Thursday, May 30, 2013

Old Tokyo architecture. The red brick warehouses in Yokohama.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The florist across from Hiyoshi Station at a very busy intersection. 
Why here?
 Because  people getting on or off the train to visit somebody

 may very well
want to take some nice flowers with them, just a little something....

Japanese-English announcement in the train 

"We will soon be making a brief stop at Den-en-chofu. Passengers changing to the Meguro Line, please transfer at this station."

This is a good example of Japanese-English. It gets the job done but it's somehow not quite right.

In this, two different  words--"change" and "transfer"--are used in the same sentence for the same idea. The same pronouncement in blunt, fire-from-the-hip English would be "Change here for the Meguro Line." But here there is no room for the critical word "please".

To a Japanese ear, however, what seems natural and right to an English speaker sounds as though it is addressed to a crowd chained together at the ankles. It is insistent. It is too short. It is impolite.

But when a foreigner lives in Japan for a while, Japanese-English's languid, inefficient phraseology begins over time to seem somehow right enough, even sweet…

- Rudolpho B.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Street furniture

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Here go either to the right or left 
Outside the station, the place the taxi should wait
Guides to help you park your bike
Posts for birds to sit on

Everything in its place

     So I'm on the street outside Hiyoshi Station waiting for the light to change and I look up and see a flickering green graph under the light which tells me how long I have to wait until the light changes. The graph starts at 30 seconds. It's nice to know I have 17, 16, 15 seconds to wait, I suppose...
  Some bus stops in Tokyo have a digital display telling people waiting how long it will be before the bus comes.
Many, many streets and crossings are fitted with yellow plastic squares with raised bubbles, so blind people can find their way. And also for blind people, the tops of railings will have the location written in raised braille.

I go to the supermarket to buy some sardines. Every aisle has a sign in Japanese and English describing what's on its shelves but I'm in a hurry so I ask a scurrying minion where can I find the sardines and she asks me to follow her and she takes me straight to the shelf of canned sardines. She knows exactly. Everybody knows exactly where everything is. They probably have to pass a test.

Same thing in department stores. If you work in a department store, you may spend your career on the fourth floor in Men's Shoes but you are still expected to know what's where on every floor, so you can advise wandering customers. When a department moves, everyone is informed the next day in the short section meeting that occurs every morning before the store opens.                                                                                 Play a little game. Go to the Information Desk on the first floor of Tokyu Hands, the amazing store in Shibuya that sells just about anything you can think of except food and everyday clothes. (You can buy a diving suit there should you require one.) Ask the perky young lady at the counter, "Can I find a mortar and pestle here?" She will smile and say without a moment's hesitation, "Yes sir. On Floor 7-C you will find a small selection of mortars and pestles.  Just to the left of the elevator, on the third shelf."
On the train, at least on the Toyoko Line, when you board and sit down you will see a notice telling you that you are in Car No. 6 near Door No. 3. Over the door you will see a digital display working hard to deluge you with information. It will show you where Car No. 6 is in the whole train. It will display the name of the next station (which will have a number, so you don't even have to remember its name) and tell you how many minutes it will take to get there. It will show you where the next station's stairs, escalators, and elevators are located in relation to Door No. 3 of Car No. 6, so you will know whether to turn right or left when you get off.       Once off, you will be treated to a barrage of signs directing you to the best exit to use to leave the station to get to to a particular point of interest. (This is indeed useful information because major Tokyo stations are complicated, with dozens of exits.) 
In Tokyo, there is a feeling that if everyone doesn't know where they are the system has somehow broken down. This is why the essential task of the koban police box in every neighborhood is direct people to where they want to go using detailed maps. (That and to make sure bicycles are properly parked, of course.)

--Anna-Marie Regenbogen

Friday, May 17, 2013

New Tokyo architecture. The sign says "Dentist."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rules on Moving In

A week after the Kobayashi family moved out of their house next door to us, Kobayashi having been transferred to Osaka, a new family moved in. We know they moved in because they taped a card with their name on it--Suzuki--over "Kobayashi" painted on the mailbox. And also because from time to time we could hear the rumble and screech of the new kids because, after all, our houses are just a yard apart. We never saw them, though.
After a few days, it occurred to me that we ought to pay our new neighbors a friendly visit, to introduce ourselves, to welcome them to the neighborhood, and to answer any questions they might have--like what day do we put out bottles, what day plastic, and what day tin cans. The neighborhood routine.
"Oh no," said my wife. "They will come to our house to introduce themselves when they are ready. It wouldn't do for us to go to them first. It would seem aggressive." So I put my friendly gesture on hold.
And sure enough, a week after the new family moved in, they pushed the buzzer on our mailbox. We came to the door and there they were, the lady of the house (charming, from the look of her), her maybe ten-year-old daughter and maybe 13-year-old son, with the father standing behind them all. They had dressed with some attention. 
As the wife introduced her family they bowed. She said everyone was happy to be living next to us. The children smiled and bowed again but were shy, as seemed right. The husband told us he was working in the wine trade and how he commuted and how long it took, then he bowed. He seemed a little shy too. Then the son gave us a pretty box of Swiss chocolates and everyone bowed again and we bowed back. This  little door-step ceremony having been performed, the Suzukis officially became our neighbors.

So then we invited them to Sunday brunch at our house.

--Jean-Claude Folgaritsen

Friday, May 10, 2013

Everything connected...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Saving your newspapers

A few days before the end of the month, our morning edition of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper is delivered to our mailbox together with several large folded big paper bags. We are instructed to put last month's copies of the morning and evening editions , which of course we have been saving, into these bags and set the bulging bags out on our doorstep on the morning of the last day of the month, where they will be picked up by a Nihon Keizai Shimbun truck so they can be recycled into new newsprint.

Our neighbors do the same with the newspapers they subscribe  to, so everyone knows which newspapers each family reads. 

 - Hisae Tanaka

Friday, May 3, 2013

Local children's impression of the trains, mounted in the station for all to see. Prizes awarded.