For this batch of video streams, I focused on the Sobu Line (総武線) stopping at several stations east of Akihabara, from Ryogoku to Koiwa (the last station in Tokyo before crossing over into Chiba). Two days are involved - the first showing Ryogoku and Koiwa in the afternoon, and the next showing Shinbashi in the early evening (including the twilight zone of the day), and then several nighttime walk-around views out in Koiwa, Shin-Koiwa, Hirai, Kameido, Kinshicho, Etc. I've written some comments by the individual videos below, but mostly I'm leaving the video titles to speak for themselves.
The noisy beep-beep-beep noise is tied in with the truck's turn signal - the idea being that it's safer to blast the air waves with irritating sound every time it turns so people don't get run over... which might be a good idea, but it seems to me it might be a good idea (in the interest of not overly disturbing the sound mix of the area) to turn the turn signal off while sitting there waiting for the light to turn green.
This construction is probably tied in with the high-rise 180-degrees behind the camera angle (not visible in the video). Since a subway line runs under the street there, they're probably doing the connecting construction that will tie the subway in with the B1 level of the building (easy access to the building when the weather is bad, etc.).
Often long trains that split into two parts for branch lines further down the line have cabs in the middle of the train, where the split takes place. Also, there are some long trains (10-15 cars) that appear to end up with cabs in the middle just because that was the type of train car available when they made up the train. In any case, generally a pair of cabs in the middle of the train forms an internal barrier so you can't walk through the train past that point, but the Tobu-Tojo Line has (some?/all?) trains in which an internal passageway can be formed that leads through the two cabs. This video shows that type of passageway.
I considered titling this "JR to Hibiya Line Transfer" but the video only begins already halfway to the Hibiya Line and so only shows the exit area of the JR part of the station. The subway entrance area was under construction for some time - I think this is the first I've seen it since it was extensively renovated.
Looking out a side window while the subway train runs through its tunnel, there's not much to see of course, but I think it's important to record some clips like this to get the *sound* of the train recorded. Much of the ambiance of places is provided by the sounds there, and they often change a lot with time.
Towards the end of this video, you can hear the emergency buzzer going off (which I have named "ETS" for "Emergency Train Stop" - I'm not sure what the official name is... maybe the same?). I watched a train come in (recorded in this video) and was about to head down to the exit gates when I noticed the buzzer had gone off, so I turned around to see what was happening. It turned out (not exactly recorded in the video, although you can hear the voices a little) that two women were accusing an obviously drunk man of having done something wrong on the train. I figured it would be rude/wrong to stand and watch, so I resumed my original course for the exit gates as the drama was still underway.
There's nothing particularly unique about the individual elements of this video, but I think it captures fairly well a certain feeling/atmosphere of life in Tokyo. Life here is tied in with the train system, and after finishing work and/or leaving a restaurant/izakaya in the evening, these are the typical sights and sounds you tend to see and hear while walking to the station to head for home for the day. (Reviewing this video again after writing that, I should say that what I particularly had in mind was the last third of the video, in which I walk under the rail bridge while heading for the station entrance.)
This whole batch is of my visit this year to the Kawagoe Matsuri (川越まつり). The video clips are arranged in chronological order, so if you watch them that way (from one to twenty-six), you can get some idea of the progression of the event over several hours. I got there in the afternoon and left not long after darkness fell. I considered staying a little later, but a lot of new people were pouring into the event for the after dark segment and it was getting to the point where you couldn't move about very freely.
When there are very few people at a festival, it feels lonely and neglected, and then, as more people arrive, it gets livelier and more interesting (a feeling that gets stronger with more people still), but when it gets to the point where you can't freely navigate around the event, it becomes less fun and a feeling of wanting to be free of the crowds sets in. It was basically at that point that I headed for the station and took a train towards home.
When I arrived in Kawagoe for the festival, the first thing I did was get some food at a couple of the many food stalls set up for the event, and then I began walking around - exploring the different streets, watching the traditional floats and listening to the live music played from people on each float.
