Five Klicks Through Kawasaki

or, A Worm's-Eye View of the Public Phones of Japan

Welcome to a not so little photo essay. This one is kind of a scenic walking tour of a rather randomly selected bit of Japan (even though I actually run the course). However, Japan really is a good place for walking, and people do a lot of it. There are even a number of {Place} Walker magazines to tell people about interesting things to walk to in {Place}. Not sure, but I'd obviously guess that Tokyo Walker has the highest circulation, and I certainly see it around frequently enough. This course is actually in Kawasaki, a little million-resident suburb mostly stretching between Tokyo and Yokohama. Anyway, I hope this can give you a taste of the atmosphere of Japan.

This is a note for the JavaScript-challenged among you. You're welcome to read my relatively mundane and boring descriptions, but you can't see the hopefully interesting pictures without using JavaScript. You could actually figure out the file names and probably do a direct reach into the images subdirectory, but believe me, it's much easier to turn your JavaScript back on... Honest, my code is harmless. Well, at least I hope so.

As of 9 September, all of the base pictures are in, and the basic commentary is mostly done. Just started with some of the secondary pictures and their commentary. I'll keep working on it as fast as I can... Lots more secondary 'scenic highlight' to be integrated into their proper places.

After each horizon bar is a picture of one 'visible stretch' of the course--the next bar marks the next leg. This page only shows thumbnail images of the pictures, but I'll try to describe what you are seeing in that thumbnail, and if you click on it, the full size (usually 640 x 480) picture will appear in a second browser window. After the main description I'll include things like cultural and background notes, or secondary pictures of special landmarks on that stretch. At the end is some supplemental stuff like maps and shoes and even a few notes about the camera...

Technical footnote: This page uses some moderately complicated JavaScript, so you need to have JavaScript enabled to see the pictures. All of the image display code is actually generated on your end--this HTML file is pretty much just the descriptive text. Let me know if there are any glitches. [There were in the original shared-memory-based approach, so I switched to a simpler method.] Without JavaScript you can see the text, but not the images.

This is looking up the hill in front of my apartment. There's actually a big stone wall at the top of the hill, though it isn't very visible between all the shadow and glare. Behind the trees and bushes on top of the wall is the parking lot for a largish Shinto shrine that sits on the top of the hill. The shrine even has a pretty good view of Mount Fuji when the air is clear enough. The starting point for my running course is the corner on the right side. It's a bright sunny day, so a woman is shading herself with an umbrella--probably going shopping, since she's towing one of those little carts.

This is a view from the first corner, just in front of the wall. The road slopes up a bit, and then slopes down and twists about. The left side is very shady from the wall and trees, and the right side is a fairly typical middle class residential neighborhood. The most visible feature on the right side is a carport and associated car.

Though new houses are usually built with a parking place, in general parking is still a big problem. It used to cost about 30,000 yen (roughly $250) per month to rent a parking space in a residential district, but I think the price has fallen since then. I think you still have to show proof of having a parking place as part of the procedure for buying a car in Tokyo. And if you actually drive somewhere, you probably can't find a parking space when you get there, either. But the Tanaka family has a car, so the Suzukis have to have one, too... (Just picking common family names at random, roughly the American equivalents of Smith and Jones. Mostly I'm going to try hard to respect everyone's privacy here.) My guestimate is that a lot of the family cars in Tokyo are used twice a month or less.

Looking down a moderately straight view, but in general this part of the course is very twisty. On the left side is a construction sign and a traffic guard. That street leads fairly steeply down to a fairly large new housing development. It was actually a bamboo grove until a few months ago, but it looks like they'll fit 25 new houses onto it. Just what we don't need around here--good bamboo groves are relatively scarce. The overhead wires are pretty typical. Phone, electricity, cable, maybe some other stuff. By the way, the poles are made of cement, not wood. I just hope they're strong enough to withstand the big quake when it comes...

Lots of Japanese neighborhoods are full of twisty streets like these. The property lines were mostly determined long before there were many cars, and the 'big' roads were jammed in much later. Eminent domain has been very weak in Japan, and the government officials may sometimes haggle with a family for generations to get their agreement to widen a neighboring street--and they can't actually do it until ALL of the neighbors have agreed.

My regular route to the station actually goes down the steeper hill on the left side, behind the sign and the guard, along one edge of the construction site.

Still heading down a moderate slope through houses on both sides. I think this picture is just past a trash collection point on the left, and just ahead on the right side is another one, with a white plastic bag sticking out in front of it.

Unlike America, trash collection is not door-to-door in Japan. There are collection points at frequent intervals, usually along the larger roads. People living on a deadend street (like I do) have to haul their garbage to the main street and put it at one of the collection points. Dipsy dumpsters are extremely rare in Japan. The dumpsters are too big, and the trucks that handle dumpsters are even worse. Japanese garbage trucks are actually quite small, so they can maneuver in and around the small twisty roads. There are usually two or three men working the truck. The cab is wide enough for all of them, but often two of them just jog from one collection point to the next while the driver positions the truck. They'll start pulling out the bags and arranging things before the truck arrives.

