Looking out the left side of a Shibuya/Shinagawa-bound Yamanote Line train at a Sobu Line train (headed for Shinjuku Station) curving to the right to pull parallel with the Yamanote Line (after coming from Akihabara, etc.), and a couple of Tohoku, Utsunomiya, or Shonan-Shinjuku Line trains (which run parallel to the Yamanote Line for several stations) passing by the Yamanote Line train I was on (one in each direction).

"Yamanote Line Zing View - 9:03 a.m., Dec. 4th, 2009"

Looking out a right side window of the Yamanote Line as it zings along between Shibuya and Ebisu - beginning at a mid-way point between Shibuya and Ebisu, and ending as the train pulls into Ebisu Station.



"Several Videos - Shinjuku, Shimokitazawa, Harajuku, Ginza, Omotesando, etc."

It's been quite a week, what with full scale war at the jungle warfare office, my freedom from that toxic atmosphere obtained, but my income lost, etc. etc.  Too much stuff to explain in detail, so let's just have a look at some videos:

"Morning Toyoko Line - Suit City - November 2009"

A standing room only, but relaxed ride on the Toyoko Line during the morning commute.  I ended up on the Toyoko Line due to a "jishin-jiko" (passenger action) on the Yamanote Line.  Fortunately the Yamanote Line train I was on was stopped at Shibuya Station when it happened, so I had the option of doing an end run around the problem area via other train trains.  This is one of the advantages of the increadible number of train lines in Tokyo - at hub stations, there are usually options to get where you're going via other lines if one of them is not running for some reason.  (Recorded on November 16th, 2009.)

"Shinjuku Platform Jungle Walk - November 2009"

Looking out the window of an Ikebukuro-bound Yamanote Line train as it zooms into Shinjuku Station.  After getting off the train, walking the full ten-car length of the platform (during rush hours, but after the main peak).  (Recorded on November 24th, 2009 at about 7:30 p.m.)

"Evening Ikegami Line - Hatanodai to Ebaranakanobu"

Looking out the front of an Ikegami Line train from its departure in Hatanodai until its arrival in Ebaranakanobu.  (Recorded on November 24th, 2009 at about 5:30 p.m.)

"Shimokitazawa Jungle Walk-A - December 1st, 2009"

Walking about in Shimokitazawa on December 1st, 2009.  I noticed a number of closed shops - either because it was just after 6:00 or maybe because of the bad economy.  I think at least partly due to the bad economy, but I could be wrong.  Certainly the economy is bad for me personally, since the large corporation I was working for has begun axing its contract workers, me included....

"Shimokitazawa Jungle Walk-B - December 1st, 2009"

Continuing my walk-about in Shimokitazawa - walking down an old covered shopping street whose days are probably numbered.  (Recorded on December 1st, 2009.)

"Shinbashi Train Cyclone - November 2009"

Walking in the opposite direction from my last Shinbashi Station walk video, with trains passing on both sides of the Shinbashi Station Tokaido Line platform, including a couple of 16-car Shinkansen super-express trains.

"Riding Inokashira Line into Shimokitazawa"

Listening to the internal announcement on an Inokashira Line train as it pulls into Shimokitazawa, and then getting off the train and heading for the exit stairs.

"Outside Cooking Display & Microvan in Shimokitazawa"

While jungle walking in Shimokitazawa, pausing to watch an outside cooking... show? display? in front of a... restaurant (I think).  A microvan drives by, etc....

"Running for the Train - Ebisu Station" November 2009

Running down the platform at Ebisu Station to get to the front of a Shinjuku-bound Yamanote Line train.  (I don't make a habit of doing this, and I don't recommend it, but this is what is looks like.)

"Vertical Running Reflections - Yamanote Line" November 2009

Watching the light show in the window of a Shinjuku-bound Yamanote Line Train.

"Vertical & Horizontal Yamanote Line Reflections" November 2009

Looking outside/inside a Yamanote Line train window at night, and looking over at a fellow passenger's book.  Typical nighttime Tokyo train travel....

"Arriving at Harajuku Station (Announcement)" November 2009

Arriving at Harajuku Station.  Notice the sound level change of the "Harajuku... Harajuku desu.  Gojosha, arigato gozaimasu" announcement from inside the train before the door opens (the first "Harajuku..." part of the announcement) and after (the rest of the announcement/recording).

"Shinjuku Station Jungle Walk - November 2009"

Walking through Shinjuku Station from near the South Exit to the South-East Exit around 7:45 p.m.

"Shinjuku Southern Terrace Blue Lights - November 24th, 2009"

Part of the year-end light displays put up all around the Southern Terrace ("Shinjuku '09-'10 Southern Lights").  Apparently this year, this sort of illumination is done with LED lights, with blue being the color of choice (along with white).

"Ginza Jungle Walk - November 2009"

Walking down a nighttime side street in fashionable Ginza, recorded on November 27th, 2009.  The main streets of Ginza are full of "brand" company shops with insanely expensive and often ugly mass-marketed... stuff.  Fortunately there are still some interesting galleries and small shops on back and side streets.

"Yurakucho Sax Player - November 27th, 2009"

Listening to a sax player under the tracks between the plaza on the Ginza side of Yurakucho Station and the entrance to the station (off to the side).  Trains go by above, people walk by - some stop and listen.  Typical Tokyo scene.

"Autumn Colors in a Tokyo Park - November 2009"

Trying to unwind from the stresses of office jungle warfare.  Maybe if people spent more time contemplating natural things, they would be less bloodthirsty in the office?

"Harajuku Takeshita Dori (Other Direction) - November 2009

Recorded on a different date from a recent post covering the same street, and walking in the other direction this time - away from Harajuku Station.

"Tree Lights Quest (Omotesando) December 2009"

A decade ago, they stopped putting lights on the trees in Omotesando due to complaints of people living in the area who were inconvenienced by the large crowds that came to see the lights.  The story goes that the neighborhood assoication then reversed their ealier decision and decided to put them up again this year to add some cheer to counter the gloomy economic news, etc.

"Old Double Decker Bus Cruising Omotesando Light-up"

I'm not sure, but I suspect this bus was conducting a tour of the lights.  The upper deck would be a great place to observe the lights from.  (Recorded on December 2nd, 2009 at around 6:30 p.m.)

"Omotesando Jungle Walk - December 2nd, 2009"

Walking with the crowd - with many likely there half to have a look at the trees, and half to know they haven't missed out on the event.  (Truth be told, I wanted to get some pictures for those same reasons, basically.)

"Shinjuku Rush Hours Platform, 18:44 December 2009"

Rush hours (it's certainly not over in one single hour!) in Shinjuku see a lot of people moving about.  Unless some other station has surpassed it, Shinjuku has the largest number of people passing through it each day - calculated (I think) by the number who set foot off of trains there (both for transfers or when actually going somewhere in Shinjuku).



"Dirty Jungle Warfare Politics at Office of Efficient Manufacturer"

From a job security standpoint, and as a human being, white color offices tend to be some of the vilest, dirtiest workplaces on the planet.  I had thought that the office of a manufacturer which runs efficient factories and manufactures (usually) quality equipment would get some of that quality into its offices, but it turned out to be the dirtiest, sloppiest, most wasteful, meanest, nastiest office I've ever worked in.  Go figure.  If that same company ran its factories the way it runs its offices, it would go bankrupt within a year and its manufactured machines would be worthless sloppily bolted together piles of garbage.

Compounding its offices' inane rottenness, the "seishain" (direct translation "correct/proper employee" - the full-fledged workers protected by labor laws) and "hakken" (contract workers generally working full time, but often on rotating three-month contracts that help the company escape the labor laws) system is just sick.  On one hand, you have grotesquely incompetent seishain workers who are never fired, typically going around wreaking havoc on quality, and on the other hand, you have underpaid (no bonuses, low benefits, no job security, very little protection under the labor laws) hakken workers doing most of the total work and nearly all of the quality work.  When a seishain piece of deadwood makes a serious mistake, a sacrificial hakken worker is chosen to be a scapegoat for the worthless (but untouchable) seishain worker's sins, and another disposable hakken worker is brought in to fill the axed one's position.

It's a really sick system and it seems to be getting worse.  Do I sound upset?  I am.  I just lost my job to the lies of a pack of dysfunctional evil seishain deadwood that I had the cheek to point out were sabotaging the quality of the section's output.  There's not the slightest concern by middle management scum about actual quality - just they are upset that I refused to dive to my hands and knees and kiss the ground their (and their worse than worthless underlings) foul feet walk on.



"Nakano, Harajuku, Kodaira, Shinbashi & Koenji"

More video clips.  All new stuff from November 2009, except the first one, which is of snow in Nakano and Hibarigaoka in December 1991.

"Rain to Snow - Nakano & Hibarigaoka - Chuo & Seibu Lines - 1991"

Starting on the Chuo Line platform in Shinjuku, taking a Chuo Line train to Nakano, walking around on some of Nakano's main & back streets, and then views of snowy Nakano streets.  Walking through the snow to Nakano Station, taking a Chuo Line train to Shinjuku, and then jumping forward to a snowy Seibu-Ikebukuro Line train in Ikebukuro that I take to Hibarigaoka.  The video finishes with views of the narrow streets of Hibarigaoka.

Of some historical worth, note the sounds on the Chuo Line train between Nakano and Shinjuku.  The old Chuo Line trains produced quite different sounds from the newer type.  Last week I saw on older type still being used, but they are very rare now and will soon be completely off the Chuo Line rails (whether they're being scrapped or sent to some other line I don't know).

"Harajuku Back Street Fashion Shops - November 2009"

A walk on a back street in Harajuku.  Taken on a weekday evening, there are not many people on the street or in the shops, but on weekends this would look much busier.  This area is roughly between Shibuya and Harujuku stations.  Recorded on November 18th, 2009.

"Harajuku Takeshita-dori - November 2009"

A walk along the full length of Takeshita-dori.  This street has a couple of sections walled off where they've torn down a section of buildings, so eventually, they'll raze everything and build something new (this is the way of Tokyo, city of "Nothing old allowed!"), but for now, much the same crowd of (ever changing & not changing) middle-school and high-school girls (and some boys) like to stroll and shop here.  Leading directly to one of the entrance/exits of Harajuku Station, it's a good location for this type of shop.  (Recorded on November 18th, 2009.)

"Where is Everybody? - Harajuku, November 18th, 2009"

Mostly empty Harajuku back streets.  Depending on the human density of the city you live in, this might look busy, but for Tokyo, it looks downright desolate.  Relaxing to walk along the street when it's like this, but looking in the mostly empty shops, you can't help but think that the economy really isn't doing very well (which it isn't), and worry about the future.  Maybe it's best to not think anything, and just enjoy the space?  Naw... you have to think.

Recorded on November 18th, 2009

"Autumn Day in Chuo Park in Kodaira" November 23rd, 2009

Riding out along the Tamagawa Canal starting around Kichijoji, I came upon a nice park in Kodaira - Chuo Koen (Central Park), with playgrounds, a soccer field, food stalls, trees with their leaves turning, and an outdoor concert.  Quite nice overall for a cool autumn day.  About as good of an autumn day as any I've seen.  (This video was taken just before 3:00 p.m., even though it looks more like it's nearly 5:00.  Tokyo is in the wrong time zone, so at this time of year, it gets dark shockingly early.)

"Bossa Nova Concert in Kodaira Chuo Park" November 23rd, 2009

The outdoor concert mentioned above (
in Kodaira's Chuo Park) was bossa nova music.  This video shows the appreciative crowd under the colorful leaves of the park's trees - which were just beginning to change in Tokyo's autumn.

"Tamagawa-josui Canal Cycling (1/2) - November 23rd, 2009"

Built in 1653 to supply Edo (current Tokyo) with water, it is still used (I think) to supply Mitaka with some of its water needs, but to the people living along its path, it's more important as a long green beltway (trees on both sides help stabilize the banks of the canal) used for strolls, jogging, and cycling.  Some stretches are more convenient than others, and you have to switch sides from time to time and navigate past paths full of fire-breathing machinery.

"Tamagawa-josui Canal Cycling (2/2) - November 23rd, 2009"

Another part of my Monday, November 23rd, 2009 bicycle ride along the canal.

"Concert in the Park - November 23rd, 2009"

Another view of the
bossa nova concert in Kodaira's Chuo Park.

"Shinbashi Station - Platform Jungle Walk-A" (November 2009)

Taking a Tokaido Line train up to Shinbashi from Shinagawa, I started at the Tokyo end of the platform and walked all the way to the Shinagawa end.  I'm not sure I had ever walked the full length of a 15-car train/platform before, so I was curious how long it would take.  It seems to take between four and five minutes, depending on your walking speed and how many obstacles you have to maneuver around as you make your way down the platform.

Also in the video (to the right and left of the Tokaido Line platform), passing Keihin-Tohoku Line trains, passing Yamanote Line trains, and passing Shinkansen super express trains.

"Koenji Jungle Walk - November 2009"

Walking around on the streets of Koenji on Wednesday, November 25th, 2009.  Areas like this are nice to walk around in - particularly in the evening, when people are out shopping.  This is one of the things I like about living in Tokyo - you can start from a station somewhere in the city, and just by walking in a random direction, tumble on ares like in this video.

This is only possible however in areas where most people don't have cars, and use their feet and trains to travel.  The car culture destroys this kind of thing, because then the streets are made for fire-breathing machinery instead of air-breathing people....

"Koenji Side Streets - November 2009"

More walking down side streets in Koenji on Wednesday, November 25th, 2009.



"Former Black Market, Jungle Walking, etc."

1990 Ueno, the Chuo Line, Shinjuku jungle walking, Hatanodai Station, etc, are themes of recently posted videos:

"1990 Ueno Street Market (Former Black Market)"

The semi-outdoor market near Ueno Station, running along the elevated railway was a black market right after WW-II.  The market is still there, and is (naturally) not a black market now, but still sells things somewhat in the spirit of what the area was before.  The area has gone through stages - from black market to legitimate market of things sold more cheaply than at major stores, to... I'm not sure what to call it now.  There are now discount stores all over the city, so there's less incentive to go there than there used to be, but it's still crowded at weekends and just before the New Year's holiday.  In 1990, when this video was taken, it was a little more popular than it is now I think, and it had a bit different of an atmosphere than it does now.

"Shinjuku Kabukicho to East Side - Jungle Walk - November 2009"

Walking from the edge of Kabukicho, to near the east side entrance to Shinjuku Station.  Typical walking scenes for Tokyo.

"Boarding Chuo Line in Shinjuku - November 2009"

Watching a Chuo Line train as it pulls in to Shinjuku Station; watching people get off, and then finally boarding the train myself.  After decades of riding the trains here, these sights are as familiar as the sun in the sky.

"Shinjuku Higashi-guchi Jungle Walk - November 2009"

Starting from the ground level door that leads out of Shinjuku Station from the East Exit, and walking to the main street on the edge of Kabukicho - at night of course.  (I should record some images in the daytime sometime, but I'm working in a large box then, so I usually have to wait until evening, when the sun has gone down.)

"Shinjuku Higashi-guchi Rain Jungle Walk - November 2009"

Walking in Shinjuku on the Higashi-guchi (east) side.  Recorded November 17th, 2009.  Christmas decorations are already appearing in department stores....

"Nighttime Yamanote Line - Ebisu to Shibuya (November 2009)"

Looking out the front of the Yamanote Line as it goes from Ebisu Station to Shibuya Station.  The man you can see in the cab of the train is not the driver - the driver is to the left of that person.  The reason there were two people in the cab appeared to be due to the driver being new and undergoing training.  On that train, both the conductor at the back and the driver were women.

"Umbrella River - Shinjuku (November 2009)"

Walking through a river of umbrellas on the way to the east entrance to Shinjuku Station on November 17th, 2009.

"Express & Local Trains at Hatanodai Station"

Watching an express train arrive and leave at Hatanodai Station, and then getting on a local train going in the same direction.  Hatanodai Station was fairly recently rebuilt and is of a modern style.

"Harajuku Fashion Hunt (A) - November 2009"

Walking around in Harajuku in the evening, looking at the many small shops selling fashion-related stuff.  Recorded in November 2009.

"Nighttime Yamanote Line - Yoyogi to Shinjuku - November 18th, 2009"

Looking out the front of the Yamanote Line as it goes from Yoyogi to Shinjuku at about 6:18 p.m., on November 18th, 2009.



"Orange Prompts Suicide via Rails & Blue Prompts Life?"

Suicide is not uncommon in Japan, and has historically been considered an honorable exit when no other paths appear to be forthcoming.  And in modern times, people who commit suicide not uncommonly will do so by jumping in front of a train, typically at the head of the platform as the train comes in at speed.  Some train lines are more popular for doing this than others - the Chuo Line is famous in Tokyo for having a large number of suicides.  Naturally, since the people who successfully commit suicide cannot be consulted as to why they did it, or why they chose a particular place, it's left for the living to ponder.

Why the Chuo Line?

The Chuo Line was - for decades - a deep orange color, what some semi-color-blind people refer to as red, but everyone (except some flat-out color-blind people) agree is a warm color.  One fine day, I was talking with someone and (naturally), the topic of the Chuo Line's high suicide rate came up.  I looked on as though watching a science fiction movie as I was told there's a theory that the reason a lot of people choose to die by jumping in front of the Chuo Line is because it's a shade of red!

I blinked a couple of times, looked into unblinking eyes, and asked if they were serious.  They were.  Then, to test the idea, I asked several other people over a couple of years and was disappointed/distressed to find a majority of people submitting to this theory, saying they had heard (and apparently believed) that it was an aggressive color that prompted people to jump in front of the train!  So I tried acting out the scenario in front of a few believers of this theory by saying (with words, facial expressions, and gestures): "Hum-dee-dum... Ah!  Here comes the train....  Look at that color!  Such aggression!  ......  All right!  That's it!  Time to die!".

I mean... come on!  Does that make sense to you?  It does?  I still don't get it....

Anyway!  They have replaced the deep-orange trains with white/silver/orange trains that are (from the front) just silver and white... and still people are committing suicide by jumping in front of the Chuo Line.  Suddenly you don't hear about the warm color theory as to why people are choosing the ultimate exit via the Chuo Line.

But wait!  The theory lives!  JR Railways has installed squares of blue light (beaming down from overhead) at the end of all the platforms on the central Yamanote loop line.  Why?  Because blue is a calming color and they think it may make people thinking of committing suicide calm down and change their minds....

Now, back to the Chuo Line.  Let's look at a couple of other possibilities.  The Chuo Line has, on an average basis over the course of a full day, the most crowded trains in all of Japan.  So - if there are a given percentage of train riders on any given line that eventually commit suicide by jumping in front of a train, gee, you might actually have more suicides on the most crowded line!  Rocket Science!  And if the conditions on the most crowded line in the country are the most unpleasant, then, gee, maybe some people get seriously depressed about becoming canned sardines for two or three hours every day and decide they can't take it any more, so they take the jump.

Just why is it that no logical reasons are discussed, and everyone latches onto the nonsense about the color of the train being the reason?  From the railway's perspective this is convenient, because if the reason people are committing suicide is because of overcrowding on the line, then they could face potential legal responsibility for creating a cause of the death by not (somehow) providing more trains and alleviating the crowding somewhat.  Mind you, I'm not suggesting negligence on the part of the train system here, either the Chuo Line specifically or the whole rail system in general.  It's an excellent system and it's amazing it functions as well as it does with the 30,000,000 people living in Tokyo.

But here's the thing.  I used to work at a PR agency and I've seen a little how something is put into the media, broadcast, and then accepted by people because they saw it on television.  PR agencies identify "Opinion Leaders" and other sources of public thinking and try to influence them.  Who knows, it might even be some scientific thing about deep orange that actually does lead to suicide, but either way, from the railway's standpoint, it's vastly better if people are discussing the issue as though it were a natural phenomenon rather than a human-made cause.  If it's just a natural phenomenon, then people will not ask them to do something (and anyway, it looks as though they have done something now by changing the color of the trains), but if it's based on conditions (far more likely!), then people will begin clamoring for them to do something.

Anyway - it'll be interesting to see what becomes of the blue lights on the Yamanote Line.  The platforms are so brightly lit with white florescent tubes that the blue is only in that one small spot right at the end of the platform, but maybe some people bent on self-destruction will actually change their minds as they enter the blue light....



"Track Walking?"

