Monday, February 25, 2013

"1991 Hibarigaoka; 2013 Ueno, Akihabara, Hamamatsucho, and Various Train Views"

I had intended to post a few things from 1991, but was only able to find time to edit one - featuring the area around Hibarigaoka at night - taken on the same day I took the (previously posted) video of Kiyose.  For reference, here's the link to the Kiyose video again:

1991 - Kiyose Walkabout 清瀬散歩 (910202)

From Kiyose, I took a Seibu-Ikebukuro Line train to Hibarigaoka and walked around there for a bit - more on that further down the page.

Back to 2013.  The videos this time are mainly from Ueno, Hamamatsucho, and Ginza.  I spent a fair amount of time in Ueno comparing the Ueno Station Building as it currently is with a postcard photo of it from 1932 (that I had printed out).  Considering how radically Tokyo has changed, it's surprisingly intact.  Some windows have been filled in and a small extra section added to the front, but the whole building is still there.  Compared to the ornamental nature of the 1914 Tokyo Station building, the 1932 Ueno Station building seems to be have had practical use more in mind than seems to have been the case with Tokyo Station.  There's a certain beauty in form following function, and Ueno Station seems to me - after having had a good hard look at it - to have been carefully designed.

But despite spending a lot of time there, I didn't take very much video.  I was busy carefully studying the 1932 photo and comparing it to the current condition of the building.  While staring intently at the 1932 photo and looking up to compare it to the building, I must have looked lost, as several people (all middle or upper-middle aged) came up and asked (in English) "May I help you?".  Shades of the early eighties, when if you saw a foreigner in Tokyo, chances were heavier towards tourism than business or residency.  Then came the very strong yen, popular Japanese culture, and floods of foreigners seeking culture, fortunes, etc. here.  At some point, it became normal to assume that there was a better chance of a foreigner knowing Japanese than otherwise, since Japan was such an expensive tourist destination, tourism rapidly declined at the same time long-term residents increased.

And then... (and I hesitate to write this, since it's less of a jelled concept than an attempted picture taken in a whirlwind of thoughts and impressions... or something), the double punch of the economy being sluggish for a long time, and then the March 11th, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and triple nuclear meltdowns (plus overheating fuel pool in the fourth reactor building).  The wind blowing out to sea (mostly - before it reversed direction at one point...) saved the loss of Tokyo, but the very real threat led to a situation where, of the people (of all nationalities, Japanese included) who *could* leave, many chose to do so.  However, the media ignored locals fleeing south to Osaka, Hiroshima, Okinawa, etc., and focused on foreigners leaving Japan.  It was presented as an overreaction to the situation, and there was a period where one person after another vocally expressed surprise that I was still in Japan.  About the time I was beginning to get angry about it, and pointing out that people who *could* easily leave, including locals, did so, the cover-up of the triple-meltdown of the nuclear power plants began to be known.  (I've since realized that some people knew early on just how bad it was - probably due to the Internet.  I was stupidly watching the local media, which was broadcasting misinformation about slightly higher temperatures - while the plants were actually melting down.)

.... I hadn't intended to get into that, but it's part of the picture.  Anyway, at some point over the past couple of years, I have begun to experience interactions with people that seem rather like I remember from the 1980's.  No matter what I say or do, they appear to be fiercely determined to believe that I'm a tourist who stepped off of a plane the day before and don't know anything about Japan, Japanese people, Japanese culture, or the Japanese language.  In saying that, I hasten to say that there are two faces to this - the people who came to help me yesterday were genuinely friendly, and when (after initially answering them in English), I said "まっ、 日本語でもいいんですけど..." ("... I can speak Japanese too actually..."), then we began talking in Japanese.  The other face of the problem though, is a distressing thing to experience.  No matter what you do, the person you're talking to refuses to recognize that you're not an FOTA (Fresh Off The Airplane) biped and it's impossible to have a normal conversation with them.  (I had one of those conversations with someone in Ginza the other day - it was really frustrating.)

Okay, enough of that.  On to the videos!

1991 - Nighttime Hibarigaoka 1991年2月夜のひばりが丘 (910202)

If you only know the current Hibarigaoka Station, then you probably won't even recognize this as being the same station - they completely rebuilt it, making the older version shown in this video look like an entirely different station.

From around 00:27 until around 00:42 you can see and hear a political van driving around saying (basically) "Vote for me!".  They still do this, but maybe less than before?

At 00:42 - looking down the old open-air staircase that Hibarigaoka Station used to have - I think I preferred it this way.  It's nicely glassed in now, but it has the sealed box feel that new buildings tend to have.  Sealed in is nice if there's a typhoon raging or it's a cold, rainy day, but when the weather is nice, the open-air design is nicer.

When I took this, political advertising was strictly illegal on TV and radio, so speaker trucks/vans/cars were about the only way to promote a politician to the public.  Unfortunately, they changed the law, and now it's possible to run political advertisements on TV.  Apparently only positive ads are allowed, but it's still dirty politics (all politics, everywhere, is dirty, basically).  The system of not allowing any political advertising on radio or TV was a really good idea.  I think it's a horrible-horrible-horrible mistake to allow it now.  Allowing elections to be influenced (and/or decided) by PR agencies is a disaster for democracy.

Ueno Station Sounds, Steel, Wood, Echoes 上野駅の音と鉄と木と響く (130219hdg)

There are some really cool echoes in this video - but you can't hear them really well until I go down the escalator, turn left, and walk into the very high-ceiling area.  Old train stations used to have high ceilings and all hard surfaces, so the way the sound echoes around really makes me feel nostalgic for bygone eras of rail travel.  The wooden parts of the roof are also quite interesting, since they are so rare now.  There's something comfortable about wood - that is missing from other building materials.  Stone is also nice, concrete less so (concrete is partly stone, so it's not entirely synthetic), but plastics always feel slightly toxic.  Maybe "toxic" isn't the best word, but that's how it seems/feels to me.

At 01:19, you can see part of the old riveted steel beams and wooden part of the roof.  Finding this sort of thing in an active train station is vastly more interesting than seeing it in a museum.

At 01:27, that high ceiling is - on the other side - a walkway leading (over the many railway tracks) to Ueno Park.  Over the years, I've always used the opposite side of the station, so this original older side is a fairly recent discovery for me.

At 01:46, you can see how the tracks are stacked here.  As trains depart the station, they lead into the same set of surface tracks, but there are a lot of trains to be accommodated at Ueno Station, so they had to stack the platforms.

Akihabara Denkigai Entrance (Evening Rush) 夕方秋葉原駅電気街改札 (130219hdg)

On one of the streets by Akihabara Station.  Walking towards the station to the sound of construction (out of camera to my right)... and then into the station, over to the other side (walking beneath the elevated railways), where I take a quick look around the plaza there, and then go back into the station, through the ticket gates, and into the in-station concourse.  (This one is in stereo, so listening with headphones gives a better feel for how it was to be there at the time.)

Ueno Under-Bridge Crosswalk - Lights and Shadows 上野横断歩道 (130219g)

A quick 360-degree look around on the Ueno Station side of the under-railway crosswalk, and then I walk over to the other side when the light changes.

Ochanomizu to Kanda - Kanda Station 御茶ノ水駅-神田駅 (神田駅内) 130219

"Not again!" I seem to hear someone saying....  I keep recording this right-side Chuo Line view between Ochanomizu and Kanda in order to follow the construction work on the old Manseibashi Station (万世橋駅) platform.  I'm really hoping they'll preserve the old stairways to the platform (at least one of them) and at least part of the old platform, but you never know in Tokyo - it generally seems that old things are not allowed, and the Godzilla construction industry monster pretty much destroys everything old in its relentless quest to rebuild everything - endlessly.  So it may be that the only thing that will remain of the old terminal station for the Chuo Line, will be photos of the Manseibashi Station platform before it was completely destroyed.

From about 03:38, I go through the ticket gates and have a quick look on both sides of Kanda Station before re-entering the station and heading up to a platform.  Pretty much the entire station is under construction now.  Not so much is happening on the platforms, but down below, the entire area is one big construction project.  I don't know how it's going to turn out, but based on recent development of other JR stations, presumably it's going to become another JR in-station shopping mall.

