I didn't think of any new places to go to this past week, so I just revisited some places I haven't been spending much time in lately. This being Tokyo, if you don't go somewhere for a little while, it's almost a sure bet that when you get around to returning, there will be changes - sometimes to a disorienting degree.
[A cautionary note about the time figures I've used below - they were taken from video file playback software running the original files on my computer, and not from the YouTube upload, so I'm not entirely certain they will always be accurate, although one file I tested was exactly the same. The time figure *should* be exactly the same, but thought I'd mention this production detail just in case.]
This starts on the plaza in front of Akihabara Station and then I walk through the busy ticket gates (with area commuters heading home for the day), and then board a Keihin-Tohoku Line train that takes me to Yurakucho. Getting around the city, I generally don't even think about sitting down (which you more often than not can't do anyway), but instead stand at a door so I can look out the window. Some rides are more visually interesting than others - this particular ride was a good one, with lots of trains running to handle the evening rush of homeward-bound commuters, so there was nearly constant motion outside the window (as you can see in the video).
Regarding standing by a door in order to look out a window... the problem with the efficient seating method of having long seats along the windows facing the center of the train, is it kind of forces you to look across the train and between the heads of the people sitting on the other side (with each side facing each other across the center of the train). It's not much fun visually, so you have to pick comfort (*if* there's a seat available) or stand by the door if you want to have a good look at what's going on/by outside.
[Audio note, I appear to have accidentally gotten in the way of the microphone in a couple of places on this one, causing the audio level to drop way down - sorry about that. Most of it is okay though.]
From the middle of Yurakucho Plaza, I walk under the newer Shinkansen rail bridge and then immediately afterward through the old arch of the Yamanote and Keihin-Tohoku Lines. In the middle I look back to see/verify that the motor noise was from heating/cooling equipment, and then at about the 1:08 mark I follow a man into a soba-noodle place, do a zoom-twist, and continue on towards the YSB Zone.
At 1:25 (and 2:25), note the appearance of the overhead railway cars going past - it's a view that is likely doomed to be hidden. From the appearance of functional and sensible, but rather ugly walls put up near the Ameyokocho area between Ueno and Okachimachi stations, it appears that they intend to wall in the overhead railways - to cut down noise (and maybe also to keep trains from crashing down in the case of a severe earthquake) presumably. A necessary progression I suppose, but a disaster visually. One of the major visual attractions of Tokyo are the clear views of overhead trains running through the city.
Typical winter crowds during the evening rush-hour(s) time in Akihabara. Turning to look back away from the station, the clarity of the winter evening is apparent....
Spring isn't so far off, and the local tree pollen along with air pollution from China will begin blowing through town sometime in February. The quality of air in the world gets worse and worse. When will we stop worshiping short-term convenience over everything else and head in some direction other than destroying the planet, which is a form of mass-suicide? Better to live I think.
Walking through the outside izakaya places in Yurakucho. The street of tents doesn't appear to be doing very good business, but I'm not surprised. They are crowded in the spring because it's nice to be outside, with the sound of the trains going by and the unobstructed sky overhead. What's the attraction of sitting in a semi-heated enclosed plastic tent? If you have to be under a roof and behind walls, it might as well be a real roof and real walls. I'd consider visiting those places if they were out in the open - even in the winter (if you drink something warm and don't stay long, it can still be enjoyable in the cold), but those plastic tents don't look inviting at all. And since they nearly always appear to be empty when I walk by, it looks like I'm not the only one who thinks so. Notice how the always-inside with real walls and real roof place (seen at 1:24 through a window in the narrow passageway under the tracks) is full. If you want to be warm in the winter, best to go for the real thing!
Walking down one of the platforms at Nakano Station, going through the ticket gates on the north side (北口 - North Exit), walking towards the entrance to Sun Mall, turning right, and then diving into a narrow alley that leads back to the back street izakaya area of Nakano. [There is more from this area of Nakano further down the page.]
It was a weird feeling when I went to board a Yamanote Line train and noticed that it was all-green! For a second I thought "They're running one of the old trains! Far out!!", feeling like an old friend had suddenly appeared after they were reported lost in the jungle twenty years before. But as I took a closer look, I quickly realized it was just a (temporary) paint scheme on one of the current generation trains, with this explanatory text helpfully on the train (on the side - towards the top, which I record in this video): "50周年みどりの山手線, 103系電車誕生" which means "50th Anniversary Green Yamanote Line Train ([From] introduction of type-103 electric train)".
It's hard to tell in the video, but as the train pulled into each station, people were staring at it with "What? Wait... huh? What's this?" looks on their faces. Probably some of the young crowd (who never experienced the old type of all-green train cars) were wondering if it was a new-type of Yamanote Line train? In any case, it certainly surprised people. The effect was something like if you walked into your workplace one day and noticed it had suddenly been repainted to a completely different color with no warning. For a second, you might well wonder if you had mistakenly walked into the wrong office by mistake.
Notice all the evidence of construction at Kanda - that station is headed for a radical rebuild I think. In the future it will probably look completely different. I understand and cheer on (often reluctantly I must admit) the never-ending rebuilding of Tokyo, but I really wish they would leave at least a little of past structures. I like the current Kanda Station precisely because there's a solid connection with the past in its design and time-soaked structure. *Everything* being new is really depressing.
Looking out the front cab of an inbound Chuo Line train - which passes an old type JR (from the JNR days) reserved-seat express train going in the other direction just before the Chuo Line train arrives at Ochanomizu Station.
Okay, so the naming is confusing here, but this "B" video comes before the next video (taken with a different camera). This starts on the inside of the ticket gates and continues (after going through the ticket gates) within the station, as well as walking to both streetside exits.
Looking around in Kanda Station on the outside of the ticket gates and then going through the gates and walking up to one of the Yamanote Line platforms. There's so much construction going on in and over Kanda Station, that I'm increasingly wondering what sort of dramatically transformed station it will become. (Being one of the first stations that I often used in Tokyo, it has some nostalgic value for me.)