There seem to be an increased number of train delays while they "clear the tracks" of someone wandering around on them.  Keep in mind that these are always fenced off from public roads and pedestrian walkways, and most are elevated rails, so - in most cases - nobody is on the rails unless they really want to be there.  Yesterday two of my trains were delayed for this reason - one ten minutes and another thirty-five minutes.

And... that's the story.  The questions are:

1) Who is doing this?

2) Why?

I'm in a calmer frame of mind today after getting a decent night's sleep, but yesterday I was thinking "Speed up the trains!  Knock those swine off the rails!"  Very long commutes in sardine conditions do not make for the most magnanimous frame of mind....



"Tokyo Motor Show 2009"

The first Tokyo Motor Show was held in Hibiya Park in 1954.  People who know the current Hibiya Park are usually surprised to hear this and beam over a quick "Are you serious?!" look to the person who tells them, but the park was different then, and the first show was on a smaller scale than modern versions of the show, with 254 exhibitors displaying 267 items, with only 17 of the 267 being passenger cars.  Most of the exhibits were construction equipment, trucks, buses, three-wheel vehicles (something to do with tax laws I think), and motorcycles.  The first four shows were held in Hibiya Park (1954-57), the 1958 show was held at the Korakuen Bicycle Racing Track, and from 1959 until 1987, it was held at Harumi.  It was a yearly show from 1954 until 1973, and - coinciding with the 1970's "oil shock" period, became (mainly) a once-every-two-years event from 1975.  With Japan's economic boom of the eighties, it was moved to the new (at the time) Makuhari Messe site in Chiba (basically a suburb of Tokyo) from the 1989 show.

My first two experiences of going to the Tokyo Motor Show were the 1985 and 1987 shows at Harumi.  In 1985, I rode a ferry over to the site from Hamamatsucho, and in 1987 I hiked in from a not-very-convenient subway station on the other side.  Harumi was interesting is that there were several different types of buildings that the exhibits were displayed in, and since you had to go outside to get from one building to another, the venue had a sort of park-like atmosphere.  And with each building came a different atmosphere, since some of the buildings were completely different in style from the others.  I'm not explaining it very well, but there was something very fundamentally different about Harumi, which became apparent once the show moved to Makuhari Messe.

The first year at Makuhari Messe, 1989, coincided with Japan's boom economy (which seemed to be unaffected by the Wall Street woes of a couple of years before), and was the first year of the Heisei Era.  Visiting the 1989 show at the new site, I remember the feeling in the air of "New!-New!-New!", "Exciting!-Exciting!-Exciting!", "Better!-Better!-Better!".  A couple of years later, Japan's "bubble economy" burst, and that intoxicated feeling in the air turned into a hangover in some ways, but it was the threshold of a new era for Japan, and when I think back to 1984-86, I realize how very different that era was from now, and see the late eighties as the line between the two eras.  Most fundamentally change-inducing for the culture of this country has been the strong yen.  It was 245 to the dollar when I came, and it soared to around 100 yen to the dollar around the time of the beginning of the Heisei Era.  With the strong yen has come cheap overseas travel and cheap imports, both strongly changing contemporary Japanese culture.

So much background....  I hadn't meant to spend this much time on this subject, but to explain the feelings I had when visiting the 41st Motor Show this year, I needed to explain how it felt at Harumi, and then the more modern Makuhari Messe, and it was only one step (disregarding the one show at Korakuen) further back to explain the very first show in Hibiya Park.  It's hard to put the experience of the show this year into words, but one word I keep coming back to while searching for a better one, is "lonely".  Aside from an interest in cars or any intent to buy one, the show has always been a big event that people tend to be interested in seeing, and then conveying to friends later.  This year though, major foreign manufacturers didn't participate, the total area of the show was greatly reduced, there were fewer show people on the stages, and attendance appeared to be way down.  Of course, people don't really need to go to a show any more to see what's new - they can just access whatever information they want from their computer, so the main reason to have the show may have evaporated.  Combine that with the bad economy, and you find yourself wondering if there will even be a show in two years.  Could it be that 2009 was the last Tokyo Motor Show?  Probably not, but I almost didn't go myself, and I've found that people aren't interested in even hearing about the event this year, and one person I talked to afterwards wasn't even aware of its existence.

Anyway.  All that to introduce a few short video clips... beginning with a view from the front of the Keiyo Line train I took to the convention center:

"Keiyo Line on way to 2009 TMS" - November 4th, 2009

Looking out the front, at the driver, to the side, inside, and then back to the front view again of a Keiyo Line train on the way to Makuhari Messe to see the 41st Tokyo Motor Show.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Mazda A)"

Views of the Mazda exhibition at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, taken on November 4th, 2009.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Subaru A)"

Views of the Subaru exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Mazda B)"

More views of the Mazda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Honda A)"

Views of the Honda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Honda B)"

View of the motorcycle stage presentation at the Honda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Honda C)"

Another view of the motorcycle stage presentation at the Honda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Camera Madness)"

Three beautiful stage women draw a swarm of camera-equipped males.  They don't call this event the "Tokyo Motor & Model Show" for nothing!  (Just joking of course!  It's official name is "Tokyo Motor Show".)

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Suzuki A)"

Views of the Suzuki car exhibition.

And then back in a train for the return trip to central Tokyo:

"Keiyo Line, Tokyo Bound (Evening Sky)" - November 4th, 2009

Looking out the window of a Keiyo Line train on the way back to Tokyo after seeing the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.

Someone mentioned that they would be staying at the Hotel Sunroute Plaza near Shinjuku Station, so I took this video to make it easier to find from Shinjuku Station:

"Shinjuku Station to Hotel Sunroute Plaza" - November 2nd, 2009

The last half of this should stay accurate for some time, but the first half may well change fairly soon.  The south exit area of Shinjuku Station (actually in Shibuya by address) is in the middle of a long-term construction project.  Also note that the Narita Express train (that is just arriving in the video) is on its way *to* Narita, so the trains coming *from* Narita should be arriving on the other side of the platform.

For a history of the various Tokyo Motor Shows, see this page:

A jump back in time to 1990, when I visited the open-air (but with roofs) market in Ueno:

"Ueno Ameyokocho - September 1990A"

From Ueno Station to Ameyokocho, which was a black-market area following WW-II.  For about a decade now, there are inexpensive discount stores everywhere, so not as many people go to Ueno in search of bargain prices as they did before.  In this 1990 video, you can see how it looked before the number of customers started falling.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon


"Walk-About Videos"

Time - as in there's never enough to do all the things you want to do, such as detailed editing of large amounts of video images.  So... facing the decision to post nothing for a couple of weeks or to post some raw footage, I went with posting raw footage.  This doesn't mean I've given up on editing - it just means that I thought the raw stuff might make for (barely) tolerable watching.  With that... disclaimer? - on to the videos:

"Shibuya Shop Walk (Inside) - October 2009"

Walking through the indoor shopping & restaurant strip that leads from Dogenzaka down to Shibuya Station.  No edited out bits - just one steady walk - ending up on the Yamanote Line platform for Shinjuku-bound trains.

"Ginza Sanpo-E - October 28th, 2009-A"

Strolling around in Ginza, visiting art galleries, etc.  The weather on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 (when this was taken), was perfect for walking.  Cool enough that a light jacket was appreciated, but not cold yet and the trees mostly still have green leaves.

"Ginza Night - October 28th, 2009-B"

More walking around in Ginza as the weather hints at the coming winter.  I walk past a fashionable woman wearing a kimono while crossing a street, etc.

"Shibuya Jungle Walk-A - October 29th, 2009"

Riding into town (Shibuya, Shinjuku, etc. are considered "towns" within Tokyo) on the Yamanote Line, I jump off the train and dive into the jungle of evening Shibuya.  Taken at around 5:15 p.m., there are a lot of students there who have come by after getting out of high school for the day and before going home for the night.  There are some university students and whatnot as well, but I get the impression (not necessarily accurate) that the area is more popular with high school students than university students, but university students don't wear uniforms, so it's hard to say by appearance.

There is also a view (inside & out) of the train car (used as a waiting area) in Hachiko Plaza and the Hachiko dog statue.  Incidentally, the street I went jungle walking on used to be a river (stream?), that they put underground in order to make that street.

"Shinjuku Bound Yamanote Line Train at Shibuya"

All 11 cars of a Shinjuku/Takadanobaba/Ikebukuro-bound Yamanote Line train zoom past at Shibuya Station.  (Taken on October 30th, 2009.)

"Shibuya Jungle Walk-A - October 30th, 2009"

Walking around in Shibuya in the evening (first of three).  The streets chosen for this walk are different from the ones I recorded for the "Shop Walk" video.

"Shibuya Jungle Walk-B - October 30th, 2009"

Continuing my Friday evening walkabout in Shibuya.

"Shibuya Jungle Walk-C - October 30th, 2009"

Last of three walkabout videos taken on Friday evening, October 30th, 2009, in Shibuya.

"GDU University Aki-Matsuri (1) - November 1st, 2009"

A fall festival at GDU University.  The students are running booths selling different types of food & drink.  These are fun to go to, but I generally end up spending more money than I would prefer!

"Gakugei Daigaku (University) Jazz Band - Nov. 1st, 2009"

A cool jazz band at the Aki Matsuri (Fall Festival) at Gakugei Daigaku (Gakugei University) on October 31st and November 1st, 2009.  Jazz appears to be much more popular in Japan than in its birthplace, the US.



"Video Usage & Comment Moderating"

More train video... stuff?, news?, comments?, ..... something.  There seems to be some misunderstanding by some people regarding why I would request that an illegal copy of my train video be taken down.  First off - I'm not hiding the video, it's freely available for anyone to see.  Here:

And while I would prefer that it not be floating around the Internet as an e-mail attachment, someone made an illegal copy of it and has done that.  Many of the recipients of that file then posted it on YouTube and elsewhere.  And while I would prefer that it not be posted by anyone other than myself, what especially prompted me to ask for some postings to be taken down was rudeness, lies, and inaccuracy in the titles and comment sections.  Some examples:

"crazy" -  No.  No one in the video is crazy.  The platform people (including full time workers, part time workers, and the drivers of the two trains (a junkyu and a kyuko) are each just doing their job - which is to get the trains loaded and back in motion according to schedule.

"fail" -  There is no "fail" in the video.  The people want on the train, and railway employees help them to get on the train.  In spite of very difficult conditions, the train departs only about ten seconds late - essentially on time.  The overcrowding is not an optimal situation (I rode this line for sixteen years, so I know very well what I'm talking about!), but it's not a "fail" (if anything, it's a "success" in functionality), and the system has been improved since 1991, when the video was taken.

"police" -   No.  Those are not police or security people helping the passengers get on the train - they are regular railway employees, including the drivers of the two trains at that platform.

"high birthrate" -  No.  Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world.  Tokyo has around 30,000,000 people (if you include the suburbs of Kanagawa, Saitama, & Chiba), but the population of the country as a whole is not growing right now.

"more trains" -   Close to a good suggestion, and in fact they've added more trains since this video was taken.  Still, the rails were pretty full of trains even back in 1991, as the bigger problem was no (or very little) flex-time, so everyone crowded onto the system at the same time.  There are a lot of people in Tokyo.

"longer trains" -  The trains in this video are ten-cars long, and some other lines have fifteen cars.  Ten cars fill up the platforms on this line (the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line), so if the trains were to be longer than ten cars, they would have to extend all the platforms.  In any case, ten large cars (carriages) is not exactly short for a commuter train.

Etc. etc. etc.  Since the comment sections were unmoderated; racist and inappropriate toxic text piled up....

Anyway, if you are interested in that video, here's a longer version, showing people going through the ticket gates, etc:

Now - on to some recent video clips:

"Shibuya 'Scramble' Crosswalk - October 20th, 2009"

Looking around near Shibuya Station, and walking across the "scramble" crosswalk.  This crosswalk is a bit odd in how it seems intense when you're there, but it's hard to convey the feeling of crossing the street in a sea of people accurately in a video, including this one, but still - this might give you at least a rough idea of how it feels.

"Harajuku Northbound Trains + Bridge" - October 2009

Looking towards Harajuku Station at night, as a Shinjuku-bound Yamanote Line train pulls into the platform and another northbound train passes to the right of that.  Then, pulling back and swinging 90 degrees to the right, a view of the people on the bridge.

Why is the beginning of the video on its side?  This scene was begging for vertical composition, so I complied.  The problem now is getting it to play back as a vertical image.  I'm confident that this will be commonplace viewing functionality someday.

"Kichijoji Evening Shopping - October 22nd, 2009"

Taken around 6:00 p.m. in Kichijoji, as people shop for food on the way home.  Naturally, Kichijoji is full of people doing something or other all the time, but at 6:00 p.m. on a weekday (Thursday, October 22nd, 2009, in this case), shops selling prepared food especially do their best business as people go from work to home.  The shops used to do better business, but now that people not only have refrigerators, but fairly large refrigerators, they buy more frozen stuff and do same-day shopping (shopping for the coming evening's meal) less often.  Also, people who would have bought some pretty great food for the evening at central markets before, often now buy some junk at a nearby convenience store.

"Exploring Narrow Kichijoji Pathways - Oct. 2009"

Walking around on some of the narrowest streets in Kichijoji.  Tokyo used to have a lot of streets like this, which have loads of character, but (understandably) newer development replaces these areas with wider roads (fire-fighting equipment access, etc.), and modern buildings.

"Koiwa Yakitori Street - October 23rd, 2009"

A walk into the narrow street near Koiwa Station with several yakitori drinking places.  Near this street, there are several shotengai (shopping streets), but they seemed to have hardly any customers when I went by at around 6:00 p.m. on Friday, October 23rd, 2009.  Also several places had closed shutters - indicating either that those shops are simply closed, or maybe not in business any longer.

Probably the shotengai shops are busiest on weekends, but still, the trend away from traditional shotengai seems to be continuing, with people more often shopping at larger discount stores, or having things delivered directly to their homes, etc.  (If I lived a little nearer to Koiwa, I'd go by there today (Saturday) and have a look, but it's a bit of a journey from where I live....)

"Asakusabashi to Akihabara at Night - October 2009"

Looking out a right side (open) window on a train between Asakusabashi and Akihabara.  Lots of buildings, some reflections of the train in windows as it passes, etc.

"Accelerating Down Platform" - October 2009

Accelerating down the platform of a station somewhere between Koiwa and Akihabara.  With the glass out of the way, it's a clear view, and there are a couple of trains in the background as well.  The trains would be so much more enjoyable if the windows were all open when the weather is not too cold....



"Too Many Frequencies..."

I met a British friend and a Japanese friend of his on Friday, and over drinks tried to alternately tune into UK frequencies and Japan frequencies, adjusting from my NA frequencies.  It was awkward... I sort of felt like we should have just made the whole conversation in Japanese, but instead, I and the UK man talked to each other in English, and then took turns translating things into Japanese for his friend.  I'm not sure how it would have gone had everything been in Japanese, but it was very tiring as it was.

If I'm in that situation again, I think I'll just do the whole thing in Japanese.  Actually, that's just the polite thing to do - if there's a common language among three people meeting, then it should be used.  Trouble was, all parties knew some English and all parties knew some Japanese, but it was two-to-one regarding which language was most fluently spoken, and the local representative on Friday apparently didn't have very strong English skills.

Anyway - on to video clips:

"Old Type Chuo Line Train (201 Series)" - October 2009

A view of an old type Chuo Line train (all orange) leaving Kokubunji Station in October 2009.  There are very few of these still on the rails, since they've been phasing them out gradually for about two years now.  (I think this older type is known as the "Series 201".)  Notice how there is only one window open, but nearly every window on the train is openable, and also there are vents in the ceiling that can be opened to let in air from the roof of the train.  Unfortunately, the new train cars don't have this feature and half of the windows don't open at all (and the ones that *do* open people seem afraid to open).

It seems as though the new trains (and their passengers) are suffering from "closed box syndrome", I miss old trains and old buildings - they provided vastly better air to breathe....

"Walking Down Stairwell in Okuno Building" - October 2009A

Walking down one of the cool stairwells in the Okuno Building, which used to be an apartment building, but is now used for office space and art galleries.  There are very few 1930's era concrete buildings left in Tokyo, and this one may well be the best in terms of character, which radiates from the walls, ceilings, and floors....

"Down Escalator, Onto Platform at Shinjuku" - October 15th, 2009

Walking down escalator and arriving on the platform just as a Chuo Line train is pulling out of the station.  Missing a train usually isn't a big deal on most lines in Tokyo though, since the next train usually arrives in just a few minutes.

"Odakyu 1957 'Romance Car' Super Express - Oct. 1990"

This ten-minute video shows the trip I took (from Shinjuku to Machida) via Odakyu "Romance Car" (super express) on October 5th, 1990 - from watching the train pulling in at Shinjuku, to boarding, watching the driver operate the train, views out the front of the train (with many trains passing in the opposite direction), passing local trains, pulling into Machida Station, and getting off the train while a woman from the train (standing on the platform beside the door) bows to departing passengers.

At the time I took this, I was sort of disappointed that it wasn't a newer type, but in retrospect, I was probably lucky to get on the oldest type, since they scrapped this type a few years ago, which makes this video historical.  The plaque at the front of the train indicated it was built in 1957 (Showa-32) and refurbished in 1984 (Showa-59).



"Last Sento Painter - Redux"

First the reason for this post:  There is to be a second, live, sento-style painting of Mt. Fuji to be painted by Maruyama Kiyoto at Gallery Serikawa in the Okuno Building in Ginza on November 21st, 2009, starting at 1:00 p.m.  Why this is of historical interest, I will now attempt to explain:

There are two historical issues to deal with - the history of the painter, and the history of the building in which the painting demonstration is to take place.  The building predates the painter by a few years, so I'll start with that:

1932 - The Okuno Building begins its long existence (long for Tokyo anyway, where most buildings are destroyed after a few decades) as an apartment building in the 1-chome area of Ginza, in Tokyo.

The building was modern at the time, with steam heat & running water in each room, beds that folded out from the wall, wooden closets, (with wooden floors in some rooms, tatami mats in others) an elevator, a lounge on the sixth floor, and a sento (public bath) in the basement.  There are planters in front of the front windows, which looked out over a river (since rerouted), and probably out to Tokyo Bay (although I haven't been able to confirm this aspect yet - certainly there have been a lot of newer and taller buildings constructed in front of the Okuno Building since then, and new landfill in Tokyo Bay).

Actually the building consists of two nearly identical buildings built side-by-side, with the one on the left constructed first.  They are internally joined, but each has its own staircase, complete with a window between the two staircases, possibly to prevent people from missing people who take the other staircase from the one they are on.  Whatever the reason, I don't think I've ever seen that design anywhere else before.  Each building also has its own basement, and one of the basements has a well - which apparently supplied the bath water and maybe the drinking water, and water for the boiler to feed the steam heating.  And - getting back to the sento in one of the basements - it is now being used as an art gallery, and this is where Maruyama Kiyoto painted one of his Mt. Fuji paintings on September 5th in front of a live audience.  It was quite fitting for a sento-style painting to be painted in a former sento, now being used to display art.  This event was so well received, that another has been scheduled for November (see the top and/or bottom of this posting for details).

The early thirties being before the implementation of that curse on humankind - air-conditioning
- ventilation was provided by large (by today's standards anyway) vents over the (open-able) windows (or beside the windows in one half of the building), and close-able ventilation slats in the doors at the bottom and the top.  Some of these are still functional, but unfortunately most of the remaining original doors (many doors have been replaced), have had these painted - freezing them in place.

(Incidentally - what do I have against air-conditioning?  Thanks to air-conditioning, I
suffer in 28-degree heat at work year-round thanks to there being no open-able windows and extremely inadequate ventilation - a design made possible by bloody air conditioning.  Think about it - I suffer in heat thanks to the designers of buildings thinking that the automated air system can supply all oxygen and temperature needs for the people sealed in the box.  And it almost could - if it were used correctly!  Thanks to a few people who have extreme phobias of moving air, they leave the system off except for brief periods in the morning and the late afternoon.  It's mind-boggling that management doesn't realize how unhealthy the air is!  I suppose the only thing that would get their attention is if three or four people keeled over concrete-cold dead on the floor from lack of oxygen.)

Back to the Okuno Building.  The rooms are quite small, but for a single person, it must have been good to live there.  There aren't many residence buildings in Ginza, so just to be able to have a Ginza address would have been fun - and convenient.

In any case, the usage of the building has changed over the decades, and it is now being used by many small art galleries and also by small companies for office space.  It's been a practical working building all along, and there have been many modifications to the building and most of its rooms over time.  The last resident tenant died earlier this year at 100 years old.  Apparently she had lived there since the building was new - all those long decades ago.

1935 -
Maruyama Kiyoto was born in Koenji.  His family moved away from Tokyo during the wartime years and then he moved back after the war when he was eighteen.  Currently he is one of only two people in the entire country who are professional sento painters, and he has been painting sento wall murals for over fifty years now.

I should write more, but it's nearly 2:00 a.m., and I need to get some sleep, so I'll leave it as this and just put the gallery and event information below:

"Last Sento Painter - Redux"
Gallery Serikawa
1-9-8 Okuno Bldg., B1 (right-side basement)
Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tel & Fax - 03-3535-2007

会場:銀座 芹川画廊



"(Former) 1935 Ryogoku Hotel Visit in 1990, Etc."

This batch of videos were all taken with a Ricoh GR-III camera (except for one that was taken in 1990), which works well for medium-range resolution videos, with the caveat that something in the processing for YouTube leaves them with very poor sound, so I'll probably not be using that camera much for video (unless I need to take video when I don't have a proper video camera on me).

I'm a bit disappointed about this, since the picture quality was pretty good (for its range of definition - 640x480), I was thinking of using it fairly often, but if the sound is bad, then it would be better to use an HD video camera with good stereo sound.

"'Burbs Bound - September 2009"

Looking out the window of a Suburbia-bound commuter train one evening in September 2009.

The new trains don't have shades that pull down in front of the windows (good, so I can see outside!), but in place of that, they have green tinting in (or on?) the glass which can look kind of ghoulish at night sometimes.  Also, a coating on the glass makes it so there is a sort of double reflection sometimes, often ruining what can be a very cool scene-overlay effect with clear glass when the lighting is right.

"The Hallway" - September 2009

Exploring a mysterious path in an old Tokyo building....

Taken in an old wooden apartment building most likely not long for this world, as it's not full, and the owner is probably waiting for the last tenants to leave so they can tear the building down.

"Nishi-Ogikubo Nostalgia Street" - September 2009

Walking down an old street in Nishi-Ogikubo (in September 2009) that has become something like "Nostalgia Street" - since old streets like this in Tokyo are becoming quite rare.  It used to be just that they were just older areas with character, but now some areas like this are almost becoming tourist attractions - sort of like theme parks.  Lots of people (cough-cough) taking pictures, etc....

"Cruising Tokyo in a 1955 Chevy Bel Air" - September 30th, 2009

Going for a cruise in central Tokyo in a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, followed by Mr. Racer.  Also featuring the Yurakucho SB (at the beginning of the clip).  Taken on September 30th, 2009.

My parents had a 1955 Chevy when I was a little kid, so it was great to see and ride in this car - as though it had come back from the past as a sort of time machine.

"Watching Clouds, Taxis & Trains - October 2nd, 2009"

Standing in front of the "Shokuan Stand Bar" in Yurakucho, which is across from the Denki Building.  Just like the title indicates, I was watching the low clouds blowing by overhead, the taxis driving by, and the overhead Keihin-Tohoku Line trains coming into Yurakucho Station.  The temperature was just about right on the evening of October 2nd, 2009, but cold weather is on the horizon....

Probably not very interesting for most people to see, but it shows to some extent the type of motion and scenery that is part of life in Tokyo, with the overhead Yamanote loop line defining and giving character to the central part of the city.

"Couple in Evening Yurakucho" - October 2nd, 2009

A couple walks off down a wet sidewalk in Yurakucho in-between rain showers beneath speeding clouds.  It was a nice evening, with clean air, comfortable temperatures, and a romantic/dramatic atmosphere.

"Old 1935 Ryogoku Hotel - Haunted in 1990"

I was walking around recording images & sounds of the area along the river, and soon after crossing over a bridge and arriving in the Ryogoku Station area, I noticed unusual-looking doors in an old building.  Taking a closer look, I peered through the glass doors and saw what looked like a hotel front desk, although there was no one in sight and it was clearly not being used as a hotel as I stood there, in September 1990.  I pushed one of the door - it was open!  So I walked in (not something I would do now, in the security-conscious 21st century, but at the time, it wasn't so outrageous).

After looking around the halls a little, and seeing what I thought were vacant apartment rooms on the top floor, I ran into a tenant who told me that it had been a luxury hotel when it was built in 1935, with nice views of the river (now obscured by the expressway).  He went on to explain that the building had been requisitioned by the US military following the end of WW-II, and used as a residence for US military women.  It used to have high-ceilinged hallways, but fake ceilings had been put in (probably to mount the curse of the 20th century - florescent tube lighting).  There were plans to tear the building down, but the last ten (or so) tenants were resisting.  Apparently the building had been used in some old movies as well.  He told me it was alright to take pictures in the halls, but to be careful of the second floor, as a few people lived there.  That building is long gone now, and I'm not seeing info about it under "old Ryogoku Hotel" or "Chiyoda Heights Building", so more research is in order.

"Ebisu Station View & Yamanote Platform" - October 6th, 2009

Starting with a look out on city buildings from the east side of Ebisu Station, then continuing with a walk through the ticket barrier, down an escalator to the platform, and a view of the platform announcer with his wifeless microphone, followed by a Yamanote Line train coming in.

This is a raw clip from the camera and should have had some of the boring walking scenes in the middle cut out.  The beginning and end are (in my opinion) not too bad however.

"Tokyo-Iroiro - October 2009A"

Various scenes taken in Tokyo, with many train and train station views, including on a Seibu Railways branch line, the Yamanote Line, The Ikegami Line, the Chuo Line, and some scenes from Yurakucho (both the station and the area).

Note: My usual video editing software won't play the files from my Ricoh-GR camera, so I tried using different software, which worked, but the conversion into YouTube's format seems to have ruined the sound....



"Tokyo LHS Videos from September 1990, 2008, & 2009"

"Rainy Day In Tokyo - August 1990"

Taking the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line from Hibarigaoka to Ikebukuro in the afternoon, getting on the train at about 4:11 p.m.  After arriving at Ikebukuro Station (the first station on the line, although the last station on the line from the standpoint of this video), there's a view of people getting on the train, with people walking on calmly at first, and then some people rushing for the last open seats before the loading process calms down again (since all the remaining people will be standing, there's no point in rushing).  Walking towards the exit gates, there's a view of the man making platform announcements with a wired microphone from a fixed location (in 1990, most stations hadn't converted to wireless mic systems yet).

From there, a transfer to the Saikyo Line, for a trip to Shinjuku (which was the terminal stop for the Saikyo Line then, this being before it was extended to Ebisu and beyond).

Looking out the right side of the Saikyo Line (which runs parallel to the Yamanote Line tracks here), it's apparent how busy the lines are, as several trains are passed going in both directions.  The Yamanote Line trains seen out the window of the Saikyo Line train are of the previous generation, not the ones currently in use.  There is a long and detailed announcement about connecting trains in Shinjuku (made by a real live human being - not a robot-like bloody recording) as the train zooms along towards its terminal stop in Shinjuku.

Getting off the train in Shinjuku, I walk through the middle passage to the west side of Shinjuku Station, where a man is standing on top of a van ranting about politics at the passersby through very loud horn speakers.

Walking along the area in front of the station, there is a jumbled pile of bicycles.  People most likely parked them one after another until they were blocking part of the area in front of the sidewalk, at which point someone tossed them in a pile to get them out of the way.  What would happen back then in 1990 (and still happens sometimes, although much less frequently now - what with flex time and all), is some people who usually walked to the station would be running late, so they would ride their bicycles to the station, hurriedly park them somewhere (typically where parking is not allowed), and jump on a train, hoping that their bikes would still be there late in the evening when they returned.  If someone came back and discovered that their bike was on the bottom of a pile like this, or had been hauled away, they would give up on it and buy another one.

This may sound strange, but people very rarely buy expensive bikes here, so it's not such a financial burden to replace them from time to time.  Since then, when you buy a bicycle, the stores push you to register it with your name and address, which they explain is so police can help you track it down if it's stolen, but it may be more about stopping people from abandoning bicycles and enabling police to enforce fines against illegal parking (if an abandoned bicycle can have its owner identified by a registration sticker, then that owner can be fined and billed for storage when the bike has been hauled away).

"Weeknight Trip Home - September 1990"

Typical Tokyo Street scenes, walking around in this mega-city of lights, and then the stations and trains encountered on the way home.  On the trains, more actual live human voice announcements (instead of the bloody recordings that are increasingly used these days).  Interesting city this, but with all the constant lights & noise, one ends up dreaming of trees, grass, light breezes, rustling leaves, and a place free of machines and concrete....  (Trains in video: Saikyo Line & Seibu-Ikebukuro Line).

"Seibu Branch Lines - September 2008"

Super boring video.  Late evening views of a few different Seibu Railways branch lines.  The main two Seibu lines are the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line and the Seibu-Shinjuku Line, and then there are several short branch Seibu lines out in the 'burbs.  The trains in this video are mostly 'burbs branch lines.  Taken in September of 2008.

"Yurakucho Evening - September 2009"

A rough look at a couple of areas near Yurakucho Station, taken one evening in September 2009.  A Shinkansen super express passes by on one side of the station, and a Keihin-Tohoku Line train on the other.

I like this video compositionally, but it's distressing in that the resolution is horribly low.  Of all the days, it would have been nice to have been using a proper video camera when I took these images.



"YouTube (Google) is Protecting Lyle from... Lyle!  WTF?!"

There's a certain video I took in 1991 of happy Tokyo commuters leisurely (hee-hee) boarding a morning rush-hour(s) express train.  I posted it to GoogleVideo first, and then it was copied and e-mailed everywhere, and many of those "everywhere" folks thought they'd help spread the joy by posting their shiny copy-versions of my video to YouTube.

Fast forward... about a year and a half... and the videographer/owner/copyright-holder (ahem! me!) requested that an over three-million views version be taken off the wires.  It was.  I then requested that a couple of other copy versions be taken down, and then I was shocked, disillusioned, and dismayed to see that some bloody idiot at Google (either an idiot or a biped with an evil heart) had killed my original YouTube post!  And just to add insult to injury, they deleted a couple of different videos of mine for good measure.

What do you think?  Are they sending me a nasty message
("That'll teach you to give us extra work!") to teach me not to request help with shutting down illegal copies of my videos?  It's almost hard to say which is worse - gross incompetence, or wicked mean-spiritedness.

Now, allow me to emphasize here that I have *never* posted *anything* to YouTube that I didn't take with my own two hands!  For Google to kill an author's own material and then notify them that they are being shut down by... themselves... this is just... wrong!  I've written three e-mails to the guy at Google who so thoughtfully sabotaged my YouTube page in order to help me (or was it his assistant?), but (so far) there is no reply and the videos remain dead.

Come on Google!  Show me you're not evil by bringing my wrongly murdered three YouTube posting back to life with their old URL's!

Yoroshiku onegai shimasu yo!



"Shinjuku Southern Terrace, Etc. (Four Video Clips)"

First, it should be noted that "Shinjuku Southern Terrace" is not actually in Shinjuku!  It's in Shibuya, but it's right by Shinjuku Station, and so it gets the Shinjuku name.  While you're on the plaza, it's easy to forget (if you ever become aware of the fact in the first place) that it's basically a bridge built over the Odakyu Railway lines which are unnoticed below.

Shinjuku Southern Terrace opened in 1998 and I've always enjoyed its sensible lighting (in contrast with the "the more the better" style in too many parts of Tokyo), and its wide pedestrian-only walkway.  There's a section with a path that takes you up a small hill between trees, which looks (at night) like in this clip:

"Shinjuku Southern Terrace at Night - September 15th, 2009"

Near to where the above video was taken, there's a popular Starbucks.  The following video is a walk past the long and narrow store:

"Walking Past Starbucks on the Southern Terrace" (Shinjuku, 2009)

Now, jumping in a (video) time machine, here's a view of the south exit area of Shinjuku Station in September 1990.  The Takashimaya Department Store was in the beginning stages of construction and there is no trace of the Southern Terrace yet:

"Out & About - Shinjuku, Etc. - September 1990"

Finally, we come to the "etc." part of the title - a Peruvian band that I saw in Kokubunji.  Over the years, I've seen either this band, or similar bands, in various places in and around Tokyo (Shinjuku and Kashiwa come to mind):

"Band from Peru in Kokubunji - September 14th, 2009"

I need to get some new photo pages up, but it's quicker (and funner) to get a video posted, so I've been doing a lot more of video posting than making new photo pages....

Sore dewa, mata!



"Only so much Time"

The limitations of what one person can do are very much in mind these days.  I have several - no... make that *mountains* of projects in mind for my photos and videos, both material already recorded ("taken" & "shot" are the standard terms), and material that I should/hopefully-will record in the future - hopefully near future.  The tendency has always been to record first and foremost, and then do editing and publishing as time is found, but a person's lifetime is not infinite, and I'm beginning to contemplate the futile scenario of a person who has spent their whole life working on the beginning stages of projects, and then runs out of time (the *final* deadline) with many (or most) projects awaiting more time invested.

If those projects can be handed off to someone to continue, then it's not wasted, but if the projects end up going into the trash at the demise of the individual who spent their life working on them, then... that's depressing, and... wasteful?  Tragic?... or... who cares?

For some (many?, most?) projects, it's only a matter of finding help, or getting a paid team together to speed things up, and then things can happen very quickly.  And then the issue of financing the projects becomes paramount.  I've always wanted to do everything myself, but now time is forcing me to realize that there will have to be help, or the projects will not be completed.



"Legal Screaming & Flying Through the Air"

Aside from being a bit nervous about riding roller coasters when my age was in single digits, I've always liked riding them; going up high, looking around quickly before flying diagonally through the air, etc. - and since coming to Tokyo, doing a bit of yelling from time to time.  Where else can you let loose with a full-force yell/scream?  There have been a few times I would have liked to have done so on the train system, but... you can't do that (for obvious reasons), so I haven't.  That leaves the amusement park.  Exhibit A, the Cyclone Roller Coaster at 1990 Toshimaen:

I think it's still there, but not as many people go to amusement parks as when I took the video, so the atmosphere is probably a bit different now.

Yelling on roller coasters is an old tradition, but for competitive yelling, the "Flying Pirates" ride is (or was?) better, as one group of people faces another and takes turns yelling or cheering at the other.  A September 1990 example, also from Toshimaen:

Toshimaen is nice in that there a lot of trees in it, so it's pleasant to just be there on a nice day (come to think of it, the "park" in "amusement park" is very appropriate in this case).  I haven't been there for quite a while, but I visited the Seibu-en Amusement Park last year, and was surprised to see very few people there... on a national holiday!  They used to be crowded all the time, and really packed on national holidays.  That may be why a lot of people gave up on going to them - when you have to wait in line for over an hour for a single ride, it detracts quite a lot from the day, and then, when thinking of going somewhere in the future, those long lines are remembered and a different destination chosen (if any destination is chosen at all - there is more to do at home now).

So, this may be a good time to go to Toshimaen actually.  I'm thinking of going myself after seeing these videos of fun I had in 1990....



"September - August Gone Already..."

September... sigh.  Cooler temperatures are always welcome, but I never like the concept of approaching winter, with it's dry, cold winds, leafless trees, flu season, and months of dreaming of warmer weather, hoping the cold will soon be over.

Summers as a child were always so free... three months of no school, and every day I was free to do as I pleased.  No wonder as a member of the working world, summer is now over in a flash.  Between daily responsibilities, a quick trip to Kamakura & Enoshima one day; later in the summer, a few days in Kyoto; a summer festival in Koganei... and a few other things, but that's about it.

Ah... one reason I didn't do more, was because I used some of the free time I did have to edit photos and video.  The last project of August (and early September) was a video about the Koganei Natsu Matsuri (summer festival) that I finished editing today:

For text about that festival, see my "Natsu Matsuri in Koganai - August 2009" blog post.

Sore dewa, sleep is needed!



"Natsu Matsuri in Koganei - August 2009"

I used to check out a local summer festival (natsu matsuri) every August that was held near my apartment, but for the past few years haven't done more than walk by one summer event or another without attempting to take part in it.  But after editing some video I took at the 1991 Hibarigaoka natsu matsuri, I got motivated and spent some time at a similar event held in Koganei near Higashi-Koganei Station on the Chuo Line.

The nicest thing about it for me was that it was held on a field of healthy grass & clover.  That might be the expected location for an outdoor festival, but every one (that I can remember off-hand anyway) that I've been to since my first experience at one in 1984, has been held on asphalt!  Either on streets or in parking lots.  So... the experience of the grass, which was nice to walk on, nice to look at, cooler in August than asphalt, and nice to sit on, was quite nice.

After walking around a little and feeling a bit out of place in my dated packaging and business clothes (among the yukata-clad women, children, and families with small children), I bought a beer, some gyoza, and a few sticks of yakitori (from three different food stalls), and as I began consuming those, I looked down at the inviting green grass, checked that my trousers were a darker color (so I wouldn't have to worry about grass stains), and gratefully sat down.

The combination of being on the friendly living earth (that didn't care about my dated external packaging and out-of-place clothing) and the beer & food got me into a much improved state of mind, and I relaxed and looked around.  It then became a moment similar to those experienced during childhood summer vacation trips to the mountains, a stream in a valley, or some other pleasant outdoor place.  (I should explain that having this sensation on a field shared with hundreds of other people was only made possible by the contrast of my typical mega-city life of always being in plant-less spaces and walking on asphalt and concrete, etc.)  The other component of the moment was feeling that I was a part of the natsu matsuri.  Not that I was doing anything in particular, but even just buying food and drink is partaking of the moment/event, and watching things in person is vastly different from seeing them on an electronic screen.

So... I looked up and noted a beautiful afternoon sky, with multi-color clouds... and looked over at the new station (they are rebuilding Higashi-Koganei Station as part of a track expansion construction project), noting the out-bound trains coming in at roof-line on the completed half near the festival (the opposite side of the station still has the in-bound rails on the ground).

The station.  Something seemed very optimistic about it.  A modern design and with more tracks to speed things up on the over-crowded Chuo Line.  Thinking of car culture cities (and there are many of them in Japan too, by the way!), I felt grateful for the constantly evolving Tokyo train system.  Mind you, I don't particularly enjoy myself on the trains, but they get me wherever I want to go in the city and I'm happy not to have to own a car.

The music - ranged from traditional to foreign (performed by locals), and the sound quality was okay, if a bit over-amplified at times.  I found it was best to be either behind the stage, or at least at the back edges of the sides.  Straight ahead was painfully loud for some of the performances.

As it grew dark, red & white lanterns strung up all over the grounds (radiating out from the center stage), glowed first against a very colorful sunset, and then against the night sky, with the moon rising behind the stage....



"Sakura (Hanami) - 2009"

The cherry blossom viewing season in Japan is vastly over-photographed, but I still decided to cover it myself this year, and I've finally put together a collection of photos from this week-and-a-half period when I ran around with my camera photographing things.  I'm not especially happy with the results, but I think they show (somewhat anyway) many of the types of scenes you typically see when going about Tokyo during that time of year.  I deliberately put in some non-sakura photos just to show some of the backdrop (and thus contrast) with which Tokyo residents view the sakura flowers every spring:

"Hibarigaoka Natsu Matsuri - August 1991"

Back in the video time machine - to August of 1991 to see the annual shotengai (shopping street) summer festival (natsu-matsuri), complete with taiko drums, kimono-clad (well... yukata actually) dancers, and children having fun at the food stalls, goldfish pool, etc.  As one of the last shotengai natsu-matsuri events before the Parco department store opened (it was in the beginning stages of construction when this video was taken, but not opened until October of 1993), and before the full realization of the depth of stock market woes had sunk in, it feels a lot more optimistic and fun than some later ones there I experienced.  Basically, from this point forward, business began to fall off on this shopping street, particularly once Hibarigaoka Parco opened.  I think they still have this (I haven't been by there at the end of August to see it for myself for about eight years now), but there are fewer stores on that street now and business isn't very good for most of them (I went by and spoke with a couple of the shopkeepers there last winter), so there's less money to spend on events like this.  Also keep in mind that the scenes depicted in this video are basically the Japan of one generation ago - the little two-year-old kids at the festival (there with their siblings and parents) are now twenty-year-old adults (twenty is the legal age of becoming an adult in Japan):

"Inbound Chuo Line - August 2009"

Some mundane views out the window of a Chuo Line Tokubetsu-Tsukin-Kaisoku (Special Commuter Rapid Express - the very fast-sounding name actually just means that there are very few stops; the train has to run slow because of the high number of trains on the tracks and the limited number of stations where they can be passed).  Of interest in a factual way is a view of a Tozai Line subway diving underground just after Nakano Station, and just beyond that, train maintenance sheds and then some views of Shinjuku's high-rise office buildings.

