Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Mikawashima, Kanamachi, Toneri Line, Shibuya, Tokorozawa, Etc."

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].

Walking Towards Kanamachi Station (121016)

Walking towards Kanamachi Station in the afternoon.

Front Cab View (Chiyoda Subway Train on Joban Line) 121016

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.

Tokyo to Ochanomizu (Chuo Line) 121016

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).

Nippori to Mikawashima (Joban Line) 121016

Mikawashima (三河島駅) is the next stop out from Nippori on the Joban Line.

Mikawashima Platform (Joban Line) 121016

Looking Through Advertising Flags (121016)

Taken on a shotengai shopping street not far from Mikawashima Station.

Mikawashima to Matsudo (Joban Line) 三河島駅から松戸駅まで (121016)

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.

Nippori to Yurakucho (Yamanote and Keihin-Tohoku) 121016

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.)

Old Shop in Kawagoe (121017)

Looking at one of the shops in the old section of Kawagoe.

Old Park-A - Kyu-Shiba Rikyu Garden 旧芝離宮恩賜庭園 (121009)

Water Reflections-A (121009)

Water Reflections-B (121009)

Old Park-B - Kyu-Shiba Rikyu Garden 旧芝離宮恩賜庭園 (121009)

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).

Old Kawagoe Bell (Mechanized) 121017

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.

Group Watching and Listening to Kawagoe Bell Tolling (121017)

Another angle to the old bell being rung.

Old Kawagoe Main Street (121017)

Shibuya - View from Shibuya-Hikarie (121011)

After watching - for many years - construction on this building, it's interesting to go inside and see the views from the completed building.  From what I've seen of the building, it's pretty nice.

Matsudo Station 松戸駅 (121016)

Matsudo to Kanamachi (121016)

Bicycle Parking by Kanamachi Station (121016)

A looonnng row of bicycles next to Kanamachi Station.

Joban to Yamanote Transfer (Nippori Station) 121016

Walking from the Joban Line area of Nippori Station over to the Yamanote Line (and Keihin-Tohoku Line) side.

Gallery Ginza-One (Exhibition Opening Party) 121016

At the (one-day late) opening party for the October 2012 group exhibition at Gallery Ginza-One.

Evening Platform (Shinjuku Chuo Line) 121016

Inside an Evening Outbound Chuo Line Train (121016)

Preparation for Festival in Kawagoe (121017)

This was taken on October 17th, when preparations were well under way for a big festival to be held in Kawagoe on Saturday and Sunday (October 20th and 21st).

Overgrown House and Well (Kawagoe) 121017

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.

Kanda to Nippori (Yamanote Line) 121016

Nippori Station (Old Section) 121016

Steel and Wood (Nippori Station) 121016

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.

Nippori Station (Newer Section) JR to Keisei Transfer Point (121016)

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.

Nippori to Minumadai-Shinsui-Koen (Toneri Line) 121016

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.

Birds Singing in the Suburbs (121016)

At a nondescript place in the suburbs, I stopped to look around and this area was strangely relaxed and nice... with the green of the trees (very near to autumn) and the singing of the birds.

Approaching Minumadai-Shinsui-Koen Station (on Foot) 121016

Entering Minumadai-Shinsui-Koen Station 見沼代親水公園駅 (121016)

Minumadai-Shinsui-Koen to Nippori (Toneri Line) 121016

Toneri-Line Nippori Station Platform (121016)

Candy Section of Old Kawagoe (121017)

I didn't get to this section of old Kawagoe on my visit before this (when I recorded a number of videos of the old area of the city), so this fills in that blank somewhat.

Street Machine Reflections (121017)

A confusing title - to put it in plainer English, "Views of a street as seen between two machines - with reflections (of the street) on the sides of the machines."

Colorful Carp in Kawagoe (121017)

I think these carp are probably the most colorful ones I've ever seen!  I've seen carp with this type of coloring before, but never this many all together.

Kawagoe Jinrikisha and Reflections (121017)

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).

Vertical Kawagoe Flags in a Breeze (121017)

Tokorozawa Exit Search (Construction Etc.) 121017

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).

Tokorozawa Propeller-Dori in Rain 雨の所沢プロペ通り (121017)

There used to be an airport nearby, which is the reason for the name of this shotengai shopping street.

Evening Rain in Tokorozawa (121017)

Entering New Section of Tokorozawa Station (121017)

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.)

Tokorozawa to Higashi-Murayama (121017)

Mikawashima Station 三河島駅 (121016)

Higashi-Nippori Shotengai Shopping Street 東日暮里 (121016)

Sunlight and Shadows (Higashi-Nippori) 121016

Watching Passing Trains at Kanamachi Station (Joban and Yokosuka Lines) 121016

Kanamachi Station 金町駅 (121016)

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.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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