Looking out a right side window of a Keihin-Tohoku Line train I took from Kanda to Ueno. For this stretch, the Yamanote Line and Keihin-Tohoku Line trains run in parallel, so I tend to think of them as the same, but the view is slightly different (naturally) due to the (slightly) different location of the tracks.
The advertisements on the side of the Yamanote Line train stand out to me when I review this (I didn't really notice them while I was recording the scene at the time). While the number of printed (or painted) advertisements outside have been steadily declining, advertising on the sides of Yamanote Line trains is fairly common (and was never done before JNR became JR). As advertising goes, it doesn't get (locally) much more visible than on the side of a Yamanote Line train. For street billboards though, people don't even notice their surroundings while walking now - since they're always staring at their micro-computers (formerly known as "telephones"). While many people still continue to stare at their micro-computer screens even while a huge train comes blasting into the station, most people tend to look up and watch a train come in - noting how crowded (or not) it is and making mental preparations for how things are going to be once they get inside, so they generally notice advertising on the outside of the train.
Ueno Station handles a lot of train lines and is correspondingly confusing, but this shows a few parts of the station, including the original Ueno Station building and how it looks from the elevated plaza next to the station.
Walking under a sculpture and then taking an outside escalator down to street level on the side of the elevated Ueno Plaza. Walking away from Ueno Station, I passed mainly people headed towards the station (likely headed for home).
Riding the external escalator back up to the elevated plaza in front of Ueno Station - and then walking towards the station - passing an outside smoking area along the way, and pausing to look down on the black road for internal-combustion machinery.
Walking down a flight of stairs from the elevated plaza - past the remnants of the big January 14th snowstorm - and entering a side street. Ueno isn't one the areas I've tended to spend much time in, but its side streets are rather interesting to walk through.
Walking through an area with a lot of izakaya places in Ueno in the early evening. Watching this video now at home as I type this, I find myself wondering why I've always felt like it's fine to walk through Ueno, but never felt like I belonged there. I've been partial to Shinjuku, Shibuya, Yurakucho, Ginza, etc., but not Ueno and Ikebukuro, etc. There seems to be some sort of barrier there for me, but I'm not sure what it is exactly. And I'm a bit warmer towards Ikebukuro than Ueno, come to think of it, but only the east side of Ikebukuro.
More cool train rumbling-by overhead sounds while looking at the under-track shops. After the train (music machine) passed by, I went out to the main Ameyokocho street and headed towards the big fork in the road - with the right side being lined with clothing shops and the left with fish (and other food) shops.
Walking past the food stalls, I see the area as being a victim of it's past success. It was an area where people came from afar to shop in the tough years just after WW-II, when there were shortages of so many things. Now that whatever is available just about anywhere in the city - and typically cheaply - people shop for different reasons than before; because they like a shop and don't care what things cost, or because things are cheap; or because it's convenient, etc. Those don't fit in with this area so well any more, so you have to wonder what the future holds.
At 03:03 you can see the rather ugly rail-bed wall they've installed. I can't argue that a wall is a good idea, especially since everyone is expecting a very powerful earthquake to strike either sooner or later (predictions are for sooner...), but couldn't they have come up with something that looks a little nicer? Just sayin'...
This used to be the norm for retail shops - big glass cases facing the street so people could look in the show windows and ponder what was for sale without having to enter the shop. It's very rare now, so I thought it was important to get this one recorded while it's still in existence.
Starting out on the main shopping street, I walk under a rail bridge, and then into part of the long under-railway retail space, and finally back out onto the twilight streets. "Twilight"... I can't help thinking that this area as it now exists, with its amazing number of small shops under the tracks, might also be in its own twilight....
This is one my favorite videos in this batch - the combination of late twilight, colorfully chaotic street scene with lights everywhere, and to top it all off (and I swear I didn't deliberately time this or anticipate her presence) a woman in kimono walks by in wooden shoes at about the 0:05 second mark (and can be seen again at 0:22 walking away under the rail bridge). Actually - the same woman (I think) was in another video clip walking in the other direction (see next video - placed out-of-order - below this one), but I just assumed she had continued on in the same direction. When I saw her walk by out of the corner of my eye, I thought "(!)The kimono woman again!" I'm glad I didn't notice she was coming, as I probably (in order not to be rude) wouldn't have had the camera recording.
At 0:44 is a stand bar (or "standing bar", whatever). These have become popular (again) due to the bad economy. The shop doesn't need to have chairs, more people can fit inside, and since everyone is standing, people have a tendency not to stay as long. From the customers' perspective, they can enjoy going to an izakaya with friends for a reasonable price - which is more important in these hard times than it would be if the economy were stronger.
The thing about having a look at places like this with the camera rolling, is that since they tend to not have many customers these days (or they never do every time I look...), the shopkeepers are standing around bored and they look over everyone who comes by. I can easily imagine their frame of mind - business is bad and they're probably not in the mood to be picturesque subject matter for tourists' cameras. But... I strongly feel it's important for future understanding of the past that this type of thing be recorded at least a little - how else are people in the future to understand the past? Still, it didn't seem like a good idea to continue in any further, so I backed out quickly and tried again with the next video.
On the one hand, I like the atmosphere of these narrow passageways through all the small shops, but on the other hand, always feel strange regarding the lack of customers. It's not polite to hang out too much without being a customer, but - again - I strongly think these things should be recorded for future understanding of what the past consisted of and (as much as a video can convey such a thing) what it felt like at the time the video was recorded (thank you color and sound!).
More views of new railway side walls - these at least looking slightly better with windows (which is good, considering how much higher they are than the not-very-attractive wall I noticed further down the tracks).
Walking into Okachimachi Station and looking around the station on the outside of the ticket gates - and then wandering over to where a cool old department store used to stand, but is now a new construction site.
As I mentioned above, this construction site marks the spot where a cool old department store used to be. In the summer they had a beer garden on the roof and the building as a whole had a lot of character. Now that it's gone, I really wish I'd recorded it while it was still a part of Tokyo, including the pleasant atmosphere of the rooftop beer garden in the summer....
