Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Lack & Overabundance of Lighting"

One of my earlier impressions in Japan was an amazement of how brightly lit interiors are at night. The streets outside are brightly lit as well, but many interiors are overlit to the point of being uncomfortable unless you put sunglasses on! There are many theories as to why this is so, but the most common one is that the country is still living down its bad memories of the bad old dark days. This might indeed be the case, as more subtle lighting seems to be appearing along with younger people who have no memories of anything except bright lights and abundance. Back in the late forties it was a different world:

Job recalls,
Late pictures from Tokyo and surrounding districts tell me that tonight every shop, street, and path will be illuminated. I mean really well lighted. Perhaps modern Japan requires inescapable bright lights, but in 1948,49, 50, and 51 there were no lights on residential streets and very few on main streets, even Ginza was dim, mysterious, and considerably romantic. In surrounding communities, shops would close when daylight turned to twilight and most noise would cease. From train stations, people hurried on foot along dark unpaved lanes to homes, dinner, and maybe a visit to the local communal bath house identified only by a dim paper lantern, as were restaurants and hotels.
Television and automobiles had not yet arrived to violate quiet nights and torment neighbors, but maybe one might hear a recording of a girl's voice singing sadly of a lost or absent lover, (so it seemed to me) and one might be lucky enough to hear a samisen and traditional song.
Street crime was unheard of and one felt perfectly safe on nights when moon and stars chose to be elsewhere. As one walked through the friendly dark, anyone met along the way meant only an exchange of, "Konban-wa!"
It was a time of quiet nights unaltered by lights, with faint music that any young American soldier might find to be romantic . . .

Lighting... how I envy the people who were able to walk the streets and illuminate the inside of houses before the advent of florescent lighting! I know it's efficient for the same amount of illumination, but I would rather burn the same power and use a dim bulb than blast myself with the horrible light that florescent tubes provide. I don't know what it is exactly, but something about those tubes is very unpleasant for me. So the idea of a world without them sounds like paradise! Street lights are all kinds of odd things these days, the most irritating things being that some are so bright, they hurt the eyes and ruin the atmosphere of the night.

Night? What is it anyway? There is no night in Tokyo now - ever! Everywhere at all times is brightly lit! I have to think back decades to even remember what night is really (I've never experienced it in Tokyo). Ah... and with the memory is the associated fear of the unknown dark - thus the overlighting! Some happy medium would be nice!

Shamisen (it's in my dictionary as "samisen", but in Japanese, the first sound is "sha" and not "sa")... I had a traditional dinner once, where at the end of the meal, the paper (in wood frame) doors behind us slid open and a woman in kimono played the shamisen and sang a song. It was a beautiful experience that I would live to have often, but so far just that one time.

Safe streets - it's still mainly safe to walk the streets here at any time of day or night. Crime is not nonexistent, but is lower than in most major cities in the world. (I think... I haven't read up on this in detail lately.)


Job's book, "At Mama-san House" can be found on AMAZON.COM

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