Japan is not only Tokyo with its crowded street crossings and neon lights. It’s also the old countryside, small traditional (and not so traditional) houses with rice paddies or vegetable farm in the backyard.
I live in Tokyo (technically not but almost in the city limit) but I work in a factory way out in the countryside of Saitama prefecture, 50km north of Tokyo. This is what I see every morning from the window of my train.
This morning, on my way to work, my train stopped one express station after mine. Some accident had happened on the line and the traffic was stopped for 2-3 hours. No way I could get to work, and once the train would start running again there’d be no bus left to bring me from the station to my office (it sucks working in a factory out in the middle of nowhere).
So I startend to head back home. Trains were out, I decided to give the bus a try: no bus connection from this station back to my home. Taxis? The line in front of the taxi stop climbed back up the stairs all the way to the ticket gates… All that’s left was to hoof it up along the tracks.
It took me 45 minutes to get back home for a 5 minutes ride of express train. On my way I passed by the place of the accident and caught some shots of the train’s broken windshield. There were 5 or 6 TV helicopters circling above.
UPDATE: Jeff, over at JapanProbe.com, fished out the news article related to this accident along with a picture of the K-car that was crushed and the throngs of salarymen walking along the tracks like I did.
Last Saturday in the early afternoon, we had a huge dust storm all over the 関東 area. It started out as a very nice day, sunny 15°C, I went for grocery shopping in just a light sweater. Then around 2PM, the sky suddenly became dark, great gusts of wind started whistling around the corners of our building, we could see the road signs and city lights shaking in the street and parked bicycles being blown away. The sky became dark yellowish / light brown as the huge dust cloud passed over us. Then it was over in 15 minutes.
I couldn’t take a good photo as my girlfriend wouldn’t let me open the windows or open the door to go outside (we just cleaned up the apartment, so letting all this dust come in was definitely not a good idea), so I got this photo of the event from surround’s photostream on Flickr.
Apparently, these dust storms happen often in the Kanto plain at the turn of spring. This huge plain all around Tokyo is heavily farmed and parched fields, from the very dry winters we have here, go up in dust with the strong winds marking the coming of spring.
Last July I wrote about a popular Japanese webservice that built an image of your brain out of your name. Everyone at work and on TV was talking about it. The concept was even copied overseas (replacing the kanjis with emoticons).
This weekend I saw on TV another of those websites that you know everyone will talk about. Its name is 住所パワー which aims at calculating your “Address Power” from the number and proximity of restaurants, schools, train stations, etc.
My address, even though I live out in the relative boondocks, 20 minutes from 池袋 – the closest station on the Yamanote line – into 埼玉県, scored a nice 3,321 points and is ranked A-class.
Here are the results by criterion, with the number of shop and the distance to the closest one (I added the translations). I probably owe my good score to being extremely close to the station and across the street from a supermarket on one side and a mall on the other.
Note that the number of Love Hotels and 風俗 – basically any kind of shop/bar/club/salon related to the sex industry – comes as a criterion, although they probably need a broader databases because there are at least 2 dozen hostess bars/キャバクラ in a 200m circle around my place that should have gotten me a lot more points…
After waiting a week for an answer from the owner to the real-estate agent, we finally called him up yesterday and were told the apartment was ours.
Now all I’ve got to do is have my company sign all the papers and we can set a date to move-in, hopefully by the beginning of November. I will be living in a 60m2 2LDK apartment on the 6th floor of a brand new building 2-minutes from Shiki station on the Tobu Tojo line. That’s 20minutes from Ikebukuro by express and 37 minutes from where I take the company’s bus in the morning to get to my office.
What to do when you really want to snowboard in summer and you like stupid crazy activities? You find a place where they built a big-air jump on a hill with a pool under it.
The place is called S-Air and is located in 所沢 in southern Saitama. You can get there from Tokyo in around 45min by train and the full day pass + rental of everything will cost you 8,300¥ (or 7,000¥ for 2 1/2 hours).
This was really really scary and even though I probably never cleared 3m, it felt really high. I had never taken a real jump on a snowboard before, and I will probably never do it on snow now that I know how it feels: I had so many potentially-fatal-crashes in that pool, I’m scared for life now…
This Saturday, my girlfriend arrived in Tokyo to look for a job, pass some interviews, etc. She’ll be staying at my place for 2 weeks or so, hopefully enough to get a good feel of the current job market.
So this Sunday, we went to Kawagoe to scout out the place and see what kind of apartments we can find over there. It’s a big town, 300K inhabitants, very lively and only 30min from Tokyo. I’d be happy to live there. But after talking with a real estate agency, we were told it will be hard to find a newish apartment close to the station there and we’d better check out Fujimino for this.
Fujimino is one station down the line, 5min closer to Tokyo on the express train. I had never stopped there before, but always saw the tall apartment buildings, 20+ floors, all around the station. We came out and walked a little bit around, and apart from a couple of conbinis, a McDonald and a little 24/7 mini-market around the station, the town barely has a dozen shops.
The town is so dead and empty that, as I came out of the station in the village I live in, I thought it was really lively (something that would never have crossed my mind the day before). The real estate agent said it well: Fujimino is これから, the question is “will I be there to see it?”.
Next weekend, I’m going back to Kawagoe to really see some apartments. I’m hoping I’ll find an older mansion that had a renewal not so long ago.
Last weekend I went to 熊谷, the bigger town close to where I live, to watch the city’s 花火大会 from my friend’s roof.
Firework shows in Japan last very very long compared to anything I knew in France, over 2 hours. That’s because in between every 2 minutes sets they make a 3 minutes break. Why, you ask? My theory is that it’s all to encourage consumerism, so that you have time to get up and go buy a beer or some たこ焼き from the closest 屋台… What do you think?