Boarding a Yamanote Line train and heading towards Kanda. The sound that is almost like that of an old steam locomotive gathering speed is (I think) a wheel with a flat spot. That used to be more common... and maybe I'm mistaken, but I get the feeling that it's becoming a little more common again... maybe they've changed something regarding regularly scheduled maintenance?
Walking past illuminated trees towards the Yaesu side entrance to Tokyo Station. The long stretch of long-distance buses parked in front of the construction zone is always depressing to walk through. There's an unfortunate trend for people to travel long distance by bus instead of rail - this in Japan with it's fantastic rail system. Anyway, after the bus zone, I enter the station and begin walking through one of its concourses.
Beginning with a brief look down the middle of a Chuo Line train, followed by the scene out a side window as the train pulls into Shinjuku Station. Getting off the train, I go up to the south exit concourse.
Probably due to the low power consumption of LED lights, they leave the end-of-the-year seasonal lighting up a lot longer than they used to. In the case of lighting along Shinjuku Southern Terrace, I think it will be there until the end of this month. It's cool that they leave it up for a while - it really does look nice.
Around Christmas, there were a line of couples trying this... attraction(?) out - the arrangement being that they needed to hold hands and each one would touch their free hand to one of the pedestals, and the short light and sound show would occur. So... since there was no-one there at all when I went by this evening, I decided to try it out. Since I don't have three hands, I held the camera in my teeth while touching the sensors on the pedestals (to complete the electrical connection and start the mini-show going).
This is a fairly long clip - starting on the Chuo Line just after departing Ochanomizu Station, covering the transfer at Kanda Station, and then the ride to Hamamatsucho Station.
At the 00:16 mark, hit the pause and you can see an exposed stairwell of Manseibashi Station (万世橋駅). A while back they allowed a limited number of people into the remains of the closed station to take photos, and now they're doing something with the remains - hopefully preserving enough of the original station to keep things interesting. The station used to be a terminal station, and was similar in style to the 1914 Tokyo Station. According to Wikipedia:
"The private Kobu Railway (甲武鉄道) between Tachikawa and Shinjuku was opened on April 11, 1889. The line was gradually extended east towards the center of Tokyo and was nationalized on October 1, 1906. The line was further extended to Manseibashi Station, which was opened on April 1, 1912 and remained the eastern terminal station of the line for seven years. "The first station building was designed by Tatsuno Kingo in a style inspired by the Amsterdam Centraal and repeated in his design of Tokyo Station, opened two years later. A statue of Takeo Hirose was erected in front of the station." "After the 1914 opening of Tokyo Station, Manseibashi still served as the eastern terminal station of the Chuo Main Line until March 1, 1919, when the line was further extended and Kanda Station opened. The 1923 Great Kanto earthquake destroyed the original station building, and a simpler station building was erected in its place. The statue of Hirose was left standing. "In 1925, the elevated railway running through Ueno Station and Akihabara Station was opened for passenger traffic. Since both Akihabara and Kanda stations were within walking distance of Manseibashi, passenger numbers at Manseibashi decreased. On April 26, 1936, the Railway Museum moved into Manseibashi Station, and the station building itself was scaled back in November 1936. The station was officially closed on November 1, 1943 and the station building was completely torn down. The statue was removed after World War II." "The train line continues to run through the site, and it is used for parking the occasional train. The Tokyo Railway Museum became the Transportation Museum in 1971, and continued to operate on the site until 2006, when the museum was re-focused towards railways and moved to Saitama, Saitama as the Railway Museum. "In July 2012, work started to redevelop the site, with the original redbrick structure forming the basis of a new office and retail complex scheduled to open in summer 2013. JR East plans to build decks and a cafeteria on the platform and open shops under the bridge." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manseibashi_Station
This is how most of Akihabara used to be - one big collection of electronic and computer parts stores - now this sort of thing is being increasingly crowded out with computer games and theme-park-style cafes, etc.
As the title says - walking around... and I would just comment that in this video, from around the 03:22 mark, you can see young women handing out flyers for what are essentially cosplay cafe's - and from this visit to the area, it appears that what's more popular now than the maid uniform (that you saw a lot of before in this area), are high school mini-skirt uniform-wearing women. I tried to avoid them, as my purpose of visiting Akihabara was to record the electronics shops, but in this section, the street was saturated with them, so it couldn't be helped. I tried to just unobtrusively pass through, but still ended up with a couple of advertising flyers in my hand - one for a (I think) maid cafe and one for a... I wonder what the correct term is... high school uniform cafe? Whatever!
Notice right at the start of this video the "AKB-48 CAFE & SHOP". I walked over for a look and was fascinated [cough] to discover that you can actually [cough] buy AKB-48 cookies inside.... This... is the new Akihabara.
New use for under-the-tracks space (00:39). For decades, these under-the-tracks places were used mainly by interesting izakaya places, but now JR is very enthusiastic about retail shops, and so here we are - with Bic Camera having expanded its retail space over from the neighboring building (former Sogo Department Store). Functional, practical, convenient - and (unfortunately) soulless. Nostalgia doesn't pay the bills, but the old small shops had so much more atmosphere.
Above and below - four videos of walking around on the back streets of Nakano fairly late in the evening - around 9:00 p.m. Some areas like this have become sort of like theme-park attractions (as an example, Omoide-yokocho in Shinjuku), but this area is still the real thing. Honest back streets where you can wander around free from the noise/smell/vibration/inconvenience/etc. of fire-breathing machinery - how nice the whole city must have been before the invention of the bloody automobile. Cars may be wonderful out in the countryside, but they're horrible in the city.
As I mentioned further up the page - it was a bit of a time-warp experience to come across this all-green Yamanote Line train. 一瞬タイムスリップしてしまったと思った！ - 50周年みどりの山手線, 103系電車誕生, 50th Anniversary Green Yamanote Line train.
This is pretty interesting-looking, but it might be temporary - there's a very strong trend to tear down all small buildings in Ginza and replace them with large ones. I suspect the owner of this small lot is just renting out the space on temporary short contracts, while waiting for neighboring land to open up, so they can tear down all the small stuff and build another big box. It's really depressing to watch actually, because the smaller buildings are where the most interesting things are in Ginza. If they tear them all down, it may well become a boring place - suitable only for overpriced "brand" garbage... I hope not, but the current trend isn't so great....
The two things that stand out (to me) in this batch of videos are the fairly heavy snowfall that Tokyo experienced and a visit to the 47-Ronin graves at Sengakuji Temple 泉岳寺. I'm a bit shy on time right now, so there may not be much in the way of comments by the videos this time - hopefully the titles are self-explanatory.
For several stations, I looked out a side window (on the right), but I moved to the front of the train and looked out the front cab for the last hop of the trip, going from Osaki to Shinagawa. It's an interesting part of the Yamanote Line, as it makes a fairly sharp turn to the left that starts the train heading north towards Shinagawa, Yurakucho, Tokyo, Akihabara, Ueno, etc. At the top of the loop, the line runs west for a little before heading south (basically making two 90-degree turns), so the bottom part of the loop is the only place where it takes that sharp of a turn (more than 90-degrees) between stations.
I keep saying this, but take a good look at how the Yamanote Line platform looks, because it won't look this way for very much longer. The next step is it will be under construction for some time and then they'll put in the platform walls...
These side window pictures from the Chuo Line (three - together covering one trip from Kokubunji to Kanda [and then a fourth video covers Kanda to Tokyo and Yurakucho]) were taken the day after the big January 14th snow, so a lot of the snow had already melted, but since so much had fallen the day before, a fair amount remained and the whiteness of the landscape is unusual for Tokyo. Since the train wasn't crowded at all, I went back and forth between the left and right sides of the train - with most of the first part of the trip being recorded on the left, but then the Nakano to Shinjuku part on the right and the rest of the trip more evenly on both sides.
This a long one, with the Nakano to Shinjuku part of the trip (as I mentioned above) being recorded on the right side of the train, so you can see the high-rise buildings of Shinjuku gradually get bigger on the horizon as the train speeds towards Shinjuku. After Shinjuku, I went back and forth more evenly, recording from both sides of the train.
I had been planning to transfer to the Yamanote Line at Kanda, but ended up staying on the Chuo Line and riding it to its terminal stop Tokyo Station, where I transferred to the Yamanote Line and rode the one stop down the line to Yurakucho Station.
A major (*the* major?) part of this video is its audio. While I waited for a train to arrive, there was nearly a symphony of competing noises - from the slightly obnoxious repeating message about the escalator being under construction (being repaired actually, but they use the term 工事中 [koji-chu - under construction] in Japanese), to the various typical platform announcements. It's in stereo, so if you want to know how the station sounds, hook this one up to a stereo (or better yet, play it through headphones) and play it loud - it'll give you a very good idea of how it sounds to be waiting for a train at Ebisu!
Personally, I think this video is a bit boring. It does show the snow on the railway through the front cab - but it would have been better to have taken pictures out a side window. Actually, I wanted to do both, but the train was so crowded, that I couldn't get to either side of the train, so I was stuck in that one position - looking through the front cab.
Not the first time to visit the graves of the 47 samurai/ronin, but the first time to go there when there was snow on the ground. The story is that the event took place on a day with a big snowfall, so it seemed appropriate to see Sengakuji Temple with snow on the ground.
No time-tripping in this batch - all the videos are from January 2013 - with typical views from here and there in central Tokyo. What stands out for me are the videos taken near Asakadai and Kita-Asaka Stations; the twilight views of Zojoji (with Tokyo Tower in the background); the new Keisei Narita Airport Line (why names of new lines have to be so long, I don't know...); and a fully mechanical rope-making machine that I recorded in action. Otherwise are pretty typically visited areas: Shibuya, Shinjuku, Yurakucho, Ginza, Shinagawa, Tokyo, Hamamatsucho, etc., as well as train views (Chuo Line, Yamanote Line, Hibiya Line, Keisei Line(s), etc.
The type of train carriage this opens with is unusual in that the base is wider than the top - it looks pretty cool, but I always ended up banging my head on the glass when sitting down, since I expected it to be where it was on other trains, and it was angled in towards the top on this type. I'm glad they have this cab version of that type of train sitting in Hachiko Plaza/Square, but always find myself wishing they had left its wheels on. This is definitely more practical, but....
After looking in the old train carriage (which is used as a waiting area now, which is a great idea), I walk around a little in the eternal meeting spot that the area around Hachiko Stature is. One thing about it that has changed is that it wasn't really well known outside Japan a few decades back, but now it's a standard tourist destination and appears to be well-known worldwide.
How many times have I walked down this Yamanote Line platform at Shibuya Station? It feels like my whole life, but has been only ("only?") about 30 years. As I look at this video now and think back to my early experiences in Shibuya Station in the 1980's, I have a feeling of the area having been vacated by the people who crowded there three decades ago, who were replaced by another set of young people... and that's pretty much exactly what has happened. There's a weird feeling of some kind of disconnect - of the place not being used to the new crowd yet and the new crowd not knowing the history of the place very well (if at all)...? Or something else... something about the group-think of the new crowd being so different than before. At what point do the mental broadcast frequencies change so radically?
Riding to Ebisu... with the bland (and in the case of the English-language version, extraordinarily irritating) recorded announcement instead of the conductor speaking to everyone on the train live, as was the case before. And Ebisu Station! In 1991, it was just a single open platform - as you can see in this video from July 1991 (which also has the tail end of a live announcement at the beginning):
Listening again to the 2013 English announcement... man I hate that announcement! "This is a Yamanote Line train BOUND For [Station names]...." Yuck! If you're going to force people to listen to something over-and-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, you should put some effort into finding someone with a pleasing voice who can read announcements professionally!
