Jim Breen's JpPg
The LL-Letters book
Tokyo Subway Map
Tokyo Area Maps
Knoppix CD Prog
The Daily Yomiuri
The Japan Times
Japan Tourist Org
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"
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
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
cell phone text messaging in reflection. Japanese and English
announcements. The nighttime city glides by outside.
direction Yamanote Line train speeds by in a blur.
(Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009,
"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
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
(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,
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
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
December 24th, 2009, at 5:44 p.m.)
"Strasbourg Christmas Market in Tokyo - 2009 (Walk-through)"
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
"Between Yurakucho & Ginza - December 24th, 2009)" (091224-1840)
Walking down a light-decorated street between Yurakucho and
有楽町から、銀座へ向かって (Recorded on Wednesday, December 24th, 2009, at
"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
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
December 24th, 2009, at 6:41 p.m.)
"Christmas Eve in Tokyo, 2009 -
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,
"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
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.
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
than sit there monitoring the computer-driven controls. (Recorded
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."
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.
last part shows the ticket and change machine - the same type that is
used on buses. (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at
"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
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.
express train passes by, the crossing gates open and people walk across
the tracks. (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 1:48
"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
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)
the trip, including passing a couple of trains going in the other
direction. (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 2:02
"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,
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
"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,
reflections. (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 2:13
"Setagaya Line & Boroichi
year, on December 15th & 16th and again on January 15th & 16th,
the Boroichi Street Market is held in Setagaya. Being a large
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
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
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
"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 &
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
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
suggests that those passengers going to Boroichi get off at the fourth
station, Kamimachi. (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009,
"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
looks like they've got one of the older streetcars sitting there for
historical reasons. (Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009,
"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
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.
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 &
(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 &
(Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 12:10 p.m.)
(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 &
(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 &
(Recorded on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, at 1:09 p.m.)
"Ikegami, Yamanote, Inokashira,
& Keio Lines"
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,
"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
Unfortunately, new announcements may be becoming more similar and less
interesting. (Recorded on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009, at 2:53
"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
heading for the stairs. (Recorded on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009, at
"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
"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"
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
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
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
(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
"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
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
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
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"
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.
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
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
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
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
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
the theme music for the morning commute in particular, when people are
just focused on getting to work on time and are not talking.
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
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
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,
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
"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.
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
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
typical winter scene in Tokyo. (Recorded on Friday, December
2009, at 2:40 p.m.)
"Street Band, Kinokuniya, Yamanote
Line, & Takeshita-dori"
clips. From a street band and Kinokuniya Bookstore in Shinjuku,
few Yamanote Line train clips, and Harajuku's Takeshita-dori.
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
"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
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.
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
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
exit/entrance of Shinjuku Station that is within the boundaries of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
Announcements at Komagome Station, as well as Komagome's custom "The
doors are about to close" melody and recorded bird sounds (used at many
"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
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
"Gee - that sounds like the Yamanote Line!". Naturally, the idea
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
"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
ends at the other end. Recorded on Friday, December 18th, 2009,
about 3:00 p.m. In spite of the cold, the women are basically
about the way you'd expect them to in summer.
"Chuo Line Left Side Commuter
are many interesting stations on the Chuo Line, but the passenger
density of the line doesn't make for the most relaxing commutes!
December 4th and 7th (Friday & Monday), I ended up near a door, so
I could take pictures out the window. December 7th was
it was the first weekday that the new inbound section between Kokubunji
and Mitaka was used. Of the four video clips listed below, the
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
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
"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
Rapid], there were no stops between Kokubunji and Shinjuku.)
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
(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
"Chuo Line - Inbound from Mitaka" (091207-08:29)
Diagonal view of built-up area along tracks after passing Mitaka.