Animals, especially giant crows (or macaws?) and cats, rummaging in garbage are a pretty big problem, but there are almost no stray dogs anywhere I've lived in Japan. One thing that helps minimize the garbage scattering is that they collect the garbage daily in this area, but they also have green nets that are supposed to be used to cover the plastic bags. Not all of the Japanese are good about using the nets, however, and sometimes garbage still gets scattered about. These crows have enormous beaks, perhaps 10 cm long. "The better to rip open your garbage bags, my dear."

Actually, the mention of garbage bags reminds me of the garbage bag ruckus in Tokyo a few years ago. The local government decreed that non-transparent garbage bags were dangerous and hindered proper garbage sorting and should be outlawed, and everyone was required to use specially certified transparent bags or their garbage would not be collected. The large official bags even had a place you were supposed to write your name, apparently so the rule-breakers would identify themselves. All around pretty weird, and there were lots of protests and delays. But perhaps the weirdest part is that it didn't disappear completely. You can still buy the official garbage bags in any grocery store, though they got rid of the signature block, and a lot of garbage is discarded in those bags. However, they still collect your garbage even if it's in unofficial containers.

This is a sharp little corner. There's an unusually nice house on top of the corner, and a delivery motorcycle turning into the street from the road below. I run along the wall on the left side, and down, but this picture is from a better viewpoint a little farther up and across the street.

The three-wheel motorcycle coming up the hill is delivering food--Kentucky Fried Chicken (AKA KFC) in this case. This course actually runs mostly between two train stations, and there is a KFC at each one, but I suspect the delivery service is based at the other station, though this corner is still close to my own station. However I can't actually recall seeing these delivery bikes at either restaurant, so maybe there's a different base location for the delivery service, some place with better parking and access to the major streets of the district. The local delivery service for food is actually an old Japanese tradition, obviously adopted and adapted by some of the modern fast food chains. Fortunately, McDonalds hasn't gotten involved, but more on that problem later...

I call this the corner of Number 17, since the block on the left side is numbered 17, as shown on this sign. That's a close-up picture of the fence on top of the wall. They don't use street addresses here, but the blocks and buildings are numbered. It actually shows the name of the area and says it's the first chome (pronounced "cho-may"), where a chome is a group of the numbered blocks, usually separated by the largest streets in the area. Here are two more signs from that corner, and which shows that two of the neighboring blocks are 13 and 12 . Not really much pattern there, but I can say that the fourth corner is NOT 18, because 18 is the section at the bottom of the hill. On the other side of 17 it's actually 23. That day I couldn't find a sign for that fourth corner--actually it's rather strange to find a place with three labeled corners. Since it can't be 18, I'd guess 16, but it might be 19 or something else--usually can't tell without a map, and the map may or may not feel like showing all of the actual streets. Or sometimes the map will show a few streets that don't exist anymore, or narrow alley-like walkways between buildings that look like streets on the map.

Within each block, the buildings are numbered, but that doesn't always work because several buildings may have the same number--and they still wind up relying on the names of the building and the person. On the other hand, a common building name is also pretty useless for finding anything... Easy to misplace yourself in Japan, though you can always ask someone for the nearest station and escape oblivion. Actually, even the Japanese mostly avoid trying to tell people how to find buildings--very often they say tell the person to call them from the station, and they meet them and guide them to the apartment or office.

You may find it hard to believe, but I've been told (or read that) the address system is MUCH better as a result of our having bombed almost the entire city during the war. As a result of the destruction, everything was renumbered, both the blocks and the lots, and usually a number 3 will be near a number 4 now. Before the renumbering, it was basically done as things were built, so Building 1 was the first building recorded, and Building 2 might be anywhere in the block, with Building 3 anywhere else, and so on. After the bombing, the property lines basically didn't change, but there mostly weren't any buildings to have numbers, so they just assigned the numbers to the empty lots, starting at some corner and going in order around all the edges of the block, numbering each lot as they went, and then the buildings got those numbers. Fortunately, most of the lots are too small for more than one building, though for the larger lots you could wind up with several buildings with the same number. Or when a major construction project consolidates lots, the final large building will just use one of building numbers and the rest disappear.

Yes, that was only five seconds. It's a short stretch and then it continues down to the left again. This whole leg is actually a 'scenic' detour to avoid that steeper slope on my regular route to the station. All you can really see here is a big wall on the left side, with someone's house behind it, and the right side is a small wall with nothing behind it. The slope is too steep there and it's just unusable with some more bamboo growing on it. There are some houses farther down the slope.

The left side continues to be a wall and the right side goes nowhere, but from here you can finally see the only soda vending machines in this area. The scarcity of vending machines in this area is actually pretty unusual, since they're pretty much everywhere in Japan.

Kind of hard to describe this. It's just close to the soda machines and looking at the corner where the steeper slope I mentioned earlier ago joins this detour, coming in from the left side. However, the visible road that goes sharply up to the left (with the little white fence) is something else, kind of a little dead end off of the same intersection. The left side is lots of houses, but the right side of this section is mostly a single row of houses just before another steep slope--but there are more houses just below.

This is finally on my regular route to the station, though it's not too steep here. I actually tried to find some other detour for the running course, but this stretch is pretty much unavoidable. The left side is obviously a big stone wall. On top of the wall is the former-bamboo-grove-turned-housing-project mentioned earlier. The big yellow sign left of center is part of an advertisement by the real estate company that will be handling the sales. It's connected to a big Japanese bank that I rather despise, so I'm not certainly going to give them any free publicity here. The right side is property walls for a final few houses, and then that short-segment wall (with the guardrail in front of it) starts with a big drop behind it. There are some other houses and apartments in a big hole down there, but it's mostly inaccessible from this side.

This is still on the hill that curves down to the right in the previous leg. The bottom of the hill is visible, where this street ends in a T-intersection. Turning left there the road goes around the other side of the hill and leads to another route to my apartment. It might even be a bit shorter, but I'm sure it's much steeper, so I normally don't use it. In fact, part of that route is so steep that I don't even like to walk down it. If I'm in a big hurry to get to the station I sometimes use that route, but one of these days I'm liable to have a bad fall...

This is actually off of the course a bit to give more of a view of the next stretch. I've actually crossed the street and backed away from the course. The guardrail on the right side finally marks the bottom of the hill I live on, and the actual running course continues up the sidewalk on the right side of the street, past that parking lot where a couple of cars are visible. The station is actually off on the left side. There's a mailbox on the sidewalk, though it isn't very visible in this picture, and the turnoff to the station is directly across from it. There's actually another construction site on this stretch, off on the right side, but it's a small one.

A note about the postal system in Japan. The official color is a kind of dull orange, and the small post offices are widely scattered--there's a small one on the other side of my station, and the next station has a big one and a small one. This makes them very convenient and is probably the main reason the postal savings system is so popular, even though the interest rates are essentially zero. People know they can always find a little post office or postal savings ATM nearby, and they're sure the government will never let the system fail, so they feel very secure with it. In emergencies Japanese people will often grab their postal savings passbook before anything else.

Oh yeah, the post office delivers mail, too, though I doubt they make much money on that part of their business, except at New Years. On January 1st they deliver an incredibly large number of New Years cards (called nen-ga-jyo) that they have been storing for weeks. It's a big tradition that you have to officially greet your friends and relatives and wish them a happy new year--exactly on New Years Day, which is when the cards are supposed to be delivered. Interesting exception is when there has been a recent death in a family. In that case you aren't supposed to send them a card, and they won't send any, either.

I think the big banner on the right is about that construction site mentioned for the leg at 2'20". Seeing it backwards from behind, but I'm sure the left side of the banner says something about high-quality residences, and I think the big letters mean sales are in progress. On the left side of the street is a vending machine, and I'm pretty sure the picture is taken just in front of another one on the left side.

There are a lot of vending machines in Japan. If you turn left behind that Kirin machine, there's a little stretch of about 20 meters which passes one a genki juice machine, a soda machine, and ends with another soda machine, and there's a little entryway in the middle with a cigarette machine, a soda machine, a condom vending machine, and a game machine for taking commemorative pictures with your friends. [The photo machine was swapped out about two weeks later. But the new machine was just as loud and annoying.] Oh yeah, there's also at least one machine that sells detergent and stuff for the laundromat... This is not really a high traffic zone, but it is fairly close to the station. Within 200 meters of this location (which includes the local train station) I can easily visualize about 25 more vending machines, including a major cluster of beer and sake vending machines in front of a liquor store. Whoops! I should add about 10 more for local pay phones, which are a kind of vending machine. Like I said, there are lots of vending machines in Japan.

So what's the genki juice machine? Obviously a machine that sells genki juice, which isn't going to help you much unless you know that "genki" is a fuzzy Japanese word that means healthy, vigorous, full of pep, and some related ideas. Very common as a greeting, where it is used in a phrase like "Are you genki?" Haven't really got much genki juice experience to talk about, though I've drunk it a few times... It's sold in very small bottles, and the label usually says it's full of vitamins and caffeine and maybe some other stimulants and drugs. Some of them are supposed to be much more potent than others, and the prices vary quite a bit, with the most powerful ones obviously being the most expensive. Some of them are supposed to be special, like hangover cures, or even to prevent hangovers. Since genki is sort of like the pepper of Dr. Pepper, I sort of think of genki juice as superpowered Dr. Pepper. Remember the Dr. Pepper bottles with 10, 2, and 4? You were supposed to drink a Dr. Pepper to ward off the energy slumps at those times. I think some people drink genki juice the same way, though probably not that often. However, the main advertising image I have of genki juice involves a series of TV ads with these two outdoorsy fellow saving themselves from falling off a mountain or into a river or such, and afterwards apparently celebrating and restoring their energy with little bottles of the genki juice.

A note about laundromats is that they are becoming pretty rare these days--only two in this neighborhood. I think the main reason is that almost all Japanese people want to consider themselves to be middle class, and middle class people are supposed to own a washing machine, so they've all run out and bought one. At this point I'd consider it, too, except for the problem of having no place to put a drier and not wanting to have to hang up damp clothes to dry.

Another aspect of the scarcity of laundromats is the increasing scarcity of the public hot baths ("sento" in Japanese), which often had one or more associated laundromats. Again, middle class people are supposed to have their own bathtub, and not rely on the local sento, so most of the sentos are going bankrupt. In the old days there was a sento or three in every neighborhood, but I don't know of one anywhere around here. These days new apartments always include private bathtubs, and the older buildings without them are steadily being torn down and replaced.

Another short stretch here, but there's finally a bigger street visible at the end of this street--it's actually a regional highway, though it wouldn't be taken for such by American standards--basically one lane each way. The tall building partly visible on the right side at the end of the street is an apartment near the station, and the darker building left of it, the one with lots of windows, is a small office building. The dry cleaner I normally use for my white shirts is just off on the left, next to another little street you can't see well in this picture. Actually not all of my shirts are white, but that's how they describe regular shirts in Japanese--very roughly based on the American English, and I guess most of the archetypal examples were white.

The bus is blocking most of the view here, but this is the main local highway. The running course continues on the sidewalk that goes up the middle of this picture, on the right side of the road.

Two notes about traffic in Japan. One is that they drive on the left side--this picture should feel strange to Americans since you're seeing the front ends of the cars here. The other is that traffic is amazingly congested. This was not a major traffic weekend, but there are still lots of cars on the road, and on this next stretch there are often hundreds of meters of cars doing stop-and-go driving to get through the signal which is just behind me as I took this picture. On major holiday weekends the traffic jams are measured in tens of kilometers, and they routinely talk about taking hours to cover short distances--even on expensive toll-based limited-access highways. I mostly tried to time my pictures to avoid images blocked by cars and buses, but this location is basically a parking lot in front of a minor traffic light.

Finally, some space! As the road curves around to the right, it opens up on this vista. From here you can actually see about a kilometer down the road. The buildings on the left side are actually on the other side of the tracks, but you can't actually see the tracks (or the trains) from here because they are sunk into a cut, and the right side is mostly small apartments, but it slopes up steeply and there are some wooded sections, too. A woman hauling another one of those little carts is walking away down the gentle slope.

The train tracks are also the reason for the relatively open view. The train system has been a fairly high priority for many years, and obviously they want to have straight stretches as much as possible. Not certain, but in this case I think the highway was added later. Not sure how to check, but I think this was basically a cheap rural district and the Odakyu Department Store people bought up the land for their railway over the course of some years, perhaps starting 70 or 100 years ago. The Odakyu Line itself was built many years ago, and I am sure that most of the urban development came later. This was actually a thinly populated rural district with many temples and shrines, and there are still many of them, though a lot of their land has been sold and developed. I believe the next station, which is considered a major one, was a completely artificial creation of the Odakyu Line when they built the spur line to the north, but originally this was a railroad that basically went from somewhere--Shinjuku, one of the major stations of Tokyo--to nowhere--Hakone, a minor tourist attraction. The railroad has gradually made it into a busy urban area, and the highway was added sometime in there. However, it more often works the opposite way, where an existing traditional route between major destinations was targeted for the development of a railroad. I think JR (Japan Railways, which is now actually a group of companies) was the major beneficiary and owns most of those prime routes.

Another special Odakyu Line note. There are a lot of (mostly minor and mostly young) universities located along the Odakyu Line, and I think the railway folks went out of their way to encourage them to locate there. It's actually a very good strategy that's gotten better over the years. Many of the students continue living at home, and if their university has no access but the Odakyu Line, they're guaranteed customers for the railway. I was sometimes amazed by having students who were spending two or three or more hours a day on the trains just commuting to school for four years. They apparently want to [Or their parents make them?] live at home even when they're paying more for travel than a cheap apartment would cost. Much as I like the trains, this seems crazy to me.

Oh yeah, why has it "gotten better over the years"? Because the students are getting worse about attending classes, so even though the the student commuting passes are heavily discounted, the students often don't use the trains, so the Odakyu Line is selling services that don't tax their resources. Basically there is a peak at the beginning of the school year when the students are relatively enthusiastic and another at the end of each semester as they try to finish assignments and projects and beg for passing grades, but in between, there's a lot of slacking going on. (No, I don't have the solid statistics to back this up, but it's my strong impression from four years of working at one of these universities.) And actually, even when the students are coming to school, their schedules are often different from the rush hours that pack the trains, so again it's easy on the train line's resources.

On the right side near the start of this stretch may be the largest and fanciest trash collection point on the route, but not in it's best condition on this particular Sunday. There are actually two large concrete platforms here, with cinder block walls around them (except the left side wall is wood). One of the green anti-animal nets is visible in the front left section, hanging on the wooden wall. The pole is fastened inside one edge of the net to use in raising the entire net at one time. On the back wall is a dustpan and broom that the visitors can use if they want to tidy things up a bit, and above it and on the left is a notice board including some information about garbage sorting and collection. Most of the regular household garbage goes on the left side, under the net, and the right side platform is mostly used for stuff that is supposed to be recycled more completely, though intruding onto the left side today, there's a garbage can full of steel and aluminum cans next to the big white sign. (Not sure, but the sign looks like an ad for a kind of loan shark who loans money against cars.) The blue tray-like boxes are for glass bottles. On the second platform, you can see lots of magazines stacked up on a kind of metal garbage bin with doors. There are a few of these bins scattered around the neighborhood, and I think they may have been the predecessors of the nets at some of the larger collection points. Behind the garbage bin and magazines are mostly old cardboard boxes, which are probably recycled separately.

What's with all this trash journalism? No, I don't think I have a fixation, though I may have a bit of contamination from my academic training as a sociologist. Some sociologists do specialize in garbage research, though I think most of it is indirect effects from associating with the anthropologists and archeologists, who are big into garbage. However, the Japanese reality is that there are a lot of people living in limited areas, and dealing with the resultant garbage is one of the biggest perpetual problems. The 'front end' collection points are visible everywhere, and at the 'back end' some of it is recycled, most is burned, and a small amount is buried, often as part of the landfill as they make new artificial islands in Tokyo Bay. Overall I'd say they do a pretty good job with it, except for the cigarette butts, which are everywhere.

This is probably the widest view of the entire course. This location is visible from several hundred meters behind, and you can see several hundred meters ahead. The curves of this stretch are quite suitable for trains, and the tracks are still running along the left side of the road, but emerging from the cut so that at least the trains are visible here. There is a walkway over the tracks visible on the left side, and behind it is one of the large buildings of the large station, Shin-Yurigaoka. Way off in the distance, just to the right of the walkway but still on the left side of the road is a big sign. I think it's for a commercial realtor, and then the road curves back out of sight to the right. [Interestingly, that big sign disappeared a few weeks later.]

Most of the buildings along the right side of this stretch are businesses, though there are a few houses. In the area of the curve, there are just trees and stuff, mostly because that part is very steep so no one has built on it yet. Actually, for that big housing development on the former bamboo grove, they cut off a big chunk of the top of that hill, so who knows when they'll decide to do the same thing to those trees? It's a pretty good location.

Just before the walkway bridge, but on the right side of the main street is this men's clothing store with the windows covered with signs. The signs and the banners mostly say that the store is going out of business soon, and everything is marked down. Not really interesting except as a memorial photo, and the store is closed now. I suppose I could offer a short comment that the clothing market is about the same as I remember in America. Not many stores specializing in men's clothes, and the women's clothing stores are very predominent.

A little farther down is this roadside shrine in a kind of shady little niche on the right side of the street. It's kind of below the street, with a little water running between the rocks along the bottom of the picture. There's a little stone image barely visible at the back of the little building, and it looks like a fresh flower today--but it isn't. Artificial. Still, someone is taking pretty good care of it. Most of these little roadside shrines have a different statue of a children's protector called Jizo, but this one seems to be a Buddha image.

Here comes another one! Another 3-wheeled delivery motorcycle. When it got closer, I saw that this one was for Pizza Hut, though I don't even know where their restaurant is. The viewpoint is actually across the street from the running course, but that gives a better view of the curve. The big shadowy building on the left side is actually my new sports club.

Not sure if you're curious about Japanese sports clubs, and I can't really say much about them in comparison to the American ones--I was a member of Nautilus for one summer about 20 years ago. This is the second one I've joined in Japan, basically to have a lighted place to run on weekday evenings. They have running machines with treadmills and computers and all that jazz, and various other kinds of exercise machines I've never been much interested in. My low-grade membership costs 5,250 yen/month (including the 5% consumption tax), and is limited to evenings and to the training room only. A rental towel costs 350 yen/use, which would mount up pretty quickly, but I just bring one from home.

On the topics of pizza and food delivery services, I'll add that pizza is big, including a lot of American chains. There's at least one big Japanese chain, too. However, most of the pizzas are somewhat odd by American standards, with ingredients like potatoes and corn and squid and mayonnaise along with the more traditional cheese and pepperoni. However, I think most of the delivery motorcycles are actually unlabeled because they're used by little family-owned restaurants and are just used for occasional deliveries in their own neighborhood.

Not really much to see on this leg. Lots of trees and bushes on the right, and various businesses on the left side. That's actually a thin row of businesses, with a little street and then the tracks right behind them. In the part that is cut off on the right side behind the trees is actually a fairly major road that crosses this highway and goes up to the big station (only about 150 meters to the left at this point). If you turn to the right on that road, the large post office for this area is just a few meters up.

Finally! A public telephone. The first one on the course. It's just off the right side in a little parking lot about 30 meters before the major road just mentioned. A lot of phone booths like this one have antennas on top for the portable phones, though not this particular one. The telephones actually deserve a Web page of their own because of the telephone cards involved, but I'm including them as minor landmarks here. This next pair is just on the other side of the major street, in front of a little noodle shop. There's yet another coke machine visible on the right side, and there's an ad for Kool cigarettes, behind which is a cigarette vending machine. The two boxes below the phones are for telephone books, though they were empty until recently.

Kind of stretched things for this stretch--this location was just barely visible from the last viewpoint at 6'45". It's a little past the intersection and the road is curving back to the left here. Again, a thin line of commercial buildings lines the road, but on the right side this time, and rather than tracks it's because of another steep hill behind them. The left side is kind of a weird section that I can't describe very well... On the other side of it there are a bunch of government offices and the library, and I'll deal with them at that point of the course, but the near side, the part of it in this photo, it's basically undeveloped, and somehow I have the impression that there's something wrong there, like flood conditions or unstable soil or something. There are some little buildings, some parking lots, and a big place where they dump gravel, but overall it just has a funny feel to it. Or maybe it's really owned by some cagey developer who's waiting for the right time to build it up.

This straightaway actually shows the gravel place on the left side, and the right side is heavily shaded by trees again, though the viewpoint is just in front of another apartment building with a car in front of it. The high contrast is obviously putting a big strain on the camera here. There's a traffic light visible in the distance, where another fairly large road crosses this one. That road actually goes under the tracks and continues past the station, but I don't know where it comes from on the right side.

The next stoplight is just visible, and that's where this leg ends and I turnaround for the other side of the street. Really not halfway yet, but the psychological halfway point. The main landmark is the big sign with the wavy W on it. The right part says "Wattman", as in Watts of electrical energy. The right side is mostly automobile stuff, and there are also some dealers on the left side.

Wattman is a new appliance store. The previous tenant was also an appliance store, part of a chain called L Shokai, if I haven't already forgotten the details... How quickly they forget. I think the L was for electrical, but the entire chain went belly up early this year. This must have been one of their better locations, since it was taken over fairly quickly. There've been quite a number of such business failures in recent years--retail sales is always tough, and times have been worse than usual. Actually the one that most saddened me was the folding of Media Valley, a very nice computer store at the next major station, Machida. It was actually an impressive experiment by the large Daiei chain, but they gave up on it after about five years. Now it's been converted to a 100-yen store, the new Japanese equivalent of a 5-and-10... Maybe it's the largest 100-yen store in Japan. What a sad fate.

Before starting back, here are some views of the grand sights at this farthest point from my home. This is a view of the little store, but it's closed since this is Sunday. On the left side is this mailbox, a little to the right of center is this telephone, while the right side has these vending machines, one of the larger clusters on the course. The closeup of the mailbox shows the two slots, the left one for regular letters and postcards, and the right one for special stuff, though I can't really remember what. Maybe international letters? During the New Years season they change it, and one of the slots is reserved just for the special New Years cards described earlier. The vending machines at this location consist of two coke machines, two cigarette machines, a beer vending machine, and I think the last one is another soda machine.

That particular beer machine is very unusual, since it has an ID card scanning device on it--the little gray box in the upper right corner. I don't think it actually does anything, but maybe they're getting ready for some new law or something. Technically speaking, they aren't supposed to sell alcohol to minors, but it's pretty hard to enforce, and beer vending machines are especially convenient for kids. I speculate that the ID scanner may be here because the local police headquarters is so close to this location. All of the beer machines do have clocks, and I think they do enforce restrictions on the time when beer can be sold, so the beer machines will stop selling beer at certain times. Not really sure, but I think alcohol sales stop at midnight.

This crosswalk is at the signal visible from the last leg, and that sidewalk is the continuation of the course, but having crossed the street and going up the right side. There's a fellow standing there with his camera in a little hanging pouch. The building on the right is part of a stonecutter's shop, mostly making little Buddhist stuff like family gravestones.

Sorry, it would make for some interesting pictures, but there aren't any graveyards on this course. They are very different from the American version. No graves, for example. Pretty much everyone is cremated and the ashes are kept in a little urn or scattered. What they have in the typical graveyard these days is just a bunch of family gravestones. Actually better to call them monuments. In front there are usually some little basins for funeral offerings like flowers, water, and food, and on the back is a kind of holder for the sticks... This is really hard to describe, but they have these wooden sticks that have the official Buddhist death name of the family member, and they stick the sticks in the holder, where they gradually get very old. In some cases you'll see a monument with a big bundle of sticks that may go back hundreds of years, and maybe no one even knows who most of those people were... Basically the memorial services stop some years after a person dies, though I think in some cases they are supposed to go on for 49 years or so.

Crossed the street again for more perspective, but still much of the view is blocked by cars trying to get to that intersection about 200 meters down there. Another long parking lot.

This is a big wide street, which probably means it was built relatively recently. The running course winds up on the other side of this street, though I don't have a fixed crossing point. Sometimes I cross at this light, and other times I'll jay run across the street farther down. If the light is green as I arrive I'll usually cross with it. Visibility isn't too good since the road curves a bit, but there's a big white building with curved corners in the background, and that's actually on the same parcel of land with the station.

The course is actually on the left sidewalk, but I took the picture from the middle of the street to get the best view of this stretch. Again a relatively big wide street that must have been built fairly recently. The right side is the same big building with the curved corners, and the station is invisible behind it. There's a small shopping mall next to the station farther up on the right side. On the left side is government stuff. First there's a fire station, then the local equivalent of a city hall for this ward, and then a big parking lot. Behind the city hall is a local culture center, including a library--but just about the worst one I know of.

