Days 5 and 6. Two nights of illuminations

Before we start!!!

For new readers please start at the bottom of this front page and work your way up. This site is organised in a counter chronological order so return readers can see if there has been an update.

For those of you with slow internet who have drawn to my attention the fact that having everything in one massive page takes longer than the average human lifespan to load, my apologies. I’m working on a way to have each post appear on this front page only as a clickable title which will open the post in its own page, but I’m not so good at driving WordPress and haven’t had any success achieving this yet. Hopefully soon i will sort this out. Until then, here is a screen shot of an internet speed test i ran in my ageing apartment block where the internet is included in the rent. I hope it makes you feel better… or makes you grumpy that wherever you are has crummy infrastructure… probably the latter.

speed test
For reference this download speed is about 4-5 times faster than my Australian internet connection which is nice. HOWEVER! The upload speeds here are about 125 times faster than i got in Australia. Yes, over a hundred times faster. This means that uploading a single image to this site takes less than a second, as opposed to just under 2 minutes per item in Australia. This has major productivity benefits for the workforce here amongst other things.
Now, ON WITH THE SHOW!

After a Sunday spent for the most part studying in my apartment and hiding from the ominous but in the end harmless black sky, I decided to go for a short 5.6Km (each way) stroll down to Sumida River to see the park illuminated at night. Sumida for those of you who don’t remember, is the park i visited on Wednesday and is the first blog post on this site. Why walk so far in a city with perhaps the worlds most efficient public transportation system i hear you ask? Well, that’s because I’m cheap!!! I have close to unlimited spare time, but far from unlimited cash. Besides, who knows what i will find while I’m out waddling about. This particular night i found this, which amused me greatly.

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There appears to be a rule in Tokyo that if something is even mildly sporty, it must be riced!

I have next to no images from this night unfortunately. This is partly because i didn’t take my tripod with me (a decision i now regret) and the illuminations not being being bright enough to light the area enough for my mid level equipment, and partially because i have discovered that large swaths of white flowers mixed with sticks while spectacular in real life, don’t make the most appealing photos. If you are ever in the area around late march/early April you should definitely come see these illuminations. They are lovely, but either lug better low light equipment than i did with you, or don’t expect mad photo ops like i hoped for. Here is the best image from the night, sky tree looming over Sumida-Ku. Please believe me when i say it’s more impressive in real life.

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Skytree looking smaller than it actually is, as usual.

The following day i took a wander down the street to a small road i had seen several times when passing on the train. One that was lined with Sakura and even passing as a blur through the window looked quite a sweet little spot. These trees were in full bloom as i whizzed past them for the first time on Thursday, well and truly before the other trees i had seen and i wanted to get some photos before they started to shed their petals. luckily i was too late for that (yes, you read that right) and many of the trees were already half bare, leaving a beautiful scattering of paper thin soft pink petals lining the sidewalk and road. Even gentle gusts of wind would prompt a small shower of petals to slowly rain down and passing cars would make the slowly forming mat dance in their wake. I got some video footage of this, but don’t have the room to host it on this site, so we will have to make do with some photos and your imagination instead.

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Recently fallen petals like to chase cars and dance in the wind. Over time they make it impressive distances,  often more than 50 meters from where they originally fell.
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The cute little Sakura lined shopping street. Though the trees are technically past their best, i think it looks better now with its light dusting of flowers than it did at its peak.

I believe i spent most of the rest of this day either studying, writing the blog for Saturday’s outing, or working on photo’s. I forget which exactly. But sufficed to say, the day light hours were nothing overly exciting. The night however was a different matter. Having learned from last nights mistake i headed of to Naka-Mekuro river, armed with a tripod.

Naka-Mekuro river is, for 50 weeks of the year, nothing to write home about. Its a concrete walled drainage channel running through some of the most heavily developed regions of Tokyo. However, it is lined with literally thousands of Sakura trees, which come early April line the river with a sea of white and pink flowers. It apparently is spectacular during the day as well but is particularly famed for its night illuminations where local shops and restaurants lining the river support the festival with affordable take away street foods, alcoholic beverages and music (yes, people here are well behaved enough that you can give them unlimited cheap take away booze at a public festival and nothing goes wrong). The channel is several kilometers long to my knowledge and while i didn’t have time to explore it all, i saw more than enough to come away deeply impressed. As with many of the places i have visited this trip, especially places with large quantities of Sakura in a small area photos don’t do it justice, so i suggest you hop on a plane and see it for your self some day.

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Lanterns provided most of the illumination, with some assistance from shop and street front lighting. As with Sumida the day before, there wasn’t a ton of light about. but it made for a lovely atmosphere.
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There are many kilometers like this along the canal. Between each bridge the trees appear to have been pruned differently. These ones form a roof, while others spill over the sides like a big white hedge. It makes me wish i had a bit more time to explore.

As with all the famous Sakura sites in Tokyo, crowds were fairly heavy, but not unpleasant. Getting around was easy, but getting to a prime photo spot (IE, the exact center of a bridge, where the canal looks symmetrical) was overly time consuming as at most  informal queue had formed. I couldn’t be bothered competing with locals three times my age who had gone to the trouble of lugging dozens of thousands of dollars worth of medium format photo gear out to get perfect shots. I know for a fact they are more competent and dedicated to their cause than i am, so i took a close enough is good enough mentality. Luckily the place is impressive enough that it still looks pretty great despite my laziness.

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Lots of pretty white flowers!

The lights started going off at 11, so i headed home about the same time. Though i decided to beat the rush (or rather, let it beat me) by dropping in for some dinner before heading to the station to allow the hoards time to cram onto trains. I know first hand that one way of finding uncomfortable levels of crowded in Tokyo is to try and catch the same train as everyone else.

One of my favorite things about Tokyo is that everything is always open… O.k. that’s a lie, most things close sometime. However unlike in Perth where all the doors slam shut at 5Pm sharp, or 8:30-9 in the case of restaurants, chances are that any time of the day or night, you can get what you are after with only a short walk.  In my case i needed food and that’s never a difficult hunt any time of the day or night. 10 minutes and 400 yen (about 5 dollars) later i was sitting down to a piping hot stir-fry and a nice warm cup of complementary tea, which went a long way to defrosting my rigid fingers. I’m glad i stopped in for dinner, because not only was it tasty and cheap. I stumbled upon this on my way home.

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When you Z20, OEM is best EM.

This is a Z20, or a Toyota Soarer built between 1986 and 1991 for you normal humans who don’t memorise chassis codes. These are are rare as hens teeth in Australia. I certainly have never seen one, and given that japan has a biennial roadworthy inspection which makes keeping old cars like this economically questionable at best and stupid at the worst, i would guess that there aren’t many of these running around over here any more either. The thing that made me most happy about this particular find, was that it looked like it had just rolled off the showroom floor. Unlike most of the other sports cars i have seen here this car appeared completely original and was spotlessly clean (the latter isn’t unusual, the former certainly is.) I’m glad to see classics like this still rolling around given the Japanese auto industry’s continued abandonment of the sports car market in recent years. Its still early days so i wont bore most of you with too much car stuff just yet, but in the future you can expect a few auto related posts, especially when i start getting my language up to scratch and head out to icons of the Japanese automotive scene.

After this i went to bed and had an uneventful night while unconscious. But GOOD NEWS!!!! the SUN CAME OUT on Wednesday!!!! More on that next post, and PICTURES!

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