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
"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
view from just before Koenji Station (one station from Nakano Station),
until just after Nakano Station. The train is still accelerating
the clip ends. (Nakano Station is where the buses are - the
train at Nakano Station is on the opposite side of the train from this
"Chuo Line Views, Morning Shinjuku
Station, Ginza Demonstration, Etc."
video clips. First of a demonstration I saw on the edge of Ginza,
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
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,
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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."
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
have a look at some videos:
Toyoko Line - Suit City - November 2009"
A standing room only, but relaxed ride on the Toyoko Line during
morning commute. I ended up on the Toyoko Line due to a
(passenger action) on the Yamanote Line. Fortunately the Yamanote
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
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
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
whose days are probably numbered. (Recorded on December 1st,
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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"
video clips. All new stuff from November 2009, except the first
which is of snow in Nakano and Hibarigaoka in December 1991.
"Rain to Snow - Nakano & Hibarigaoka - Chuo & Seibu Lines -
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
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
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
different sounds from the newer type. Last week I saw on older
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
day. About as good of an autumn day as any I've seen. (This
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,
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
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
"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
15-car train/platform before, so I was curious how long it would
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
evening, when people are out shopping. This is one of the things
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,
"Former Black Market, Jungle
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
"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
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
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
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....
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
And... that's the story. The questions are:
1) Who is doing this?
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"
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
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
"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
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
"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Camera
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
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.
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
how it looked before the number of customers started falling.
- 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...
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
up on editing - it just means that I thought the raw stuff might make
for (barely) tolerable watching. With that... disclaimer? - on to
"Shibuya Shop Walk (Inside) -
Walking through the indoor shopping & restaurant strip that leads
from Dogenzaka down to Shibuya Station. No edited out bits - just
steady walk - ending up on the Yamanote Line platform for
"Ginza Sanpo-E - October 28th,
Strolling around in Ginza, visiting art galleries, etc. The
Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 (when this was taken), was perfect for
walking. Cool enough that a light jacket was appreciated, but not
yet and the trees mostly still have green leaves.
"Ginza Night - October 28th,
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
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
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
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
Walking around in Shibuya in the evening (first of three). The
chosen for this walk are different from the ones I recorded for the
"Shop Walk" video.
"Shibuya Jungle Walk-B - October
Continuing my Friday evening walkabout in Shibuya.
"Shibuya Jungle Walk-C - October
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
selling different types of food & drink. These are fun to go
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"
train video... stuff?, news?, comments?, ..... something. There
to be some misunderstanding by some people regarding why I would
request that an illegal copy of my train video be taken down.
off - I'm not hiding the video, it's freely available for anyone to
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
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
(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
train, and railway employees help them to get on the train. In
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
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
more trains since this video was taken. Still, the rails were
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
other lines have fifteen cars. Ten cars fill up the platforms on
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
case, ten large cars (carriages) is not exactly short for a commuter
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
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
the right, a view of the people on the bridge.
Why is the beginning of the video on its side? This scene was
for vertical composition, so I complied. The problem now is
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
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
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.
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
"Exploring Narrow Kichijoji
Pathways - Oct. 2009"
Walking around on some of the narrowest streets in Kichijoji.
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
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
"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
windows as it passes, etc.
"Accelerating Down Platform" -
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
are a couple of trains in the background as well. The trains
so much more enjoyable if the windows were all open when the weather is
not too cold....
"Too Many Frequencies..."
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...
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
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
common language among three people meeting, then it should be
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)" -
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
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
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
"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
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,
into Machida Station, and getting off the train while a woman from the
train (standing on the platform beside the door) bows to departing
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
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"
the reason for this post: There is to be a second, live,
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
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
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
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
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
along, and there have been many modifications to the building and most
of its rooms over time. The last resident tenant died earlier
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
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
Painter - Redux"
1-9-8 Okuno Bldg., B1 (right-side basement)
Fax - 03-3535-2007
"(Former) 1935 Ryogoku Hotel Visit in 1990, Etc."
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
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" -
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
almost becoming tourist attractions - sort of like theme parks.
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
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
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
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
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
(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"
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
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
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
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
Walking along the area in front of the station, there is a jumbled pile
of bicycles. People most likely parked them one after another
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.
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
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).
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
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
"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.
like this video compositionally, but it's distressing in that the
resolution is horribly low. Of all the days, it would have been
to have been using a proper video camera when I took these images.
"YouTube (Google) is Protecting Lyle from... Lyle! WTF?!"
a certain video I took in 1991 of happy Tokyo commuters leisurely
(hee-hee) boarding a morning rush-hour(s) express train. I posted
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.
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
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
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
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)"
it should be noted that "Shinjuku Southern Terrace" is not actually in
Shinjuku! It's in Shibuya, but it's right by Shinjuku Station,
it gets the Shinjuku name. While you're on the plaza, it's easy
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
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
you up a small hill between trees, which looks (at night) like in this
"Shinjuku Southern Terrace at Night - September 15th, 2009"
Near to where the above video was taken, there's a popular
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
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,
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"
limitations of what one person can do are very much in mind these
days. I have several - no... make that *mountains* of projects in
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
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,
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"
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.
else can you let loose with a full-force yell/scream? There have
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.
leaves the amusement park. Exhibit A, the Cyclone Roller Coaster
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
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
A September 1990 example, also from 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
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
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
of going myself after seeing these videos of fun I had in 1990....
"September - August Gone Already..."
sigh. Cooler temperatures are always welcome, but I never like
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
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
(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 -
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
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
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.
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
experienced during childhood summer vacation trips to the mountains, a
stream in a valley, or some other pleasant outdoor place. (I
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
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
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
Japan too, by the way!), I felt grateful for the constantly evolving
Tokyo train system. Mind you, I don't particularly enjoy myself
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.
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
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"
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
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
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
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
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
point forward, business began to fall off on this shopping street,
particularly once Hibarigaoka Parco opened. I think they still
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
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
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
Oh - and one other thing might be interesting for people interested in
Tokyo's train system. The video opens with a train running beside
train the video was taken from at almost the same speed. I
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
systems like this in other mega-cities, let me know. I know a
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"
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
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
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
there, I eventually arrive in Toride. Several views of the orange
morning skies from the train windows, some with the window open.
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
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
May of 2009. It gets to a point where you start to feel dizzy
to take in the ceaseless flow. Water flowing by is a smooth blur,
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
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
& Inbound Night Trains"
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,
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
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
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,
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
the train is almost completely empty. The trains zooming by in
other direction, by contrast, are mostly full.
Regarding the bus ride: After my comment about my last night bus
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
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
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
"drinking" comment as an insult then. It's interesting how you
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
[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
go to great lengths in the quest for interesting images! Some of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
the large number of women wearing long skirts. That and the
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
"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
"Gotanda to Nishimagome to Gotanda" - July
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
"Gotanda to Shinjuku (& Ikebukuro)" -
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.
"Chaos to Order to Chaos to...?"
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
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
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
that, I began to wonder "What are they doing? Daring people to
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
I'm seeing people blasting past everyone and just going straight for
the door. In some situations, this is almost
example, at Shinjuku Station in the morning, each and every 11-car
train (arriving & departing every two or three minutes) is
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.
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
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
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
development, but at least bank and restaurant lines are still
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"
for hierarchy's sake.... I went drinking with a few
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
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
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
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
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
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
At the moment, I'm thinking artists are 500,000 times more human than
"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
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!
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.
that the ticket gates consist of a live person sitting there to take
tickets. Also notice that the announcement in the train is made
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
for Kayabacho Station is a recording, but at least it's in the local
language.) It wraps up with me on another public phone.
cell phones then, but they were quite expensive, so most people didn't
"Diagonal Subway Views - June 1990
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
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..."
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
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
morning and would actually like to do something before lunch!
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
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
Sleep... need sleep... sleep... .......
"Shinjuku to Koenji on the Chuo
Line + SqClRe" - June 2009
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
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
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).