Twilight - with the temple, clouds overhead, and illuminated Tokyo Tower in the background, made for that feeling of magic in the air. I had only intended to take the short video above, but then I heard the bell toll and went back to take the following video to get the sound of the temple bell and the surrounding twilight scene....
Something I hadn't noticed before is how the large post (correct term?) used for ringing the bell has to be handled carefully to keep it from hitting the bell a second time - which stands to reason - it's a really large and heavy object - basically a long log in size and weight.
The train that pulls out of the station at the beginning of the video is one of the oldest types still in use on the Tobu-Tojo Line. I've been riding in that type of train carriage (on and off) for close to 30 years now, so I feel some sense of nostalgia watching it and knowing that its days are numbered. The train that pulls out just past the one minute mark is one of the trains that run seamlessly into the subway (becoming the Yurakucho Line).
This machine was quite impressive! Fully mechanical with no electronics and no need for electricity, all you need is plant material (in this case rice plant stalks), and to rotate it via the foot petal (there are two pedals, but he was operating it with just the front one), and you can make your own rope. One older guy came by and said that there used to be one in the town he lived in while growing up, and people in the neighborhood would all use it to make their own rope.
While you can't beat the convenience of clicking on a title you want on your computer and having it delivered to your door, you also can't beat the pleasure of wandering around a good-sized bookstore and seeing a large collection of books that you can pick up, look through, and buy Right Now, as opposed to waiting for a delivery.
It was a cold and windy evening - and on a cold and windy evening, people are much less inclined to want to go to an outside izakaya. The izakaya places in this video have set up heaters and curtained off the outside areas, but it's not the same as going somewhere that is just Warm, and not semi-warm, with regular cold blasts of winter air as people come and go. However, the two places in that tunnel under the tracks seem to do good business all year round.
I walked onto the platform at a gap in the schedule, when there were almost no trains at the station (and none at all for a little between Yamanote Line trains). Depending on the ebb and flow of people, gaps like this can produce quite a crowd on the platforms, but it wasn't crowded this particular time - nevertheless the timed recording read with the overly-smooth forced-informal and artificially-jovial tone saying to please properly deal with crowded conditions drones on....
Visually, you might want to take a good hard look at how the open platforms look in this one, because they're constructing platform walls (just over a meter high, so like a fence) on the Yamanote Line now, so it's only a matter of time before this takes on a completely different appearance.
I can't argue that platform walls are safer, and given how crowded the platforms sometimes become, combined with a reduced number of railway employees on hand, it's probably a great idea, but the current open platforms are more interesting visually and photographically.
And then there's energy... for one Yamanote Line platform at one station, if each platform wall door (two per opening) uses one motor, how much power is consumed each time a train comes in? Eleven carriages, four double-doors per carriage, so 44 openings, doubled to 88 since the platform wall doors are also double doors. 88 electric motors running for each and every train (every few minutes on the Yamanote Line) at each and every station. It seems to me it would have made more sense to install platform walls with openings where the train doors are, and skipped the platform doors. With a door-gapped wall, there's something to grab onto even if you start to fall where one of the gaps are. When I used the Ikegami Line, that's the system they use (and still do I think). It's safer than an open platform and you don't have the tremendous financial costs and waste of energy that the powered door version requires. Here's what the Ikegami Line looked like in 2010 (and presumably still does):
And back to the general appearance of the platforms at Shinjuku Station on the evening I took this video. This view gives you an idea of how long the platforms are for 10-car (and 11 for the Yamanote Line) trains are. (Some main JR line stations have platforms that accommodate 15-car trains.)
Walking around on the concourse near the south exit. I spent a little too much time on the team of advertisement changers working to remove a cover-everything advertisement, but I thought it was kind of interesting at the time and hadn't seen that process before. After spending too much time on the concourse, I walk down to one of the Yamanote Line platforms.
I went out to Narita Airport and tried out (midway, after transferring from the first Keisei train I took) the new speedier Keisei line (which goes in more of a straight line to the airport and runs up to about 120kph) to the airport. It costs Y200 more than the fastest non-Skyliner Keisei train that runs on the original Keisei tracks, but gets you there ten minutes faster (by regular train express, not Skyliner - the new Skyliner goes up to 160kph and takes much less time). The new line confusingly goes by three (or more?!) names:
"Keisei Narita Airport Line" and "Narita Sky Access" and "Access Express", etc.
(京成成田空港線 - 成田スカイアクセス - 成田空港アクセス, etc.)
The history is interesting - apparently part of the new track was laid on what was originally right-of-way intended for a Shinkansen link to the airport (the Keisei Line runs on wider gauge than most rail lines in Tokyo, by the way, using the same gauge as the Shinkansen tracks I think): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keisei_Narita_Airport_Line
The new line is really cool, but why are there so many different names for it? What are we supposed to call it? Given that there are at least three names for it, I guess we can call it whatever we like? Free-for-all in naming? Not trying to be unfriendly here, but having three (or more?) different names for the same thing is really confusing.
With a transfer like this, it seems like it would have been better to have used the same station name for the two stations that people regularly transfer to and from. As it is, the Tobu-Tojo Line station is called Asakadai Station, and the JR station is called Kita-Asaka.
The next several videos are all from the area around the Kita-Asaka and Asakadai pair of stations. I transfer here from time-to-time, but I hadn't really taken a good look at the area before, so I slotted in some time to just walk around and see what it's like.
This is a fairly long video - I had originally intended to just show the transfer from the Chuo Line to the Yamanote Line at Kanda Station, but it appears to have entered a difference phase of reconstruction than the last time I passed through, so I paused to look around a little inside the station, and then went up to catch a Yamanote Line train. Since a train came pretty soon after I got there, I left the camera running and also recorded the run to Yurakucho.
About the recorded birdsong in the stations - I haven't done any research into this, but while I thought it was an attempt at making a pleasant atmosphere at first, now I think it might be an anti-pigeon measure? If a pigeon thinks an area is already claimed territory by other birds, maybe it stays away? Just conjecture, but the way the recorded birdsong is used at so many stations, there must be some reason for it.
On the way to Yurakucho, the train stops at Tokyo Station - and regarding that platform, which still has (over most of the platform) a wooden roof and support beams, I think this is the last platform with this old type roof (dating back to?) left at Tokyo Station. I remember the skylights as having been installed in the late eighties, by the way. They didn't originally have those.
Those bloody recorded announcements... "The doors on the LEFT SIDE will open." Ugh! Yuck! Man I hate those horrible English announcements! 気持ち悪いよ！ 止めてくれ！
Looking out a left-side window of an outgoing Tobu-Tojo Line train. There's enough open space along the railway line where I took this video, that it's kind of relaxing to watch the scenery go by. When there are large buildings right next to a train line, there's nothing you can rest your eyes on, since the entire scene going by the windows is constantly changing. It's interesting, but also kind of stressful to try and keep track of. With open space though, you can stare off into the distance and drift into one deep thought or another.
Speaking of deep thoughts... one of the attractions of going out into the crowds in Tokyo is that basic navigation requirements and constantly changing surroundings prevent you from thinking about anything very deeply - which is a good way to not be depressed!
Okay - here we come to a long stretch of videos showing various views of the area around Asakadai and Kita-Asaka. "Wait - didn't that already happen further up the page?" - It did, but those were taken with a different camera than this batch. The titles are pretty self-explanatory, so I won't comment much on this batch.
Atmosphere is something that is hard to convey to people in far-off lands, but I suppose moving pictures with sound go some way towards conveying something of the experience. For me watching this video reminds me how your perception of the world changes when you live a car-free (except all the fire-breathing beasts everywhere... I mean "car-free" in the sense of doing without one yourself) existence. You get around by train, and when on the street, instead of nervously thinking about the place you left the car - whether a parking meter might run out, whether the paint will get scratched, whether it will be vandalized, how much parking will cost, etc. etc. etc., you are completely free to just take in your surroundings. I'm sure my car-breathing friends will not agree/comprehend with that, but take it from a former car-addict - there are very real advantages to doing without your very own fire-breathing beast on wheels.
Anyway - I think I blasted right off into a tirade there without properly explaining my point. Oh well.
One detail comment about this one - notice the ramp on the side of the stairs? That's for bicycles - not to ride them of course, but to wheel them up and down the ramp while you walk on the stairs.
The title of this one refers to when I got into a steady flow of people heading from Asakadai Station to Kita-Asaka Station, but it goes all the through to arriving on the elevated platform of Kita-Asaka Station.
Looking into the tunnel through the front cab (via the small window on the far right away from the driver). There's something fascinating about looking into the tunnel and imagining the work of building it - and the train rolling along the rails down in the earth with the city above....
Taking a Hibiya Line subway ride from Kasumigaseki to Kayabacho - looking into the tunnel along the way. Not exciting, but the pattern of lights and shadows passing by is a part of the experience of riding in subway trains.
Looking out the front of the train between Yurakucho and Shinagawa. Central Tokyo is more interesting in a way at night, what with all the lights. On this run all the platforms were open, which is something that will change before long.
The snow used to make these snow sculptures was either transported to Tokyo or artificially manufactured. (Either that or they used a time machine to grab some January 14th snow and take it back to January 10th!)
After walking around looking at part of an illumination display up close, I walked into a large bookstore and walked abound a bit. This bookstore is in a great location - very near to Yurakucho Station, and it always seems to be quite busy. Small bookshops seem not to be doing so well - just about every time I walk past one and look in, it's empty.
I spent some time in this building back in 1984, when it was the Meridien Pacific Hotel - now it's an acronym hotel called Shinagawa GOOS (GOOS - Gate, Occasion, Oasis, and Satisfaction). Too bad about the name (not the greatest *sounding* acronym when spoken as a word, and does *everything* have to be an acronym now?), but I'm glad the building is still in use. I went to the top floor restaurant in 1984, and it's nice to know I can still do that. The website for the building is: http://www.shinagawagoos.com/
In spite of my general lack of enthusiasm for acronyms (just about everyone overuses them I think), the concept for the hotel is good - on their website, the name is explained this way:
This is part of the Tamagawa-Josui Canal (玉川上水) that was built over 300 years ago to supply extra water for Edo. From the air, it appears as a narrow strip that runs from western Tokyo to Kichijoji (although it forks and I'm not sure where the other fork goes). From the ground, it's a nice oasis in Tokyo for walking, jogging etc. (It seems much bigger from the ground than from the air.)
Here are a couple of views of Tamagawa-Josui in warmer weather:
Time tripping to December 1990 and January 1991, as well as New Year's Day views from 2013 and a few train system views from later in the first week of 2013. This batch of time-tripping views mainly consists of what are basically day-trips rather than just views from day-to-day life in Tokyo. To go over the various views in order (with more details after some titles/links):
Beginning with an intensively for-video day I experienced/orchestrated/choose/time-invested-in/etc. on Saturday, December 8th, 1990. The day (the version I recorded images and sounds of that is, but I had the camera running for nearly the entire day) begins with a look at the west side of Ikebukuro Station, and then shows the inside of always busy Ikebukuro Station; the ride via Yamanote Line to Shibuya; the transfer at Shibuya from the Yamanote Line to the Toyoko Line, and a seventeen-minute video of the (approximately) 30-minute ride to Yokohama, most of it a front-cab view.
In Yokohama are views of Yokohama Station and a long walk - going from one place in Yokohama to another - including views of work on the foundation for the yet-to-be-built Landmark Tower building and some time (too much time maybe) spent in an amusement park in the newly developing "Minato Mirai-21" zone. After the amusement park, I walk to a subway station and take a train to Shin-Yokohama Station, from where I take a Shinkansen (a Hikari no less) to Tokyo Station.
I think at the time I was hoping to get on a new type Shinkansen, but from the perspective of 2013, I'm really happy my train turned out to be the original type Shinkansen, and I was able to record some views of the dining car, which modern Shinkansen trains no longer have. There is one 65-minute video that covers nearly all of my time in Yokohama, with separate clips showing the Landmark Tower foundation work and several views of the amusement park (which are part of the long 65-minute video) and then separate (and not part of the 65-minute video) views of the trip back to Tokyo after that (subway, Shinkansen, etc.).
