Autumn (Tokyo Studio)

Shousetsu: Rainbows hide/ start using kotatsu (2 of 5)

November 25th, 2008


[click on image to play video]

The sun was out and the weather was so nice we decided to go for an impromptu riverwalk along the Nihonbashigawa (river) from Nihonbashi to Kanda-Jimbochō.

The Shuto Expressway no. 5, which joins up with the Shuto Expressway Loop Line, act like a lid over the Nihonbashigawa. The elevated motorway pretty much covers the river all the way to its mouth where it flows into the Sumidagawa. Very little light filters through to the water. The water quality is greatly affected by the nearby Sotobori (the outer moat of the Edō Castle) which frequently has water-bloom; this, in turn, flows into both the Nihonbashigawa and the Kandagawa. The nitrogen level is high in the Nihonbashigawa, making algae growth a serious problem.

Along the walk, we were being reminded of Nihonbashi’s history and its role as the main transport route to and from the centre of Edō, transporting building materials, wood, bamboo, as well as goods, fresh produce such as fish and vegetables. Bridges across the river used to be high in order to allow ships to sail through and we can see remanants of their foundation beside the now dwarfed bridges. A plaque told us that drinking and eating places used to line the river banks. I was reminded of Haku, the homeless river spirit in Miyazaki Hayao’s Sprited Away, whose river was filled in and paved over.

Just beyond Kandabashi (bridge) we encountered some very impressive homeless shelters built along the river and under the expressways. They were made out of wooden frames, two used blue tarpoline as their insulating walls, one used cardboard, and all had windows for light with clear plastic film and bamboo blinds. Their doors were closed, shoes were ordered and tucked away. Other belongings such as umbrellas, kitchenware, and bicycles seemed all in good working order and were stowed away outside. On the other side of the pavement was a long row of cars, each with a salarymen asleep in the front driver’s seat with their engines running.

We looked up and saw the weather front approaching. Soon the sun was setting behind the high-rises and the air became chilled. We passed Mitsukoshi department store and encountered ‘Mitsukoshi Christmas 2008’. It began to rain when we headed home.

4 Responses to “Shousetsu: Rainbows hide/ start using kotatsu (2 of 5)”

  1. 1 Louise
    November 27th, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Jo this one is beautiful! We are getting ready for your return (although I may well be in Canb). Did you ever meet Anthony G? He has some great stories about homeless ‘salary men’ who set up security alarms etc on their homeless shelters.

    lc xx

  2. 2 jolaw
    November 27th, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Hi Louise, One of the shelters or houses by the Nihonbashigawa had some great big bags of cans besides it. The owner obviously is a collector of aluminium cans (for recycling). We were wondering how he would ensure that his priced collection is safe. I think there are unspoken rules in these seemingly make-shift communities.

  3. 3 Silvia Kwon
    December 12th, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    The sense of pride and order evident in these homes reflects the Japanese love for order and harmony? I am reminded of that wonderful scene in the film Tampopo where a homeless man breaks into a restaurant to cook a midnight omelette with such deft expertise – all under the duress of a fast approaching security guard. It seems the status of homelessness does not mean compromising on the finer things in life..

  4. 4 jolaw
    December 15th, 2008 at 8:05 am

    How funny that you thought of the same scene from reading this entry! See: I couldn’t stop thinking about the ‘Tampopo’ the whole time I was in Tokyo.