Friday, August 31, 2012

"1990 Takadanobaba, Waseda, etc; 1991 Mini-Steam Train, etc; 2012 Yoyogi, Harajuku, etc."

Several trips back to 1990 (Ichigaya, Waseda, Ikebukuro, Takadanobaba, Hibarigaoka Bonodori, etc.) a few back to 1991 (drives to places in the country, a ride on a mini-steam locomotive, etc.), and views from this month - August 2012.  I've written at some length under some of the videos regarding a few things, so scroll down for more text.  Mostly the titles sum up the theme of each video though.

Shibuya Shadows (120828g)

People casting long shadows as they come and go from Shibuya Station.

Harajuku to Shibuya (Yamanote Line) 120828g

Exiting Ebisu Station 120824

Shinjuku Platform Scene (Friday Night) 120825

In this video, just as the Yamanote Line is about to depart from Shinjuku Station, the emergency buzzer goes off.  I don't know what the cause was - someone may have dropped a bag onto the tracks, or maybe it was a prank.  After three people died on Friday, January 26th, 2001 [article] at Shin-Okubo Station, JR installed emergency stop buttons at all the stations (I think *all* - it certainly seems that way) so anyone can stop the trains from the platform now.  For emergencies, this is great, but the problem is that people often press the platform emergency stop buttons for frivolous reasons.  I don't know exactly what happened on this evening, but they got the trains moving quickly enough that I suspect there wasn't an actual emergency.

Platform walls (with a pair of electric doors for each place there's a door on the train) are another thing they're installing for safety reasons, but while making the platforms safer is of course a great thing, I also see that they're not repainting bridges.  If they let the bridges rot to the point where they have to shut down train lines because they spent maintenance money on the very expensive doors, you have to wonder if people are looking properly at the total picture.  If it's doable, it should be done, but if they're sabotaging the long-term viability of the rail system through unbalanced spending....

I don't know.  But think of the energy cost for one thing.  On the trains, the doors are opened and closed pneumatically, so you don't need electricity beyond the power used for the air compressors.  Now imagine the situation for one ten-car train.  (Many trains are 15 cars, but let's use 10 for the sake of simplicity.)  Each train car has four doors per side, so that's 40 doors x2 (while there are a few trains that use a single large door, the vast majority use two halves that slide together and close in the middle).  So you have 80 doors per side.  For platform walls with matching doors, this is matched by 80 electric motor powered doors per track (generally on both sides of a platform).  For a simple station, with one train line stopping on both sides of the platform, you then need 160 electric motor powered doors.  Many stations have multiple platforms, so for a four-platform station (eight tracks), you would need 640 electric motor powered doors.  One article I read indicated that there is a push to install platform walls at approximately 2,800 stations.  Again, many have more than one platform, but even if there were only one platform (with two tracks) per station, that would be 448,000 electric motor powered doors.

Aside from the huge power requirements for that many motors, there's the cost of installing them and maintaining them.  There are some branch lines that are barely holding on already, since rural Japan has become very much a car culture.  Being forced to shoulder this much expense would probably lead to several lines just being shut down.  I like safety, but I also like rail transport.  If you shut down much of the rail system in the quest for "zero railway deaths" (of course shutting down a railway is one way to eliminate any deaths that could happen in a rare accident!), and people then take to the road because there are no trains in their area, there will be many more deaths due to traffic accidents.  So here's a question - is exchanging a rare railway death now and then for scores of people killed in the carnage that is the internal combustion engine free-for-all of the open road really a good idea?  Kill 2,000 people to save 15?  Why don't people look at the whole picture?

