Monday, 5 April 2004

Bits and Pieces

No big theme this week, more a collection of randomness that crossed my path in the last seven days or so...

The Music Man

This was a strange experience, to say the least. Occasionally, of an evening, I am prone to fits of activity which generally result in my strapping on the running shoes and going down to the riverbank for a jog. Nothing wrong with that, very sensible really. But I am not, of course, the only one. The riverbank, as I may have described before, has a lot of space between the river and the actual embankment. This is taken up with a small golf course, baseball and football pitches, a barbeque area, that sort of thing, unlike Japanese houses, which are jam packed into as small a space as possible. This means that anyone with a potentially annoying-to-the-neighbours hobby must go elsewhere to practice it, so you get musicians down there.

Prior to last week, the oddest experience was to find a bagpiper practicing his wheezy way through a selection of Scottish classics. As you can imagine, that was strange enough in the middle of Tokyo, I mean the Scots only play the pipes to annoy the English I'm sure, so why a Japanese would want to play, who knows. I digress, so on Tuesday I was rumbling along and passed a middle aged trumpeter giving it all he was worth. He was ok, I suppose, and as I passed on way he was trying something suitably jazzy and upbeat. On my way back, however, when all was dark and the bats were starting to flit, the trumpeter had finished the Miles Davis and moved onto infinitely more depressing...the Last Post. I have no idea if he knew the significance of it, but it sent shivers up my spine and I had the distinctly uncomfortable impression that he was playing it for me and, one completion, was going to whip out a rifle and do away with me. Well, I was running, lack of oxygen to the brain i suspect, but it was a spooky one all the same.

The doors

This week's unnecessary scandal is all about doors and is a very sad story indeed. If you remember a few weeks ago I wrote about Roppongi Hills and the delights therein. Well, the weekend before last a young kid, 6 I think, was racing to catch up with his parents and tried to dive through a gap in one of the big revolving doors that are the main entrance. As you can probably guess the kid didn't make it and unluckily got his head caught between the door and the frame. These doors are huge metal things and through 2 design flaws had an infrared sensor blind spot from about 15 to 70cms from the floor (about the size of a small kid) and also the pressure sensors don't stop the door from moving until it has travelled another 20cms round. As you can imagine, this was not too good for the boy, whose neck was broken and the poor kid died.

The scandal is the fact that this was not the first time this had happened. Indeed at that very door there had been a couple of dozen cases since Roppongi Hills opened, but the door company and/or Mori had done nothing about it. Even worse was that all the cases involved little kids and worse still, three of the accidents were serious and involved the kids being trapped in exactly the same way as the kid that died. But worst of all, these doors have been in operation at the Landmark Tower in Yokohama for a good few years now and the same things have been happening there as well and the door company has done nothing to change its designs. Seems a pretty poor show to me, but it has led to safer...


In the usual knee jerk over-reaction that comes after these sorts of things, some kids were playing down on some playground equipment in Osaka when a bolt came away from a bit on a roundabout. This created a small hole that children, as is their wont, could stick their fingers in and, if the roundabout was turning, get a painful nip on the end of their finger (or maybe taken a small piece out of). So the local police, swinging into action as they do, closed every single playground in the prefecture whilst the Prefectural Task Force (Playgrounds Division) inspected every piece of hardware available to ensure the children's finger safety. This took up a good 20 minutes of the national news on (I think) Friday evening. But this led to Saturday's...


Or Cherry Blossoms. More words than there are cherry blossoms have been written and more pictures taken than there are fish in aquariums regarding the sakura season in Japan. So ok, it's pretty, it is a good opportunity to get drunk in a park and...and...that is about it. But the Japanese go head over heels at this time of year. It is meant to evoke the samurai spirit of a short but beautiful life apparently, but it seems to me that someone being cut in half with a four-foot katana would be a better symbol of the samurai, but maybe it is just me. Anyway the Guru and I went to Yoyogi Koen on Saturday, along with two thirds of the population of Tokyo. It was very pleasant in the quieter bits, but the busy bits were really busy and I can't really see how people could enjoy themselves - except, of course, Japanese are used to living cheek by jowl with everyone else so I guess it makes more sense.

It was nice, anyway, and we explored the park, something we haven't really done before. Yoyogi Koen also houses Meiji-Jingi shrine, you see, so everyone really goes there as it is a magnificent structure. Then we walked through the backstreets from Harajuku to Shibuya, poking through the alleys and byways, which was excellent. So all the business I wrote last week about Tokyo not being a city to walk in, ignore it, I was talking crap. To get home we used the new, improved...


We're all stupid, us foreigners, and can't use the subways properly, so the powers that be have put a new plan into action. No longer do we have a subway, now it is the Metro. And no longer do the staff wear boring olive green jackets, now they have natty blue ones. Not much here, I grant you, to make life easy for foreigners, so in a brainwave of fantastic proportions, the Metro decided that all stations would now have not just a name, but an identifcation letter-number combo. So now Nishi Kasai, were I work, is T6 - T for Tozai (line) and 6 as it is 6 from one end. Where I change, Iidabashi, is T16, so I can tell it is 10 stops from T6. Great. The problem, it seems to me, is where you get interchanges, as Iidabashi is T16 and also N6. Otemachi, which has about 8 lines running into it, is a veritable alphabet that you need an enigma machine to decode. Anyway it all seems to make the whole scene a lot more confusing to me. Uh oh, I've been here too long...

and lastly

I've been getting bored with plants I have so yesterday I increased the herb yield potential by planting sage, thyme and a cutting of mint. Updates to follow as event warrant.

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