“These are Japanese tabi,” announces the young demolition worker

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On my way to the station, I first notice a large truck parked in front of an old house. A minute further down the small street, this orange-haired youth greets me, and points at his shoes, saying “these are Japanese tabi.” Tabi are the mitten-like shoes worn by Japanese construction workers and farmers. He very willingly posed for his portrait, with the demolition site in the background.

This is the start of a series on the demolition of two adjacent Nakano houses. One was, at one time, an elegant and understated Showa-era home, with clean lines and a few blue ceramic roof tiles as decoration. It’s neighbor is a more international-style home from perhaps the 1970s. The demolition took place during the heat of summer in August.

Home demolitions give you a rare peak inside the homes of strangers, allowing you to see interior courtyards, old kitchens, and other “private spaces.” The demolition requires weeks of dismantling and trash sorting. There’s some machinery for the heavy lifting, but much of the energy for these small projects comes from youth.

More hanami parties

In addition to the Shinjuku Gyoen hanami party, I also visited Yasukuni shrine, where I saw many office workers celebrating. Because it was April 1, it was also the start of Japanese companies fiscal year, and the date that many new hires start. The shrine was full of black suits. I noticed that in addition to food stalls, there were a few guys selling beer by the case, and delivering them to larger groups. The female employees had to pour drinks and serve the food. I don’t envy their company role.

My friend at Hitachi took me to visit Matsugaoka in north Nakano and the small Tetsugakudo Park. Despite it being a prime hanami weekend, the small park seemed to only attract local residents. It was more family-oriented and local.

I like how Japanese refer to these blue sheets in Katakana English as “leisure sheets.” If you are invited to a picnic, please remember no shoes on the leisure sheets.