underground

Have you seen Shibuya Station recently? Seems to be demolition time, with a new mega-building in the making?

shibuya_station_demolition

最近渋谷駅を見ましたか。今デパートとJRホームの構造を取り壊しています。手前で、新しいヒカリエという東急会社のビルが登場しましたが、どんな新しいショッピング・ターワーを作ろうとしているのでしょうか。東横線が今は地下に入ったので、もっと地上のスペースができたのでしょうか。

It seems the Tokyu department store above the station is being demo’d. I expect it will be another mega-shopping, “cultural” and office tower like the brand new Hikarie across the street. I wonder how it will be different and even “newer.”

Another rail change is the demolition of the elevated Toyoko line to Daikanyama, Nakameguro, and on to Yokohama, which has been replaced with the underground extension of the Fukutoshin subway line. Is there a plan on how to use this reclaimed public space?

shibuya_station_demolition2

Shrine entrance invites tree lovers and prayers

自転車で日本語の学校に行く途中で、山手道路沿いにいつもこの階段を見ます。坂を登って、林と神社を訊ねたい。代々木八幡の神社に行ったことがありますか。

I bike to school on Yamate Dori, one of Tokyo’s modern ring roads. It’s currently under construction and rather ugly: a freeway underground, a 6 lane road on the surface, sidewalks torn up, new and mostly undistinguishable apartment buildings. On this ride from Nakano to Shibuya, one of the highlights is glimpsing the stairs leading up to this tree-filled shrine. I stopped and found out that it is Yoyogi-Hachiman shrine. I haven’t made it up the stairs yet, but it beckons as an inviting escape from the more functional, profane city racing by it.

New bicycle parking at local station

The Sugiyama Koen near Shin Nakano station has just been renovated, with a shiny new playground and some new landscaping. I am glad they kept the old school clock.

They also put in underground bicycle parking. It’s cool but a bit daunting that the system has no staff. What if your bike doesn’t come out? I need to learn to read the instructions before I dare put my bike in there!

It is interesting how Tokyo provides no accommodation on streets for bicycles: no bike lanes and few bike-only paths. Bicyclists range from the elderly to young mothers with children to hipsters on fixed gear bikes, and they generally compete with pedestrians on the sidewalk. A few brave ones take the road. Still, there is a huge bicycle parking infrastructure, which shows perhaps that the government is mostly concerned about storage, especially near the stations which are critical transit and shopping nodes.

Unusual city trees & shapes in Okayama

Unusual city trees & shapes in Okayama

Last month I visited Okayama to see Korakuen garden on a trip that also included Inujima in the Seto Inland Sea, Kurashiki, Awaji-shima and Kobe. Okayama is a modern city with wide boulevards and tons of automobile traffic. Still, I was struck by two improbable plant and fountain installations.

Above is a double pygmy date palm growing under lights in an underground passageway. This barren space is at a major intersection and is the only way to get from the tram to the sidewalk (en route to Korakuen garden). Grow lights are environmentally questionable, but adding exotic plant life in a dramatic and futuristic setting certainly brightens this subterranean space.

Okayama flower fountain

Maybe it is because of my unfamiliarity with 1970s Japan, but I was struck by this flower-shaped fountain outside of Okayama’s main rail and Shinkansen station. Friends told me that it is a common civic adornment. Still, I like the theatrical and exaggerated floral shape.