Kanda to Ueno (Yamanote Line) 神田駅-上野駅 (山手線) 130219

As the title says - and at about 04:54, I have a look at one of the platform kiosks that used to be *the* place to buy things in train stations.  But as train stations become mini-shopping malls, they're converting this type of open-air kiosk into small enclosed buildings on the platforms.  Just the normal march of progress I guess, but there's something quite picturesque about these open kiosks.  Have a good look, because these will probably disappear in the future.  (Incidentally, I walk away from it after a close up, but then turn around for an overall view at about 05:03.)

At 05:06 is a kind of blast from the past - the old kiosk in the middle, and the old (unchanged for decades) "Bee!-Bee!-Bee!" (Hurry!-Hurry!-Hurry!) doors-about-to-close warning sounds - coming from both sides of the platform simultaneously.  Most stations use melodies now, but they used to all (or if not actually all, almost all) use this "Bee!-Bee!-Bee!" sound.  (In detail, the warning noise on one side starts, the other joins in for a brief overlap of sounds, then the first side stops while the second one continues.  Once the doors of both trains are closed, it becomes relatively quiet again after both trains depart the station.)

Ueno Station - Platform to Park Exit 上野駅公園改札から出る (130219hdc)

After passing through the ticket gates of the Park Exit, I cross the street and walk a few paces towards the park.

Izakaya Night Scene 居酒屋 (130219)

A brief look inside an old traditional izakaya (not a chain).  The place was packed and much more interesting about hour before I took this, but taking pictures seemed like a bad idea, so I waited until it was less crowded before taking this short video.

Late Night Yurakucho to Tokyo 夜遅く有楽町駅-東京駅 (山手線) 130219g

This includes a view of illuminated trees and the preserved section of the old Central Post Office building.  At Tokyo Station, I transfer to the Chuo Line.

Night Train Window Angles and Reflections (130219)

Nothing special content-wise.  I experimented with different angles while recording the lights and reflections in a Chuo Line window.  Basically, I guess you could call this an abstract video.  Personally, I like it, but suspect not so many other people will....

Ueno Station Park Entrance to Platform 上野駅公園改札からホームまで (130219hdc)

Ueno Station Central Exit Area 上野駅中央改札口あたり (130219hdc)

After looking around a little on both sides of the Central Exit ticket gates, I go down the passageway to the left of the ticket gates (from the standpoint of someone exiting) and watch as someone heads down a staircase to the right into the subway.  This is historical, as it lead to Japan's first subway - the Ginza Line - which originally ran between Ueno and Asakusa.  So people have been using this stairwell for over 80 years now.

The small side exit I walk out of and then turn back to look at (01:51) can be clearly seen in a 1932 postcard of Ueno Station.  The larger opening to the right of this original entrance is new though - a gaping hole in what was originally a wall (with a window).  The doorway to the police box (koban) to the left of the old entrance appears to basically be an enlarged window.  In 1932, this area was an open sidewalk (outside, in front of the station), but it now has an elevated plaza above it, and feels more like part of the subway than a sidewalk at street level.

Ueno Station Side View (Right Side) 上野駅の右横 (130219g)

In this video you get a look at the top side of the roof that I was having a look at the under-structure of earlier in the day - the old wooden roof.  Looking back at the station, what looks like a ground-level plaza is in fact an elevated plaza - at about the same level as the second floor of the station.

Evening Ueno Station Left Side Entrance 夕暮れ時の上野駅 (130219g)

This is the view you get of the left side of Ueno Station (left as viewed when standing in front of the station), as seen from across the street.  When the light changes, I walk over to the side entrance of the station and enter the plaza-like open space within - under the huge skylight (that used to be a standard roof).

Ueno Central Entrance to Platform 上野駅中央改札からホームまで (130219)

Ueno to Akihabara (Twilight Akiba) 上野-秋葉原 (夕暮れ時の電気街) 130219

The ride from Ueno to Akihabara - which is just two stops, with Okachimachi in-between Ueno and Akihabara, and then (at 03:03) I get off at Akihabara Station and head towards the denkigai side of the station.  At 05:01 I head into the block of small stalls that sell various electronic things.  Often it seems to me that this collection of very small shops has become more of a walk-through tourist destination than somewhere where people actually shop.  You see more and more of the stalls closed.  It's probably only a matter of time before this disappears.

Akihabara Twilight Walk 夕暮れ時の秋葉原の散策散歩 (130219)

Walking into an area that used to be purely electronics shops, but is increasingly a themed coffee shop area, with young women standing all over the place passing out flyers for the shops they work at.  You can see a bunch of them in this video.  Mainly I try to avoid them by walking on the edge of the street (they stand right in the middle), but it's nearly impossible to avoid them - there are so many!  And there seem to be more of them each time I go!  The whole phenomenon is just really bizarre to me.  I keep thinking it will fade out and disappear, but instead it grows larger!  This must mean something, but I'm afraid to speculate what exactly.  (The last half of this video is mainly out of that zone, by the way.)

Akihabara Old Section Under Rail Bridge 秋葉原 (Akiba) 130219

Even way over in this part of Akihabara there was an attractive young woman standing on the street with flyers in her hand.  I was there strictly to get a video of the old electronics shops, so I kept her off camera (which is why my pan to the right is quick, and doesn't go all the way over - she was on the sidewalk there, just to the right, off screen).  I suppose this could be some kind of barometer of the bad economy - the worse the economy is, the more desperate people are and the more exploitable they become.  It's hard to imagine that these young women really *want* to have that kind of job.  In any case, this video is just to show the area under the bridge.  In the next video I go inside probably the most atmospheric old electronics shop in the area.

Old Electronic Parts Shop (Akihabara) 古い秋葉原電機パーツ店 (130219)

This place has a lot of atmosphere.  If I were buying discrete electronic parts I would probably do some shopping here, but - once out of school - I stopped doing anything with individual components (other than memory boards, etc., for computers).  I'd love to know the history of the shop, but it seems like it would be rude to ask if I'm not buying something.

Evening Akihabara Construction Noises 夕方秋葉原工事音 (130219hd)

Construction noises - in stereo.  No big deal, but it's all part of the total ambiance of Tokyo - the way construction noises (and there is *always* construction somewhere in Tokyo) echo about between the sea of buildings and mix with the noise of the crowds on the streets.

Akihabara Station - Concourse to Platform 秋葉原駅通路からホームまで (130219hdc)

Another stereo recording.  I go up to the platform to catch a train towards Yurakucho, look around a little while waiting (including a look at some older components of the station) and then watch a Keihin-Tohoku Line train pull into the station.

Akihabara to Yurakucho (Keihin-Tohoku Line) 秋葉原-有楽町 (京浜東北線) 130219

I board the Keihin-Tohoku Line train that I watched arrive in the previous video, and then ride to Yurakucho, while looking out the windows at nighttime Tokyo passing by.  As often happens, a Yamanote Line train ends up running side by side with the Keihin-Tohoku Line train I'm on.  Running in parallel, the trains stop on opposite sides of the same platforms.  (Between stations they run close together, and then drift apart to pull to either side of the wide platforms.)

Somehow - as I watch this - I feel surprised at how soon Yurakucho arrives, but it's only three stops from Akihabara (for some reason it seems like it should be more than that...), Akihabara - Kanda - Tokyo - Yurakucho.  In Yurakucho, I look around the platform for a little after getting off of the train.

Yurakucho SB-Area Abstract Stroll 有楽町象的な夜散策散歩 (130219g)

I was in an experimental mood while taking this one, so I tried a number of different angles - including upside-down.  I like it, but it might disturb someone if they expect the camera to remain horizontal at all times....

Exhibition Under Stairs (130221)

Looking at light and shadows in a small under-stairs space while exploring verbally induced echoes.

Chuo Line - Running at Speed Motor Sounds 中央線早く走るモーター音 (130220)

When electric trains are running at speed, the motor noise is a large part of the sensation of the speed (especially if you're not looking out the windows).  It depends on which car you're riding in though, as not all of them have motors.  From looking at the control panel in the front cab (from the window behind it), it appears that the ten-car Chuo Line trains have six motors, with four of the motor-cars in one group on one end of the train, and with another two paired at the other end of the train.  When you're in a non-motor car (the cab cars on the ends don't have motors, plus two more cars between the groups of cars with motors) then you don't notice it much, but when one of those huge motors is pretty much right under you feet, you can really hear it at speed - like in this video.

Kokubunji Station - Express Train Speeds by - Platform Wall Construction Soon Maybe (130221)

Looking at this pile of construction equipment at the end of the platform, I assumed they must be about to begin work on walling in the platforms, as they are doing at so many other stations in central Tokyo, but the sign (00:41) says 床改修工事, which on the face of it would just be reconstruction or maintenance work on the platform, but that might include platform walls too... or maybe not.  The time frame listed is only until the end of March of this year (平成24年12月17日 - 平成25年3月末日), and it's already late February, so maybe it really is just work on the platforms only.

I started taking this video just to show the construction equipment and how there are altered spots on the platform, and then the reserved seat express train came zooming by, so naturally I took that too - beginning at 00:17.

Ochanomizu-Hamamatsucho - Chuo and Yamanote Lines 御茶ノ水駅-浜松町駅 (130221)

And another pass of the construction work on the remains of Manseibashi Station (万世橋駅) - as I mentioned further up the page (regarding a video taken a couple of days before this one).  This time around, I left the camera running longer and recorded going from Kanda down to Hamamatsucho on the Yamanote Line after changing trains at Kanda.  (A technical note about the views of the inside of Kanda Station - it's a bit dark due to a camera setting... sorry about that.  Otherwise the video is exposed correctly though.)

Daimon Station Entrance (Subway) 大門駅の入り口 (地下鉄) 130221hdc

As this small structure housing an entrance to the subway will likely be subsequently buried beneath some form of new construction, I thought I'd record how it looks when light can come through its... skylights?  Wait... can you call glass installed in a wall a skylight, or does a skylight have to be in the ceiling?

Hamamatsucho Station - Ticket Gates to Train 浜松町駅改札-山手線 (130221hdc)

Yamanote Front Cab View - Hamamatsucho to Yurakucho 山手線の前ビュー (130221hdc)

Yurakucho Platform Sights and Sounds 有楽町駅の音と様子 (130221hd)

Looking around on a platform at Yurakucho Station for a little (recorded with stereo sound).

Yurakucho Under-Bridge Look-Around 有楽町橋の下見回り (130221hd)

Since this was in stereo, I was hoping for some interesting sounds from the steel bridge, but there wasn't much of anything to listen to, so anything interesting about the sound is only in a subtle way.  Visually, I think it's kind of interesting though.

Walking Towards Ginza 銀座向き (130221)

A short clip - walking by a row of taxis under a bridge and beginning to cross a main street to enter Ginza.

Kyobashi Parking Lot (Winter Night) 京橋駐車場 (冬の夜) 130221

The subject matter isn't exciting for sure, but this records an aspect of Tokyo that is an integral part of the whole.  Part of the warm coziness of meeting friends at an izakaya or restaurant is the contrast with the cold desolation of the streets - partly shown in this video.  Naturally different areas and different streets have a variety of atmospheres, but in general, when you're outside in Tokyo in the winter, you want to be inside somewhere, and when you reach an oasis of warmth somewhere, it is an oasis at least in part thanks to the bone-chilling coldness (in the total sense, not just temperature) of the cold windy streets of asphalt and concrete between buildings of steel and concrete.  I'm not sure how this looks to someone outside Japan, but just watching this video in my apartment makes me feel cold.  Am I getting that feeling of desolation from memory association, or is it something you can feel too, out there wherever you are?

Yaesu Night Bus Stop 八重洲夜バス停 (130221)

Yet another long-distance bus.  It really depresses me seeing people taking buses to places they could get to by train.  And there seem to be ever more buses, and associated construction projects of bus terminals, etc.  Booooo!  Boooooo!!  Booooooo!!!

Tokyo Station Yaesu Side Construction (Night View) 東京駅八重洲側 (130221)

After lengthy work on the foundation, whatever building they're working on is fast going skyward now.

Tokyo Station Night Walkthrough 東京駅夜散策散歩 (130221)

Starting on the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station, walking past some of the many buses there, and then walking through Tokyo Station - all the way to the other side, where I exit and look around at the inside of one of the reconstructed domes in the 1914 building (which was recently largely reconstructed/renovated).  After that, I go back through the ticket gates again and head for my train.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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