After views of 1990 Ikebukuro and Shinjuku, I jump to this year - 2013 - for a few views from a shrine, taken on New Year's Day. After that, I go back again - still 22 years ago, but this time to January 1991.
On January 12th, 1991, I visited Setagaya, and while buying a pen in an old store, the shopkeeper (the daughter of the owner) told me that there was going to be a big street market in the area on the 15th and 16th (you can see her writing down the name of it for me in the video I took in the old store), so I returned on the 15th to have a look and found myself in some pretty intense crowds! Since that area is reached by one of the last two remaining streetcar lines in Tokyo, I also got to experience riding the cool old 1949 streetcars (which have since been retired unfortunately).
And then there are the usual train scenes - from the Keio Line, the Setagaya Line (the streetcar I mentioned), the Saikyo Line, one of the Seibu lines, etc. And finally, jumping back to 2013, there are a few scenes from one of the Seibu lines.
Looking closely at the people rushing by in Ikebukuro Station, one of the more striking differences between 1990 and 2013 is that the women in 1990 still had undyed hair and eyebrows (also black). The overwhelming majority of 2013 Tokyo women dye their hair some shade of off-black (is that a word?) or brown (drug stores sell hair dye in 759 shades of brown) and have removed most of their eyebrows - leaving just a thin line. It's not for me to say which is better - I'm just commenting that a big change has come about over the past 23 years!
After walking through the crowds in the under-tracks concourse, I go through the ticket gates (using a strip of kaisuken tickets), and up the stairs to catch a Yamanote Line train. The model of train that arrives was only used on the Yamanote Line for about ten years I think, after which it was replaced with the type of train currently being used. Since ten years is a short time for a railway carriage, I think they moved the version shown in this video over to anther line - maybe the Saikyo Line? (Or the Musashino Line?) In any case, many of the current Saikyo Line (and Musashino Line) trains appear to be the type that was on the Yamanote Line in 1990. (The clip ends just as I'm boarding a train - the continuation with views of the inside of the train continues with the next video of Shibuya Station.)
This begins inside a Yamanote Line train as it pulls out of Ikebukuro Station, and then shows the transfer from the Yamanote Line to the Toyoko Line - walking through always busy Shibuya Station. (Manual ticket gates for JR and automated for Toyoko - it wasn't long after this that all the ticket gates in Tokyo were automated.)
Notice that the train is bound for Sakuragicho Station 桜木町駅, a station the Toyoko Line no longer goes to, since it was diverted to line up with a subway line that goes through Yokohama with the terminal stop near Chinatown. Sakuragicho Station is historically interesting as it was the Yokohama side of Japan's first rail line that ran from Sakuragicho (then called Yokohama Station) to Shinbashi Station in Tokyo.
"Sakuragicho is one of Japan's oldest stations. It opened on June 12, 1872 as Yokohama Station when the service between Shinagawa and Yokohama provisionally started. The station was renamed Sakuragicho Station on August 15, 1915 when the next Yokohama Station opened (near Takashimacho Station)."
Between March 31, 1932 and January 30, 2004, Sakuragicho Station was the terminus of the Tokyu Toyoko Line.
"Shinbashi is the original terminus of Japan's first stretch of railway, the Tōkaido Main Line, and is one of Japan's oldest
stations (the oldest station being Shinagawa, a few kilometres down the line). The original Shinbashi Station, opened on October 10, 1872, was built some way to the east of the modern-day structure and was known as Shinbashi Teishajo (新橋停車場)."
Hmm... for 30 years, I've been reading sentences similar to: "Shinbashi is the original terminus of Japan's first stretch of railway" and hadn't heard anything about Shinagawa. And regarding that name mentioned: "Shinbashi Teishajo (新橋停車場)" - that means "Train stopping place [in] Shinbashi"! I guess they didn't use the word 駅 ('eki' - station) back then?
Incidentally, when I came to Japan, JNR (Japan National Railways) correctly I feel, spelled 新橋 (しんばし) "Shinbashi". At issue is the character "ん" which is basically "n", but in one of the many competing forms of romanization of Japanese, there are (idiotic in my view) rules for converting the (unchanging in Japanese) character ん (n) into "m" depending on what comes after the ん. I think it's totally wrong (both in concept and actual pronunciation) and refuse to go along with it, so I always write ん as "n" and correct incorrectly spelled "Shimbash" to correctly spelled "Shinbashi" when I come across it.
This starts with me getting off the Toyoko Line and going downstairs to the manual ticket gates (which were already automated at Shibuya Station at the time) and walking out into the concourse and then out in front of the station where a couple of young men did what was was fairly popular (for young people) at the time - they jumped up in front of my camera (instead of the traditional ducking down). Back in 1990 and 1991, this happened to me fairly often. Since it's not really the sort of thing a lot of people would naturally do on their own, I suspect some comedy show on TV did it and enough people thought it was funny that several of them started doing it too? The awesome/terrible/horrible influence of television...
This - at 65 minutes - is the longest of this batch of videos. It's not a standard "See the sights of Yokohama" type of video. Rather, I started walking from Yokohama Station, and basically just kept walking all day long - stumbling into an amusement park that I hadn't even known existed, and also stumbling into foundation work for the Landmark Tower. Watching this video now, I would say that I probably should have slowed down while recording the various street scenes that I saw, but the material is historically interesting for the large number of street scenes it covers. Just watch it with quick reflexes and pause it here and there if you want to have a longer look at some of the street scenes. While out walking, I didn't hold the camera still anywhere for long, although by the time I got to the amusement park, I was a little more relaxed and holding the camera on scenes slightly longer. Anyway, just remember "the pause button is your friend" and there's a lot to see in this video.
Early on (at about 4:03), I did what I usually did at the time when I went somewhere outside Tokyo (in the era prior to electronic maps on cell phones), I went to the first bookstore I could find and bought a street map of the area - Yokohama City in this case. With map in hand, I would walk around and periodically check the map (matching area names on utility poles with area names on the map) to keep track of where I was. I would also change course when something on the map looked interesting.
Hmm.... I'm watching the video now as I type this. Scenes of food being cooked in a department store restaurant, trucks being loaded... later on there are scenes from a park; a vertical parking garage with electric turnstile, several trains passing at a large crossing (with several train lines running in parallel), the entrance to Minato Mirai-21 (みなとみらい-21), etc. etc. Well, considering that I basically just kept moving while recording things, there is a lot in this video (I originally typed "a lot on this tape" - which would apply to the original [analog] source tape). Too much to go over in detail here, so I'll jump to the next video. Anyway - if you're interested in what the streets of Yokohama looked like in 1990 - this could be of interest. [Note: the next five videos are isolated parts re-edited from the same stretch of tape that contains this longer 65-minute sequence.]
This covers most of my visit to the Yokohama Cosmoworld amusement park (よこはまコスモワールド遊園地) - where I rode (with my camera rolling most of the time) on several rides. I've isolated three specific rides and made individual videos of them (see below). The one I've entitled "Yokohama Cycle-Monorail Ride" I don't remember the actual name of, and since it appears to no longer exist at the Cosmoworld amusement park, I'm not sure how to find out the name of it. The other two rides are still there.
I went on this one twice. Once in the evening, and the second time just before leaving the amusement park after dark. The second time I got on the self-powered ride, since I was the only one on the ride, I figured it would be okay to go slowly and take some pictures, but a couple of the young men running the ride (after shaking it to make it harder to take pictures) jumped on one of the cycle-powered things and rode over and rammed me, and made rude gestures, etc. to hurry me off of the ride for some reason (I wasn't on it for a particularly long time before they came out to harass me - I just stopped a few times to take pictures, which people were doing in the daytime anyway, even with a lot of people on the ride). I've cut out almost all of that unpleasant aspect of the ride from this version, but several elements of that incident are in the overall "Yokohama Amusement Park" video further up the page. It was a weird experience - the three of us were all pretending it was fun and games, but there was something else going on below the surface....
This is a surprisingly entertaining ride that I've enjoyed at other amusement parks as well, for example in this clip (below) from Toshimaen Amusement Park (としまえん遊園地) - also taken in 1990, but a few months earlier (in September), when the weather was basically still summer:
The ride is the same, but the surroundings are quite different! One of Toshimaen's attractions is all the green within the park. It's quite a nice space when the weather is nice. For Cosmoworld, the bayside location is a different kind of attraction - one that can be quite nice in the evening.
This comment applies equally to all the rides at 1990 Cosmoworld: Take a good look at the area around the amusement park - it's mainly empty space in these 1990 views. In 2013, there are a lot of new buildings in and around this area. As I walked up to the area in 1990, there was a big sign saying "みなとみらい-21" (Minato Mirai-21), announcing the area as a new development project for the coming 21st century. And now here we are - in the 21st century, and the area is pretty well fully developed.
A comment on how this ride looks to me now (when watching the 1990 video) - it seems a little like how a propeller airplane pilot might have seen the world while buzzing around in an airplane? Not having ever been in that type of aircraft, I'm not sure, but it reminds me of some movie footage I've seen from old planes with open cockpits.
There's some overlap in this video with the 65-minute Yokohama video, but only at the beginning within the first minute. After that, it's the trip from Isezaki-Chojamachi Station to Shin-Yokohama Station (via subway).
A ride in a Hikari Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo. The fast Hikari Shinkansen trains are scheduled so that if you time it right, you can take one to just about any of the Shinkansen stations. I don't think so many Hikari Shinkansen trains stop at Yokohama, so it was lucky timing (since it's more interesting to be on a Hikari than it is to be on a local train - even though there is no difference in speed between them when running between Shin-Yokohama and Tokyo [the Shinkansen didn't stop at Shinagawa in 1990]). One of the things I like about this video are the noises the train makes in the dining car - noises that remind me of passenger trains I rode in as a kid. Newer trains don't sound like that.
This old type of store used to be the norm - a small store in front, with the owners of the store living in the rear of the building. The shopkeeper allowed me to take pictures and I recorded a little while talking with her.
Shimotakaido is the station where the Setagaya Line terminates and is a transfer point to/from the Keio Line. It's also an interesting area with narrow streets full of old shops (more so in 1991 than in 2013, but still it's an interesting area).
I ride a cool old (1949 - 昭和24年) streetcar with a wooden floor, much of the interior also made of wood, and with interestingly/artistically shaped cast-iron pieces supporting the hand grips, etc. These old streetcars which were still in use in 1991, have unfortunately all been replaced with functional, but soulless new ones.
Hmm... I didn't notice the change until comparing the two videos, but the old tile sidewalk that probably gave the street its name (Mosaic) has been replaced with something that isn't a mosaic any longer. So if you were wondering (from the 2012/13 version of the street) where it got its name, here's the answer!
I had completely forgotten about the "orange card" that JR sold for a short while! It was sold at a time when all the railways had similar type cards, and each railway's card could only be used in its own machines. JR had the "Orange Card", and I think (if I remember correctly) Seibu's card was the "Leo Card", etc. I've forgotten what the others were called. This system (where the card could only be used to buy tickets, not as a ticket itself) didn't last long.
Putting these daytime views of the 1949 streetcars together (above and below) with the night views I took on January 12th, 1991 (see links further up the page), you can get a pretty good idea of how these streetcars looked and sounded (the end of the following video, from around 21:00 has some fairly good views from the ride away from the street market).
The street market was incredibly crowded. It's a bit too popular for its own good. When the crowds get really intense, you can't really shop - about all you can do is struggle through the intense crowds. When I visited a few years ago, it was still like that - particularly on weekends (the event takes place on December 15th and 16th and January 15th and 16th, regardless of what day of the week those dates fall on).