Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Nakano, Harajuku, Kodaira, Shinbashi & Koenji"

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

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

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

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

"Harajuku Back Street Fashion Shops - November 2009"

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

"Harajuku Takeshita-dori - November 2009"

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

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

Mostly empty Harajuku back streets. Depending on the human density of the city you live in, this might look busy, but for Tokyo, it looks downright desolate. Relaxing to walk along the street when it's like this, but looking in the mostly empty shops, you can't help but think that the economy really isn't doing very well (which it isn't), and worry about the future. Maybe it's best to not think anything, and just enjoy the space? Naw... you have to think. (Recorded on November 18th, 2009)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Koenji Jungle Walk - November 2009"

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

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

"Koenji Side Streets - November 2009"

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

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Former Black Market, Jungle Walking, etc."

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

"1990 Ueno Street Market (Former Black Market)"

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

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

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

"Boarding Chuo Line in Shinjuku - November 2009"

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

"Shinjuku Higashi-guchi Jungle Walk - November 2009"

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

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

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

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

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

"Umbrella River - Shinjuku (November 2009)"

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

"Express & Local Trains at Hatanodai Station"

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

"Harajuku Fashion Hunt (A) - November 2009"

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

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

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

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Thursday, November 12, 2009

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

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

Why the Chuo Line?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Track Walking?"

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

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

1) Who is doing this?

2) Why?

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

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Mazda A)"

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

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Subaru A)"

Views of the Subaru exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Mazda B)"

More views of the Mazda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Honda A)"

Views of the Honda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Honda B)"

View of the motorcycle stage presentation at the Honda exhibition.

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Honda C)"

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

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Camera Madness)"

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

"Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (Suzuki A)"

Views of the Suzuki car exhibition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ueno Ameyokocho - September 1990A"

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

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Sunday, November 01, 2009

"Walk-About Videos"

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

"Shibuya Shop Walk (Inside) - October 2009"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Shinjuku Bound Yamanote Line Train at Shibuya"

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

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

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

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

Continuing my Friday evening walkabout in Shibuya.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon