More video clips, but first a comment on something I'm continually experiencing in these post 311 days.
"What did you think of the earthquake?", followed by "Are you leaving Japan?" is something I've been asked by far too many people. Apparently there's been a lot of writing and talking in the media about how foreigners have fled the northern part of Japan post 311, combined with low coverage of the locals who have fled south to Osaka, etc., so when people see a non-native face, they seem to feel the urge to ask "So - what's your story? Why are you still here?", but since that would be rude, they (with unnerving regularity and uniformity) give me the one-two punch of, 1) "What did you think of the earthquake?", followed by 2) "Are you leaving Japan?" I've been answering as though those are normal questions, but I think I was asked them one too many times yesterday, so the next time someone asks me "What did you think of the earthquake?", I think I'll try jumping right to the heart of the matter by saying, "Well - that wasn't exactly fun, was it? What do you think of Fukushima?"
Or not... I don't know. I'll see how it goes. Maybe people will stop asking me those two questions.
This batch of video clips begins with a bus ride at night to Hachioji Station, and then there are a couple of clips showing an exhibition by Matsumoto Tomoko (and the venue); a ride from Ogawa to Kodaira on a Seibu Line train; subway sounds on the Tozai Line; Nihonbashi to Kyobashi on the Ginza Line; a look at old tiles in the 1930's Meijiya Building; a quick listen to a midnight guitarist in Kokubunji; a look in a small park in Ginza 1-chome with its sakura trees in bloom; views of the Chuo Line; road scenes taken while waiting for a bus; Hachioji Station area; waiting for a Tozai Line train at Takadanobaba; walking down a side street in Ginza; two clips from art exhibitions; Yurakucho; Takadanobaba, and a few other things.
Once the sakura tree blossoms come out, soon followed by green leaves, then you know that spring has arrived. The cold weather isn't quite past, but some days are pleasantly warm, and the days get warmer overall. I love spring, although early spring pollen allergies have taken a lot of the fun of the season away from me in recent years, and this 2011 spring of earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster in Japan isn't exactly the most conducive to optimism - still, you have to turn everything off even at the worst of times and just focus on the beauty of spring for at least one day out of the year....
This batch of video clips includes a trip to Gotanda, typical train views, and views of sakura trees. The most pleasant sakura tree experience I had this year was walking along the top of the Yotsuya rampart one fine afternoon with a very blue sky overhead and perfectly pleasant temperatures.
As people go about their daily lives a month since the March 11th, 2011 9.0 earthquake and tsunami disaster, the radiation leaking from the broken nuclear reactors at Fukushima has shifted slightly into the background of people's thinking, but it's a persistent dark cloud in people's consciousness nevertheless, and reading today that the government has expanded the exclusion zone around the broken reactors isn't exactly cause for optimism.
It affects daily actions in what is becoming a new routine, a new "normal": when it rains, you automatically assume that the rain is at least partly radioactive, and so always carry an umbrella to keep the contaminated rain(!) from coming in contact with your body. I would have taken some sakura pictures yesterday in a light rain, but decided not to in order to minimize exposure to radioactivity. Some will say that I have nothing to worry about, and they might even be right, but nevertheless, this way of thinking in Tokyo now is not unusual.
On to the videos - which are a mix of April 2011 Tokyo and 1991 Tokyo. The last two clips in this batch - one showing 1991 Shinagawa, and the other showing 1991 Ginza, may well be interesting to anyone wanting to see what typical street scenes in those areas looked like at that time. Anyone familiar with the current east exit (東口) of Shinagawa Station (品川駅) may be shocked at how radically different it was in 1991. I recorded the scene with my own two hands, and I was still shocked when I watched the video 20 years after taking it - I was thinking "What's that rustic station I entered the train system at?" and then rewound the tape to listen to the bus announcement saying the station name and discovered/remembered with a shock that it was Shinagawa Station! The west side of the station in 2011 looks much the same from the outside as in 1991, but the east side, which is in this video, is ultra-radically different!
The 2011 videos are of Yurakucho; a late-night view of Tachikawa Station; sakura trees in bloom at a temple; an empty (and long) escalator at Tokyo Station; a quick view of the construction on the Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station; and a few views in and near Hibiya Park, including of the sakura trees in the park. The park doesn't have a particularly large number of them, but the ones it does have look nice, and since it's less crowded due to there not being a lot of sakura trees there, it actually ends up being a better place to view them than the typical popular spots where there are long rows of sakura trees - unless you want to see the crowds more than you want to see the trees!
Riding a Keihin-Tohoku Line train from Shinagawa to Yurakucho in August 1991. This opens on a bus as it approaches the east exit side of Shinagawa Station. The appearance of the east exit in 1991 may be shocking to anyone who is only familiar with the current east exit - it's almost unbelievably different.
The nuclear emergency in Fukushima continues to overshadow daily life. I look around my apartment and ponder what I would put into a backpack to carry off on a probable one-way exodus from Tokyo if a worst-case scenario becomes reality and Tokyo is converted from a thriving city of (metropolitan figure including suburbs) 30,000,000 people, into a toxic no-go land of radioactivity. And what then? Can 30,000,000 people actually relocate to southern Japan? Probably not all - many millions would likely die....
