First, I should point out that my summary of this batch of video clips is not in any particular order, so keep that in mind if you go looking for one of the things I mention in this introduction.
More than usual, I have posted several video-time-machine views - this time from May 1990 (Shibuya, Asakusabashi, Shinjuku, Takadanobaba, subway views, Sendagaya, Akabane, etc.), as well as clips from an August 1991 trip to Takayama via a very cool mid-engine micro-car - a Honda Beat. Unfortunately, since I was driving the car and it had a manual transmission, I couldn't take footage of a very fun fast drive along a mountain road that I took, and only recorded being stuck in a traffic jam and accelerating away from one traffic light.
After spending what felt like a lot of time in the video time machine, I came back to 2012 and took footage of (naturally) train views (Ginza, Chuo, Tozai, Yamanote, Keio, etc. lines), as well as views from Ginza (including a clip from an exhibition and two from exhibition opening parties), and Yurakucho, Shinjuku, etc.
There are three basic formats I uploaded this time - digitized versions of analog material recorded over 20 years ago, HD material, and re-processed material (due to a technical problem at YouTube that allowed uploading of some files with the picture, but only one second of sound).
May 11th, 1990 - Looking out side windows of Sobu Line and Yamanote Line trains (as well as station platform views). Towards the end is a view of Kanda Station just as they were beginning construction of the Shinkansen tracks towards Omiya.
Walking around in May 1990 in Takadanobaba - beginning with a view from the Yamanote Line platform and ending with a view inside a Tozai (subway) train as it departs Takadanobaba. This shows the atmosphere of May 1990 Takadanobaba.
Regarding the picture quality (resolution) of this batch of videos; it is either high in the HD clips (first five below and a few others), or else very low resolution in LD (Low Definition) clips that ended up in that state through YouTube no longer (for a week at least - I'll be doing more testing later) accepting video clips in the AVI format that one of my cameras generates. I have no idea what the *reason* for this is, but the *result* is that all of the uploaded video clips in that format show up as 1-second videos, so I had to convert the file format before uploading to get YouTube to accept the files - which works, but with very poor picture quality. Anyway - be forewarned that many of these clips have shockingly bad picture quality.
The first five (HD) videos are of Shinbashi, Ginza, Yurakucho, and Tokyo Station. Moving into the LD videos, there are views of Tachikawa, Mitaka, the Chuo Line, Kichijoji, etc.
I'm hoping to find a way to upload the files from that camera without losing (so much) picture quality. I am confident there is some way of doing this, but with the tools I have at hand - I haven't been able to do it... yet!
A large chunk of the videos in this batch were affected by some kind of issue with AVI format files not uploading properly to YouTube, so I converted many of them to FLV files, which uploaded easily, but have degraded picture quality. If the next batch of AVI files I attempt to upload doesn't work, then I'll try to (if I understand the process well enough) convert them into MP4 files (rather than FLV). That technical bit out of the way....
On the last day of February - the 29th this year - there was a pretty big snowfall in Tokyo (big for Tokyo anyway) and I took several clips of the unusual appearance of the city under all that white snow. Most of the snow scenes are of Tachikawa, but there are some other angles thrown in, including train window views.
I went to both Kichijoji and Mitaka recently and took a few clips of the shotengai areas in each place. Back in central Tokyo, while checking out art galleries, I took some video of Ginza - including a couple of exhibitions/installations that were interesting and very colorful - "No doubt the artist is thinking of spring" thought I. And of course there are the usual train views from various lines - primarily the Chuo, Ginza, Tozai, Yamanote, and Keihin-Tohoku lines.
A beautiful and colorful exhibition. Someday I hope to have internally illuminated pictures like these on my walls! For now at least, the artist told me that the pictures are for the exhibition only and are not for sale.
At Shinbashi Station - looking down the tracks towards Kanagawa. The many tracks and trains are quite an impressive sight - although I wonder why the railway is letting the overhead steel structure that supports the power cables rust. I suppose there's been a decision to replace them with something else, and so to just let them rust until the point where they need to be replaced....
General winter scenes in Tokyo - with walking scenes in Takadanobaba, Ginza, near Tokyo Station (which is under renovation/reconstruction), in Shinjuku, Yurakucho, Kyobashi, etc. And at this point a roadblock to further video uploads struck in the form of YouTube's avi reformatter breaking, preventing me from uploading anything else. I did (in the middle of about 80 failed uploads), somehow luck out and get one short video posted showing a single street during Tokyo's February 29th, 2012 big snowfall, but if the broken avi-reformatter issue isn't solved (I suspect the real issue is that YouTube has reached (surpassed actually?) the breaking point with the vast number of - ever-increasing in intensity - uploads it's been taking in non-stop for all this time...) - if a way to again upload avi files doesn't present itself, this could be the end of most of my video uploading. I tested a couple of alternative sites - Vimeo and MetaCafe - but in both cases the video plays strangely, and in one case with no sound - so there doesn't appear to be any (practical) alternative to YouTube... although I hear other file formats may be okay, so I need to find a way to convert my avi files into something else (MP4 is best apparently).
Continuing to read "All the Best in Japan" by Sydney Clark (published by Sidgwick and Jackson Limited in 1959), I notice the road and vehicle traffic situation has radically changed, while rail travel has basically the same reputation (with some changes). Looking at the section entitled: "But There Are Things to Cope with Too":
"In the interest of balanced reporting I have to state that motor touring in Japan, while perfectly practicable almost everywhere - I have enjoyed a lot of it - leaves much to be desired. From the tourist's angle poor roads are Japan's most noticeable fault and the fact that a vigorous ten-year reconstruction plan has just got under way does not lend much comfort to those who plan to come now or soon. Great stretches of the roads you'll want to use are narrow and bumpy and many portions are thick with dust in dry weather, gooey with mud in wet. ......"
Well, ten years from 1959 was 1969, and here we are in 2012, from which I can report that it's exceedingly rare to find any road that isn't covered with smooth asphalt now. So much so, that when I find myself standing on dirt (an exceedingly rare occurrence), I look down and marvel, "Wow! Real dirt! Just think, this dirt may actually have never been buried under asphalt before! Amazing!", which is unfortunately not even sarcasm (not much anyway). It really does seem like some kind of wonderful thing to be standing on actual dirt [comment from 1996].
"Statistics before me reveal that of Japan's vehicles officially tallied in a recent year, buses totaled a surprising 10 per cent. The figure for trucks (but the majority of these are in and near the big cities, not on the open highways) is a whopping 60 per cent, while that for passenger cars is only 25 per cent, the remaining 5 per cent being scored as 'Special'."
There are still a lot of buses and trucks, but certainly trucks are not 60 percent of the vehicles on the road now. I do remember being struck with the large number of trucks on the road when I first came here though (in the eighties). In fact, I think there are probably many more trucks on the open highways now than in 1959 (with a lower percentage - but certainly not absolute number - in the cities). They have cut rail freight use way down (the Shiodome office tower area near Shinbashi Station used to be a freight rail yard, for example), and have been feverishly burying ever more of the country under asphalt over the past 50 years, so it's gotten to the point where I wish for the opposite of what Mr. Clark wished for back then. It would be an altogether happier situation if they were now making new plans to *reduce* the number of roads in the country and stop doing everything for the sake of petrol-burning internal-combustion machinery.
"..... If highway travel is bad, railway travel is quite wonderful, for Japan is perhaps the most railway-minded great country in the world. Rail service is excellent in quality and the punctuality of trains, all trains, is nothing less than spectacular. I think Japan comes the nearest of any country in the world to keeping its trains so precisely on time that 'you can set you watch by them'."
This is still true, although they have been building large new bus terminals beside major rail stations (Tokyo and Shinjuku immediately come to mind) and more and more people are traveling from Tokyo to other areas of Japan via night buses, which is a horrible development in my view (horrible to be using bloody buses when they could be running trains). Meanwhile, rail travel on many train lines away from the mega-cities is way down. Making Japan a car culture is one of the more horrible mistakes of the 20th century I think, and - although young people are less interested in owning cars than their age group used to be, the Godzilla construction industry continues to work hard in the 21st century at burying ever more of the country under asphalt for the sake of bloody internal combustion engines. I hope oil runs out in the world in a hurry - to put a stop to this suicidal madness.