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").
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
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
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
Line (of "Actually Full Train" fame), the Chuo Line, etc. etc.
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
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
high (the highest I think) density *on average* for *the entire
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
only mean that the morning trains will be more highly packed.
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
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"
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
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
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.
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
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
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
- 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
Some facts about the video. Taken in February 1991 at around 7:50
a.m., at Hibarigaoka Station on the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line. The
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)
the very front of the platform? The front of the Seibu-Ikebukuro
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
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
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"
"fashion" and "art" would be better key words), some shopping streets
used the name - thus "Warabi-Ginza", "Togoshi-Ginza", etc. This
was taken around 5:00 p.m., still a little early - it gets more crowded
around 6:00 p.m.
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,
"Tokyo"), with Tokyu Department stores (plural), Tokyu Inn (hotel),
Tokyu trains, Tokyu buses, Tokyu Taxis, etc. So there's no
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
sure), is that part of the food section is beneath (part of ) the
Hachiko Plaza. I guess I've visualized building basements as
within the walls of the building above, but when you've got underground
shopping malls and underground trains, it's easy enough to connect
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
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
runs below ground level everywhere but in Shibuya.)
"Roaring Office Voices &
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
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
that most offices here have no partitions, so everyone can see everyone
Why this respect for hand-drawn visual images, and yet complete lack of
respect for quality text? I suppose that since the sales and
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
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
train coming into Shibuya Station. It looks like a subway, but
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
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
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"
prompts this title? 1) Think "Subtle Japan" - if you've read a
books on Japan, you've probably run into that concept somewhere.
Think Canadian/Hokkaido winter temperatures in the summer - via
overusing air-conditioners in the late 1980's. 3) Think
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
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
grown up disliking overuse of air-conditioning; and recently, instead
of the offices always being cool, now they tend to always be hot.
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
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
happening myself, I've been using thermometers (more than one, so I
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!
fairly radical group reactions to something that should be dealt with
Rant... um... over for now.
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
(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
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
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
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
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
abnormal and anti-social behavior, being late due to traffic would not
be considered a legitimate excuse. Someone committing suicide on
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,
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,
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
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
of what time you plan to carry it home on the trains. If you have
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
train, having things with you can be tricky. You have to hold
over your head and then toss them onto a rack in the train. That
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
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
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
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"
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
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
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
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
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
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
The answer is depressingly simple. Tokyo has had almost
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
into them and they positively radiate with the history of their
existence. You can't get that with recreations and theme parks,
matter how well they are designed.
That was Friday night. On Saturday morning, I was a little worse
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"
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
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"
refers to upscale department stores, so locally, the Seiyu didn't
qualify as a "department" store. I've had arguments about this in
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
the time) used to be a grocery store. Soon after this video was
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
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
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
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.
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
00:41 - The live announcement - made by the conductor. They now
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
(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.
- 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
but so what? They can get a train going back the other direction
have an interesting tale to tell of getting lost on the train system
when they get back to their home country. Most importantly,
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
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
I revisited this area a few years ago, most of the billboards were
01:19 - The noise of going over merging rails. The old trains
have any kind of insulation at all, I don't think. The new ones
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
01:30 - More billboards. These were looking very forlorn a few
ago when I saw them with no advertisements on them. And then the
inside. This was taken in the late afternoon, heading into
Tokyo. It should go without saying, but obviously (most) lines
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
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
01:32 - A new apartment building. This is a fairly common design,
although new apartment buildings being put up in 2009 are usually
01:40 - Looking over new elevated track construction from the one small
bit of elevated track at the time. The Seibu-Ikebukuro Line was
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
ran on the ground. This part is elevated now and it cuts the
from the area it passes through. (That is by no means a call to
them on the ground though. Putting them overhead separates them
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
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
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
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
been almost completely replaced with newer four-door (per side) train
cars (carriages). It should be noted that one cause of the
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
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
trains of course being that more people can sit down per train car.)
