My Street Japan. Day 43.

My Street Japan. DAY 43. Tammy T. Stone

My Street Japan. DAY 43. Tammy T. Stone

Early morning. A schoolgirl, in uniform, on her bike, awaiting a day of learning, discovery … or socializing, or whatever it is she loves doing.

Where is her schoolbag? Is she going home to get it? Where is she coming from so early in the morning, in a uniform, no less? Delicious mystery.

Doing anything in autumn is magic.

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My Street Japan. Day 42.

My Street Japan. DAY 42. Tammy T. Stone

My Street Japan. DAY 42. Tammy T. Stone

I remember being so surprised at the sight of these little boxy cars (which are surprisingly spacious inside) when I first moved here, so I thought you might enjoy a peek at them too.

I had expected sleep, uber-chic, state-of-the-art cars of tomorrow flying on the roads here. This is Japan, techno-land, right?

Sort of. Here, innovation combines with practically and eco-consciousness. Welcome the “Kei” car! These have a long and interesting history, but to make a long story short, they were introduced into the economy after WWII when people had no money to buy cars, and the manufacturers and the government alike wanted to help boost the economy with car sales. These “clean” cars were once less powerful than a lawnmower, but times have changed. These cars are still relatively light on cc power, but there are tax incentives for buying these “Kei” box cars, and they are extremely popular across the country.

I’ve grown to love these cultural anathema!

My Street Japan. DAY 41.

My Street Japan. DAY 41. Tammy T. Stone

My Street Japan. DAY 41. Tammy T. Stone

I love the bike culture here. It’s not hip, or cool, or not hip, or not cool. It just is. Old, young, all kinds. There are too many cars on the street, for sure, and a distinct lack of parking space, which makes me even more relieved to see that the bike culture is still going so very strong.

These are a few of the bikes lined up in their cozy little parking space in front of my building. There is no designated parking spot for our bikes. At first, we thought we’d bring them up to our apartment everyday. I lasted 0 days, and my husband lasted 1. Bike theft is fairly rampant here – people don’t steal them to keep, but to ride and leave at their destination, mostly. Police are pretty vigilant about checking for theft. So far, I’ve left my keys in my bike overnight at least three or four times, without a problem. My bike in Toronto, on the other hand, was parked safely off the road, and was stolen within weeks. Luck of the draw?

I love the polka-dot seat cover, though I’ve never met the bike’s owner, so I can’t compliment them on it yet. Also note the possibly illegally parked motorbike at the end – it’s there most days, so far with no problem.

Conspicuously absent is the little half-can of tomato juice that someone leaves in at least one of our baskets every few days, though there’s a can deposit box right next door at the Circle K convenience store.

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).