I think my favorite aspect to the event is that they close off several blocks of the city to all motor vehicles, and people on foot take over the streets. Were that this was the constant state of cities the world over! I understand how important cars are out in the countryside, but in the city, they're a curse. (Incidentally, I don't think the degree to which Japan has become a car culture is fully understood outside Japan. While Tokyo simply would not function without mass transit, it's a point of pride with many people in the countryside to never set foot on any kind of public transportation.)
Part of this batch overlaps a previous batch (in location content that is, there are no verbatim repeats), due to pulling some video clips from a secondary camera that I use on and off and only vacuum the images out of from time-to-time.
New material this time is primarily from the Joban Line, and (confusingly) there are a couple of revisits to places (Kawagoe, Nippori, and the Toneri Line) to take additional picture-streams.
In Kawagoe, I recorded the candy section of the old town (that I missed before) as well as a couple of typical street views. The old section of Kawagoe is a bit different from anything I know of in Tokyo, so it's always interesting to wander around a little there when I'm in the area.
At Nippori Station, I recorded an old section of the station that probably won't be there for long (they're leaving it unpainted and rusting, so I presume they have plans to demolish it before long). Previous generations of train station design in Japan (with some notable exceptions, like Tokyo Station) have been heavily pragmatic in both design and material use (reuse of old railway rails for I-beams, function over form, etc.), so you wouldn't call most of the old designs elegant, but there was (and still is, although in rapidly decreasing numbers) something quite likable about the straightforward honesty of the old designs. Beams out in the open (not hidden in the walls), steel and wood construction, and open-air layouts (so you feel a part of the city while standing on an open platform waiting for a train - instead of claustrophobic in an enclosed space).
(And not specifically related to station design, but an unfortunate part of the times - are the infernal sound recordings that torment people with exactly the same bloody recordings over-and-over-and-over again, day-after-day-after-day, week-after-week-after-week, month-after-month-after-month, year-after-year-after-year. They used to have real, live, human beings make the announcements - imagine that.)
Also in this batch are a couple of videos showing the entire route of the Toneri Line ("Nippori-Toneri Liner - 日暮里舎人ライナー"), from Nippori to Minumadai-Shinsui-Koen Station (見沼代親水公園駅), where I got off and wandered around a little, and then used the same line to return to Nippori. On the trip out I rode in the front, and on the return trip, I rode in the back. I would have ridden in the front on the way back, but there were several people crowded into the front section (popular with children, camera geeks and weird foreigners [cough-cough].
This type of train is getting old and they've begun replacing it with a newer type. It's basically a Chiyoda Line train, but since the Chiyoda Line connects seamlessly with the Joban Line on one end, and the Odakyu Line on the other, you regularly see trains from one railway running on the tracks of another in a kind of exchange operation.
The advantage to standing by the door on an inner city train ride, is you get a window to look directly out of (in contrast to sitting with your back to the windows and having to look through the train and everyone in it for glimpses of the outside world through the windows on the far side of the train).
A fairly long ride on the Joban Line - looking out the side windows at the scenery going by. As it's an elevated line, there's a pretty good view of the area of the city it passes through. This is one of the most attractive aspects of train travel - having a view of the world smoothly flowing by outside the windows.
From the Yamanote Line to the Keihin-Tohoku Line and then back to the Yamanote Line. The idea was to jump ahead via the Keihin-Tohoku Line (since it stops at limited stops in the daytime) but since I ended up back on the very same Yamanote Line train that the Keihin-Tohoku Line passes in the clip, the exercise of changing trains had amusement value only (change of scenery) and provided no time savings.
The interesting thing for me - with the camera rolling - was getting on the very back of the Yamanote Line train, riding a few stops, and then walking across the platform at Ueno to get on the back of the Keihin-Tohoku Line train, passing the 11-car Yamanote Line train (the one I had just gotten off of), and - at Tokyo Station - watching the full length of the same Yamanote Line train come into the station and getting back on (at the end of the train) where I had been in the first place.