03:34 - Manual ticket gate. One advantage to a manual ticket
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,
an error and have to walk over to an Add-Fare machine.
in contrast to what some illegally posted copies of my "Actually Full
Train in 1991" video say, this man is *not* a police officer!
uniform of the Seibu Railway employees at the time. (I think
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
one of its suburbs. Things are a bit busier around the Yamanote
hub stations - like Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Ueno, Shibuya, Shinagawa,
Phew! It's always a bit surprising/irritating to realize how long
takes to explain what's in a video! Especially when it concerns
lasting all of two or three seconds. Look at all that text
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
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
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
as not only the sights of Tokyo have changed, but so have the
Okay. Mini-rant over.
"Botchan - How Many Translations
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
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
(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):
Note by the Translator
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.
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,
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
- 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:
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"
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
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"
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
time in motion was a feeling of freedom of motion, but stoplight time
enabled contemplation of the immediate surroundings. I spent a
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
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
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
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
but it's definitely unique if you live here. As for the term
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
vast size of Tokyo (and its connected/neighboring suburbs/regions)
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
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
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.
still, just use Japanese, and then the English connection is easier to
One such place is depicted in my latest video upload to YouTube, here:
"A More Artistic Japan? - Meeting
Artists on the Fringe of Ginza"
hesitate to write this, as it's not based on proper research, but
rather just my own observation and surmising. Nevertheless,
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
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
of homework was reduced, and the grading system was simplified in order
to place less emphasis on completing for top grades. (Ironically,
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
college students are studying science, and how science and math test
scores are down compared with other countries, etc. In fact,
are so worried, that they've begun reversing the changes made in the
late eighties and early nineties. More homework, talk of
the old educational system, etc.
The upside to all this? There seem to be many more people
in art - certainly in creating it, and hopefully also in appreciating
Hmm.... Just when I reach the part where I thought I'd take off
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
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
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
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,
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:
Ginza 1-9-8 (Okuno Bldg.)
Gallery Ginza Itchome
Illustrator - Nishibata Nobuhiro
APS - A Piece of Space
Ginza 1-9-8 511 & 502
Gallery L Mer
exhibit Live & Moris Gallery
leather & brass artist
Gallery Platform Studio
"(Former) Marunouchi Building -
the Marunouchi Building is complicated, because there are basically
four of them! First was the original Marunouchi Building,
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
"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
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
(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
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
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.
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
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
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
becoming boring though. Without even bothering to leave the city,
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
be contacted via my YouTube page:
"Tokyo Station - March 1991 #2"
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
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:
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
generated by recent digital video cameras, but - interestingly - the
sound quality is better. The cameras I used recorded digital
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
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
the original footage - I have a few hundred hours of tape from
"Running With the Herd"
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
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
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
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
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...
got on the train, sat down, and within seconds realized that the
atmosphere was different. I looked around and saw that in place
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
sidelines, you want to belong to one group or another. Standing
the group, you want freedom from the group.
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
- just in case it's not obvious. It's been my unfortunate
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
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
pain - in fact, I'm feeling the same way - maybe even worse I
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
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
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 -
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
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
seeing it, they have been, and are. The total number of Internet
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
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
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.
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).
a look for yourself. And just in case my preamble didn't get the
across, I'm being sarcastic about saying it's a great contract.
horrible contract! I do not agree to such outlandish terms!
uses the factually incorrect and insulting title of one of the stolen
copies of the video!)
LICENSOR: Lyle H. Saxon, address
& telephone #
LICENSEE: [US company]
LICENSED MATERIAL: All Aboard The
Train Fail – Japanese commuters get pushed into train.
PERMITTED USAGE OF LICENSED
Within the television series
entitled [xyz program]
NUMBER OF EXHIBITIONS: Unlimited
FEE: $350 (based on 100% ownership)
MEDIA: All media now known
or hereafter devised
For good and valuable
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
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
edit the Licensed Material including but not limited to dubbing over or
eliminating the soundtrack.
2. Licensor represents and
that (i) Licensor has full right, power and authority to enter
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,
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
responsibility for the defense of any such claim. Licensor shall
Licensee informed of, and consult with, Licensee in connection with the
progress of any litigation or settlement of any such claim.
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
is not used, Licensee has no obligation to compensate Licensor under
5. Licensee acknowledges that its
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
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
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
[Name of Licensor Here]
Its authorized representative Its authorized
"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:
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 -
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:
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
"Japan, America, and the Orient"
By Hon. Eki Hioki
Charge D'Affaires of Japan,
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
full article, see the September 1906 issue of National Geographic:
Now that the Japanese-Russian war
ended, the world seems to be vigilantly watching the next act which
will be produced on the stage of Oriental politics. Speculations
various kinds are advanced by all sorts of people. Some
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
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
Japan adopt the Monroe Doctrine for Asia? Will she control
Will she not beat the Americans in industrial and commercial
competition? Will she not monopolize the markets of China and
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.
dollar of it, interest and principal, must be paid. Japan will
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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:
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
review is here:
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
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
"Looking Back (via National
Geographic Articles on Japan) - #1"
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.
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
(of the set of disks that I have anyway), from June 1997, needed the
summary, but mostly the titles worked. For example:
Just like it says - the article is about sumo. In contrast with
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
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
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
being moved to other locations - some to Guam, some to other bases in
Storm Watch Over the Kurils
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
more in the eighties and nineties.
The Great Tokyo Fish Market: Tsukiji
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
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,
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
question floating around in the back of my mind when I eat fish in
Tokyo after the market moves there.
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,
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
2009 and see what I think of it now.
Up From Ground Zero: Hiroshima
I visited Hiroshi myself in 2007, and my comments and pictures are here:
Kobe Wakes to a Nightmare
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
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
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
saying "Their lies have been exposed". The way the numbers lined
(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,
begun to notice a change in atmosphere on the trains and at work.
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
Some example sentences in a few different articles I read just today:
exports plunged more
than 45% in January compared to a year ago to hit the lowest figure
ever recorded, official figures showed.
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
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
over Japan economy deepens
analysts are worried that
the Japanese economic recovery could be completely derailed and that a
mild recession could be on its way.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
gloomy news reports (and people are beginning to lose their jobs), the
collective dark radio waves are something palpable in the air. I
to be positive and forward-looking, but the increasingly stormy seas
seem to be leading into a full-scale raging typhoon. Hopefully
but the downward spiral is still headed down. How to turn it
"Tokyu Line Express from Shibuya
to Hiyoshi - 1991"
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.
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
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
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
"Last of a Long Day at the 1991
Tokyo Motor Show"
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Better yet, video! Actual video of ancient peoples - would they
more familiar than expected, or more alien? Of course, to really
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
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,
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"
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,
due to excessive demands being maid on the servers. I read
that something like fifteen hours worth of video is uploaded every ten
minutes, or something like that. It's amazing the system works at
with that much material constantly pouring into it! Still, I
the slow results are from my provider's servers, or the servers on the
"February 5th, 2009 - Grueling
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
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
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
"Here and There - Unfocused Themes (December 2008)"
clock has not been cooperating over the past week! I try to get
done and the clock speeds ahead before I can complete things.
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,
posted a second time to YouTube due to there being something wrong with
the original file. It would play on some computers, but not
It seems not to work with the newest (version-10?) Flash player.
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
"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"
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
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
for professional and other purposes will find the present book an
unfailingly informative companion as they tour the country. Those
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
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
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
And something else that has recently come to mind. I sailed to
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
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
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
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
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
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,
"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
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
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
some pictures? It just seems wrong not to. And so, once
photographer realizes that friends and good photos generally do not mix
- not at the same time in any case!