Shinjuku Yamanote Line Arrival 120825

Yurakucho Plaza Escalator 120824

Yurakucho to Shinbashi (Yamanote Line) 120824

Evening Shinagawa to Ebisu (Yamanote Line) 120824

Yurakucho Afternoon Shadows 120824

Yurakucho Evening Trains 120824

Twilight Shinbashi to Shinagawa (Yamanote Line) 120824g

1990 Ichigaya to Waseda Walk (900824) 市ヶ谷から早稲田まで散歩

This is a fairly long walk I took across one of those parts of central Tokyo that you usually don't think about and seldom see.  Starting with two points on a map and simply aiming towards one from the other, I found myself in a residential neighborhood that you might expect to be on the edge of the city somewhere, but it's right in central Tokyo, within the Yamanote loop line.  I took this back in 1990, back when I was wandering around discovering the different areas of Tokyo, but I don't think I would go there now.  There's nothing amazing about the content, but it is a view of a part of central Tokyo you may well not have imagined.

1990 Ikebukuro Station (900824) 池袋駅

1990 Nighttime Hibarigaoka Station (900824) 夜のひばりヶ丘駅

1990 Takadanobaba JR Station (900824) 高田馬場JR駅

1990 Takadanobaba Tozai (900824) 高田馬場駅東西線

1990 Tozai Evening Rush (Waseda to Takadanobaba) 900824 東西線夕方ラッシュ

It's hard to pin down exactly what has changed, but when I watch this clip, I remember the feeling of the trains back then and the urgency of the daily commute.  Superficially, nothing much (except hair styles and clothes) has changed, and yet the old intensity seems dulled now.  The stress of commuting during peak hours is just the same, but there seems to be a less intense focus on getting to somewhere in the fastest possible time, and so it ends up feeling a little different.  Another component of this is that the train that roars into the station in this clip is manually controlled, whereas nearly all trains are at least partially computer controlled now.  With the manually controlled trains, you get a feeling of human beings at work, with a very real connection between the operator and the machine, but with the computer controlled trains, it feels something like an elevator.  Someone pushes a button, but other than that, the machine runs itself.

1990 Hibarigaoka Bonodori (900824) ひばりが丘盆踊り

View from Mt Takao (120827)

Mt Takao Cable Car (Ascending) 120827

Mt Takao - View From Top (120728)

In the beginning of this clip I'm just looking at the foreground, but towards the middle I focus on the sky and background - which is much more interesting than the first part of the clip.

Dancing to Live Music in Nakano (120828)

Musical Fun in Nakano (120828g)

Small Park in Ebisu 120828

I began this clip in a small park in Ebisu by looking through a fence at the street the park is next to - and then panning to the right to take in a view of the park itself.

Shibuya Nighttime Stroll (A) 120828

Shibuya Nighttime Stroll (B) Streets to Station 120828

Shinjuku to Nakano (Night Window View) 120828

Waiting for a Train in Nakano 120828

Chuo Line Midnight Interior 120829

Kokubunji Platform Look-around 120828

Chuo Line Departing Shinjuku 120828

Shinjuku Platform-5 Look-around (120828)

Temporary Passageways in Shinjuku Station 120828

This area near the Southern Terrace has been under construction for years now.  Eventually it will look radically different from the temporary white walled temporary corridors that are there now.

Entering Shinjuku Station via Southern Terrace Entrance 120828

Walk to Platform (Shinjuku Yamanote Line) 120828

Shinjuku Platform Walk (Yamanote Line) 120828

Shinjuku to Yoyogi (Yamanote Line) 120828

Shibuya to Ebisu (Ebisu Platform Walk) 120828

Shibuya Vertical Shadows 120828

A time of year and a time of day when people were casting very long shadows as they walked to and from Shibuya Station in the evening one hot summer day.

Shibuya Stroll (C) Crossing and Station 120828

Shibuya Stroll (B) 120828

Shibuya Stroll (A) Crossing Etc 120828

Platform to Ticket Gates (Shibuya) 120828

Entering Takeshita-Dori (Harajuku) 120828

Takeshita-Dori Stroll (Harajuku) 120828

It's been a while since I've walked down Takeshita-dori in Harajuku.  It seemed about the same as I remember, although back when I first went down the street in the eighties, it wasn't a specific tourist destination.  Now the street has always got a lot of tourists there to see the street itself rather than to go to its shops.  Over the years, I've noticed more and more of this.  The Ameyokocho area in Ueno at New Years is pretty close to full-out insane!  A couple of years back (or was it three?) I went there and it seemed like easily 90% of the people there were there just to experience the event of being on the crowded street.

I suppose YouTube and the Internet have a lot to do with this kind of progression.  In the old days, you would get information about tourist things to check out in a city by reading guide books, magazines, and whatnot, or having a friend show you around.  A friend would know some non-touristy things/places to show you and a back streets place could maintain its status as an area for locals, visited only rarely by foreign tourists.  Now everyone is falling over themselves to find (and publish stories about) interesting places "off the beaten track" and - lo-and-behold - once they post text, photos, and videos on-line, the places become the beaten track in a remarkably short time.

Of course, Takeshita-dori was never an unknown off-the-beaten-track place, but it didn't used to be a "must see!" tourist destination.  As for changes, I saw a fairly large section that's been torn down and appears to be in the foundation stages of some new construction.  Probably another steel and glass box with a sealed air system.  (I wonder how long it will be before people rediscover how to properly ventilate buildings?)

Harajuku Stroll 120828

Harajuku Summer Light and Shadows 120828

Noisy Crow in Harajuku 120828

That Tokyo crows are noisy is just a given, but what was strange about this one, is how it was down low at people-level, with people all around.  I cautiously walked up to it and recorded this video.  It seemed to be about as nervous of me as I was of it, and after continuing to to make its racket for me and my camera while eying me suspiciously from time-to-time, it flew off a few feet - I followed - and it flew off a few more feet, at which point I decided to leave it alone.  I'm still pondering what it was doing down so low like that.  Hoping someone would give it food?  At least one young woman was frightened by it and ran off.

Crows are famous for being clever birds, and they have tended to appear clever to me from a distance, so I was mildly surprised to notice how the bird looked primitive and not very cleaver when observed at close range.  Maybe it was just a stupid (or crazy?) crow, and others look different?  Still, the "primitive beast" appearance of it was grotesquely fascinating to observe at close range.

Harajuku August Sidewalk Near Station 120828

[From] Harajuku Ticket Gates to Platform 120828

Ebisu Mall Stroll and Escalator 120828

1991: Driving Through Medium-Sized Town (910818)

1991 Mini-Steam Train Ride ミニSLを乗る1991年 - (910818)

This miniature steam powered train was surprisingly fun to ride!  I'm not sure what the exact reason for it is, but there's something fun and fascinating about steam engines - maybe it's the basic simplicity of the technology.  You can imagine the whole process pretty well, unlike with a computer-controlled electrically powered machine.  Or maybe there's something about the basic elements of water, fire, and steam.  In any case, it was a lot of fun and the steam whistle sure sounded good!

1991 Mountain Lakeside Rest Area (910812)

1991 Mountain Town [Narai 奈良井] (910812)  [Part Two]

This is actually a continuation (on a different tape) of a video I posted in June of a festival I stumbled upon while driving around in the countryside in 1991 in a 1991 Honda Beat.  Here is the first part of the video (with the same explanatory text I posted before):

1991 Kisokaido Narai-juku Natsu-Matsuri (910812)  [Part One]

A look at Narai 奈良井 (or Naraijuku 奈良井宿) on August 12th, 1991.  Narai is a traditional town on the old Kisokaido 木曽街道 (or Nakasendo 中山道) road.  This is the 34th (or 35th, there seems to be some dispute about this) stage of the 69 Stages of the Nakasendo series of woodblock prints (中山道六十九次).

1991 Train Ride in Saitama Countryside (910818)

Yoyogi Station Walkabout (JR) 120828

Yoyogi Station Walk-through (JR) 120828

Yoyogi Afternoon Stroll 120828

Yoyogi Railway Bridge and RR Crossing 120828

Yoyogi to Harajuku 120828

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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