Oh - and one other thing might be interesting for people interested in Tokyo's train system.  The video opens with a train running beside the train the video was taken from at almost the same speed.  I imagine that two passenger trains running side-by-side at the same speed isn't all that common outside of Tokyo... or am I wrong?  If there are many systems like this in other mega-cities, let me know.  I know a fair bit about the Tokyo trains, but not much about other cities' trains, other than in San Francisco, where I used to live:



"Another August Day... Another Trip to 1991"

I stayed up late last night watching a documentary movie - woke up late today, and then revisited 1991 again via a July 27th, 1991 video of taking the first train from Nakano Station, and then taking a few more trains and ending up in Toride (on the Joban Line).  Other than that, I just did some things around the apartment, and now here I sit writing this, shaking my head at the time - 9:12 p.m.  Where did all those hours go?  It's hard to say, but as for the video, here is an edited version of it ("Tokyo Sunrise (Nakano to Toride) - July 27th, 1991"):

And here is the same text I posted to YouTube to explain it:

Starting off before sunrise, I arrive at Nakano Station with the dawn, and take the first Tokyo-bound Chuo Line train.  Getting off here and there, I eventually arrive in Toride.  Several views of the orange morning skies from the train windows, some with the window open.  One view of a couple of late nighters asleep on a morning train, which they probably waited for after missing the last train the night before.

Thinking I'm posting too many 1991 (and 1990) videos, I posted a 2009 video (from May) of the ticket gates at Kawasaki.  I was there waiting for a friend and the sight of so many people pouring through the gates seemed interesting, so I recorded a bit, edited that, and titled it: "Kawasaki Station Ticket Gates - May 2009":

The text I posted to explain it is:

Kawasaki Station is - among countless other stations in the greater Tokyo area (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, & Chiba) - quite busy during rush hour.  This was taken at around 6:40 p.m. on a weekday evening in May of 2009.  It gets to a point where you start to feel dizzy trying to take in the ceaseless flow.  Water flowing by is a smooth blur, but people flowing by provide enough things to focus on, that the constant mixed motion becomes disorienting....

And that's about it.  Those 1991 videos....  Sigh....  The thing is, I spent so much time and effort recording those pictures & sounds at the time, as I look at them again, I'm catching a bit of the old video passion that drove me in the early nineties, and feel like doing something with the material.  Thus the YouTube postings.  I suppose they bore most people to tears, but if they're interesting to at least a few people, I guess that makes the effort worth it.  Also I'm personally very interested in documentary material, so I think they have value for anyone wishing to understand how Tokyo was at the time I recorded them.



"Multi-Clouds, Nishi-Ogikubo, & Inbound Night Trains"

July 29th was one of those days where I had what felt like profound thoughts at the time, but by the time I sat down in front of a computer to pound them into electrons, things had gone ordinary again.  In any case, the dual-layer clouds, with a nearly stationary layer up high and a swiftly moving lower layer, all overlooked by a half-moon visible now and then in blue gaps in the clouds, were quite interesting to watch in the evening, as I relate here (with a few photos that don't do the scene justice):

After watching the clouds a little in Ebisu, I went over to Nishi-Ogikubo and took some photos there of a retro-drinking area.

"Inbound Tokyo Night Train - July 1991"

In this video, I take a Seibu-Shinjuku Line train from Tanashi Station to a station near Nakano-ku (not Nakano Station) and then take a bus towards Nakano Station, stopping midway to visit a friend for a quick hello before heading out for a day of video recording (the video ends on the night streets of an area of Nakano-ku after getting off the bus).  If you have noticed how crowded the trains in Tokyo can be, this video shows how empty they can be if you're traveling in the opposite direction from the main flow!  Going into central Tokyo late at night, the train is almost completely empty.  The trains zooming by in the other direction, by contrast, are mostly full.

Regarding the bus ride:  After my comment about my last night bus video that the voice seems to be the same for the different bus companies, I think I may have been wrong about that.  Listening carefully to the recording in this video from a different bus company, the voice is of the same style, but I think is a different person.

Incidentally, one viewer of this video wrote:

"This video is especially surreal. Maybe it's the empty nighttime that does it. But I think, you'd been drinking..."

I responded to this with two messages, first this one:

"Tokyo is weird that way. One hour you're a sardine and you wonder how it is you came to be living in such a high density city, and the next you're in an empty train car. It really can be weird. Drinking? Why? No - I think I may have had a beer *after* this at my friend's house, which happens just after the end of the video though. - LHS"

 - and later with:

"Okay - I'll go ahead and take the "drinking" comment as an insult then.  It's interesting how you pair insults with compliments and then the insults almost don't seem like insults.  I might even try that the next time I want to insult someone. - LHS"

[If I sound overly touchy in my reply, please keep in mind that I've had several similar comments from this same person, who often pairs insulting comments with compliments - so this isn't the first time.]

I suppose the viewer might watch the views out the train window, where the camera operator (cough-cough) is obviously hanging out the window, and come to the conclusion that someone could only be hanging out the window if they are under the influence of alcohol.  But anyone who knows a dedicated photographer won't be surprised.  Photographers will go to great lengths in the quest for interesting images!  Some of these attempts turn out, and some don't, but if you really want to take interesting images, you have to try....



I'm feeling used to summer being here and happy that it's not winter - thinking that last winter is long gone and next winter is far in the future, the calendar clangs into August and I look ahead and see September (shudder) on the other side.  Best not to look ahead too much at times like this!

My time machine travels to July 1991 continue (via video & sound recordings I made at the time).  In: "Ikebukuro to Hibarigaoka - July1991", I sat right behind the driver (engineer?) of a Seibu-Ikebukuro Line train outbound from Ikebukuro, and recorded him
accelerating away from... Shakujikoen Station with independent power and braking controls (they are often integrated into one control lever these days).  The clip ends when I get off the train in Hibarigaoka:

Later that same day, I went back out and took a late evening bus.  The
"Tokyo Night Bus - Hibarigaoka to Tanashi -  July 1991" video clip starts near the bus (terminal) stop in front of Hibarigaoka Station.  The bus had (as most buses did at the time) a manual shift transmission, with the type of (recorded) announcement that all the buses I used back then played (is it the same woman who made all those recordings?)

The clip shows scenes and sounds from the time, beginning with the walk to
Hibarigaoka Station, and then finishing with the walk to Tanashi Station (on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line) when I get off the bus on the other end of the ride:



"Long Summer Dresses"

I've been interacting with the closest thing I have to a time machine - my old video recordings - and it's a strange feeling looking at the scenes I recorded while walking around in Tokyo back then.  I've spent my life watching recorded images from (nearly?) all years in which moving pictures were recordable, but it's always been someone else's viewpoint.  There's something almost eerie about seeing the very same scenes I saw in real time 18 years ago, from the very same vantage point and recorded by myself.  So many things that I'd forgotten about come back into active memory while watching the scenes again.

I've mentioned before (several times?) the realization that most, not some, but *most* of what we experience day by day goes missing in the dusty archives of our minds, but with a few recent video clips that I edited and posted to YouTube, women's clothing fashions stand out.  I didn't notice it quite so much with 1991 winter clothing, but the summer clothing of 1991 Tokyo women looks quite different from what women are wearing in summer 2009.  The most striking thing is probably the large number of women wearing long skirts.  That and the different hair styles of the time make it look like such a different era....

I'm looking at what were young and modern women in 1991, thinking how they are now middle-aged women, and thinking how current modern women in 2009 will be middle aged women in their time, and I'm beginning to think that the whole concept of "modern" is a mistake.  What is called "modern" is supposed to be what is coming, but more often it's just what is now that wasn't yesterday, but it won't make it to tomorrow.

Yawn... I'm putting myself to sleep writing this, so it must be even worse for people reading it!  Sorry.....

Oh - here are a couple of videos that I haven't introduced in the blog yet:

"Gotanda to Nishimagome to Gotanda" - July 1991

Trip to Nishimagome from Gotanda, and then back to Gotanda.

On the way to Nishimagome:  Nearly empty train (going away from central Tokyo).  Since the subway is not air-conditioned, most of the windows are open.  The sounds are completely different from newer air conditioned trains.

At the top of the escalator, there are creaky old escalator noises.

Near Nishimagome Station, a pair ride by on a bicycle, with a man standing on hub extenders on the back.  I don't think this was ever exactly legal, but you used to see it from time to time.  I haven't seen this at all lately.  Maybe the police put a stop to it.


"Gotanda to Shinjuku (& Ikebukuro)" - July 1991

Taking the Yamanote Line from Gotanda to Shinjuku, shopping in Shinjuku, and then taking the Saikyo Line from Shinjuku to Ikebukuro.

Of note - many women in long summer dresses that look really old fashioned by today's standards.  A good look at the platform at Ebisu Station - just an open-air platform when this video was taken in July 1991 (now radically different).  When coming into Shibuya Station, the view over to the Toyoko Line is unobstructed - this was before the Saikyo Line was extended to Ebisu.

July 25th, 1991... and posted to YouTube on July 25th, 2009.  Eighteen years later....



"Chaos to Order to Chaos to...?"

When I arrived in Japan in the summer of 1984, the orderly lining up for trains in neat rows of three seemed right enough that I never even thought about it.  On the other hand, I wondered why there were separate lines for each ATM machine at the bank, each order window at fast-food restaurants, and a near free-for-all for public phones (although there were sort of separate lines for each phone in some cases).  On escalators, people rapidly stood on both sides of each step, making any walking progress impossible.

Then many things got better.  Single lines were set up at banks and fast-food restaurants, and people began standing on the left on escalators, allowing passing on the right (same as the roads in Japan, although I've heard the left-right orientation (on escalators) is opposite in Osaka, possible due to the 1970 Expo there...).

And now... the one thing that was most orderly back in 1984 - lining up for trains - is beginning to fall apart.  A few years ago, I began seeing people lining up in twos instead of threes, and while I could appreciate the concept of two lines evenly splitting when the train arrives, it's a bad idea when it's crowded (not at all a rare occurrence in Tokyo!), as people quickly end up lining up all the way across the platform, making it difficult (or nearly impossible, or impossible) to walk along the platform, and forcing people to mill about between the lines once there is no more room to line up.  At Shinjuku Station, the platform workers used to work at getting people to line up in threes, and I heard some announcements asking people to line up threes, but now it's gotten to the point where it seems like most people are lining up in twos as though it were their religion - "Thou shalt line up in twos and disrupt the platform!".

Just as I was getting (grudgingly) getting used to everyone lining up only in twos, I began seeing (on one branch line), some people forming a single line!  Now, if you're getting on an airplane or a reserved seat train, this is what you should do, but the logistics of transporting vast numbers of people in Tokyo screamingly does not allow for single lines for the cattle cars!  When I saw some people doing that, I began to wonder "What are they doing?  Daring people to walk around them?  Something has to give here..."

And... that something appears to be the new popular rage in Tokyo - line breaking!  Now, however people are lining up (in twos or threes), I'm seeing people blasting past everyone and just going straight for the door.  In some situations, this is almost understandable.  For example, at Shinjuku Station in the morning, each and every 11-car train (arriving & departing every two or three minutes) is full.  Some are smash-'em-in sardine can style full, and a lot of people don't even try to get on, but form a line waiting for the next train.  So, if you get to the platform after the lined up people who were boarding get on, there is often a ten to fifteen second window of opportunity to get on the train.  In this case, you cruise past the people lined up (who are not even attempting to get on the train), and jump (or push) aboard.

So you've got this situation of people lining up for trains incorrectly (for conditions) in the first place, combined with situations where it's actually okay to walk past the line, and there are beginning to be a number of people who seem to think that they have a right to just blast in front of everyone all the time, whenever they see a door open.  Having this happen repeatedly, people are getting more blood-thirsty about getting on and off the trains.

Bringing everything full-circle, I was talking with a from-birth local who told me that when they were a child (about 45 years ago), people didn't line up for trains and it was just a free-for-all when boarding.  Hearing that, and looking at the current state of things, I would say Japan is just a few steps away from coming full circle with the trains, and getting back to free-for-all boarding.  Not a happy development, but at least bank and restaurant lines are still orderly....

As for when things were still orderly, have a look at this July 1991 video, "Hibarigaoka to Gotanda - July 1991" (which doesn't show things in the rush, but still):



"Disposable Contract Workers must not have Opinions"

Hierarchy for hierarchy's sake....  I went drinking with a few middle-management types last night and things were going okay until one of them complained that the avocados in some dish or other that we ordered were "rotten".  Since they were not in fact rotten, but only slightly on the soft side (I used to buy one every day in California, I actually have pretty extensive experience and knowledge about this), I stated this fact and ran into a "You - as a lowly & disposable contract worker - are not allowed to contradict his lordship I - lofty middle-level manager!" wall.

Some people... don't know how to act like people.  I think in the future if I'm in a position to go drinking with a company person I've not been drinking with before, I should first ask "Are you, by chance, in a middle-management role?".  If an affirmative answer to that query bounces back, then I had better think "Red Alert! - Red Alert!! - Middle-management demon dead ahead!  Evasive emergency action, commence... now!!!" and say "Let me check my schedule... oh... rotten luck.  I'm meeting some friends from out of town then.  Maybe some other time!" and then get far-far-far away from the danger before the possibility of triggering some middle-management evil impulse arises.

There's this thing in Japan where it's supposed to be okay to hash things out over drinks, but that only really applies if you're a "seishain" (regular lifetime employee).  Disposable contract workers aren't really considered to be human beings and are only jovially tolerated so long as they are friendly no matter what, have titanium smiles able to withstand the most uncalled for insults, and under no circumstances commit the unpardonable offense of actually having an opinion.

At the moment, I'm thinking artists are 500,000 times more human than middle-management... people.




"Company Event in Tokyo - 2000"

A company event held in a rented space in 2000 (or maybe 2001 - I'm not sure).  The space was quite good, with good equipment, etc., but not in a very convenient location.  Most of us came by taxi.

The only copy I have remaining of this is a VHS tape that I digitized for editing for this post.  Bloody VHS... it doesn't last!  Parts of the images in some places have turned various shades of light purple at the top of the screen.

"Nishi-Ogikubo (& the Chuo Line)" (June 2009)

Beginning with a view inside the Chuo Line, I then get off at Nishi-Ogikubo Station and walk off into the suburbs between Nishi-Ogikubo and Kichijoji.

"Tokyo Subway (Marunouchi & Tozai Lines) - June 1990"

Tuesday, June 19th, 1990 - Starting off with a quick view of me on a public phone (they were still used in 1990), following by a quick view of the Marunouchi Line (an old Red & White one - now running in Argentina), I then change trains and get on the Tozai Line.  Notice that the ticket gates consist of a live person sitting there to take tickets.  Also notice that the announcement in the train is made by a live human being and not a recording.  Also there are no over-pronounced, over-intonated, culture-less, half-speed, and extraordinarily irritating announcements in English.  (The announcement for Kayabacho Station is a recording, but at least it's in the local language.)  It wraps up with me on another public phone.  There were cell phones then, but they were quite expensive, so most people didn't have them.

"Diagonal Subway Views - June 1990 (Tokyo)"

Starting with a quick view of the (by today's standards) large camera (held by myself) and then a view of the office I used to work at near Tamachi Station, then a look up at the buildings above, before going underground into the subway system.

First is a ride on the Hanzomon Line, and then a transfer to the Marunouchi Line (one of the new Marunouchi Line trains - currently getting old!, which were just being introduced at the time), and finishing with a street view at night.  Notice how in subway views from this time period that the windows are often open.  They didn't air condition the subway system as soon as the surface trains due to the heat generated by air conditioning units (on the trains) that would have heated the stations.  So they first air conditioned the stations, and then installed air conditioning on the subway trains.

"Ontakesan Evening (Tokyu-Ikegami Line) - June 2009"

This video begins near Senzokuike Station and then I take the Ikegami Line down to Ontakesan Station, where I video the evening shopping scene and visit a nearby shrine.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon


"Shifts Might be Nice..."

I went to the dentist yesterday morning, so I took a half-day off from work.  As it turned out, I finished early at the dentist and had some extra time, so I went over to Akihabara (a.k.a. "Akiba") to check out some computer parts, etc.

Well, at least that was the plan... but arriving in Akihabara just after 10:00 a.m., I was greeted with a sea of closed shops!  "Oh yeah... since the shops tend to be open until 7:00 p.m. and companies religiously avoid having shifts, they open late to avoid getting into an overtime pay situation!" thought I.

And so goes my rant, but certainly - given the choice between retail shops being from 10:00 to 6:00 or from 11:00 to 7:00, I'd prefer the 11:00 to 7:00.  It only becomes irritating when I have some time in the morning and would actually like to do something before lunch!  Added to the fact that Tokyo is in the wrong time zone and there's no DST in the summer to push the clock back, you could almost say that shops don't open until the afternoon.

Oh well - who needs retail before lunch anyway, hey?

I mentioned this situation at work, and a fellow biped in the office said "So what makes you an expert on this?".  Being a bit flustered at the sudden attack, I didn't have a good comeback, but I wish I'd said "It's called observation and thinking.  You should try it some time."


Sleep... need sleep... sleep... .......



"Shinjuku to Koenji on the Chuo Line + SqClRe" - June 2009

The lazy way to show what's between two points on a rail line, is to aim a motion picture camera out the window.  There are three basic ways of doing this: 1) Angle the camera forward, 2) Look straight out perpendicular to the direction of travel, or 3) Angle the camera rearward.  When objects are far away, #2 can be nice, but in Tokyo, generally there are buildings quite close to the railway, so looking straight out produces a very ugly effect of blurred jerky boxes, as the camera's 30-images per second isn't nearly fast enough to deal with the speed of objects passing by the lens.  That leaves either looking forward or looking rearward (unless you're at the extreme ends of the train, where you can look directly forward or directly rearward).  For this video I looked rearward at an angle, since that direction contained the receding skyline of Shinjuku:

This was taken in the early evening on a weekday, just before the evening crush rush got into high gear.  The Chuo Line is the (or "one-of-the", but I think "the") most crowded train lines in Japan ("crowded" meaning "high-density of people in each train car").  One reason for this is that other major JR lines heading out of central Tokyo (Tokaido Line, Joban Line, Sobu Line [to Chiba]) have fifteen-car trains, but the Chuo Line is limited to just ten due to the length of its unexpandable platforms within central Tokyo.  They try to make up for it by running a lot of trains, but still, the Chuo Line is basically crowded any time of the day or night.  There is also the fact that the Chuo Line is a long line, with many stations in highly-populated areas, so it's not only crowded in one direction in the morning (and in the opposite direction in the evening), but rather in both directions - all the time.

"Competition for Misery" might be a good title to describe how Tokyo residents endlessly claim that their own train line is "definitely the most crowded line in Tokyo".  I've heard this claim for just about every line here!  The Odakyu Line, the Tozai Line, The Seibu-Ikebukuro Line (of "Actually Full Train" fame), the Chuo Line, etc. etc.  The thing to keep in mind here is that most people are focusing on the morning rush, and once you're at the point where people have to force their way aboard, the density per train car is only limited by the particular size of the passengers at the time (and place), plus their strength and will to get on.  (More diminutive people can fit into a given space, but larger people also push harder, so maximum density would likely be achieved with diminutive people getting on first, and then large, strong people providing compacting power at the doors just before they close.)  The Chuo Line is distinctive for having a very high (the highest I think) density *on average* for *the entire day*.  A lot of lines will be quite intense in the morning crush-rush, but then have several empty seats just a few hours later.

June, 2009... companies are beginning to cancel flex time!!!  This can only mean that the morning trains will be more highly packed.  Maybe the scene in "Actually Full Train in 1991 - Why Flex-Time is a Good Idea" isn't just a scene from the past after all!  (Shudder!!!)

"Excesses During the Bubble Years"

Just when I was getting used to watching my 1991 videos and thinking: "The 'bubble years'!  Not the 'excess-of-everything' that people think!", I stumbled upon myself visiting a new public restroom near Sumida River in July 1991.  It was in a building worthy of something nice (not sure what), had a fountain(!) just inside the main entrance, music playing on a PA system, and was squeaky-clean:

I suppose this is probably an example of "bubble-era excess".

4:45 a.m.  Ouch.  I need to get some sleep!



"Sumida River Boats & Prelude to 1991 Full Train"

Another video trip back to 1991 - to July 6th, when I wandered around in an area along the Sumida River that had been recently largely rebuilt with new office buildings.  Pleasure boats motor past on the river and there are a couple of old steel bridges from different eras that find their way through the lens.  Since it was Saturday, the area was nearly deserted.  The new buildings are in the 10-15 story range, a size that took less time, planning, and money to put up than the 50-story high-rises that were planned then (in the bubble years), but not completed for another decade.

This was at the tail end of the bubble economy, and when looking back to that era now, people often fail to realize that while the many 50-story category high-rise buildings now scattered about Tokyo were *planned* in the bubble years, at the time, they were busier knocking down old buildings to make way to the huge new ones.  There is always holdover from one era to another, and there was holdover from the wooden era in 1991, as there is holdover from the bubble era in 2009, and yet there is this image of everything being new in the bubble years, which was not the case.

Just Another Day in February 1991

The train video - again!  I'm almost embarrassed to post yet another variation of this, but it has been stolen and copied all over the Internet with lying titles, and so I wanted to show the normalcy of people going through the ticket barrier, walking down the stairs to the platform, walking along the platform, waiting for the train, etc.  Certainly the moment of loading is pretty intense, but many people misunderstand the overall situation and the context of the whole thing, or the fact that it was taken in 1991 - it's not nearly as crowded in 2009 (increased number of trains, increased connections with the subway system, etc.).  Also the population of Tokyo should never be forgotten - 30,000,000 people if you include the suburbs of Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba.  Anyway, here is the video, a longer version of the many-million-seen copied-everywhere train video currently all over the Internet:

Some facts about the video.  Taken in February 1991 at around 7:50 a.m., at Hibarigaoka Station on the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line.  The train on the right is a "junkyu" ("limited express" in US English), and the train on the left is a "kyuko" ("express" in any kind of English that I'm aware of).  Notice how I walk (with the video camera rolling) to the very front of the platform?  The front of the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line trains is closest to connections with other train lines, so that's where people need to be if they're going to make tight connections, and they can't afford to waste any time.  The next station (that the express stops at) is Shakuji-koen, and then the train goes all the way to the terminus at Ikebukuro, where everyone gets off.

And... that's basically it.



"Togoshi-Ginza & the Grocery Store Under Hachiko"

The name Togoshi-Ginza can be confusing, as it is not in Ginza, or even near Ginza, but rather one of the old-style shopping streets that used to be all over Tokyo and its surrounding suburbs.  They are in decline now, with more people shopping at large discount stores, but some of these old style shopping streets are still doing relatively well, with locals happy for the convenience of being able to shop a few minutes (on foot) from home.  As "Ginza" was synonymous with "shopping" (now "fashion" and "art" would be better key words), some shopping streets used the name - thus "Warabi-Ginza", "Togoshi-Ginza", etc.  This video was taken around 5:00 p.m., still a little early - it gets more crowded around 6:00 p.m.

Under Hachiko?

Department stores in Tokyo typically have a grocery store and/or food section on the B1 level underground (usually there is both a section selling prepared food and another section more like a regular grocery store).  Shibuya is "Tokyu Town" (spelled with a "u" on the end, not "Tokyo"), with Tokyu Department stores (plural), Tokyu Inn (hotel), Tokyu trains, Tokyu buses, Tokyu Taxis, etc.  So there's no surprise that the Department stores built over and around Shibuya Station are Tokyu department stores, and it's no surprise that they have food sections in the basement.  What surprised me (for what reason, I'm not sure), is that part of the food section is beneath (part of ) the Hachiko Plaza.  I guess I've visualized building basements as staying within the walls of the building above, but when you've got underground shopping malls and underground trains, it's easy enough to connect things underground.

This video starts with a view of an old Tokyu train car that is now sitting in Hachiko Plaza not far from the famous Hachiko dog statue.  There is a brief view of a Yamanote Line train passing, some people waiting, leaning against one of the round sort-of-seats that are part of the large planters for the trees in the plaza, and then the trip through the crowd to the department store, down an escalator, and into the food section.  The last scene is back out on the street on the other side of the overhead(!) Ginza subway tracks.  (The Ginza Line runs below ground level everywhere but in Shibuya.)



"Roaring Office Voices & Whispering Trains..."

An amazing thing I've noticed at some offices I've worked at in Japan (is this similar elsewhere, or peculiar to this country?) is how there seems to be a general awareness and appreciation of a graphic artist's need for a relatively quiet workspace in which to properly concentrate on their work, but this professional courtesy does not extend to writing and translating!  And so you will find a special floor with quiet music and no talking where a group of graphic artists go about their work - some with earphones in to listen to something other than the quiet background music - and on another floor of the same building, the same company will seat a translator and/or writer next to sales and service people, who are constantly talking on the phone or to each other (or to themselves - I wish I were making this up) in very loud voices.  If said writer/translator attempts to block out the extraordinarily irritating surrounding noises by plugging in earphones with noise-blocking music or wildlife sounds, more often than not they will receive a reprimand from their supervisor and possible threat of being thrown out on the street for being unprofessional!  (Keep in mind that most offices here have no partitions, so everyone can see everyone else.)

Why this respect for hand-drawn visual images, and yet complete lack of respect for quality text?  I suppose that since the sales and service people couldn't draw a passable picture to save their lives, but can write (very badly, generally, but certainly they are not stone-dead illiterate), they equate their own mindless, sloppy writing with the work the professional writers/translators are doing?  Or is it just a failure of management to find humane seating for people who actually need to concentrate on their work, as opposed to people who need to play office games and back-stabbing office jungle warfare?

And so a poor soul can be suffering appalling audio conditions at work while writing - struggling through secretaries who talk needlessly to themselves, service/sales people who talk so loudly on the phone that you wonder if they think their voice needs to carry over to the next city (or country) on the strength of loudness alone, without the electronic aid of the newfangled devices known as microphones and speakers in the communication device they have in their hands - and when said writer goes out and waits for a train with a stress level that is likely to kill their overstressed heart, the train comes in not with a roar, but a whisper.  How loud that vapid secretary's muttering!  How quiet the roaring/rushing train!

Of course none of this has anything to do with my own work environment, which is wonderful-wonderful-wonderful, but here's a video of a whispering, not roaring train:

Details:  This video is of a Shinjuku/Ikebukuro-bound Yamanote Line train coming into Shibuya Station.  It looks like a subway, but the entire Yamanote Line is an elevated system, and this effect is created at stations where they have built large buildings over the station, in this case a Tokyu Department Store.  So you can get off of this train in the middle, walk straight out the ticket gates (there are stairs going up or down to other exits as well), and then walk over and get in a department store elevator at the second floor.  (This only works for the Shinjuku/Ikebukuro-bound trains however - the Shinagawa/Tokyo-bound trains require going up or down to get around the intervening rails.)



"Often Not Subtle"

What prompts this title?  1) Think "Subtle Japan" - if you've read a few books on Japan, you've probably run into that concept somewhere.  2) Think Canadian/Hokkaido winter temperatures in the summer - via overusing air-conditioners in the late 1980's.  3) Think Sub-Saharan heat in the winter - via overuse of heating and windows that are never opened in the years 2008 & 2009.

Now, before I get into high gear with my rant against wild misuse (& non-use) of thermostats in this city, allow me to say that there are indeed subtle aspects to the culture (as there are anywhere, really).  Okay - here goes:

There is almost always some context for the way people behave/misbehave, and the background to common overuse of air-conditioning in the late eighties here was that a lot of people had grown up with no air-conditioning, and had unpleasant memories of hot sticky days in August wishing it were cooler.  Along came air-conditioning, and suddenly those August dreams of winter Hokkaido breezes were realizable by dialing the temperature way (or all) the way down.

Into this environment I flew in 1984, and I listened in sympathy to women office workers saying how they suffered in the cold - how it was unfair that the men stayed in suits and cooled the air to the point where it was cool with a suit jacket still on.

Jump forward to 2008 & 2009 and - based on the offices I've been spending some time in - things have come full circle.  A generation has grown up disliking overuse of air-conditioning; and recently, instead of the offices always being cool, now they tend to always be hot.  For the past couple of years, I have found myself nodding in sympathy with people in thin clothing (of both genders, but most often male) fanning themselves in 29C/85F heat, bemoaning the fact that a handful of sickly people (of both genders, but most often female) in the office have hijacked the thermostats and there is nothing to do but suffer the daily purgatory of working in a constant 29C/85F heat - all year round, in winter and summer.

In winter, when questioned why company policy about not wasting energy is being violated to overheat the office, the excuse is that "Some people are cold", meaning that if it drops down to about 27C, some sickly people begin to complain of imminent frostbite.  Come summer, suddenly the energy savings is very important - never mind that a majority of the people in the office are baking in the 29C/85F heat.

The thing that's quite irritating about how this issue is discussed here, is that people only say what their perceptions are, and the science of monitoring the actual temperature of the room to ascertain what temperatures are producing what reactions in what percentage of people, is almost completely ignored.  Wanting to know exactly what's happening myself, I've been using thermometers (more than one, so I know the device isn't broken) to monitor the temperatures of some of the purgatories I visit, and that 29C/85F temperature is no joke - it's actually that hot.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this situation, except to shake my head in wonder and think "There's nothing subtle about this!  These are fairly radical group reactions to something that should be dealt with incrementally!".

Rant... um... over for now.



"Train Culture"

I've had the concept of "car culture" in mind for decades now, but life without cars is generally referred to under the category of "public transportation".  But there's a culture to city rail travel as well (and you don't hear the term "private transportation" so much for ordinary car ownership, come to think of it - or do you?  Is that a popular term?).  I've been living in train culture, feeling the situation and ambiance of it, but it was only yesterday, while viewing video footage I took in 1991 (including a lot of train views and sounds), that the concept jelled and I realized that the term "train culture" really ought to be in common use, just as "car culture" is.

The intricacies of this are hard to pin down, but the main factor is having a city (Tokyo in this case) functioning with virtually no one really needing cars, so a lot of people don't own a car, and a number of fundamental things are different than they are for those living in car culture cities:

Young job-seekers are not asked if they have a car on application forms - it's understood that they will be commuting to work via train, and employers pay the train fee
(which might be a law here - I'm not sure).  In fact, if an employee were stupid enough to try driving to work, the company would forbid them from using the company parking lot (which only has a limited number of spaces for deliveries, taxis, and executive management - if it has any parking at all).  Not only would they not be able to park at the company, it would be illegal to just park their car on a nearby street, so they would have to spend something like Y50,000 a month on a parking space possibly a twenty minute walk from the company.  And - to top all of that off, it would take them from three to five times as long to get to work as it takes to get there by train (for those living in the 'burbs that is, it wouldn't be as bad if they lived fairly near the company).  (No one pressing up against you in a car, but hours in a traffic jam every morning is no picnic either.)  Since coming to work by car would be abnormal and anti-social behavior, being late due to traffic would not be considered a legitimate excuse.  Someone committing suicide on your line is a perfectly acceptable excuse however, and carries the benefit of being verifiable and shared by thousands (misery loves company...).

High school couples who meet for a date are not concerned with what kind of car each other has (since neither of them has one), so they don't waste money and time on fire-breathing machinery acquisition & maintenance.  Rich kids can't drive to the date in a BMW, and poor kids have nothing to feel ashamed about in the form of driving a piece of junk.  It's a more level playing field.  (Granted, people find other ways to vertically position people, but that's beyond the scope of this particular page of text.)

Car-owning high school students are not forced to work late at night at restaurant jobs to pay for gas and car parts for their old clunkers.

When you meet people, parking is not an issue, since everyone comes by train.

If you buy something, you have to carry it home (or have it trucked), so shopping becomes a logistical issue of how much you can carry (this is one of the things I most miss about cars - not being able to toss things in the trunk!).  Second to how much you can carry, is the issue of what time you plan to carry it home on the trains.  If you have an armload of boxes, the last express for the day, leaving at 12:10 a.m. is going to be a problem.  When you have to force just yourself onto a train, having things with you can be tricky.  You have to hold them over your head and then toss them onto a rack in the train.  That may not sound very difficult, but there is no guarantee that you can get anywhere near a rack, and even if you can, it might already be jam-packed full.

When cars are vandalized in your apartment building parking lot (which only has enough [expensive, by the way] spaces for about 20% of the apartments, and still there are some vacant slots), you of course are irritated by the concept of some idiot going out and damaging other people's property for no good reason, but not owning a car, you are immune to car vandalism (bicycles are another issue, but the financial exposure is much less).

When - and this is peculiar to Japan I think - the entire train system completely shuts down every night between 12:00 - 1:00 a.m. (depending on the line and the station on the line), not to start up again until around 5:00 a.m., the looming deadline of "last train" is a wonderful way to escape either overtime going on endlessly, or situations and/or people that you've had enough of.  You can even adjust the time somewhat by claiming distant connections that require leaving by 10:30 p.m., etc.  Going the other way, a couple that want to spend more time together can conveniently miss their last trains, thereby gaining an extra five hours together before the train system comes back to life in the morning.  (Taxis are not a - cost wise - realistic option if you live outside the central area.)

Etc. etc.  That's all that is coming to mind right now, but in any case, suffice it to say that going everywhere by train is a fairly radically different way of living than going everywhere by personal car.

For a couple of views of train-based life in March 1991:

"Ikebukuro to Shinjuku to WH - March 1991"

"Trip to Ikebukuro Etc. - March 1991"



"'It's Like Disneyland!' & A Visit to March 1991"

On Friday, I met some friends in Yurakucho, and after socializing for a bit, we got to talking about old buildings in Tokyo, and how it was a shame there are so few of them.  From there, I mentioned an interesting one I know of in Ginza, and it was decided that four of us would walk over to it, with me leading the way.

As we neared the building, I explained a bit about its history, and when we arrived in front of the building, I stopped everyone and pointed out some of the architectural details.  (I'm not exactly an expert on Tokyo, but this particular building I've spent some time studying - via direct observation, talking to people who know its history, and reading about it, so I was the most knowledgeable one regarding the building in the group.)

With my pre-arrival tour guide functions fulfilled, I marched across the street, and held the door open for the other three.  I introduced the elevator with its manually operated doors, and we went up into the building.  As we walked down one of the old hallways, a woman in the group was visibly excited by the building, and looked at me with eyes sparkling and said "It's Like Disneyland!".

I was a bit taken aback, but as I looked into those sparkling eyes, I realized that she wasn't kidding - she really meant that it reminded her of Disneyland (quick note here - Tokyo Disneyland has been phenomenally successful ever since it opened in the early 1980's, and it's rare to find a Tokyo resident who hasn't been there at least once).  During the tour of the building, she repeated that "It's like Disneyland!" phrase (well, actually, the Japanese equivalent: ディズニーランド見たい! [Dizunirando mitai!]) a few times, further burning that image into my brain, so I've been thinking of how that can be - how can an old, but honest building produce a strong feeling of being like Disneyland?

The answer is depressingly simple.  Tokyo has had almost everything old in the city so successfully destroyed (intentionally; via earthquake; via external-origin bombs in WW-II; and then intentionally again), that the closest "exposure" (if you can call it that) someone in their twenties (or even thirties) has had to that middle ground between pre-technology eras and full-blown modern technological society, is the fake world built at Disneyland.

And that, I think very strongly underlines the importance of having at least some functioning old buildings preserved in a city.  You walk into them and they positively radiate with the history of their existence.  You can't get that with recreations and theme parks, no matter how well they are designed.

That was Friday night.  On Saturday morning, I was a little worse for wear & tear from the fun of the night before, but I fired up my 21st century computer and edited a 20th century video - recorded in March of 1991:

"From Hibarigaoka to Ikebukuro via Seibu-Ikebukuro Line - March  1991"


The following times are taken from an internal video player application playing the source file, and not from the YouTube posting, but presumably the counts are identical:

00:00 - Narrow lane leading to the north entrance of Hibarigaoka Station.

00:03 - After crossing over the tracks, a left turn leads to the main entrance to the station and the bus stops, with a Seiyu department store on the right.  (In Japanese-English, the word "department" only refers to upscale department stores, so locally, the Seiyu didn't qualify as a "department" store.  I've had arguments about this in the past here, telling people that I understand their position in Japanese but in English, it was certainly a department store.)  Notice the McDonald's on the right.  It was inside a building that (I was told at the time) used to be a grocery store.  Soon after this video was taken, they tore down all the buildings on the right and put up a large combination apartment building / Parco department store (with McDonald's and KFC on the ground floor).  Now everything in this view is in Nishi-Tokyo-shi, but at the time, the right and left were Hoya-shi and the middle section Tanashi-shi (shi = city).

00:05 - The station building was rebuilt, so the area on the left has changed, and the empty sky straight ahead and to the right is now occupied by a huge apartment high-rise building ("mansion" in Japanese-English).

00:10 - Taking video inside an ATM box - I wouldn't do that now, but the world was less obsessed with security in 1991.

00:27 - Inside Hibarigaoka Station.  This is completely different now.  Comparing how it looks now with this video, this scene looks really old.  At the time, I never thought the station was modern, but it didn't strike me as being profoundly old either.  I look at that picture now and have a hard time bringing up a memory of it as something from the present day.

00:28 - Stairs... these have been replaced with escalators.  Sometimes I hate escalators at stations, because they narrow the available space for going up and down and create bottlenecks that can make you miss a tight transfer.

00:41 - The live announcement - made by the conductor.  They now have recorded announcements that are generally irritating to listen to - especially the one-third speed, overly pronounced  & overly intonated English.  I really wish they'd drop the English announcements (a station name is a station name, non-Japanese speakers don't need to hear "The next station is..."), and go back to having a real live human being make the announcements.  Even when the announcement isn't irritating (which it usually is), hearing *exactly* the same recording over and over and over is really... inhumane.

00:55 - Two things - the announcement going on and on for a bit.  Okay - after my rant above, I can see where this would confuse a tourist, but all he's doing is rattling off the many stations that the train (an express) will not be stopping at, and telling people they will need to transfer to a local train at the next station if they are headed to those stations.  A tourist might mistakenly go to the end of the line, but so what?  They can get a train going back the other direction and have an interesting tale to tell of getting lost on the train system when they get back to their home country.  Most importantly, 99.99% of the passengers, who use the train all the time, don't have to have their ears assaulted with inane and endlessly repeating recordings.

The other thing is the farmland.  Until quite recently (and even now somewhat), there have been small plots of land being used as farmland just outside the central area of Tokyo.

01:07 - Billboards.  In 1991, these were full of advertisements.  When I revisited this area a few years ago, most of the billboards were blank.

01:19 - The noise of going over merging rails.  The old trains didn't have any kind of insulation at all, I don't think.  The new ones must have, as they're quite a bit less noisy.  With the old trains, you could hear (and feel - via leaky window frames) everything (which is not necessarily a bad thing - you feel more like you're on a train journey and less like you're locked into a suffocating box awaiting your return to freedom when the stuffy box finally gets to your station).

01:30 - More billboards.  These were looking very forlorn a few years ago when I saw them with no advertisements on them.  And then the view inside.  This was taken in the late afternoon, heading into central Tokyo.  It should go without saying, but obviously (most) lines are not crowded all the time, and it's possible to sit down if you're outside the office-drone routine.  This is the very same line that the "Actually Full Train in 1991" video was taken of.  This very same train car in the morning (or one just like it) was a sardine holder containing something like 300 people-as-sardines (x10 for a ten car train).

01:32 - A new apartment building.  This is a fairly common design, although new apartment buildings being put up in 2009 are usually sleeker looking.

01:40 - Looking over new elevated track construction from the one small bit of elevated track at the time.  The Seibu-Ikebukuro Line was very slow to implement new track construction, which is one reason the morning trains were so vastly overcrowded at the time.

01:52 - Passing through a local station and past small shops near the station.  For the feel of the train, it was more interesting when it ran on the ground.  This part is elevated now and it cuts the train off from the area it passes through.  (That is by no means a call to run them on the ground though.  Putting them overhead separates them from traffic and is safer, faster, etc., not to mention the view is better if the buildings are right up against the railway.)

02:01 - The Seibu-Toshima Line merging with the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line.  All of this is elevated now.

02:25 - Early construction on what was to become the new (large), Nerima Station... I think.  Certainly the current Nerima Station is huge compared to before, but this might have been construction a little further down the line - as a whole section of the railway was elevated.  (Sorry for the imprecision here, but the camera I was using at the time didn't have time code and I took this footage 18 years ago.)

02:37 - Passing over a fairly rare freight train and, in the background on the left, the new Tobu Department Store under construction.  It was a bit of a big deal at the time, as the new construction was to give Tobu Department Store more floor space than its rival on the other side of the station, Seibu Department Store.

02:39 - Wooden ties - rare even in 1991, in Tokyo they are nonexistent on anything except defunct sidings (as this picture is of), although (I think) they still exist out in the countryside on some branch lines.

02:43 - The old three-door Seibu-Ikebukuro Line trains.  These have been almost completely replaced with newer four-door (per side) train cars (carriages).  It should be noted that one cause of the loading problem in the "Actually Full Train in 1991" is that there were only three doors.  The more doors you have per side, the easier loading is.  On the Yamanote Line they have a few cars with six doors per side and seats that are folded up in the morning, making for speedy unloading, loading, and maximum carrying capacity.  (The advantage to three-door trains of course being that more people can sit down per train car.)

03:34 - Manual ticket gate.  One advantage to a manual ticket gate, is that if you've got too small of a ticket (in value that is), you can pay the extra bit right at the ticket gate.  With the machines, you get an error and have to walk over to an Add-Fare machine.  Incidentally, in contrast to what some illegally posted copies of my "Actually Full Train in 1991" video say, this man is *not* a police officer!  This the uniform of the Seibu Railway employees at the time.  (I think they've changed the style a little since then, but I'm not sure - I don't use this line very often any more.)

03:41 - Out into the big city.  Hibarigaoka is also in Tokyo, but in one of its suburbs.  Things are a bit busier around the Yamanote Line hub stations - like Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Ueno, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Tokyo, etc.

Phew!  It's always a bit surprising/irritating to realize how long it takes to explain what's in a video!  Especially when it concerns scenes lasting all of two or three seconds.  Look at all that text above!  But if the calculation of "a picture is worth a thousand words" is taken into account, then a 4:46 video would come to 8,580,000 words (286 seconds x 30-pictures per second = 8,580 pictures x 1,000), so I guess this isn't so long after all?  There's the overlap of many pictures being similar, but on the other hand, there's the sound, which would require another large block of text to properly explain.  So much information in a video....

Ah!  One last comment!  It seems to be standard practice to put in fake sound effects for any "documentary" footage of anything, taken at any time if the real sounds are not recorded, or are unpleasing.  I really abhor this dishonest practice!  In fiction, why not, but for documentary footage, it amounts to bad virus code going into people's minds regarding how things sound, since more often than not, the sounds are inaccurate.  This has come home to me when watching these videos, as not only the sights of Tokyo have changed, but so have the sounds!  Okay.  Mini-rant over.



"Botchan - How Many Translations Are There?"

I was looking around on-line for the original Japanese text to Natsume Soseki's Botchan, when I came upon yet another translations of the book into English.  About twenty years ago, I read two different English-language translations, one by a Japanese person and other by a foreigner, possibly American.  I remember that, at the time, I thought the Japanese translation was the better of the two, as it retained more of the book's original ambiance, and the one done by a foreigner had been over-translated into an English-culture story, which it isn't.  (Generally, it's a pretty good rule of thumb that a translation should be done by someone who is native to the target language, but in this case, it seemed to be the other way around.)

The new (compared to twenty years ago anyway, I think it came out a few years ago) translation seems to be fairly good (based on the first section of the book that I read), but I think it's not really possible to do the book real justice in any other language than the original Japanese.  Translations change things, and the ambiance of the translated version is never quite the same as the original.  The original (I think) translation by Yasotaro Morri (1919) explains this difficulty well in a forward to the book (just the first two paragraphs of the longer forward here):

A Note by the Translator
     No translation can expect to equal, much less to excel, the original. The excellence of a translation can only be judged by noting how far it has succeeded in reproducing the original tone, colors, style, the delicacy of sentiment, the force of inert strength, the peculiar expressions native to the language with which the original is written, or whatever is its marked characteristic. The ablest can do no more, and to want more than this will be demanding something impossible. Strictly speaking, the only way one can derive full benefit or enjoyment from a foreign work is to read the original, for any intelligence at second-hand never gives the kind of satisfaction which is possible only through the direct touch with the original. Even in the best translated work is probably wanted the subtle vitality natural to the original language, for it defies an attempt, however elaborate, to transmit all there is in the original. Correctness of diction may be there, but spontaneity is gone; it cannot be helped.
     The task of the translator becomes doubly hazardous in case of translating a European language into Japanese, or vice versa. Between any of the European languages and Japanese there is no visible kinship in word-form, significance, grammatical system, rhetorical arrangements. It may be said that the inspiration of the two languages is totally different. A want of similarity of customs, habits, traditions, national sentiments and traits makes the work of translation all the more difficult. A novel written in Japanese which had attained national popularity might, when rendered into English, lose its captivating vividness, alluring interest and lasting appeal to the reader.

That people keep re-translating and republishing new versions of the book in English is testament to people's belief that they can do a better job translating it, but if they believe they can accurately convey the story completely intact into English, they are deluding themselves.  Having read all of the books I'm referring to, including the Japanese original (with the caveat that I've only read the opening pages of the third English translation), I think I have a right to my opinions on this.  I'm not complaining that it's been translated again - as it's a pretty cool book and I'm glad interest in it continues, but I can't help but shake my head a little at the fact that there are at least three J-E translations of it now.  I wonder if it's becoming something like a musical score from Mozart that is reinterpreted by one group of musicians after another.  In time, will there be a dozen versions of Botchan?

Just in case it's interesting, here is the first paragraph of the book in the original Japanese, followed by the 1919 English translation:

親譲りの無鉄砲で小供の時から損ばかりしている。小学校に居る時分学校の二階から飛び降りて一週間ほど腰を抜かした事がある。なぜそんな無闇をしたと聞く 人があるかも知れぬ。別段深い理由でもない。新築の二階から首を出していたら、同級生の一人が冗談に、いくら威張っても、そこから飛び降りる事は出来ま い。弱虫やーい。と囃したからである。小使に負ぶさって帰って来た時, おやじが大きな眼をして二階ぐらいから飛び降りて腰を抜かす奴があるかと云ったから、この次は抜かさずに飛んで見せますと答えた。

Because of an hereditary recklessness, I have been playing always a losing game since my childhood. During my grammar school days, I was once laid up for about a week by jumping from the second story of the school building. Some may ask why I committed such a rash act. There was no particular reason for doing such a thing except I happened to be looking out into the yard from the second floor of the newly-built school house, when one of my classmates, joking, shouted at me; "Say, you big bluff, I'll bet you can't jump down from there! O, you chicken-heart, ha, ha!" So I jumped down. The janitor of the school had to carry me home on his back, and when my father saw me, he yelled derisively, "What a fellow you are to go and get your bones dislocated by jumping only from a second story!" - "I'll see I don't get dislocated next time," I answered.

Sore dewa, mata!



"Ginza & Yurakucho"

Ginza is historically Tokyo's most well-known area (these days, I'm not so sure - it might even be Shibuya, Roppongi, or Shinjuku), and Yurakucho is way down the list, but the two are side-by-side and for the many people who visit Ginza via Yurakucho Station (JR surface train station), they have to walk through a section of Yurakucho in order to get to Ginza.  Yurakucho has long been famous for cheap drinking places, and that's still partly true, although they had to demolish a wide stretch of them when they built the first Shinkansen super express from Tokyo to Osaka (completed in 1964), and the section between Yurakucho Station and Ginza has been mostly rebuilt with shiny glass & steel ritsy buildings that make the section fundamentally an extension of Ginza.

In this video (below), I begin by boarding a Yamanote Line train and riding the loop line over to Yurakucho Station, and then walking through the rebuilt part of Yurakucho and into Ginza.  In Ginza (the edge of Ginza), I visit one of the oldest buildings in Ginza (the Okuno Building) to visit some art galleries, and then go over to the fashionable part of Ginza (in the rain), followed by a visit to the part of Yurakucho that still has cheap drinking places - many with tables and stools that are set out on the street in front of the shops.



"Dashboards & Platforms"

Always on a journey from Point-A to Point-B, it's easy to forget that a huge part of the total experience of life is in the transition between Point-A and Point-B.  Sitting at stoplights back in car-culture California, I can still recall the details of the dashboards of the various cars I owned - and even recall sounds and smells somewhat.  The time in motion was a feeling of freedom of motion, but stoplight time enabled contemplation of the immediate surroundings.  I spent a lot of time behind the wheel, getting everywhere I went by car (until I moved to San Francisco, where I first experienced getting almost everywhere by public transportation).

Now I don't have a car, but even when I owned a car in Tokyo, I only drove it once a week or so (to keep the battery charged) and went on trips only once every month or two.  Nevertheless, I still remember the details of that car (a 1984 Honda Prelude) in great detail.

All hum-drum stuff, but it just occurred to me recently that in the same way I used to be tuned into the sound of the engine, the location of various gauges (lots of attention focused on the tachometer), etc. now the time waiting on station platforms (the public transportation equivalent of waiting at stoplights) has me tuned into the conditions in train stations in general, such as which spot of the train is nearest to the stairs for the next transfer (when you have 30 seconds to make a connection, every second saved helps!), which passengers look like they should be avoided (it's always a gamble riding public transportation, but if you pay attention, certain things can be avoided), platform construction details (in spite of the law requiring that anything old in Tokyo be demolished and smashed into bits [sarcasm here folks], some small bits and pieces of the past have managed to somehow exist for [gasp!] several decades!  And so close scrutiny of structures that have been modified 79 times sometimes reveals unmodified surviving bits), etc.

This video of the two Yamanote Line tracks at Shinjuku Station (among many other lines) is both uniquely Shinjuku and generic Tokyo train system.  What's unique about Shinjuku Station?  That's hard to pin down, and come to think of it, it might have more to do with knowing that Shinjuku Station handles the largest number of passengers in the country and knowing what's around the station as you get off... and maybe being tuned into the vibration of the place after coming to know it.  So, maybe it doesn't seem unique if you blow through as a tourist, but it's definitely unique if you live here.  As for the term generic, that's easy - look at the platforms, look at the roofs over the platforms, etc. - all standard JR Tokyo train system (the private lines often have their own feel).




"Maximizing Disposable Income in Yurakucho"

The vast size of Tokyo (and its connected/neighboring suburbs/regions) means that it is generally impossible to get off work, go home, and then go back out to meet friends.  There is simply too much travel time involved and - as often as not - people live in opposing directions, so meeting people close to home doesn't work either.

And so people tend to go to izakaya drinking places that are around transfer stations and at a crossroads for all the people attending.  This works out fairly well, but what if your hours have been cut (due to the bad economy) and you can't afford the typical (reasonable, but still not exactly cheap) cost of meeting friends this way?

One option, is to go to a "stand bar", which is a bar with no seats, so you stand - thus "stand bar".  (That term probably doesn't make much sense in native-English speaking countries, but if you just consider it to be a distant cousin of English and a local noun, it works.  Better still, just use Japanese, and then the English connection is easier to ignore: 有楽町スタンドバー)

One such place is depicted in my latest video upload to YouTube, here:



"A More Artistic Japan? - Meeting Artists on the Fringe of Ginza"

I hesitate to write this, as it's not based on proper research, but rather just my own observation and surmising.  Nevertheless, combined with some generally well-known trends, it might even be on the mark.

In the early eighties, there was talk in Japan of how the country could be a little less obsessive about working and studying all the time - how this might be the key to becoming a more creative country, where ideas were not just successfully taken in and implemented, but where innovation and new ideas would originate.  And so the six-day work week soon became a five-day work week, and soon thereafter, the six-day school week became a five-day school week (at public schools anyway - many private schools still have six-day weeks).  In school, the amount of homework was reduced, and the grading system was simplified in order to place less emphasis on completing for top grades.  (Ironically, this led to ever more people sending their kids to juku's [cram schools] after school, but going into that now would derail the point of what I'm writing about.)

And here we are in 2009, with the current crop of people in their early twenties being the product of the changes made to the educational system.  There are stories in the newspapers about how fewer and fewer college students are studying science, and how science and math test scores are down compared with other countries, etc.  In fact, people are so worried, that they've begun reversing the changes made in the late eighties and early nineties.  More homework, talk of returning to the old educational system, etc.

The upside to all this?  There seem to be many more people interested in art - certainly in creating it, and hopefully also in appreciating it.

Hmm....  Just when I reach the part where I thought I'd take off and write several paragraphs, I realize I've basically said what I wanted to say, so... there it is.

Why do I bring this up?  I've recently spent a little time checking out some art galleries over on the edge of Ginza in 1-chome, a bit away from the central (and more fashionable) part of (overly?) fashionable Ginza, and the following gallery and artists' links are from postcards I picked up while walking around looking at art and talking to artists.  I may be wrong in my assessment of Japan becoming more creative and artistic, but I hope not.  In talking with young artists at exhibitions on the fringe of Ginza (some from Tokyo, some in town from other regions of the country), I believe that there really is a wave of artistry rising up with the beginnings of the next generation.

It may turn out to be a special generation - as the world heads into more troubled waters, and the educational system goes back to an environment more conductive to math and science, and less tolerant of art and free thinking.  But change is the only constant anyway, and once you have a generation thinking in a different way, that thinking doesn't change overnight.

And so, as I feel myself on the verge of derailing the point of this... essay (is that what it is?), I'll stop here and leave the links below

Offside Gallery
Aoyama 3-10-21

Ginza 1-9-8 (Okuno Bldg.)

Gallery Camellia


Gallery Ginza Itchome

Yuco Oyama

Illustrator - Nishibata Nobuhiro


Vivant Annexe

Masashi Ito

Saihodo Gallery
Ginza 6-7-7

APS - A Piece of Space
Ginza 1-9-8 511 & 502

Gallery L Mer


exhibit Live & Moris Gallery
Ginza 8-10-7

artist RIXY

galerie non

Ginza 4-3-14

leather & brass artist

Vivant Annexe

Gallery Platform Studio

Yoshino Akira


"(Former) Marunouchi Building - March 1991"

Describing the Marunouchi Building is complicated, because there are basically four of them!  First was the original Marunouchi Building, completed in 1923, and then the Shin-Marunouchi Building (New Marunouchi Building), built next to (not in place of) the Marunouchi Building in 1952.  Coming out of the Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station, if you walked over to the center of the station (where there is not a general use exit), and faced away from the station towards the Imperial Palace, the Marunouchi Building was ahead to the left, and the Shin-Marunouchi Building was ahead to the right.  Fast forward to 2009 and that description stands, except the buildings called the Marunouchi Building and the Shin-Marunouchi Building are completely different new high-rise buildings.  The original Marunouchi Building was destroyed in 1999 (or "by" I should say, I think it took some time to first tear down the building, and then to tear out the basement levels and old foundations), and the Shin-Marunouchi Building was destroyed in 2005.  The new Marunouchi Building was completed in 2002, and the new Shin-Marunouchi Building (the new New-Marunouchi Building!) was completed in 2007.

This system of naming a new structure that replaces an old structure (at the same location) with the exact same name of the old structure goes way back - thus if you ask how old a particular temple is, for example, you are likely to be told the date of completion of the first one built at that location, while the current structure may well be version number seven (so what sounds like 800 years or so, may be only 70 years for that particular version of the structure, and 800 for the total of several similar structures with the same name, built on the same ground, one after another).  With this system, if you visit Tokyo (via time machine) in the year 2817, there may well be a "Marunouchi Building" and a "Shin-Marunouchi Building" that are the 16th versions of the original ones (new, more durable buildings are torn down faster than older, more fragile temples!).  This naming custom makes sense I suppose, but in the year 2009, it's a bit of a headache researching (via the Internet) the history of the four buildings with (discounting the "Shin" of Shin-Marunouchi) the same name!  This is where a printed book detailing the history of Tokyo Buildings would be far easier to use than the Internet - but I don't have that book, and if it exists, it probably costs a bit more than I would be willing/able to pay.  (The library... maybe I should see what they have.)

The thing that has been interesting to me personally regarding 1920-1960 (or so) style buildings in Japan, is that they have reminded me of childhood memories of visiting similar type office buildings that my father worked in.  So while I haven't visited the US is over a decade, visiting buildings like the (former) Sanshin Building and (former) Marunouchi Building, has felt a little like going back home in a way.  So as they are destroyed, it feels like bridges to the past are being destroyed, and - aside from my personal feelings - I think old structures really are a kind of bridge to the past, and a certain number of them should be preserved.

It's a hard balance to get right in a city.  Overly protecting old buildings can fossilize a city, but overly promoting new-new-new like Tokyo does, leads to a feeling of disorientation, where only the under-22 crowd feels at home.  Beyond about 20 years, buildings seem to be considered ripe for destruction, so don't fall in love with any structural aspect of Tokyo, for it is only a matter of (sooner rather than later) time before it will be destroyed.  It keeps Tokyo from ever becoming boring though.  Without even bothering to leave the city, it changes from under your feet!  Great stuff I guess... but to avoid getting disoriented, always push forward, forward, forward, and don't try to revisit something from your past - chances are, it will be gone by the time you return to where it once was.

Anyway, if you'd like to come with 1991 me on a quick trip inside the version-1923 Marunouchi Building, here's the way:


Availability note:  For news organizations, media companies, advertising agencies, etc., that might be interested in using any of this material, the original is of basically DVD-level quality.  I can be contacted via my YouTube page:


"Tokyo Station - March 1991 #2"

The continuation of a day I spent in March 1991 video-recording in and around Tokyo Station.  At the time I took this video (and the others I took in 1990-92), the purpose was to record "present-day Japan", but now - eighteen years later - suddenly the videos are a record of the past.  There are a number of things in this video which no longer exist, starting with the area between the back of the old brick station building and the elevated tracks (now part of the expanded platform access area), and including a view of a cigarette vending machine with only Japanese brands (before barriers to imports were lifted), a pre-touch screen ticket machine with it's illuminated round buttons, pre-cell phone people actually using public telephones on the platform, the Dai-Maru Department Store (closed quite a while ago - the building is now being demolished), the Marunouchi Business district before any of the high-rise office towers went up, the Chuo Line running low before the high (and relocated) platform was built, etc:

Availability note:  For news organizations, movie-media companies, advertising agencies, etc., that might be interested in using any of this material, this YouTube video is of very low resolution, but the original is of basically DVD-level quality (although converted from Hi8 analog to digital).  The video quality is - naturally - not as sharp as images generated by recent digital video cameras, but - interestingly - the sound quality is better.  The cameras I used recorded digital sound and had isolated microphones of higher quality (and with wind screens) than the newer digital cameras, which have microphones built into the case of the camera, with no wind screens and higher susceptibility to wind noise.  So even if you're not interested in the pictures overly much, if you need authentic sounds from 1990-92 Tokyo, the sound quality of what I have is good.  And - final note - this clip is a tiny part of the original footage - I have a few hundred hours of tape from 1990-92.



"Running With the Herd"

The first day of my new "leave early" schedule last week (reduced hours due to the bad economy), I left the company at 4:30, and marched down the street feeling half-concerned about the reduced paycheck that leaving early is going to produce, and half-happy at being outside earlier than usual.  Since Tokyo is hit by the double punch of being in the wrong time zone to begin with, and also not having daylight savings time; for over half the year, the light is nearly or completely gone by normal quitting times of 5:30 or 6:00.  So I happily looked around at the glorious daylight and thought "Now I can take more daylight pictures!".  (Some people think I specialize in taking night scenes, but the main reason I have so many night scenes is simply due to that being the only time I can take pictures!)  Of course, it'll be more difficult to pay for transportation to go places and take pictures, but if I can manage that somehow, I will have more time to take the pictures in.

And so I approached the train station thinking I had mentally gone over the main parameters of the new situation I find myself in.  But... I got on the train, sat down, and within seconds realized that the atmosphere was different.  I looked around and saw that in place of purposeful businesspeople and students, there were many older people who looked like they were either retired or just shy of retirement age, but not working; and students.  One thing about Tokyo is that you can see students (easily identifiable by their student uniforms) pretty much any time of day or night, weekdays, weekends, national holidays, and whatever other kinds of days there are in the 365 days of the year (well - okay, maybe not on New Year's Day), so that's a constant, but even the students seemed more subdued than usual.

So how has it been at 5:45 instead of 4:45?  At 5:45, there's a sense of purpose in the air, with people feeling glad to be off work, and heading somewhere with money in their pockets for shopping, going out for dinner, meeting friends, going home early (no overtime - banzai!), etc.  Even the students seem to amplify the generally happy vibes of the working people.

And then, on the weekend, I went out for a walk and noticed a late-teenage (or maybe early twenties) man applying for a job at a restaurant (with an open front, taking advantage of the nice weather).  He had an air of quiet desperation about him, and I thought back to my student days when I looked for part time work and felt worried/desperate/etc. until I found something.  I continued my walk, thinking of how hard it seems to be to get the balance right - to get it so that you're gainfully employed and making enough money to pay the bills, as well as buy some fun stuff (eating out, acquiring tech gadgets, etc.), and you have enough free time to enjoy yourself outside work.  For someone who has achieved that balance, I suppose this is just a lot of verbiage, but the "When I have enough money, I don't have enough time; and when I have enough time, I don't have enough money" routine must be familiar to many - and I dare say most - people.

Finally, the element I tend to overlook when thinking about working society: the element of being comfortable when running with the herd, and feeling unease when stepping away from the herd and finding that freedom comes with the price of increased risk.  Standing alone on the sidelines, you want to belong to one group or another.  Standing within the group, you want freedom from the group.  ..................  The elusiveness/difficulty of achieving balance, and the ease of going from one extreme to another.

Would I rather be bored?  Certainly not - the constant existence of a quest is what makes life worth living.



"Great Contract! - Where Do I Sign?!"

Sarcasm - just in case it's not obvious.  It's been my unfortunate experience over the years that just when I think I'm positively dripping with sarcasm and there is no possible way anyone could not see it - just then, especially then, for some unfathomable reason - (some) people mistake the heavy sarcasm for honest enthusiasm and... what?  Fortitude?  Strength of purpose?  Whatever it is, each time I'm flabbergasted at the misunderstanding, and each time I begin to see how politicians get away with their crimes.

So, I'm telling you here, now, in no uncertain terms, that the following "enthusiasm" for a contract I was sent is sarcasm, driven on by disappointment, disgust, amazement, etc.

Here's the story:

The video, or The Train Video.  (Do I hear groans?  Yeah, I feel your pain - in fact, I'm feeling the same way - maybe even worse I think.)  I've had three television stations approach me with offers (excluding one TV show in the UK that I gave permission to use for a single use of the low-resolution version).  The first two I'll just give the details from memory, and the last one, I'll show you the wonderful (unsigned) contract itself (with the name of the guilty company taken out of course).

1) I was offered about 100 pounds from a UK broadcaster for (non-exclusive) rights to use the video an unlimited number of times within three years.  I wrote back and basically asked "Well - what's in it for me?"

2) I was offered around 200 pounds from another UK broadcaster who wanted (non-exclusive) rights to use the video an unlimited number of times within five years.  I wrote back and said (in addition to "Well - what's in it for me?"): "Actually, I don't particularly even want this on TV.  It's already caused an enormous amount of misunderstanding due to the way it's been shown out-of-context."  In response, I got an indignant-sounding e-mail saying that it belonged to history now, and the world should see it(!), as though that company already owned it and I was getting in the way....  As for the world seeing it, they have been, and are.  The total number of Internet views that I know of (mostly stolen copies posted without my permission) is over five million (not counting it's appearance on TV in the UK and the US... and - if what I've been told is true - China and Germany).

3) I am now being offered $350 by a US company for what the contract calls "non-exclusive" rights, but goes on to say (if I'm reading the legalize correctly - let me know if I've got it wrong somehow), that they will - for $350 - get the right to use the material (in any way they like) forevermore - for all eternity - and if they sell it to someone else, they also have the right to use it forevermore - for all eternity.  Also, since the company would be paying such an astronomical amount of money for the clip (heavy sarcasm there, for those with very dark sunglasses on who managed to miss it), if ever there should arise some complaint by someone regarding their use of the material, I would be responsible for any legal costs, etc.

Now *that's* a great contract!  It brings tears to my eyes.  How could they have come up with such wonderful terms?  It makes me feel downright warm and fuzzy about the world, etc.

Well, here's the contract (with the guilty party's name removed).  Have a look for yourself.  And just in case my preamble didn't get the point across, I'm being sarcastic about saying it's a great contract.  It's a horrible contract!  I do not agree to such outlandish terms! 
(It even uses the factually incorrect and insulting title of one of the stolen copies of the video!)



DATE: 3/23/09 

LICENSOR: Lyle H. Saxon, address & telephone #

LICENSEE: [US company]

LICENSED MATERIAL: All Aboard The Train Fail – Japanese commuters get pushed into train.


Within the television series entitled  [xyz program]

LICENSE PERIOD:    In perpetuity


LICENSE FEE:      $350 (based on 100% ownership)

TERRITORY:  Worldwide

MEDIA:  All media now known or hereafter devised

For good and valuable consideration, Licensor hereby grants to Licensee, a non-exclusive license to use the Licensed Material in the Production for the purposes and in the manner set forth herein.  Rights granted include in-context and out-of-context advertising and promotion rights in all media now known or hereafter devised.  Licensee may use Licensed Material in all versions and derivative versions of the Production in whole or in part, including, but not limited to any retrospective or “best of” programming at no additional cost. This license is subject to both parties’ agreement to and compliance with the following:

1. Licensee shall have the right to edit the Licensed Material including but not limited to dubbing over or eliminating the soundtrack.  

2. Licensor represents and warrants that  (i) Licensor has full right, power and authority to enter into, fully perform and grant the rights granted by Licensor in this Agreement, and by entering into, fully performing and granting the rights granted by Licensor in this Agreement, it is not and shall not be in violation of the terms of any agreement or understanding to which Licensor is party, (ii) it owns or controls 100% of the copyrights in the Licensed Material, (iii) the Licensed Material does not and shall not infringe upon the rights or interests of any third party; (iv) all elements within the Licensed Material are either original with the Licensor, or Licensor has the right to grant the rights set forth in this Agreement in connection with such elements, including but not limited to all video and musical elements, master recordings and synchronization rights; (v) the Licensed Material is free and clear of any liens or claims with respect to the use of such Licensed Material in the manner authorized herein, and that such use authorized herein will not give rise to any claims of infringement, invasion of privacy or publicity or claims for payment of re-use fees, residuals or additional License Fees.  
3. Licensor shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless Licensee, its officers, directors, consultants, employees, successors, licensees, agents and permitted assigns from and against any claim, demand, action, damages, loss, expense (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) and other liabilities arising from actions brought by third parties arising from (a) any breach of any of the representations, warranties or agreements made by it hereunder; or (b) a claim that the use of any or all of the Licensed Material infringes any intellectual property right(s) of such party. Licensee shall promptly notify Licensor of any such claim.  Licensor shall bear full responsibility for the defense of any such claim.  Licensor shall keep Licensee informed of, and consult with, Licensee in connection with the progress of any litigation or settlement of any such claim.  Licensor shall not have any right, without Licensee’s written consent, to settle any such claim if such settlement obligates Licensee to make or contribute to a monetary payment; arises from or is part of any criminal or quasi-criminal action, suit or proceeding; or contains a stipulation, admission or acknowledgment of any liability or wrongdoing (whether in contract, tort or otherwise) on the part of Licensee. Licensor shall reimburse Licensee promptly upon demand for any payment made by Licensee at any time to which the foregoing indemnity applies

4.  Licensor acknowledges that due to editing and other factors; Licensee is under no obligation to include the Licensed Material within the Production.  If the Licensed Material is not used, Licensee has no obligation to compensate Licensor under this Agreement. 

5. Licensee acknowledges that its use of the Licensed Material will not affect Licensor's continued and separate copyright ownership of the Licensed Material and Licensee represents and warrants that it shall take necessary and appropriate steps to protect Licensor's copyright and trademarks.

6. Licensee shall be entitled to assign all or a portion of the rights and licenses granted herein and shall be entitled to assign this agreement in its entirety to any person, firm or corporation acquiring ownership of or production rights to the Production without further payment to Licensor.  This Agreement is binding upon and shall inure to the benefit of the respective licensees, successors, and assigns of the Parties hereto.

7. This Agreement sets forth the entire understanding of the parties hereto with respect to the subject matter hereof and there are no other representations, understandings or agreements between the parties relative to such subject matter.

8. This Agreement and all questions arising hereunder shall be governed by and construed in accordance with, the laws and decisions of the State of New York without giving effect to the principles thereof relating to the conflicts of law.  

[Name of Licensee]             [Name of Licensor Here]
By:  ________________________    By:  ________________________

      Its authorized representative     Its authorized representative



"Tokyo Station & the Chuo Line - March 1991" (Video)

Another look back at 1991 - the year I walked around Tokyo with a video camera (nearly) always in hand.  Most striking in this video is that the current highly elevated Chuo Line platform had not been built yet, so the Chuo Line platform is on the same level as the other lines.  (When they needed to add a new Shinkansen platform, they had to shift the regular lines over, so the current Chuo Line platform is to the side - and up - of the Chuo Line platform in this video:

The other thing that I noticed in revisiting 1991 Tokyo Station, and the older type Chuo Line trains (a few of which are still on the rails, but not for long, they've been almost completely phased out with a newer type), is that the paint color of the back of Tokyo Station is about the same color as the old solid-color Chuo Line trains.  Seeing that in the video, I wondered - for the first time - if that was the reason for the color of the Chuo Line, since it begins at Tokyo Station.  I'm sure there's an answer to that lurking on the Internet somewhere, but I need to get some sleep now, so I'll stop here.



"Here & There in Tokyo - February 2009"

With no particular focus (pun unintended) or theme, I've posted a new photo page of various scenes in Tokyo, taken in February 2009.  The page is here:

There are several pictures taken in train stations....  People have asked me before why I take so many train & train station photos.  I don't aim (another unintended pun) to, but I spend so much time on the train system, that I end up taking a lot of pictures there.  Also there's the fact that, when you're waiting for trains, you often have a few minutes to do something while you wait, whereas if you're walking, you have to stop to take pictures.



"1906 Article - Where is Japan Headed from Here?"

In the September 1906 issue of the National Geographic, there is an an article entitled:

"Japan, America, and the Orient"
By Hon. Eki Hioki
Charge D'Affaires of Japan, 1905-1906

This was written after the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and right after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), when the world was wondering what direction Japan would be heading in from that point forward.  The following are a few quotes from the article - for the full article, see the September 1906 issue of National Geographic:

Now that the Japanese-Russian war is ended, the world seems to be vigilantly watching the next act which will be produced on the stage of Oriental politics.  Speculations of various kinds are advanced by all sorts of people.  Some anticipate that the next play that Japan will put on the stage will be a peaceful comedy.  Some predict that it will be the repetition of another tragedy, while others apprehend both.  No doubt the power that Japan developed during the last war with Russia must have surprised the world, but that surprise of the world has surprised Japan more.

Some preach the doctrine of the yellow peril, some question the ambition of Japan, others apprehend Japan's designs upon the Philippines.  Such questions as these:  Will Japan adopt the Monroe Doctrine for Asia?  Will she control China?  Will she not beat the Americans in industrial and commercial competition?  Will she not monopolize the markets of China and crowd out American goods?  Will not Buddhism come into rivalry with Christianity?  Will not the 700,000 Japanese soldiers, now in Manchuria, when disbanded, flood the western coast of the United States with Japanese immigration? are constantly asked on all sides.


(5) Industrial and Commercial Development of Japan

The last war with Russia has increased the national debt of Japan to the amount of 960 million dollars - the interest of which alone requires nearly 50 million dollars annually.  It is indeed a heavy, an enormous burden.  And every dollar of it, interest and principal, must be paid.  Japan will and must devote her full energy to her commercial and industrial development, and with the capability she has shown in the past no inconsiderable achievement can justly be expected of her new efforts.  During the ten years that followed our war with China, the wealth of the nation increased more than ten times and we are now perfectly confident that we will fully recuperate from the effect of the present financial drain in due course of time.  It is absurd, however, to say, as some ventured to do, that in the course of a few years American goods will be crowded out of the Chinese market by Japanese competition.


Japan has no hired soldiers.  Every Japanese, without distinction of class or rank, profession or trade, rich or poor, is equally under the obligation to serve three years with the colors and several years in the reserves and national guard.  Therefore the Japanese army is not like that of some other countries, composed of men who were taken from among those who had no employment.  On the contrary, all and every one of the men who compose that formidable Manchurian army had been taken from actual work at home, so that the effect of the sudden withdrawal of hands from the field of industry is actually being felt in the productive power of the nation.


Other points of the article are that Japan and America have a valuable relationship that Japan wouldn't want to damage, and that Japan certainly doesn't have any designs on the Philippines.  A few decades after this was written, World War-II seemed to indicate otherwise, but maybe this is why the post-war period went by relatively smoothly - since enough of Japan was already on good terms with the US, the new wave of western influence went by mostly okay?

I was going to comment more extensively, but I need to get some sleep!



"Y17,000 ($170) for Concert Tickets?"

I almost never go to concerts (although I would like to), but just about all musicians seem to come through Tokyo at one time or another, so I probably should make more of an effort (although competition for tickets in 30,000,000-people Tokyo can be really intense).  On February 21st & 22nd, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck performed at the Saitama Super Arena, which is in... er... Saitama.

I haven't been to a concert in a long time - so I would expect to be a bit out-of-touch regarding ticket prices and whatnot these days, but still - when I heard a friend say that they had spent Y17,000 (about $170) for a concert ticket, I was... not exactly flabbergasted, but definitely surprised.  (
It turns out there were four(!) different ticket prices: Y10,000, Y13,000, Y15,000, and Y17,000.)  Actually, I can't even remember what I paid for concert tickets back in the deep, dark ages, long-long ago, when I fairly regularly went to concerts... in... (why am I ashamed to say it?) the mid- & late 1970's and then a few in the 1980's and fewer still in the 1990's, and just a few (classical) concerts in the 21st century.

Anyway, back to the Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck concert.  A friend went to one of the two concerts and was still buzzing with concert joy when I talked to them a week later.  Looking on-line, I found a review ("
Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck: Two Legendary Guitarists Share Stage In Saitama, Japan"), which states:

"Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck - legendary guitarists and former Yardbirds - performed their first co-headlining concert in Japan at Saitama's Super Arena on Saturday 21 February. This was the first time they have shared a bill as co-headliners in an arena show. The 20,000 people in attendance witnessed an event that lasted between two and a half and three hours."

The full review is here:


Looking at a concert pamphlet for the Clapton-Beck concert, there's a flier inserted for Deep Purple, indicating that they'll be playing at the International Forum (right by Yurakucho Station) on April 8th & 15th.  Ticket prices are listed as Y10,000, Y11,000, and Y12,000.  It would be interesting to see them, but I'm not sure I can budget in the ticket price.  My hours at work are being cut (due to the economic free-fall), so this is not a good time to be spending money unnecessarily.....



"Looking Back (via National Geographic Articles on Japan) - #1"

I bought "The Complete National Geographic - 110 Years of National Geographic Magazine on CD-ROM" about ten years ago or so, and other than playing around with it a bit when I first got it, the set of disks has been sleeping in its box all these years - until last weekend, when I pulled out the disks, and did a search for articles on Japan.  Just the titles explain what they are for the recent articles, but the older they get, the more the summary was important to understand what the article was about.  (That said, I see the second most recent article (of the set of disks that I have anyway), from June 1997, needed the summary, but mostly the titles worked.  For example:

July 1997

Just like it says - the article is about sumo.  In contrast with the old days, long-long ago, back when Japan was an exotic largely unknown country, a couple of weeks away (was it more? less?  I think more for sail; less for steam or diesel) over across the vast ocean, now most people have some picture in mind when they hear "sumo", so the report is explaining the known, rather than introducing the unknown.

Okinawa: Claiming Its Birthright
June 1997
Summary: Japan's southern outpost has hosted the U.S. military for five decades.  Some argue that's long enough.

Okinawa comes into the news from time to time, and then there's a long silence, followed by some incident or other that puts it back into the news.  For a small island, it really does have a large military presence though.  The last I heard, some of the US forces there were being moved to other locations - some to Guam, some to other bases in Japan.

Storm Watch Over the Kurils
Oct. 1996

Four of the islands above Hokkaido are in the news here on and off - I haven't heard anything about them lately.  They were in the news a lot more in the eighties and nineties.

The Great Tokyo Fish Market: Tsukiji
Nov. 1995

Tsukiji - billed as the largest fish market in the world (in general, maybe also in this article, I haven't read this since it came out in 1995) is slated to move to a new location in a few years.  There was a recent news story that they have found toxins in the new land that the fish market is to be on!  Doesn't sound like a good idea to me, but space is hard to come by in Tokyo and apparently they're working to clean it up more before the move.  Still, I'll probably have an uneasy question floating around in the back of my mind when I eat fish in Tokyo after the market moves there.

Oct. 1995

The word "geisha" basically just means "entertainer", although the modern word for entertainer in Japan (TV personalities, etc.) is "geinojin".  It's either a complicated topic (tradition, complicated customs, etc.) or a simple one (modern women wearing ancient clothes and make-up) - but there is something timelessly interesting about it either way.  I seem to remember that this particular article irritated me at the time, but I can't remember why.  I've have to have a new look at it in 2009 and see what I think of it now.

Up From Ground Zero: Hiroshima
Aug. 1995

I visited Hiroshi myself in 2007, and my comments and pictures are here:

Kobe Wakes to a Nightmare
July 1995

The Kobe earthquake was instrumental in showing that no one is immune to the destructive power of earthquakes.  Some of the more bloody-minded politicians had gone on TV after the January 17th, 1994 Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles (magnitude 6.7) and said that the destruction to bridges and buildings couldn't happen in Japan, since Japanese construction was superior.  Then, lo-and-behold, exactly one year later, on January 17th, 1995, Kobe experienced an earthquake of nearly identical intensity (6.8 by the same scale that labeled the LA quake 6.7) and there was widespread destruction of property and loss of life.  After the BM politicians' boast that Japanese construction was superior, and there was nothing to worry about, the death toll of around 6,434 in Kobe didn't stack up very well against the death toll of 72 in Los Angeles.  I remember an angry taxi driver I spoke with saying "Their lies have been exposed".  The way the numbers lined up (exactly one year later; nearly the same magnitude; 72 LA deaths; 6,434 Kobe deaths), I think some people may have come to the conclusion that there was some "bachi-ga-ataru" (divine retribution) in play here for the over-the-top bloody-mindedness of the politicians.

Well, enough of this for now!



"Dark Clouds Growing Darker, Thickening Atmosphere..."

I've begun to notice a change in atmosphere on the trains and at work.  You can't read of companies laying people off every day and not worry about whether you will continue to be able to pay the rent and buy food.  Some example sentences in a few different articles I read just today:

     Japan's exports plunged more than 45% in January compared to a year ago to hit the lowest figure ever recorded, official figures showed.
     Japanese exports to the US, which is at the centre of the slide, fell nearly 53% in January while shipments to the European Union retracted by 47%, Japan's finance ministry said.
     The government said last week that Japan's economy was in its most serious crisis since World War II, after it contracted an annualised rate of 12.7% in the last quarter of 2008.
     Gloom over Japan economy deepens
     Other analysts are worried that the Japanese economic recovery could be completely derailed and that a mild recession could be on its way.
     Japan posted a record trade deficit in January, with exports tumbling 46 percent from a year earlier, as the global economic downturn tightened its stranglehold on overseas demand.
     The Finance Ministry said Japan's trade deficit for the month widened to 952.6 billion yen ($9.92 billion) — the fourth straight month that imports exceeded exports. It was the biggest trade deficit since the government began compiling comparable data in 1979.
     Japan, long criticized by trading partners for its big trade surpluses, has become a net importer in recent months because of the global slump. Exports were cut nearly in half, as shipments of cars, machinery, electronics and semiconductors to all major markets plunged.
     The latest data mirrors the sharp declines throughout the export-reliant continent and signals that the pain in Asia may only deepen in the months ahead. South Korean exports fell a record 33 percent in January from the previous year, Taiwan's retreated 43 percent, and Singapore's fell 35 percent.
     Exports to the U.S. fell 53 percent, with car shipments down 81 percent on a value basis. Japan's trade surplus with the U.S. fell 75 percent to 132.8 billion yen.

This is not looking good.  As other people are reading similar dark and gloomy news reports (and people are beginning to lose their jobs), the collective dark radio waves are something palpable in the air.  I want to be positive and forward-looking, but the increasingly stormy seas seem to be leading into a full-scale raging typhoon.  Hopefully not, but the downward spiral is still headed down.  How to turn it around.....



"Tokyu Line Express from Shibuya to Hiyoshi - 1991"

Back in 1991, I carried a video camera with me nearly all the time, and the evening in this video (see video link below) was no exception.  This clip is of a nighttime trip I took from Shibuya to Hiyoshi on the Tokyu Line, with a bit too much time looking out the window at reflections and passing lights - but you can't just aim a camera at everyone all the time inside the train, so dim reflections in the nighttime window are the only thing left.

It's only ("only?" Hmmm...) been a little over 17 years, but things feel quite different on the trains these days.  No wonder, when you stop to consider that it's a different generation of young people on them - and the young people in this 1991 video are now middle-aged....

The sights and sounds of the trip will likely be familiar to anyone who used that line around that time (October 1991).  Several of the windows were also open, which is quite rare now.  People seem to like(?!) riding around in sealed boxes now - no mater how nice the weather is outside.



"Last of a Long Day at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show"

Watching only the edited set of videos I took on Saturday, October 26th, 1991, the four clips only amount to around 25 minutes, but if I add up the time I spent editing out those 25 minutes from the original two hours I took in 1991, it amounts to about the same length of time I spent with video camera in hand on the day itself in real time (all day that is).  That, combined with watching the entire thing (a few times) intently, has brought the day to the forefront of my mind, and I remember the fatigue of the day.  Tired here in 2009 from the editing process and remembering how it was to be banging around in 1991 in that crowded show all day (fun, but headache-inducing) leaves me feeling like I've now had quite enough of the 1991 Tokyo Motor show!

I might even have forgotten the headache, but there I am on the screen (not in the edited material posted to YouTube) taking a break in the middle of the day and telling the camera (and 2009 me) that I have a headache and I'm getting tired of the still photographers banging into me as they physically force their way to the front, while I'm trying to take video scenes.

Watching my 1991 self and the 1991 scenes and sounds; and then thinking about it, the specific memory of the headache (and escaping outside for a break) come back.  The headache had three causes basically - 1) the incessant, competing, loud, and conflicting noises of the show, 2) being continually banged into as I attempted to hold the camera steady for video recording, and 3) the heat - the exhibition halls were overheated... no doubt for the many scantily clad show-women.

All-in-all, taking a good look at my 1991 material keeps leaving me with (among a flood of related memories) thinking of the following:

1) It's a different era!  A seamless flow of time between 1991 and 2008/2009, but there is a great wall somewhere in-between now and then.  Different clothes, different hairstyles, different feeling in the air, different thinking, and different this, that, and other things.

2) The "bubble years" are always portrayed on Japanese TV as something akin to "the roaring twenties" in the US, but for most people at the time, it was just news stories of excess on TV, and most people's lives were - shock & surprise - a carryover from a few years before.  I have video of children playing in the street in the "shitamachi" area of town (sometimes/often radically-wrongly translated as "downtown" - a more accurate translation would be "low area of town" or "the far side of the tracks", "the poor side of town" etc.) and old 1950's style buildings, etc.  What people don't seem to generally comprehend is that the plans laid in that era are what resulted in the modern Tokyo of today.  So to around-20 people who say "I wish I could experience what it was like in the roaring 'bubble' years", I say "Take a look around - you've got it!  They didn't then, but the results of their plans for shiny new structures and modern lifestyle have arrived!  You're there!  Now!"

3) The fragility of memory.  After watching several 21st century fictional portrayals of the "bubble years", I had begun to see the era as having been (somewhat) that way.  This has been the biggest surprise of all for me - since I was here for the entire time, I should know very well how it was, but it has taken watching hours and hours of my life then (recorded by me at the time), to bring back the authentic memories of how it felt and what the atmosphere was, and that atmosphere is radically different from what comes across in modern fictional depictions of the era on TV and in movies.

Number three in particular should give one cause to pause and think hard about... things - all things.  If you can be pushed away from reality by fictional depictions of something you lived through (and should know as well as anyone), how can you correctly understand a reality you have had no proper exposure to?

4) From the evidence of young modern actors faultily attempting to portray young people of a different era, it would seem it's no easy task to comprehend how it felt to live in a particular era.  (How I wish I had a time machine to go back and sample different eras!  I would especially like to go back for photos of certain key events.  Better yet, video!  Actual video of ancient peoples - would they seem more familiar than expected, or more alien?  Of course, to really do the job properly, you would have to be invisible.  The sudden appearance of a biped with a picture & sound recording device wouldn't exactly be taken in stride....)

Derailing here... so I'll stop.  Here's the link to the fourth & final (unless at some point I use parts of the 90 minutes cut out in editing) of the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show series:

And if you'd like to follow October 26th, 1991's Lyle through the day, here are five videos (the fifth one being a short clip of riding in a car that evening) that cover nearly the entire day.  There's one gap between leaving Tokyo Station at the end of 1991-TMS #4 and getting in the car - maybe I'll get to that at some point.

"Tokyo Auto Show - 1991 #1" (I misnamed it; it should be "motor", not "auto")

"Tokyo Motor Show - 1991 #2"

"Tokyo Motor Show - 1991 #3"

"Tokyo Motor Show - 1991 #4"

"Driving in Tokyo - October 26th, 1991"

And here are some still photos from the 2003 and 2005 shows:

Tokyo Motor Show - 2003  (a couple of photos at the top & one at the bottom)

Tokyo Motor Show - 2005

PS - Valentine's Day in Japan - when women give chocolate to men.  I considered posting some pictures of stores selling chocolate, but then I thought "Naw - why do that?  It's just a local way of handling a foreign import."



"Cars, Cameras & Models - More of 1991 Tokyo Motor Show"

I thought I would wrap up the subject of the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show with a third edit of the material I took that day, but after editing another five-and-a-half minutes out of the next (around) forty minutes of tape, I decided that was long enough and I'll have to edit one more to wrap up that topic.  The video is here:

Incidentally, have on-line videos been playing well for you over the past week?  I've been experiencing what looks like a slowdown, probably due to excessive demands being maid on the servers.  I read somewhere that something like fifteen hours worth of video is uploaded every ten minutes, or something like that.  It's amazing the system works at all with that much material constantly pouring into it!  Still, I wonder if the slow results are from my provider's servers, or the servers on the other end.



"February 5th, 2009 - Grueling Commute"

The daily commute started fairly normally, but then got "fun" on the second train.  As I walked into the train, near the front of the wave of people, two determined gorillas took up position directly under the hanging straps near the opposite door.  As the twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or however many people (unwillingly made into canned sardines) behind me pushed me into the gorillas, they braced themselves and - doing a good imitation of the Berlin Wall, steadfastly guarded enough empty space in front of them for four people to stand with ease.

And there we were - lots of sardines smashed up against me, driving me into the pair of gorillas, who then looked over their shoulder's at me from time to time with "Why are you touching me...?" looks.  For thirty minutes they pushed back mightily - defending that poor, vulnerable empty space - and for thirty minutes, we bipeds-turned-into-sardines behind them, suffered.  As the train rolled towards its rendezvous with train number three, I contemplated the pleasant idea of the two of them getting run over by a large, heavy, speeding truck....

Pulling into the transfer station, I expected the two gorillas to also do their best to block people from getting off the train and proceeding to the stairs, but once the doors opened at the station, they turned into regular bipeds.  It may be that they were trying to keep a meter of space between themselves and a woman against the far door, lest they be accused of improperly touching her, which is a life-ruining, jailable offense now.  Meanwhile... their actions meant that the women in the sardine pack behind them were being smashed that much more tightly between different men.  Myopic vision - such a horrible thing.  Probably a very large proportion of the suffering in the world is due to someone's bloody-minded myopic vision.

Train number three....  Fun-fun-fun.  As I climbed the stairs to the platform, I heard an announcement saying the train was behind schedule, but I didn't think too much about it, since there are so many trains in the morning, the schedule doesn't matter too much so long as they're running.  But... as the train came in and I merged with a line (the platform was completely full and people pushing onto the platform from the stairs forced me into that action), I noticed that the train was unusually packed and would likely require a little muscle to get onto.

Crossing the threshold from platform to train, it wasn't as bad as I expected, but the train didn't get under way right away, as it usually does, and as it sat there at the platform (waiting to take on more bipeds in order to take some pressure off of an overloaded train behind it I imagine), more and more people forced their way on-board.

Looking between a couple of heads back towards the platform, I saw four High School girls standing between the lines of people waiting for the next train (and this is the difference between a couple of decades ago and now - many people don't even attempt to get on a really packed train now), staring back at the tightly packed people in the doorway with wide-open eyes and open mouths.  I couldn't help but smile at their reactions.  It must have been their first experience at a Yamanote Line hub station during the morning crush-rush.  They seemed particularly impressed with a nicely dressed young woman who forced her way on, and they kept looking down at her shoes only half on the train - no doubt wondering what would happen to her nice shoes when they were caught in the closing doors.  (Incidentally, that's no big deal - the doors have rubber edges and don't press hard enough to break bones or do any serious damage to shoes, etc.)

The train did eventually get under way however, and by then, a few more people had forced their way aboard, so the woman on the threshold who was only half-way in the train, was now fully aboard (behind the newcomers).  It was just like the old days in the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line express trains, crowded to a point that's strangely less stressful than when the density is less, but people are still bumping into you - and I suppose "bumping into you" is the key there.  When it's really tightly packed, there is no bumping into anyone, since it's just one huge mass of people, so when the train lurches, the crowd inside moves as one - individual will has nothing to do with it.

Further down the line, I realized that I might miss my connection to the next train if I didn't move down the train to a door nearer the upcoming stairs at the (next) transfer station, so I got off (without much trouble, surprisingly) and walked down the platform.  As I got in line again to re-board the train, I realized (with a slight sense of alarm) that I might not be able to get back on.  The train wasn't sitting around waiting this time, so I began pushing, backing towards the door, and when I got close, I pushed harder... no go... harder still... still no go, so I reverted to 1991-Seibu-Ikebukuro-Line-Express mode (like that wild video... who took that anyway?), and - pulling with my arms from the top edge of the door frame, and pushing with all the strength of my legs, I finally got so my feet were wedged against the bottom rails for the doors.  At this point, with both arms up against the upper door frame and both feet set, I formed an arch with my body that could withstand a lot of pressure, and waited for the doors to close, holding back the combined pressure of many compressed rib cages.

Most new arrivals to the platform took one look at the situation and either didn't even try to get on, or went down the platform further in search of a less crowded door.  One extra guy forced his way on to the side of me though, and he had a hard time of it, but did finally manage to compact everyone enough to get on.  The doors closed somehow and we moved out.  (Incidentally, they must use very powerful motors in the trains here, I can't remember ever feeling that the train was having trouble accelerating - no matter how heavily loaded it is.)  As the train moved out, it became apparent that the man on my left was not enjoying the ride - maybe he was being smashed into the vertical handrail by the doors - but there was absolutely nothing I could do.  I was pinned against the door myself and unable to move anywhere.  Fortunately it was only about a three minute ride to the next station.

As we pulled in, I observed that I was right in the middle of the opening, so I anticipated jumping out of the train through the middle of the opening as soon as the two doors were half open.  The train stopped... and it sat there for a few seconds without anything happening "Come-on!  Get a move on!  Open the bloody doors already!" I thought.  Then the doors just barely moved about a centimeter, and it was suddenly apparent that there was so much pressure against the doors from the inside, that they couldn't open!  But being right there in the middle, I reached my fingers in and gave a mighty pull - forcing the doors open enough to jump out the middle.  As I reached my left leg out to cross the train-platform threshold, someone stepped on the back of my right shoe, almost ripping it off my foot.  Out on the platform, I stumbled a little, and as I hopped on my left leg long enough to get my right show on, I had a flashback to a news reel from about thirty years ago, where they showed several people's shoes left behind on the platform after a crowd had fought their way onto a train....

Next train - no problem!  But I was still frazzled, and when I finally reached my desk, my workmate wasn't overjoyed to hear my tales of the morning battle to get to work.  I almost think (recognizing that it is in no way comparable in a serious way) that I can understand (a little) what soldiers feel like when re-entering society, where friends and family don't want to hear what it was really like.  You think a wild experience is something people want to know about - but in the passion of decompression, it seems to scare/disgust/worry/something people.  So, I suppose the only way to convey it, is to write about it (hello folks!).....

So how will tomorrow's commute be?



"The Japanese Automotive Industry - 1991 & 2009"

The Japanese automobile industry was still flying high in 1991 - and a lot of industry money and public attention was spent on the auto show that year.  Foreign manufacturers were also pushing to get a better foothold in the Japanese market, in contrast to some large companies not even bothering to display anything at the last show (although private import companies displayed some of these missing companies' vehicles).  For a look back at 1991, see this video (the second one covering the show that day):

Beyond the cars, the people had different hairstyles, hair colors, eyebrow thicknesses, and were wearing different clothes.  I'm not sure what to think about the car industry - considering how many cars the world's manufacturers are capable of pumping out every month, you have to wonder if it makes any sense to fill up the world with fire-breathing machinery.  Something without the internal combustion might be nice - electric?.....



"Express Checkout & Future Gambling"

As I entered the station to get on the Yamanote Line this evening, there were announcements about there having been a "jinshin-jiko" (passenger action, which generally means suicide by jumping in front of a train), so the Shinjuku - Ikebukuro bound trains were stopped.  After a bit of back-tracking and some trouble, I managed to get on a Saikyo Line train in Osaki.  It was pretty intensely crowded though, so I got off in Ebisu and hung out there for a bit, before taking the Hibiya (subway) Line to Hibiya Station (near Yurakucho, etc.), finally getting home close to 10:00 p.m.

(2009/01/22) - Then I sat down in front of the computer and barely managed to wrote the above... before falling asleep in my chair in front of the keyboard.  Now it's morning and it's time to begin another day.  I really hate the way yesterday consumed itself without my having managed to write anything.  Either there are too few hours in the day or I'm spending too many of them on the trains and etc.

Okay - all in a rush here, but here's a quote from the the old Japanese book about Japan (NIPPON - A Charted Survey of Japan - 1936) that I picked up recently.  Considering the direction the country went in, it seems interesting...:

"It is unfortunate, however, that there has of late years emerged in our midst a number of those who, though extremely small in number, hold views different from what is common to most of our people.  The more radical of this group scheme to supplant the existing polity of the country by a system of Communism.  The radical movement of Communism, in fact, has been declining since some years ago.  In its place there has now sprung forth a group of reactionary minds which propose to enforce under the slogan of nationalist conservatism ideas as radically right as those of the others are left.  Nothing surprising to be sure, if a fraction of the 70 million population have turned heretics; but they must be well taken into the hands of the authority because of the possibility of misleading minds which can know no better."

It's so easy for a country or group of people to fall into one extreme or another - and so hard to get things right.  Same as for individuals.  The thing that makes me stop and think about this, is how one person, or a small group of people, when moving in a constructive direction, is an inspiring thing... but how the same process also works in a negative way.  Best for more people to think deeply about the world they live in, and not leave it to chance for a leader to appear in their midst.  Such a method is a gamble that leads to great heights at times, and horrible depths at other times....



"Here and There - Unfocused Themes (December 2008)"

The clock has not been cooperating over the past week!  I try to get things done and the clock speeds ahead before I can complete things.  This has led to many nights falling asleep on the floor in front of the computer, where I end up sleeping the night half-frozen and wake up more tired than when I went to bed.  Next night, repeat.

In spite of this bad situation, I managed to post a couple of new things.  First a reposting of the 1991 crush-rush train video, which I posted a second time to YouTube due to there being something wrong with the original file.  It would play on some computers, but not others.  It seems not to work with the newest (version-10?) Flash player.  The new link for this is here:

"Actually Full Train in 1991 - Why Flex-time is Needed - Reload"

Then I posted a few photos taken in December 2008, here:

"Here & There in Tokyo - December 2008" - Shinbashi, Yurakucho, Setagaya, & Shinjuku

Finally, a short video of driving in Tokyo - showing how many of the streets aren't really intended to handle more than pedestrian and bicycle traffic:

"Driving in Tokyo - October 26th, 1991"

Now to get to work on more things - and get proper sleep at night!



"A Week to Cross the Pacific in 1936"

I picked up a 73-year old book today entitled "Nippon - A Charted Survey of Japan - 1936" ("charted" apparently meaning that there are charts in the book; the 1936 English translation from the source Japanese-language book isn't perfect), which I'm hoping/expecting to be historically interesting to go through.  The thing about history books written by current generation authors, is that they say basically "The old ones did this, and this, and that, and when they did this thing, they were hoping to... but actually...." etc.  Which is fine... I guess... maybe....  But there's something immediate and compelling about seeing what the old ones did and thought when they were young - written in their words at the time, before they became dusty old ones.

Take this off-hand remark in the forward to the book:

"Tourists and those who visit Japan for professional and other purposes will find the present book an unfailingly informative companion as they tour the country.  Those who are visiting Japan for the first time will do scarcely better than go through the book while their ships are still sailing in to sight of the shores they are to visit."

Trans-Pacific passenger air travel wasn't part of the picture yet, and it was just a normal given that anyone visiting Japan would be spending a week or more on a ship plowing across the ocean.  And... the scenario of tourists willingly lugging around a book about industrial production, etc., paints a picture rather different from 2009.

The book also talks about Japanese people as though they are either trying to get a handle on a national identity, or trying to explain themselves to the English-text reader (or both).  The book bills itself as an English translation of a Japanese book (which was used as a textbook in schools), but some parts leave me wondering whether the translator did a straightforward translation of the original, or whether he got creative with text he knew was for readers of radically different cultures.

And something else that has recently come to mind.  I sailed to Japan on a raft of books saying how amazing it was that Japan rose from the ruins of World War-II in such a short time.  This is certainly true, but it's begun to occur to me that the terminology is unfortunate, as it doesn't quite paint the full picture.  By 1936, Japan had been industrializing for well over half a century already, so at the close of WW-II, the ruined cities and masses of dead notwithstanding, the country still had a lot of engineers and industrialists.  Keeping this in mind and conjuring up the drive that led the original technological modernization, is it in fact so surprising that the country got the industrial machinery going again?

Too much interest in 1936?  The accidental discovery of that book is the only reason I'm looking at that specific year, but I have been thinking a lot about the 1928-1946 time frame... hoping that this time around, history will not repeat itself - that we will stop it from doing so.  Knowing what happened and getting a grasp of the mindset of specific times can be instructive in how not to make the same mistakes?



"January 3rd, 2009"

The holiday period hasn't been exactly exciting, but it's been productive.  I've been doing a number of things that were long waiting to get done, like tossing out old junk that is just taking up space in my not-very-large apartment (there's lots more room for this activity!), reading some things I've been meaning to have a look at, etc.


"Photographing at Flank Speed & Sailing With an Anchor Out"

I went out with some friends over the holiday - taking my camera along - and was again reminded that street photography is something best done alone.  If you're with someone, you end up walking at flank speed in an attempt to catch up with them between taking pictures, and they (if they're concerned about actually staying within a kilometer radius of you), have to stop from time-to-time to wait for you.  So while you're thinking "Why do they have to steam ahead at flank speed?", they're thinking, "Why does he have to keep holding us back, like an anchor left overboard, slowing down the ship?"

All-in-all, it's a frustrating experience for all concerned, and the photographer doesn't get many decent pictures while hurriedly taking them anyway, so I tell myself it would be best to just leave the camera in the bag.  But... when you go to some new place, how can you not take some pictures?  It just seems wrong not to.  And so, once again, the photographer realizes that friends and good photos generally do not mix - not at the same time in any case!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon


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