And so looking back at old video clips from 1991, the pre-Fukushima Disaster era seems like a kind of paradise - with people walking around looking for restaurants at lunchtime, not worrying about the invisible destructive force of radiation threatening the viability of the entire country, and the health of the planet in general. Now it's different - there's an edge in the air as people go about their daily tasks, perhaps looking back on pre-tsunami/nuclear-disaster times with nostalgia.
The batch of videos this time opens with a look at 1991 Kyojima - which is a narrow bit of land between two rivers which luckily escaped the fire-bombing of Tokyo in 1945. In the 1991 view, there were still pre-WW-II wooden structures remaining:
Walking around in the Kyojima area of Shitamachi in March of 1991.
Another trip back to 1991 - I walk around on the Shinkansen super-express platforms at Tokyo Station and onto waiting Shinkansen trains to have a look inside - including a look at private rooms on the lower level of one of the first-class "Green Cars":
Walking through Shinkansen trains at Tokyo Station in 1991.
In this video from 1991, I do something that I don't think you can do now - I walk through a pachinko parlor recording the scene of people playing the game. Almost all of the machines in this view from two decades ago are mechanical - with little ball bearings bouncing around. More and more, the machines are electronic versions of slot machines, with more electronic noises than the mechanical noises recorded in this video:
The atmosphere of this May 1991 lunchtime view of Ginza has such a different feel to it compared to current Ginza. Things were more relaxed in a way then. By May 1991, when this was taken, the "bubble economy" was already on its way down, but there was still belief that it would rebound sooner rather than later, and overall, this was basically still part of the "bubble era". At this point, with a depressed economy going back about two decades now, and with the tsunami/nuclear disaster pulling things further down, people are not as optimistic as they were when this clip was recorded:
Walking around on lunchtime side streets in Ginza in May 1991. The video opens on a Yurakucho Line train on the way there and closes on a Marunouchi Line train leaving. (All rights reserved by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon. 1991, 2011)
Back to 2011 - post March 11th, 2011 - with half the lights turned off in the station to conserve power in suddenly insufficient-electricity Tokyo. And when I climbed on a Chuo Line train, the internal lights were all off - although they were turned back on as the train neared Shinjuku:
Darker than Usual - Kokubunji Station and Chuo Line - (110404-1316)
A look at a darker than usual Kokubunji Station and Chuo Line train.
Many parts of the Tokyo Station complex are under construction, but this walk is primarily though the areas where construction has been completed, coming out by the newly built Daiichi Department Store:
Walking down the evening streets of Shinjuku towards - and then into Shinjuku Station.
This being April, it's the season of new hires joining companies out of university, and fist-year students of high schools and universities breathing a sigh of relief as they join their new schools - past the grueling and infamous entrance exams. And so the atmosphere by the east exit gates of Shinjuku Station was optimistic feeling, with people meeting, talking, going off somewhere with friends, etc. - with the scene under half the number of lights usually used. Actually, this amount of lighting is probably just about right - most spaces are over-lit with banks of EFT (Evil Florescent Tubes), so cutting back doesn't even seem dark really:
Water heaters now are - while still of the instantaneous type - generally externally mounted and hooked up to multiple sinks, but in 1991, older apartments usually had small instantaneous gas-fired water heaters mounted directly over kitchen sinks. In this 1991 video, I walk around in an empty apartment building that has been mostly gutted in preparation for demolition, but still has many of the old water heaters mounted on the kitchen walls, so I explain how the different types work (different types because each household was responsible for buying their own water heater, so there was no standardization of what type the building used):
Riding about in a tenser and less crowded Tokyo. With rolling blackouts (mostly canceled with the recent warm weather), economic problems, and radioactive fallout from the broken nuclear reactors of Fukushima, people are not working much overtime, and are mostly rushing straight home - trying to spend as little time as possible out in the radioactive air, and also wanting to get home before erratic train schedules leave them stranded in central Tokyo.
Fukushima - it's astonishing to me how after Chernobyl and now Fukushima, there is this loud chorus from various sources saying "nuclear energy is safe" - particularly when I read things like this:
"Only trace amounts of the toxic substance [plutonium] have been detected. The highest level found so far - 0.54 becquerals per kg of soil - is not considered harmful. Most people have some plutonium in their bodies from atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests and some pacemakers are powered by plutonium. "Plutonium-239, the type of plutonium most abundant in reactors, has a half-life of 24,200 years. It is not readily absorbed by the body but what is absorbed, stays put, irradiates surrounding tissue and is carcinogenic." http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/01/japan-plant-idUSL3E7ES10P20110401?pageNumber=1
Okay - so they haven't found much of it - but I would prefer none of that very nasty material at all! Anyway - I sure hope the toxic mess at Fukushima will be brought under control and cleaned up soon!
Here are a few video clips from earlier in the week: