Industrial Wasteland 3

Kawasaki’s industrial zone has a strange, dystopian beauty.

The air stinks, it’s noisy, and the area’s not very pedestrian friendly, but it’s quite an interesting place to take photos in.

These photos were taken on the man-made island south of Kojima Shinden Station. See a satellite image here.

Kasai Rinkai Park

There’s a lot more to Tokyo parks than just Yoyogi and Shinjuku-gyoen. Kasai Rinkai Koen is a seaside park on the edge of Tokyo Bay between Odaiba and Tokyo Disneyland. It’s the largest park in central Tokyo, and is home to an excellent bird sanctuary. There’s also an aquarium, acres and acres of grounds to stroll in, and a huge field of poppies that blooms around Golden Week.

Getting there:

From Tokyo Station, take the Keiyou (not the Keio) Line to Kasai Rinkai Koen Station. It takes about 15 minutes and costs 210 yen. The park is just a one-minute walk from the station.

Tel. (03) 5696-1331

Website: http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index026.html (In Japanese only)

Jomyo-in, the Jizo Temple

I rode my bicycle past Jomyo-in Temple hundreds of times on my way to work, never suspecting that it might be worth visiting until last year they started doing construction on it, and I got a look inside because one of the walls was torn down. It’s actually pretty interesting because its filled wall-to-wall with thousands of Jizo sculptures.

Before the Meiji Restoration, all of Ueno Park and a lot of it’s surroundings were one huge temple called Kan’ei-ji, and Jomyo-in was one of its 36 sub-temples. Kan’ei-ji was closely associated with the Tokugawa Shoguns, and Jomyo-in is named for the mother of the fourth Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Ietsuna.

The temple was renamed Jomyo-in in 1723. The front gate is said to date back from this time.

The jizo thing was started by a monk called Myoun, who became the chief priest of the temple in 1876. He was originally from Osaka, and at the age of 25, while living as a hermit at a temple in Nikko, he came have great faith in Jizo. He started out with the idea of making a thousand jizo statues, but when they were finished, he started thinking big and decided to go for 84,000. The temple and some sites that I checked seem to indicate that there really are 84,000 jizo statues there, but there clearly aren’t.

There’s a really cool 360 degree panoramic photo of the temple here: http://www.360cities.net/image/jomyoin#695.86,-9.07,110.0

And a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY_gi-UPjo4&playnext=1&list=PL851D134A302A2D60

The temple is right next to the entrance of the Yanaka Cemetery.

There’s a very good map and detailed access information on this PDF: https://www.meanwhile-in-japan.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/yanaka.pdf

Here is the temple’s official homepage, in really difficult to read Japanese: http://www.tendaitokyo.jp/jiinmei/jinss/ss3jyomyo.asp

 

Fearsome Nio at Entsuu-ji Temple

Entsuu-ji is a kind of a cheesy-looking Zen Temple near Minami-senju Station in Tokyo, but it has some really cool Buddhist sculptures.

These are kongo rikishi, the “power lords of the diamond realm,” and they stand guard at many Buddhist temples in Japan. Bare-chested, sneering deities, the kongo rikishi are not your average Buddhas. Unlike the serene Kannon, Amida and Jizo statues, their ferocious faces and body-builder physiques are meant to frighten off evil spirits from the temple grounds, and in fact, they’re not true Buddhas at all, but rather protectors of the Buddha.

Kongo Rikishi also represent the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

Look closely at their faces and you’ll notice that one, the Missha Kongo (the secret-knowing Kongo) always has his mouth closed, and one, the Mishabe Kongo, (the secret-speaking Kongo) always has his mouth open.

Entsu-ji probably isn’t worth a special trip, but you might want to combine it with a visit to the Yoshiwara former red-light district or the Kotsukappara Execution Grounds.

Here is the temple’s homepage (in Japanese only) http://www6.plala.or.jp/entsuji/

Getting there: From Minami-senju Station, go out of the West Exit, turn left, and walk to the stop lights. Turn right and walk north to the next set of lights. Turn left, and walk to the second set of lights, which is a big road called Nikko Kaido or Route 4. Cross the street, and turn left. Entsu-ji will be on your right. You can also take Exit 3 from Minowa Subway Station, turn right, and north on Nikko Kaido/Route 4. Coming from Minowa, Entsu-ji will be on your left.Address: Tokyo, Arakawa-ku, Minami-senju 1-59-11 (Japanese: 東京都 荒川区南千住1-59-11)

TEl. 03-3891-1368

These are Kongo Rikishi (aka Nio),Kongo rikishi, the “power lords of the diamond realm,” stand guard at many Buddhist temples in Japan. Bare-chested, sneering deities, the kongo rikishi are not your average Buddhas. Unlike the serene Kannon, Amida and Jizo statues, their ferocious faces and body-builder physiques are meant to frighten off evil spirits from the temple grounds, and in fact, they’re not true Buddhas at all, but rather protectors of the Buddha.

Kongo Rikishi also represent the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Look closely at their faces and you’ll notice that the one on the left, the Missha Kongo (the secret-knowing Kongo) always has his mouth closed, and the one on the right, the Mishabe Kongo (the secret-speaking Kongo) always has his mouth open.

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G-Cans Water Tunnel

For years, people living by the Tonegawa, Arekawa, and Edogawa Rivers faced the threat of terrible floods during the typhoon season. Every few years, anywhere between a few dozen and tens of thousands of houses would be inundated with water, and as the Tokyo metropolitan area expanded, the problem was only growing worse.

In the early 1990s, someone came up with the idea of huge underground discharge tunnels for the rivers to prevent flooding. Construction started in 1993, and 13 years later, the G-Cans Water Discharge Tunnel was completed. It’s a really impressive structure, and and the facility is open to tourists. I visited this December and found it to be really impressive.

There are a bunch of videos here. The website and videos are in Japanese, but just click on “broadband” or “narrowband” to watch them.

Official Site (mainly in Japanese): http://www.ktr.mlit.go.jp/edogawa/project/g-cans/frame_index.html

Wavy Tokyo

My new digital camera has a panorama photo feature. I discovered that if you tilt the camera back and forth as you pan, you get this kind of cool wavy effect. Please click on the photos to get the full effect of the panorama.

This is the view from my apartment.

This is the Shinobazu Ike in Ueno Park.

Here’s a train platform in Ueno Station.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I was trying to update this blog once a week, but it looks like I was a little ambitious. My new goal is “a couple of times a month.”
The big reason I haven’t been able to do many updates is that having a baby makes it difficult to go out and take pictures. I think I’ve solved that problem, though, by buying an EVIL camera, the Sony NEX-3. In case you don’t know, EVIL stands for Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens. It’s basically an SLR with no viewfinder. You use the screen on the back of the camera to compose your photos, and because there’s no viewfinder, they don’t need to put a mirror inside it, making the body almost as small as a compact digital camera.
Despite its small size, the lens and sensor are great, and the photos are about the same quality as an entry-level DSLR. The ISO is also excellent, which is why I chose it over other cameras like the Olympus Pen. I’m not afraid to take it up to 1,600, or 3,200 in a pinch.
It’s easy for my wife to use as a point-and-shoot, but also offers full control of the shutter, aperture, and focus for me. I’d really recommend it for anyone looking for a reasonably priced, easy-to-carry camera that takes excellent photos.

By the way, if you’re thinking about buying one, Yodobashi and Sofmap charge over 60,000 yen for the double lens kit, but I found it at a little shop called Akiba Oroshiuri Center in Yushima for 50,000. It’s basically an online shop, and they do most of their business through Kakaku.com, a famous price-comparison site, but when I went there in person, the owner let me open up the box, and he had excellent product knowledge (Address: Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Yushima, 3-27-12. Tel. 03-5818-8135 / FAX. 03-5818-8156). I’ve always been leery of buying from kakaku.com before, but now I think I was crazy for not trying it before.

It’s Tough Being a Japanese Fire Fighter


I see these fire fighters jogging back and forth in front of their fire station almost every day. They run about 100 meters, up and back on this really narrow sidewalk, and I reckon they go back and forth about 50 times. If there’s a slow-moving senior citizen blocking the way, they have to hop the barrier and run onto the road. I guess they can only do it here because they’re not able to get very far from the fire station in case there’s an alarm, but you’d think there must be a better way. Can’t Bunkyo-Ward spring for a running machine for these guys?

Mimikakiten: The Next Maid Cafe?

Remember how when you were a kid they told you to never put  anything in your ear at all because it’s really, really dangerous and could give you permanent hearing loss? Well, no one has ever said that in the entire history of Japan, and most Japanese people have an ear cleaning kit at home.
A husband lying down with his head on his wife’s lap having his ears cleaned is an image of domestic bliss in Japan, and it’s said that when a guy has no one to clean his ears, it can be a lonely experience to do it for himself.
Well, never fear, because now there’s a shop called the Yamato Mimikakiten where you can go to get your ears cleaned by an attractive young woman. A woman’s lap is often called a “hizamakura,” (you’ve probably seen the popular lap pillows sold to lonely otaku), and this shop lets you rest your head on the girl’s lap during the session.

The company calls its employees komachi, which means “beautiful woman.” Each one seems to be required to keep a blog which they update daily with pictures of themselves and chatter about their daily lives. (Here’s a sample, but it’s in Japanese only.) You can choose your komachi for an extra 500 yen per half hour.

Here’s a video:

A cleaning costs 2,700 for 30 minutes and 4,800 yen for one hour.
If you’d like to check it out, there’s a branch in Ueno. From JR Ueno Station, go out the Central Exit and turn right, walking past Keisei Ueno Station. You’ll pass Yodobashi Camera and AbAb Department Store on the other side of the road. Keep going until you see a JTB travel agent. The ear cleaner’s is in the next building, a pachinko parlor and capsule hotel which says “Treasure Hunting” on it.

The address is 2-6-11 Egg Biru 6F
Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Tel. 03-3839-8100
It’s open from 12 to 10 every day.

The shop’s website is at: http://www.yamamotomimikaki.com

Tokyo City Keibajo Racetrack

The Tokyo City Keibajo Racetrack is an excellent, almost free place to spend an evening in Tokyo. It’s known for it’s “Twinkle Races,” which are held in the evenings.

I was surprised that I didn’t see a single foreigner here when I went.  It’s cheap (just 100 yen) and entertaining, and the horses are gorgeous.

Races are held every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour.

The English website has a guide to gambling.

The racetrack is quite easy to get to. Just take the Tokyo Monorail to Oikeibaj0-mae Station. Go out of the station, turn left, and it’s just a two-minute walk to the track. There are also free shuttle buses from Shinagawa and Kinshicho Stations on Twinkle Race days.

Unfortunately, the race schedules are not available in English, but you can see them here: http://www.tokyocitykeiba.com/01/

Races are held on the dates in blue or orange. Blue indicates night races and orange indicates afternoon races. The next races are going to be held from October 4 to 9, and then from the 18th to the 23rd. They’re run from around 2:30 in the afternoon until 8:00 at night.

The official Tokyo City Keiba-jo Website (Japanese)

The official Tokyo City Keiba-jo Website (English)

Motorboat Racing

Motorboat racing is one of four forms of legalized gambling in Japan, and there are racecourses all over the country. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Heiwajima Racecourse.

It was pretty interesting and I was happy with the photos I got, but it’s probably not for everyone.

Most of the people who go to watch the races are middle-aged and older down-on-their-luck males, and no one seems to get very excited about the races themselves. I don’t think I saw anyone smile the whole time I was there. It’s quite interesting, though, and admission is only 100 yen.

If you show up with a camera, a security guard will tell you that you need permission and take you to a little room where you have to fill out a simple form and promise not to take photos of the other spectators.

These Ryoichi Sasakawa statues are outside every Motorboat Racing facility.

Getting there:
From Tokyo Station, take the Keihin Tohoku Line to Omori Station. From there, go out the East Exit. There’s a free shuttle bus that runs every ten minutes on race days. The shuttle runs from 9:40 AM to 430 PM and leaves from Bus Stop #4. You can also walk (10 min.) from Heiwajima or Omori Kaigan Stations on the Keihin Kyuukou Railway. Here’s a map.

Here’s an explanation of the races: http://www.kyotei.or.jp/contents/basic_e/

Here’s an old but very interesting Sports Illustrated article.

A blog called Tokyo Times has a completely different take on Motorboat Racing from mine.