Saturday, March 28, 2009

"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 on the same level as the other lines. (When they needed to add a new Shinkansen platform, they had to shift the regular lines over, so the current Chuo Line platform is to the side - and up - of the Chuo Line platform in this video:

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


Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, March 23, 2009

Color Photo from 1934 Japan #1

I just stumbled upon this very sharp looking photo from 1934 Japan. Here is a link to it and a blurb from that page:

Tokyo 1934 • Modern Obi

This photo, taken in Tokyo in May 1934, shows two girls wearing a kimono, and two more girls wearing western style clothes, one of them a middy suit and a hat. The girl with her back towards the photographer is wearing an obi (the beautifully decorated sash used to tie the kimono) which must have been quite modern at the time.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Here & There in Tokyo - February 2009"

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

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

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, March 09, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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


(5) Industrial and Commercial Development of Japan

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


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


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

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

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Thursday, March 05, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

The full review is here:

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

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Sunday, March 01, 2009

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

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

July 1997

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

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

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

Storm Watch Over the Kurils
Oct. 1996

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

The Great Tokyo Fish Market: Tsukiji
Nov. 1995

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

Oct. 1995

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

Up From Ground Zero: Hiroshima
Aug. 1995

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

Kobe Wakes to a Nightmare
July 1995

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

Well, enough of this for now!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon