To Adachi, over the rivers
If I were a baseball star, and my average quality as a human being were divided into day and night games, I’d probably be frequently depicted by the media as the weakest nocturnal player to ever walk onto a diamond. Since I am still grappling with the shame and self-loathing of last night’s endeavours, I will block it out for the time being and reflect positively on what I did while the sun was up for the Emperor’s birthday.
Initially, I was disappointed because I playfully killed my alarm and slept in until ten. But, ten is a lot better than four (see today), so I did my best to get my act together in an hour and managed to set out for some quality time in the city by eleven sharp. What proceeded over the next six hours was probably the second longest trip I’ve ever made by my own means over the course of a day.
While my music had been optimizing for the Rio, I had evaluated that today I would be heading north, since I travelled south so often on such previous occasions. I wasn’t really adamant about this, but I figured I would make my way to Akiba as fast as I could and then decide where to go next.
This ended up working pretty well, I only took about two dozen photographs on the way, and with a stop for provisions at a 99 yen store (gloves, batteries, tea), ended up right in front of Radio Center in an hour. This reinforces the general speed with which I can travel through the city, managing stoplights, pedestrian traffic, and the many bumps in the sidewalk from varying stages of construction. I suppose if I really wanted to I could get from Shinjuku to Akihabara in forty minutes. This is added to the other yardstick of being able to get from my house to Shibuya in twenty.
As much as I wanted to take in all of the fantastic sales and Santa girls going on in Akiba, I paid them little mind for I knew that I had other goals today and this was just a stop for food. Perhaps next week I’ll spend a whole day there and make a virtual shopping trip of all the things I could buy that would drive me to insolvency (and no walking space in my apartment). So I had my 290-yen bowl of tanuki udon at my favorite ticket-and-noodle joint and then cut away from all the hubbub, taking back alleys all the way past Ueno, circumventing a good thirty minutes of delay amongst the throng of shoppers between Chuo dori’s Yamagiwa and Ameyoko.
I’d never been farther north than Ueno, and it wasn’t long before I realized I’d hit Uguisudani, which aside from being a rather unimpressive station name on my JR Yamanote Line pin collection, has a dearth of interesting love hotels. Snaking through the narrow winding alleys reminded me a lot of Maruyama-cho, home of Love Hotel Hill at the other corner of the toshin. Following the trend over the last half decade or so of modest appearances, the buildings were not too much to look at on the outside, especially during the day. Only the occasional nuzzling couple stood out in the otherwise silent and empty town. Looking at the few run down apartment complexes I wondered what it must be like to live in a place so quiet at day but undoubtedly inundated with frisky lovers and neon at night.
I stopped to indulge myself with a little shoot of a beat up motorcycle set majestically in front of a bleak, whitewashed wall in the sun. I then continued on and pushed my bike up a steep incline to make my way over a long stretch of JR and Keisei tracks through a decrepit and largely residential part of town in Bunkyo-ku. For a moment I began to question my direction when I found myself in a graveyard with no clear exit (Yanaka cemetery), but taking my bearings from the sun, I found my way out of the north end and cut back across the wide swath of train lines to find my way back to a major thoroughfare.
At Nishi-Nippori I finalized my goal and decided to cross the Sumida and Ara rivers into Adachi-ku and see the heart of Tokyo from a true suburb. A little before two I took a series of overpasses and caught some spectacular views from Okubashi. Adachi-ku felt distinctly different from the inner part of the city. Things were more spread out, buildings were wider, and the services offered by the scattered commercial establishments were a lot less interesting. It was actually quite similiar to certain parts of suburban California we drove through during the ETC west coast field trip in 2002. That reminds of a very weird friend Don had out there, some guy in a beat-up neighbourhood with a strange, cold warehouse of half-made art. We all did some drawing exercise or something, it was kind of freaky.
By this point my stock battery for the PowerShot was about at its limit (one hundred pictures, about twenty percent raw), so I begrudgingly stopped at a McDonald’s for a hamburger but more importantly a power outlet to surreptitiously recharge my battery. After a good thirty minutes of impatient glancing under the table, I got back on the bike and headed west so I could work my way through southern Adachi-ku and loop back around from the north to come down Meiji dori into Ikebukuro.
I got some fantastic shots of the sun sliding down through a screen of brilliant clouds from the the bridge on my way into Daita, though I nearly lost my 99-yen gloves in the wind. I got the dirtiest look from a girl when I was walking my bike down a long stairway from the bridge, I’m not quite sure why. My only guess is because I may have looked like some kind of terrorist with my torn flannel shirt, beat red vest, threadbare Seahawks hat, CIA sunglasses, and pollen mask (which I discovered later I was bleeding through from my nose). I was thinking that I was looking a lot like the way Akira Toriyama draws himself in the Dr. Slump manga, but maybe not.
I got a painful reminder that sometimes my sense of direction is too good, and I plowed right into the virtually static mass that is the east side of Ikebukuro station. There’s just way too many train lines, people, and department stores there, it doesn’t work with a bike, even if you’re walking it. The problem was made worse by the fact that the roads all around Ikebukuro station are full of traffic circles, idling cars, and buses, so you really can’t hop down onto the street and make your way through quickly, let alone safely. So next time I’ll have to pull farther to the east or west and just avoid that area all together. It really takes the efficiency out of a long trip.
I cut back and forth through Baba and true to my form ended up coming the other way through some very familiar places I’d visited before. I enjoyed flying down the big hill from the station, but I think I would like it even more if I went down over the smooth asphalt on the street instead of the stone sidewalk.
When I got to Shin-Okubo I knew I was too far east so I rode down the main strip to Okubo station (which actually is quite a nice place to go shopping, reminds me a little of Shijo with its covered sidewalks). Then as the sky began to grow dark I ducked through Kita Shinjuku and crossed the Kandagawa for the second time that day, taking in a really nice view of Tochou behind some really beat houses. I kicked myself again for not having a tripod, because my camera is pretty much useless after sunset without one.
I got home at five o’clock exactly, a full six hours since I’d set out. I haven’t checked how many kilometers it was, but unfortunately not as many as I’d like to think. The heart of Tokyo actually isn’t that big at all, it just seems that way since there’s so much packed into a little space.
Anyway, after discarding test shots, I ended up with one hundred sixty-nine to archive, about five hundred megs’ worth. Unfortunately, some of my best shots were ruined by the annoying lens aberration I’ve developed on the PowerShot, I’m really going to have to take it into a shop and see if I can’t get it corrected before my big trip to Akita and the Sea of Japan next week. Still, warm memories, beautiful scenery, and one hundred percent clean transport. That’s a good day, I think.
All of the shots (unedited) are up in an easy to click through format, here. Again, apologies for that occasional lens aberration. I’ll have to clean it up manually on a per-case basis later.
[Note to self: The more I think about it, the Kandagawa is actually quite a useful landmark, for it runs quite a ways from the west outside of the heart of the city (the tip of Nakano-ku, it seems), and flows through the center into the Sotobori, which in turn runs farther east, all the way below Akihabara, and empties into the Sumidagawa, which is itself quite a useful landmark as well. And for the most part, there are little bits of park and jogging trails for all of these bodies of water, quite a nice non-automotive means to make your way through the city.]