So - visually - it was definitely worth transferring twice to get back to the same spot on the same train! (In case that's confusing, keep in mind that the section of the railways I was on has the Yamanote Line and Keihin-Tohoku Line running in parallel and stopping on opposite sides of the same platform.)
The four clips above were all taken in Kyu-Shiba Rikyu Garden 旧芝離宮恩賜庭園 - which turned out to be quite a nice traditional garden to wander around in (as I mentioned in another post with different video from the same visit there).
This bell tower is one of the symbols of old Kawagoe. Looking it up, I see it's called 時の鐘 (Toki-no-kane) which the Wikipedia article I'm referencing translates as "The Bell of Time" but that seems wrong to me... wouldn't just "The Time Bell" be better? "Toki" is time, "kane" is bell, and "no" connects them, so a sort-of-direct translation (actually direct translations are usually impossible) would be "Time's Bell" which is weird, so "The Time Bell" as in "The bell that chimes out the time"? In any case, "The Bell of Time" conjures up images of "All Time" and I don't think that's the idea in Japanese. Doing a more non-literal translation, something like "The Time Bell Tower" might not be bad? (The three-story tower is specifically for that bell, and nothing else, after all.)
Anyway! What I actually wanted to say about the bell in its three-story tower (can "tower" refer to a narrow three-story structure? - at the time it was built, the surrounding buildings were only two-stories high...), is that it's a traditional type old temple bell, with a log-sized hanging piece of lumber to ring it. So - I expected some soul to climb up in the tower to swing it against the bell in order to ring it. I was then rather disappointed to hear whirring noises and see the lumber moving jerkily and slowly backwards (via machinery, with no human form present), from where it was released to swing forward and hit the bell. Functionally, it works great. The force the old bell is rung with is predetermined and it's run off a timer so no one has to do anything but supply the tower with electricity for the ringing mechanism and its internal clock. But... it would have been much more interesting and... authentic(?) if a real live human being had rung it.
Having just ridden on the fully computer-driven Toneri Line, and then watching the machine-driven old bell, I'm beginning to feel lonely or something. "Lonely" may seem like an inappropriate word to use here, but I can't think of a better word (not at the moment in any case) to describe the feeling of having machines doing *everything*. I would never want to return to the pre-motor days of no machines and people having to do everything, but I think I would like for there to be at least one human being in charge of each train. It seems like the science fiction tales of humans designing robots so good that the robots are independent, and ultimately decide to get rid of pesky humans at some point could actually happen - at least that's how it feels when you enter a station with no people running it in sight, and then board a train with no human driver, and ride along to another stop - all handled by computerized machinery, with no human intervention.
This house appears to have gone to ruin. It seems like a waste. If it had been maintained, it seems like it could have been an interesting place to live - and with its own well no less. I later tried walking around to the other side of the house, but there's no access to any side of it! From seeing that, presumably one of the houses blocking access owns the property? It's hard to figure out. In any case, it's in such an advanced state of ruin, it would be extremely difficult (and expensive) to fix it up now probably.
This side of Nippori Station is all that's left of the older version of the station. New is nice, I guess, but there's something quite familiar feeling and appreciated about this older part - built of steel and wood. It would be nice if they could preserve this part. The combination of older things like this together with squeaky-new things enhances things in both directions. The new enhances/highlights the old historic design, and the old accentuates the newness of the new.
It used to be that the only speedy rail service to Narita Airport was via the Keisei Line's "Skyliner" reserved seat express train, but then JR set up the Narita Express trains and they ended up with a lot of competition. Back in the eighties, Keisei advertised the Skyliner as taking only 60 minutes from Ueno to Narita (or was it from Nippori?, and was the figure 59 minutes?). Now they're advertising 41 minutes from Ueno (and 36 minutes from Nippori). As I remember the train when I used it back then, the tracks were pretty rough and they couldn't run trains very fast on them. There's been a lot of construction since then, so the rails are presumably much improved now and the trains more advanced as well.
Wait a second... there's "Skyliner" on the Keisei Line, and then there's the badly named "Nippori-Toneri Liner" also leaving from Nippori (and we knew that without "Nippori" being enshrined in the name). Suddenly I think I see the whole picture. Someone probably thought "Gee, the Keisei Skyliner is a cool name! And this new line we're opening begins from one of the same stations that the Skyliner uses... let's call the new line the 'Nippori-Toneri Liner'!".
Oh boy. Where to begin with explaining all that's wrong with this picture? First off, just ripping off "[Something]-Liner" is bad all on its own due to mindless copying being evil. And then there's the history of transportation machinery using the name "liner", as in "ocean liner" and "airliner". The image was one of speed, and in the case of the Keisei Line "Skyliner" train - it was a pretty good name to pick for the train, as it was fast (faster than the local trains at any rate), and was primarily for people going to Narita Airport to get on airplanes. Skyliner - yeah, I'd say they named that one pretty well - certainly the Japanese version of the name, スカイライナー (which is the Japanese phonetic version of the English-based name) has a nice ring to it.
Now, as for the *meaning* of "liner": "a ship or airplane operated by a transportation or conveyance company" - it's obviously used for the transportation device itself, not the route or company, which is a line. So naming the *line* the "Nippori-Toneri Liner" is... may I say offensive? And there's more....
It's not absolute, but since "liner" conjures an image of speed for many people ("ocean liner", "jet liner", etc.), is the Toneri Line fast? Well it's faster than a bus caught in a traffic jam for sure, but what it is essentially, is a slow-moving train with wheels wearing rubber tires - sort of a bus train, if you will.
So, putting everything together, the name "Nippori-Toneri Liner" is grammatically wrong, too long, misleading, unoriginal, rude (to the Keisei Railway company), and basically offensive to anyone with good sense. Considering how very badly it was named, there have just got to be politicians involved. Who else could screw things up so badly? Anyway, there's a solution. People can just ignore the offensive "Nippori-Toneri Liner" name and call it the "Toneri Line" which sounds like a proper name for a short commuter line.
Let's see - using the full names, that would be taking a Nippori-Toneri Liner Line (日暮里舎人ライナー線) train from Nippori Station, and riding it all the way to the last stop, which is Minumadai-Shinsui-Koen Station (見沼代親水公園駅). As I was just going on (and on and on) about - this line has a serious problem with overly long names, not to mention that the line is erroneously called a name that could only refer to the trains themselves ("liner" and "line" are not one and the same meaning). Anyway, it's a nice enough little commuter line and I don't mean to be poking fun of it, but I think someone dropped the ball when it came to naming the train and the stations (see rant further up the page). They should have just named it the "Toneri Line", so that's what I intend to call it.
Tourist areas of Japan (Kyoto, Takayama, etc.) usually have jinrikisha like this specifically geared towards tourists (both domestic and foreign). The only place I've ever ridden in one though was at Takayama, but from that one experience, I'd say they are a good way to have historical points of interest explained. Unlike in a car, it can stop just about anywhere, and also go places cars can't (provided, of course, you don't need to cover a very large area).
The exit I was searching for when I took this has ceased to be! There used to be a street-level exit at Tokorozawa Station where you could just walk horizontally from the platform, through the ticket gates, and out onto the street in front of the station where taxis etc. were waiting. It looks as though they filled in the former exit area with a chain coffee shop. This is in line with the general trend of (basically) converting train stations into shopping malls that have trains running either under or over the shopping area. There's more money to be made in renting out the space to retailers than in running the trains apparently (from things people have told me and from what I've seen). That's okay I guess, but I was disappointed to have to go to the end of the platform, then up to the second floor, over to the side, back down to the first floor by another flight of stairs, and then back to where the middle of the platform is on the outside. It's considerably less convenient than it used to be. It was about a three minute hike compared to ten seconds to just walk straight out the gates (as they used to be).
Another sparkling-new train station. Fully enclosed, it'll be warmer in the middle of winter, but I think I liked the old open-air version of the station better. As I walked in, I noticed the next-train/destination boards (proper name?) looked striking. Pausing to look hard at them, I suddenly realized that they were (I'm pretty sure) standard large-screen LCD monitors! I think this is the first train station I've seen those used that way in (I've seen some information displayed this way - in Shinjuku for example - , but not for the main display boards). They look pretty good actually, but I hope they keep spares on hand for when back-lights burn out, etc. (I wonder about energy efficiency? It seems like that would be more wasteful than the types that only illuminate the data fields instead of the whole screen, but maybe not.)
And that's it for this batch. This week I'm struck with how much I find myself missing the old station designs. I don't dislike the new designs really - and in fact appreciate most of them, but I have never liked being in overly enclosed spaces and so the new fully enclosed station designs seem a little claustrophobic to me. I also wonder what the effect is on businesses outside the ticket gates. With more and more shopping available within the ticket gates, businesses near to the stations may suffer? Well - that's progress I guess. You can't stand still, and for every improvement, there's also something lost. Generally, the better aspects of old designs aren't really appreciated until they are almost extinct.
Everything is from 2012 this time. In fact, this whole batch is from Thursday, October 11th, 2012. There are recordings from several locations (I use the term 'recordings' because it seems more accurate than film terms when referring to digital recordings of visual material - which include audio after all), but the main areas I spent some time in are Shibuya, Uguisudani (Negishi), and Nippori. I'll make a few additional comments after some of the video titles/links below, but mainly the titles are fairly self-explanatory.
A view from the front of this computer-driven (no human driver) train (with rubber tires - not steel wheels) in the twilight. I generally don't like acronyms, but this train probably ought to have one. "Nippori-Toneri Liner" is a bit over the top - "NTL Line" would make more sense, especially since, if you put "Line" into the name, you would end up with "Nippori-Toneri Liner Line", which a bit ridiculous. I think the old system of basing the line on two (and sometimes three) kanji would have been best: 東海道 (Tokaido), 山手 (Yamanote), 東西 (Tozai), 銀座 (Ginza), 東武 (Tobu), 西武 (Seibu), 京王 (Keio), 小田急 (Okakyu), 東急 (Tokyu), 東横 (Toyoko), etc., "日暮里舎人ライナー" is way too long - it's more like a sentence than a name....
This shotengai has become a tourist draw. This sort of shopping street used to just be the norm, but has become something rather nostalgic as people's shopping habits have changed - putting many small shops out of business.
This was my first visit to this new high-rise building in Shibuya. It's actually rather interesting - with a whole range of things inside, from department store and restaurants, to convention center, movie theater, music hall, and sitting atop all that, office space.
Looking at the sea of construction equipment that is between this new building and Shibuya Station. I'm not sure what's going to happen to this area exactly. Either they are going to do major construction on something, or possibly some (or all) of the construction equipment there is related to the large new high-rise?
The first batch of clips are from October 1990 - with a trip to Motoyawata and Shakujikoen as excursions, and several other out-and-about clips from central Tokyo. I'll comment after several of the titles/links. Incidentally, the on-camera commentary I recorded for this 1990 material is in Japanese. (Back then, for some tapes I used English, and for others Japanese. This one is in Japanese.)
The main location featured in the 2012 material in this batch is Shinagawa - with several clips featuring a walk to Sengakuji Temple, where the graves of the famous 47-Ronin are. An e-acquaintance requested footage of Sengakuji, and I went out there to get pictures of the temple... and discovered that the 47-Ronin graves were there when I got to talking with a local at the temple. He (and many readers perhaps!) was amazed that I had gone there without knowing about that aspect to the temple. He told me that he often sees people from all over the world visiting the temple specifically to see the graves of the 47-Ronin, so it must have been strange to meet someone who was there without knowing about that. (I know that story very well, but I never thought to look into where their graves were.) Again - I'll make additional comments after several of the titles/links.
There are some detail changes, but the last time I visited this shopping street, it was largely the same. An area near to the station that was in the process of being torn down in November 1990 is now completely rebuilt.
Nothing particularly exciting, but this shows what some of the last trains of the night are like - taken sometime between 12:00 midnight and 1:00 a.m. The entire train system in Tokyo shuts down every night, so there's typically a rush to get on the last trains that go into the suburbs on the one hand, and a fair number of people taking the first trains from around 5:00 a.m. - who missed the last trains the night before - on the other.
I didn't spend a lot of time there, but I rode the subway out to the end of the line, which was this station, and then returned to central Tokyo via surface trains (which is what the "Motoyawata to Yutenji" video below shows). In Motoyawata, I just walked around a bit and checked out the inside of a bookstore near the station.
Judging from the many details of my life in these old videos that I had forgotten about until seeing the video footage (that I took myself) again - it's truly amazing how much of our lives go missing in our conscious memories. You know how some old people tend to repeat what seems like a rather limited number of stories from their past? It doesn't mean that's all they did - it means those are things that stand out in their memories. I don't know what percentage goes missing, but I would guess it's something like 95%? Don't believe me? Try recalling every single day from your life about two or three decades before. While some people can actually do that, most of us can just recall large events and a set of sharp memories connected with the large events - along with a range of generic memories that consist of remnants of old templates? Or something like that. In any case, had I not seen this video footage again, I don't think I would have ever recalled any event at all from this particular day.
The evening produced an ominous-looking sky, and since a typhoon was passing nearby, it seemed as though it might come through Tokyo, but while there were strong winds, things calmed down fairly quickly. Some of the anticipation/worry/excitement of the event is evident in this video.
I began taking this video mid-way into trying to order a hamburger in Japanese. As I point out on the video (in Japanese) the shopkeepers seemed to be intensely committed to believing that I couldn't speak Japanese, so they couldn't hear me when I spoke in Japanese. They figure out I can use the national language at the end of the video though.
This is historically interesting, as this building was torn down not long after I took this and a combination Parco retail store and apartment building was put up in its place (all of the other small buildings on both sides were also torn down to make way for the large building).
This was a rather long transfer - forcing people who used the Seibu Line to walk past the Seibu Department Store. I used to look over at the department store with resentment - figuring that someone must have purposely positioned the railway in an inconvenient place that forced people to walk past the department store; no doubt expecting this would generate extra sales. It backfired in my case at least, I resented the location of Seibu-Ikebukuro Station so much that I boycotted the Seibu Department Store.
I had often seen people fishing in this pond, but this was the first time (and the last time) that I saw someone actually catch a fish. This was the same pond that reportedly had an alligator in it, which was either a false rumor, or maybe someone actually did put one in, and it died? Probably it was just a rumor, but for some time after that, whenever visiting this park, there was The Mystery of the Phantom Alligator in the air and you would scan the pond for any sign of protruding eyes. The rumor(?) was taken seriously enough that they actually organized a search of the pond to determine if there was something like that in there or not. They didn't find anything.
More history - this station has been completely rebuilt since this was taken, so this is pure history (architecturally speaking). The old wooden stations had a completely different feel to them than the modern stations do.
An e-acquaintance suggested I might want to check out this temple, and so I walked around inside, taking the above video, including (towards the end of this clip) the graves of the 47-Ronin. The thing was though, I didn't realize what I was recording until I ended up talking with an older local (near the exit gate) who filled me in on the history of the place. He was surprised/amazed that I had come there without knowing that historical connection (I knew the story of the 47-Ronin of course, but didn't know where they were buried. After finding out about the history, I went back and recorded the following video.
The very front of what used to be the Tokyo Central Post Office is once again open as a post office, but is - since they demolished most of the building in order to put up a steel and glass office tower - apparently just a typical post office now. I was at least happy to see the old familiar high-ceiling space again (I used to often buy stamps here).
