Friday, 17 January 2014

Neighbourhood Patrol

I had a good march around the neighbourhood this week. It is all becoming quite normal to me but so many things are completely different to the way London's residential areas are I thought you might be interested. Let's start with our flat which is within this building, forming the back half of the second floor.
our new home
Unlike London, as soon as you move off the main thoroughfare, you are on single lane streets.
Narrow road
Pavements exist occasionally, but usually you just walk along the side of the street. Bicycles are very common but they tend to ride on the pavements or sides of streets like this rather than among the cars. It's a little olde worlde in that people don't bother with bicycle locks - you see them outside lots of houses just on their stands.
Decorated doorstep
Often they'll be alongside pot plants which decorate a large number of doorsteps. With land at such a premium people tend not to have gardens, so decorated doorsteps is very common. For anyone who has lived in London this seems really odd. I was astonished - no one steals the plants, or the bikes. No one even knocks them over. No one sprays graffiti on them. It's really quite weird for someone so used to London ways. As well as plants you get knicknacks. Pottery frogs for example.
Decorated doorstep 3
These are often themed - either seasonal or all disney, for example. Recently these have been new year themed.
Decorated doorstep 2
And sometimes you want to decorate the doorstep because of what is just next door. The one above had one of the ubiquitous vending machines next to it.
Vending Machine 2
These are endemic. You get them absolutely everywhere including inside temples, on underground platforms and at the entrances to the poshest shopping centres. They give out the usual bottled soft drinks for about 75p a time but also hot drinks such as tea and coffee. Some have beer or whiskey in them. You also get others for cigarettes and sometimes for ice creams and snacks. Veering off the tour for a moment I was surprised to find a 2.7 litre plastic bottle of whiskey in a supermarket the other day.
2l plastic bottle of whiskey
About £11. Bargain. Anyway, back to the tour. Because space is scarce, any empty lots become these mini carparks.
Some may only have two spaces in them and they are all automated, which is odd considering how overstaffed other activities are. For instance, any construction work is accompanied by a man making sure no one is struck down by vehicles connected to the works which might come racing up at 10 mph every 3 hours or so.
Building Guard
I always say thank you to these men even when the road is empty, as it usually is. I feel so sorry for them. Must be almost as boring as this police duty.
Embassy Guard
Whenever there is an embassy nearby, and there are several near here (Argentinian and Swiss - nothing threatening), you get a policeman ready to block the roads with his expandable blockade in the event of a crisis. He has an orange baton too. Poor things. They just stand there, hour after hour, scowling at the traffic, in case someone starts storming the Swiss Embassy by car from 300 yards away. As soon as you get away from doorsteps and security risks you can tell when you are getting to the main shopping streets as they are decorated. These are our local ones.
Azabu-juban, which is a richer area and more touristy than ours, has slightly snazzier ones with flags as well.
Road Decorations 2
As well as shops and doorsteps, we also have a large number of temples and shrines near us. You can tell the two apart because a shrine will always have a gate like this at the entrance.
Shrine Gate
There are at least four within 10 minutes walk of here. This is one of the temples.
Temple Entrance
This houses a lot of grave monuments.
They also often have their own gardens of various sizes. Aren't the branches of this tree amazing?
Temple Garden
This one is alongside our main thoroughfare - which was bustling at midday on a weekday.
Pedestrian Crossing
You might remember me mentioning a pet hate about waiting endlessly for the green man to appear on empty roads. You can see that happening here. Alongside it runs the odd looking Furukawa River.
Until I looked it up I assumed it was more of a spillway than an actual river but - London residents may again not believe this - there are no shopping trolleys in it. Or bikes. Or pushchairs. Or anything much except rocks, water and perhaps even a fish. As a final stop on this tour, and just down the road from here, is a Nursery. When passing I was delighted to finally see an example of what I had heard stories about - children in carts.
Tokyo Nursery Carts
Older children are taken out for walks to local playgrounds (there are two little ones nearby) but the younger ones get put in carts and wheeled round to them. So cute! The youngest get put into 4-baby carts with seats (there's one in the background here) while the others stand in this type of one. Almost next door is a dog grooming parlour. These are much more common than nurseries since the birthrate is quite amazingly low in Tokyo especially, where dog ownership seems much more popular. You see the poor things dressed up in jackets and trousers, trotting along the pavements with their hair permed or whatever it is they do in dog parlours.

So there we are. That is my local neighbourhood, and off I go now into it to do the daily food shopping!


Frances said...

Loving your little observations. Thanks for sharing.

Spinningfishwife said...

I love your pictures and stories. It's very different from reading a tourist guide. I like reading about all the ordinary things that make life so different over there.

Mairead Hardy said...

Utterly fascinating! Thank you do much - it is lovely to look through your 'window' into such a foreign world.

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