Thursday, September 06, 2012

"Shin-Okubo, Takadanobaba, Mejiro, Ikebukuro, Otsuka, Yurakucho, Shinjuku, Etc."

I've been venturing off my usual beaten paths and visiting a few places I haven't been to in awhile.  The biggest surprises have been how radically some train stations have been changed/rebuilt.  Someone recently told me that the JR railway company makes most of its money from renting out retail space - not from running its trains (which I didn't believe at first, but I do now!), so it stands to reason that former utilitarian train stations (with a shop or two in a few of them) have been converted into retail shopping malls that also have ("What's that noise?") trains running through them ("Oh yeah!  This is actually a train station!").

Shin-Okubo hasn't changed much - and it was reassuring in a way to see it the way I remember it from the early eighties.  The first shock was Otsuka.  I came down the stairs and thought I had gotten off at the wrong station!  Since then (at places not in this batch of video clips) I've had similar feelings of shock/disorientation at a few other stations.  But that's the charm/hazard of living in Tokyo.  If you stay away from any area for awhile that you used to know well, chances are that when you go back, it will have changed.  You get used to gradual change, but the shock comes when the change has come about by eradicating 100% of what was there before and building something entirely different in its place.  (If you don't live in Tokyo, you probably think that's an exaggeration - long-term Tokyo residents know better!)  You would think it couldn't be 100% changed and maybe it isn't actually (there must be *something* left from before?!), but I've been to areas and looked around and not discovered anything at all of what was there before.  With some redevelopment, they bulldoze over an area and build the entire area anew, so I think 100% is probably accurate.

Anyway - in addition to typical scenes of Shinjuku, Ginza, Kyobashi, Yurakucho, etc., there are views of Shin-Okubo, Takadanobaba, Mejiro, Ikebukuro, and Otsuka.

Shin-Okubo Main Street Stroll (120831g)

This area is home to the most well-know "Koreatown" (or "Little Korea") in Tokyo.  According to a Wikipedia page regarding Koreatowns in the world:

"Unlike other Japanese Koreatowns, the Korean-oriented commercial district around Shin-Okubo Station in Shinjuku Ward developed after World War II, and is dominated by "new-comers" - recent immigrants from South Korea who have retained their ethnic and cultural identity, as can be seen from the ubiquitous signs written in Hangul. Other immigrants from China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and various other nationalities makes this one of the most colorful and multicultural areas in Tokyo."

What I remember about Shin-Okubo is the multicultural (from various countries in Southeast Asia) aspect to it, but when I went there last week, it seemed like it was overwhelmingly Korean.  I didn't really think of it as "Koreatown" before, but after walking around on both sides of the main street there on August 31st, I do now!

Takadanobaba Sanpo (120831g)

Takadanobaba hasn't changed much - come to think of it.  Naturally, the tenants and (especially restaurants) in buildings have changed a bit, but there hasn't been much construction there and it feels pretty much as I remember it from the past few decades.

Ikebukuro Sanpo (D) Summer Late Afternoon Crowds (120831g)

Maybe I just didn't appreciate it because I passed though it nearly every day, but Ikebukuro seems like it's become a more popular place with the young crowd than I remember.  But... I suspect that memory is wrong.  When I was in my twenties and walking around with other people in their twenties, I didn't think about it - it was just... Ikebukuro.  Now that I'm three decades past my twenties, the crowds of young people really stand out to me?  I'm not sure.  In any case, my perception of Ikebukuro is that it's become a more hip place, but it was probably just as hip - for its time - in the early eighties as now?

Zebra CW (A) 120831g

The zebra crosswalks have always seemed visually interesting to me (CW = Cross Walk).

Evening Ikebukuro East Side (120831g)

The east side of Ikebukuro Station has movie theaters (or had - I noticed a large empty lot where a couple of movie theaters were before), restaurants, shopping, the Sunshine City complex, etc.  The west side has Nakayama, clubs, and whatnot.  The east side is where you see all the students and couples.

Ikebukuro Station (Evening Entrance) 120831g

Minami-Otsuka Sanpo (A) 120831g

Flute and Dance Practice for Festival (Minami-Otsuka 南大塚) 120831g

There was a large festival scheduled for the next day, so this group - in normal clothing - appeared to be practicing the day before.  The following day (September 1st) there were a lot of short, but heavy rainstorms.  Actually, that's a topic all its own - the rain would suddenly pour down really hard, then there would be no rain, it would pour down hard again, etc.  Naturally I've seen on-again and off-again rain before, but never such heavy rain on and off so suddenly and for such a prolonged period.  Every time it rained, I wondered if this group would get to perform on the festival day or not.  Hopefully they were able to do so between the many sudden downpours.

About the strange way it rained - in talking with various people about that later, everyone told me that they also thought it was very strange and that they didn't remember it ever raining quite like that before....

Tokyo Twilight (120831g)

Looking out over a part of mega-city Tokyo.  The city is so huge, there's no one defining image for the cityscape.  This is just one of an almost infinite variety of views/compositions.

Shinjuku to Shin-Okubo (Yamanote Line) 120831

Shin-Okubo Sanpo (A) 120831

Shin-Okubo Sanpo (B) 120831

Waiting at Intersection (Near Shin-Okubo) 120831

Shin-Okubo Sanpo (C) 120831

Shin-Okubo Sanpo (D) 120831

Entering Shin-Okubo Station (120831)

This is as it was before, although I don't remember quite so many people standing about in front of the station.  That's either just a timing issue (a large number of people just happened to be waiting to meet someone there) or it's become a popular place to meet.  Different places in Tokyo tend to end up as kind of official meeting spots: Hachiko in Shinjuku, Studio Alta in Shinjuku, etc.

Shin-Okubo to Takadanobaba (120831)

Entering Takadanobaba Station (120831)

Takadanobaba to Mejiro (Yamanote Line) 120831

Mejiro Station Interior (120831)

Mejiro Station has also changed pretty radically, but it's never been a station I went to often, so I had before, and still have, neutral feelings about it.  Never having gotten used to it, it's not in the least disturbing that it has changed.

In walking around there for bit (on the west side of the station only), I was struck with how high-price the suburbs off of the main street appear to be (see following several clips - most of which are on the main street, but at least one shows a little of an expensive area).

Mejiro Sanpo (A) 120831

Mejiro Sanpo (B) 120831

Mejiro Sanpo (C) 120831

Mejiro Suburb (120831)

Mejiro Sanpo (D) 120831

Mejiro Afternoon Platform Walk (120831)

Narita Express Train Passing Mejiro (120831)

Mejiro to Ikebukuro (Yamanote Line) 120831

Afternoon Ikebukuro Station (120831)

Shinjuku Station now has the largest number of people passing through it every day, but apparently that distinction used to belong to Ikebukuro (probably before they extended the Akabane Line [renamed the Saikyo Line when they did] to Shinjuku, and then on to Ebisu), but Ikebukuro still has a very large number of people using it every day.

Ikebukuro West-Side Stroll (120831)

Not extensive at all, but this shows a little of the izakaya area on the west side of Ikebukuro.

Ikebukuro Pedestrian Tunnel (Afternoon) - 120831

Ikebukuro Sanpo (A) 120831

Ikebukuro Sanpo (B) Long Shadow Side Streets (120831)

Ikebukuro Sanpo (C) Late Afternoon Crowds (120831)

Ikebukuro - Man Stocking a Toy Machine (120831)

Ikebukuro Sanpo (E) Verbal Advertising (120831)

Zebra CW (B) 120831

Ikebukuro Sanpo (F) Evening Side Streets (120831)

Ikebukuro Underground Shopping Mall (A) 120831

Evening Ikebukuro Station (120831)

Ikebukuro Tunnel to East Side (Evening) 120831

Ikebukuro to Otsuka (Twilight Yamanote Line) 120831

Otsuka Station (Summer 2012 - Twilight) 120831

Kita-Otsuka Sanpo (A) 120831

Kita-Otsuka Sanpo (B) Lonely Streets (120831)

Kita-Otsuka Sanpo (C) Shops at Night (120831)

Otsuka Platform Walk, Etc. (120831)

Yurakucho Platform (Nighttime-360) 120831

Yurakucho-SB Sanpo (120831)

Yurakucho New Underground Stand-Bar (120831)

"Stand bars" (also translated as "standing bars") seem to be coming back into favor big time.  The prolonged bad economy means people are cutting back on expenses, and one way to profitably run an izakaya with lower prices is to have everyone stand (more people fit into a small space and tend to linger less since they're standing the whole time).

Maybe "coming back into favor big time" is an overstatement, but I'm seeing more and more of them as the months roll past....

Yurakucho Outside Izakaya Stroll (120831)

It's only when the weather is warm that there are so many tables out in the open like this.  Spring is the best time - when visiting one of these izakayas is a kind of celebration of the warming weather.

Yurakucho Night Sanpo (120831)

Entering Yurakucho Station (10:30 p.m.) 120831

Yurakucho Station - Waiting for a Train at Night (120831)

Yurakucho to Tokyo (120831)

Yurakucho Platform Walk (Before Night Rush) 120831g

Yurakucho Izakaya Stroll - Summer 2012 (120831g)

Yurakucho-SB Bound (120831g)

Night View (Otsuka to Ueno - Yamanote Line) 120831g 山手線 夜ビュー

Night View (Ueno to Yurakucho - Yamanote Line) 120831g 山手線 夜ビュー

Surface train travel in Tokyo is almost never boring - since you get constantly changing scenery, and and since Tokyo is constantly being rebuilt, you look out and kind of idly watch for new things you haven't seen before (either because you didn't notice them, or because they weren't there).

Departing Yurakucho Station (120829)

Seibu Line Train Arriving at Station (120829)

Summer Ginza Stroll (120829)

Clouds in Kyobashi 120904

Tokyo Station Escalator Under Construction (Chuo Line) 120904

Rolling by East Side of Shinjuku 120904

Ota Yumiko 太田喩美子 Exhibition Ginza Ono Gallery-2 小野画廊-2 (A) 120904

Ota Yumiko 太田喩美子 Exhibition Ginza Ono Gallery-2 小野画廊-2 (B) 120904

Ota Yumiko 太田喩美子 Exhibition Ginza Ono Gallery-2 小野画廊-2 (C) 120904

Project-306 Installation Sept 2012 - 306号室プロジェクト 九月 (120904)

Kyobashi to Tokyo Station Night Walk (120904)

Speaking of "stand bars", there's one in this clip towards the beginning.  I walk past it, and then look back (vertically) into the open door.  I think this a new one, but I'm not sure.  After passing a couple of asphalt deserts (for the internal combustion machines), I walk into Tokyo Station....

Kanda to Ochanomizu - Outgoing Chuo Line (120904)

Evening Shinjuku Station 120904

Shinjuku Southeast Exit 新宿駅東南口 (120904)

Shinjuku South Side Night Walk (A) 120904

Shinjuku South Side Night Walk (B) 120904

Watching Night Trains on South Side (120904)

A good place to contemplate things and feel... a wide range of feelings.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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