There used to be a kind of small park in front of Tokyo Station, but now it's just one huge sea of black asphalt. Presumably this is temporary and they'll put something nice into this space. Until very recently, it was a kind of a parking lot for construction equipment and materials while Tokyo Station was undergoing reconstruction.
The original domes were apparently very ornamental, but were destroyed in the fire-bombing raids on Tokyo in 1945, and then rebuilt (for the first rebuild - this current rebuild is the second time) in a simpler, plainer design following the war. Reportedly, this second rebuild (2012) restores the two domes to their original 1914 design.
While there are still some old wooden houses (like the one in this video) here and there, this particular one is in Shinagawa - not far from the station! It's about the most expensive real estate in the entire country. Probably the main reason the owner of this house has been able to hold out, is the house is in the center at the end of the street. Taking a close look, it's clear that the property was trimmed on both sides (bought for a substantial sum of money no doubt), and as it now stands, with the newer development there on both sides of the house, it isn't really in the way of anything. Personally, I think it transforms an otherwise boring street into something with character. It's not even a fire hazard, since if it burns down, it won't cause anything else to burn with it. I stood there for a little while, looking at that old house with its history and character, and thinking how it would be great to live in one of the upscale apartments on the side *and* to own that house - and use it as a party house.
But speaking of people not wanting to move as neighborhoods are developed (and they are always relentlessly developed in Tokyo!), what was done in a lot of cases, was developers offered homeowners the top floor (or two for smaller properties) of buildings - essentially penthouse apartments - to live in if they agreed to sell, and so there are a fair number of office buildings in Tokyo with an old couple living on the top floor.
This is a very nice traditional garden - dating back to the Edo Era. It's on landfill, but over three-century-old landfill, so it has a settled feel to it. According to Wikipedia [full article here]:
"The land was reclaimed between 1655 and 1658. In 1678 the site was used for the official samurai style residence of Ōkubo Tadamoto (1604–1670), member of the Ōkubo clan and an official of the Tokugawa shogunate. The residence garden was designed by garden designers from the Odawara Domain, until 1614 under the rule of Daimyo from the Ōkubo clan. The garden was then known as Rakujuen."
[2012/10/06]: Back in 1997, an e-mail acquaintance sent me this: "[Can you write about] more impressions of your environment - what it looks/sounds/smells/tastes/feels like? Any particular favorite places? What is the layout of the land like? (Hilly? Flat? Crowded with buildings? Tenements? Factories? All mixed up?) Where are the gardens, and what do they look like? What does it feel like going from point-A to point-B?" - and in answer I wrote this:
With the above in mind, I wrote down the following by hand while out and about a few days ago:
97/06/10 - 21:29: I'm now on a commuter line train, leaving the city center, but not escaping it's grasp. I'm sitting between a woman with her eyes closed (not asleep) on my right, and a man on my left. Two men standing to my right seem to be enjoying an alcohol afterglow as they talk and laugh. A stern-faced man standing off to my left gives me the evil eye. The man seated on my left gets off the train... 'evil-eye' sits next to me. There's that vampire aspect.., whatever it is, I don't like it, so I'm standing up, moving.
Now I'm standing in the middle of the train. In the old days, I wouldn't have moved as a matter of principle, but it just drains your energy, and what's the point?
I'm on a local train to escape the purgatory of the express trains.., at another of the frequent stops, a seated man gets off, enabling me to sit down again, and I'm away from the vampire. I'm only happy to be in a different space, and don't feel 'run out'. What is this abandonment of principle? I think there are just too many battles, so you get to a point where you realize that saving energy is the most important thing.
21:42 - Now the train is half-empty, as it's nearing the end of the line. I'll have to change trains to get where I'm going, but when I imagine everyone smashed together on the express train right now, I don't care when I get home. Now the train is waiting for an express to pass... there it is, rushing past with everyone all smashed together. If you spend a couple of hours in one of those sardine trains every day, it affects you... and not in a good way. Never mind the rest of the day, you're tired before you even start work for the day.
