My Street Japan. Day 38

My Street Japan. DAY 38. Tammy T. Stone

My Street Japan. DAY 38. Tammy T. Stone

Anatomy of a construction worker.

I first saw these baggy pants on a few Japanese hippies in the Himalayas, and thought they were the coolest. My husband, bewildered, explained to me that this was the uniform of the construction worker in Japan, which I found interesting. I’ve never seen this look before. (In case you don’t believe me, the yellow hard hat rests my case!) There’s a relatively huge (for these parts) condo going up behind my apartment – at 10 storeys, it will tower over the neighborhood – so many this guy is working there. By the way, when I lived in Toronto, I had a gas station go up on the corner of my street, right next door to my building. It was an agony-ridden year of noise. Here, not a peep. At 8:00 a.m. I can see the crew doing mandatory exercise in a group by the entrance to the site, and then they get to work, quiet as mice (I’d here them if they were talking much), and they leave punctually some time between 5 and 6 (depending on the day). Quiet, respectful of the space in which they work.

Bonus: this wasn’t taken on my street, but in a nearby mall. Halloween has gone from almost non-existent here to the third-largest “market” holiday (cash-earning) in just a few years. Here, a troupe of dancers are entertaining wee ones at the mall to the tune of “Thriller”.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

Happy Halloween!

My Street Japan. Day 37.

My Street Japan. DAY 37. Tammy T. Stone

My Street Japan. DAY 37. Tammy T. Stone

Sometimes the words are hard to come by, and even a literal depiction, by way of the photograph, comes up lacking. So I play – I bring out colours, remove sharpness and clarity, do my best to evoke the feeling of the day, of the scene as I experienced it. A mama (or grandma) on her bike with a baby, weaving seamlessly between passersby on the street, autumn doing her dance in the sun and sky above …

My Street Japan. Day 36.

My Street Japan. DAY 36. Tammy T. Stone

My Street Japan. DAY 36. Tammy T. Stone

The day I’ve been waiting for … we have an appearance by the Shinkansen!

The famed bullet train might be one of Japan’s most famous cultural phenomenon known abroad (after, what, geisha? Otaku (techno or manga-related “geeks” or obsessives)? Sushi-samurai-ninjas?

They’re already making a faster one, but for now, the Shinkansen reigns for the commuter and traveller alike. And we have a line mere meters away from our home!

I was a bit wary of two things when we move in: being on top of a steak house (cockroaches) and being so close to the Shinkansen (which you can make out as a white rectangle square windows top-frame), for the noise factor. After moving in, I would forget it existed unless I was either super-on-edge and irritable, or outside staring right at it. I have no idea how this thing manages to be so quiet, but Japan, even in the cities, can be a place fun for trying to hear pins drop.

Oh – there it goes now (just barely, because I’m listening for it)! This line is from Tokyo to Nagoya. On a local train, Nagoya station is one stop away, and is actually the largest in terms of physical size, in the country, from what I understand (Kyoto’s is much more architecturally interesting, though).

Like many of Japan’s old-new/modern-ancient duos, this bullet train, bastion of modern technology, also happens to look a little bit like something out of the 60s, but I say, “vivre la contradiction” (mainly because I don’t know how to say this in Japanese).

My Street Japan. DAY 34.

My Street Japan. DAY 34. Tammy T. Stone

My Street Japan. DAY 34. Tammy T. Stone

Lawson, the convenience store across the street, is one of the Big 4 (7 Eleven, Circle K and Family Mart are the other three). What’s great is that Lawson has a “hyaku yen” (100 yen, or about a buck Canadian) version, and what’s even better, I can walk over there in 20 seconds in my pajamas for anything from the pen that ran out mid-poem, a “melon pan” (sweet bread shaped like a melon, very popular here),  tweezers, a new coffee mug made of pretty fine ceramic, socks if it’s extra cold, canned coffee, real coffee, coffee in cartons, lattes in cartons … I got distracted. They have healthy stuff like “mikan” (oranges, now in season), eggs, all kinds of veg … it’s a party every time!

My Street Japan. Day 32.

My Street Japan. DAY 32. Tammy T. Stone

My Street Japan. DAY 32. Tammy T. Stone

I couldn’t say exactly who this guy is, but let’s call him The Lord of the Steak Shop.

This shop is on the ground level of my building, and if I ate meat, I’d be there in an instant, because it’s run by the absolute nicest-seeming older couple of all time. I see them at all hours of the day – they’re open daily, except for Wednesday and Saturday, for lunch and dinner service. It’s a quiet, small place, not a typical “izakaya” (beer/snack bar) in that the windows allow a view in, so there’s a more open feel to the place than your typical “is it really there or is it a cave hidden behind a dark house” kind of resto-bar. The husband here cooks and his wife does everything else, from what I can make out, though the husband is there more often, and I’ve definitely seen him wipe the chairs down, and place cutlery at the counter seats, and so on. My favorite time to peer in is after dusk, when the yellowy-lit atmosphere and the two to three quiet customers sipping beer and watching the TV perched near the ceiling make me feel like I’m in the best Murakami novel ever. Without fail, I want to know what everything is thinking, how their day went, if they can’t wait to get into their snug jammies now that the days are getting colder.

I don’t know about the etiquette of going in there and asking for some small dish of vegetables in a place clearly specializing in steak – this is not a land of separate sides, from what I can tell. My visions of being nourished by these most gentle souls will have to wait for another time …