I don't know, if I could transport myself from this train and these people to other trains in other countries to compare, I could say something more meaningful. I only know, as I sit beneath the glaring florescent lights on this punctual, functional, but not very attractive train, that I want to live a different way than this.
21:56 - Second train (after transferring). There's a seat... The young woman on my right is showing her boyfriend her new passport. How will she (they?) view the world from outside Japan?
97/06/12 - 20:57: Shibuya. In a building by an open window on the fourth floor. Looking out the window, as the Yamanote Line trains rumble by through the trees... in the middle of the busy four lane road below, there are five people on a traffic island arranging flowers and food - one man is trying to light a candle... I can only imagine that a friend of theirs died in a traffic accident near there. Yes... no mistake - they are praying now.
Just as I wrote that, work called and soon thereafter the manager of the place came over and shut the window, which wouldn't have been much of a problem, but he has a row of air fresheners in the bathroom on the window sill, and their chemical smell is overpowering. It's a small thing, but it shows what I'm always battling in Tokyo. The unfortunate scene below notwithstanding, this building in Shibuya is next to a park, so there are leaves - green leaves to see and hear (when the wind blows) through the open window. The man shuts the window, cutting me off from that to which I want a connection, and then there's that horrible chemical smell that I don't want invading my lungs. Don't other people miss a connection to live plants, to the open sky?
The first 1990 video of Hibarigaoka is interesting in that it shows the old Hibarigaoka Station and the old pre-Parco area. Compared to today's Hibarigaoka, it's basically "Showa Hibarigaoka" versus "Heisei Hibarigaoka". (By year, 1990 is the second year of Heisei, but there was a lot of carryover culture-wise several years into the Heisei era.)
In the Hibarigaoka to Toshimaen video, views of the old style Seibu Line stations are nostalgic to see now, since the old wooden structures in the video have vanished - replaced with new modern buildings.
The three main areas I visited in this batch of 2012 views are Tabata, Nishi-Nippori, and (again) Oimachi. Putting previous views of Oimachi together with this evening view, there are three times of day - morning, lunchtime, and evening.
On March 30th, 1991, I devoted a full day to videoing Tokyo Station and the area immediately around it (including the old Marunouchi Building and the old Central Post Office building (which was 95% destroyed, with only the front facade remaining, which has been integrated with a new high-rise office building). In this clip, I also recorded views of the Tokyo Station Hotel and Tokyo Station Art Gallery.
All these years where I've had to get off of Yamanote Line trains that had Osaki as the last stop, and I never realized there was a big train yard for Yamanote Line trains by Oimachi - which is just a short distance from Osaki.
It was used because it looks good I guess. I looked up and... "Wait... I know that car! That's a 1962 Galaxie!". The big round taillights are easily recognizable. (The 61-64 Galaxies all have them, but each year is a little different.)
About the title - the English announcement you can hear midway through the clip has so much space between some of the words, that it sounds like a parody of itself. The long row of public telephones are apparently maintained in case there's an emergency in which people can't use their cell phones.
Just a quick look at a main street. Main streets aren't all bad, but the traffic noise, along with wide expanses of dead dark gray asphalt, and the pollution of the fire-breathing machinery it carries, make them a place to avoid whenever possible.
At first I thought these plants were growing in planters, but they turned out to be growing on the track side of the fence - with the branches poking through the fence. Probably they were trimmed back by the railway and so the only part remaining is the part growing through the fence.
By "RS-Express", I mean reserved-seat express. The problem with translating terms here is that 特急 (tokkyu) is kind of hard to translate into English. If you use British English, it's "Limited Express", with "limited" meaning "limited stops", but "limited express" in American English means "limited speed compared to a regular express (more stops)", so that leaves something like "super express", but then people probably start imagining the Shinkansen trains... - and so I've decided to use reserved-seat express train, and shortened it to RS-Express for YouTube titles. (JR - by the way - uses "Limited Express" for its English translation.)