The running course actually goes up the right side, past that building with the round corner and the pebbly finish. It's actually a mid-size pachinko parlor. This is actually the same large street that was mentioned earlier, the one with the large post office on it.

At the bottom of the hill the course goes back for a stretch on the same piece as in the leg at 6'45", but on the other side of the street. The sports club is just barely visible just right of center.

This is the corner of the sports club, but now the course goes right and under the Odakyu Line tracks. Not much to see except for the train parked on a little spur there. Mostly you see them only in motion or briefly stopped at the platforms.

After crossing under the tracks the course curls around this street between apartment buildings. The stone wall on the right side has another parking lot associated with the station. Right near the middle is a rundown old house. I think someone is still living there, but they could obviously sell the prime property and get something much better. Don't know anything about this particular case, but lots of old folks are like that, and in that case the kids will probably sell it when they pass away.

Over on the left side is a gap where you can see a moving train. There are small apartments on each side, though the right side is mostly obscured by some more trees and bushes.

This train was going up--the Japanese is "nobori densha" versus "kudari densha" for a train heading the opposite direction. Most trains are referred to as going up, towards Tokyo--actually Shinjuku--, or down, away from Tokyo, The photo for the next leg actually includes a down train that came past a few seconds after this train. The trains also run on the left, so the up train was on the farther away left-side track from this viewpoint, while the down train was on the closer right-side track as I faced it.

The large station now just behind me is an express stop, so the normal pattern of up trains at this location is that first a Shinjuku-bound express leaves, and about two minutes later the local train that's been waiting in the station leaves. For the down trains the pattern is reversed at this point. First a local train comes and stops in the station, waiting for the express. A few minutes later the express train arrives. The way this works the express trains have priority, and and stopped only briefly, and the local trains often wait while the expresses pass them. If you are travelling a long distance your train has priority and will pretty much run all the time, but when you get close to your destination, you will normally find your local train waiting at the last express stop. If you leave to go somewhere from a local station, it works the other way around. After your local train gets to the express station, it will stop, and you can switch to the express train that will arrive soon behind you.

The actual situation is a little more complicated for the Odakyu Line, since they also have several kinds of special express trains. However, all of those trains are more expensive, and some of them even reserve the seats. Those trains travel even farther between stops than the regular expresses. The most publicized are the Romance Car trains that run all the way from Shinjuku to Hakone with only one or two stops on the way. The Odakyu Line still advertises these trains quite a bit. I think the idea is that you travel with your significant other for a few days of romance at some hot springs (onsen) in the Hakone area. The only time I remember riding the Romance Car was actually for an onsen trip for the teachers at a school I used to teach at. I sure can't remember any romance in the results of that trip.

Here is a narrow stretch with a stone wall on the right side. The top of the wall is overgrown again, but there are some houses at the top. On the left is the edge of one really old house, and then a big gap with the just-mentioned train heading into Shin-Yurigaoka Station.

The most interesting feature of this little stretch is that I often see cars stuck in here. It's only wide enough for one car, but they'll come from both directions and have to stop, usually near those concrete telephone poles. The car or cars on this flat stretch normally have to back up, because on the other side it's a steep hill with an intersection just behind it. There's a little parking lot that isn't visible here where the cars pull in to let the other ones go by. Sometimes I've seen three or four cars stuck in this place.

And up we go. Obviously the dominant landmark is the soda machine at the top of the hill, just on the other side of the intersection. Quite surprised that the traffic mirror above it is the first one that has appeared clearly in these pictures--I'm sure I passed a bunch of them along the way. Ahead is pretty much a pure residential area, but the course swings back to the left again, still basically following the tracks.

The traffic mirrors are big convex mirrors. They are most common in residential areas like this one, and are to help you see cars coming from the side. I wouldn't want to rely too heavily on them, but the Japanese seem to, which probably helps explain some of the accidents that kill so many bicyclists.

One more note about this picture is actually off-screen. At the top of the little slope on the right side is another garbage collection point, and on this particular day there was a television set sitting there. You may have heard about this aspect of Japan--electronics in the garbage--, and it's true. Quite probably it was a working TV, and you'll often see stuff like component stereo systems, VCRs, fans, vacuum cleaners, and even computers. Most of it is still working... Well, at least it looks fine, and I confess that I once had a TV that I came by that way. It worked for several years before dying. The bottom line is that a lot of stuff gets replaced before it wears out--especially for trendy electronics. The old model gets put out at one of these garbage collection points. Technically speaking, for larger items you're supposed to arrange for the city to pick them up, but I think they're pretty loose about it here in Kawasaki. Maybe a truck comes around once in a while, either from the city or maybe someone who runs a business fixing up and selling cheap used appliances. I think that's one category of 'recycle shop'.

The last little leg was quite steep, but this is still moderately hard climbing. The tracks fall down into the cut on the left side, and are no longer visible here. On the right side the big item is that dark blue sign with the white letters that say "Kikuchi Ballet" in Japanese.

Don't really know for sure, but I believe this is one of the fairly common neighborhood schools. Basically a local housewife with some special skill runs a school in her house to make a little extra money. Piano and English classes are probably the most common. My main knowledge is actually of the Kumon franchise, where I've been studying Kumon-method Japanese for many years. However, Kumon is basically a packaged operation, so the teacher just uses their prepared materials. Kumon is most famous for math, though they have other subjects. I even did some part-time work for them, mostly helping to prepare new English-related materials. In the old days I think almost all of the Kumon schools were in a home like this ballet school, but lately more of them are run as regular businesses, and though I've studied in a bunch of them over the years, I can only think of two of them that were actually still in someone's house, rather than in a rented commercial space. I suspect it's getting harder and harder to run one of these in-home schools successfully. This one is probably unusually successful, since I think I've seen an ad in the station, and those ads are pretty expensive. Perhaps she was a famous ballerina in the past...

The end of this footbridge was just barely visible from the last viewpoint, but it's the same one that was very visible crossing the tracks at the 4'40" viewpoint. This picture is on the bridge for the view of the next leg, which actually goes up past the small white apartment on the left side. The big apartment on the right side is actually one of the more classic rabbit hutches.

When they refer to a rabbit hutch in relation to a Japanese apartment I usually think of this particular style, and I've lived in a couple of them over the years. On the right side of this building you can clearly see some little dividers between the balconies of the separate apartments--perhaps 20 small apartments visible here. The other side of the building has a long half-open hall that connects the stairs and elevator to each of the apartments. Basically each apartment is like a little tube, roughly two rooms a building of this size. I'd guess they are either 1LDK or 2K apartments. If it's 1LDK it's basically two rooms, with a large bedroom by the balcony. The other room is a combined Living-Dining-Kitchen, hence LDK. If it's a 2K, there are two rooms with a very small kitchen. The room by the balcony is still the bedroom, and is often a Japanese-style room with a tatami (rice mat) floor. The middle room is probably about the same size, and these days is probably a western-style room, because tatami are getting so expensive. In that case the kitchen is really tiny. Even in an older building the apartments would have toilets, but since this is a newer building, I'm sure each apartment includes a bathtub/shower, too. Some confusion there since the Japanese actually use a word meaning bathroom specifically for the room with the bathtub, not to be confused with what is normally a separate room that contains the toilet.

Another bit of a stretch there--couldn't really see this point from the last one. This is actually near the far end of the white building that was visible from the last leg. This particular apartment building (which is now out of sight behind me and to the left) actually has businesses on the ground floor, and this is just in front of a little beauty parlor. The big white building at the end of the street is part of an elementary school. The right side is more steep stuff with stone walls and houses on top. The white gate on the right side actually is for a kind of garage for someone's car, and the rail next to it is for a stairway going up to the houses.

The fence and trees on the left side actually border the playground of the elementary school, but it's several meters below this street and not visible from here. The running course basically goes up the sidewalk on the left side. The right side of the street is not visible because of the wall, but it's mostly houses, though there's a little florist shop across from the end of the school's property.

Not real great to run up and down stairs, but I maybe I didn't realize it when I was laying out the course with the map... Anyway, the left side is the school, but even at the lowest point of this street, across from where that other street comes in from the right, it's still above the level of the playground. There's only one short flight of steps going down at this point, but all that's visible is the handrail in the middle. On the other side there are three flights of steps going up to another fair-sized road. That's why there are bigger buildings at that section, though most of the stuff on the right side here is just residential.

Hmm... Kind of hard to describe this. The pole that is just barely visible on the left edge of the picture is actually where the running course continues on the sidewalk up to the right (but on the left side of the street). The next turnaround point is just about 300 meters up the street, though the traffic light at that corner is not very visible from here. The left side is obviously businesses, though farther down there's a large apartment complex on that side. The right side is about the same, though the apartments are smaller and there's a little park, too. The stairway comes in on the right side, but I've backed a bit away from that point.

This is another psychological climax--the start of the final stretch. This is looking directly at the place where the last leg's picture was taken, though that visible crosswalk down there is actually not the same one as was most visible in that picture. The running course is still on the left side, but of course it's the other sidewalk as I'm going the other way now.

This is just about the same place as where the picture at 20'50" was taken, but looking the other way as the course goes down the left side (where it's too dark to see much). The elementary school is on the left side here, and the right side is commercial. There's another florist's shop right there, with the letter for flower clearly visible in two places. The two annoying signs stuck on the poles appear to be advertising houses with parking spaces.

From here the final corner is visible. The thing at the top is another crosswalk for pedestrians. I'm guessing it was probably put in at the insistence of the parents for the students of the school. Not really visible among the businesses on the right side are the local post office and police box.

Interesting note about this bridge is that I think a homeless fellow lives under it, though his 'household belongings' move back and forth, and are sometimes under the stairs leading up to the bridge, sometimes near it on the left, and sometimes somewhere else. I don't really know any of the details, but I've gotten the impression that he's a kind of upper-class hobo, who makes a bit of a living fixing stuff, kind of a handyman. I've never seen him uproariously drunk and harassing passersby like some of the bums at Shinjuku or Machida.

More problem with glare, but the finish is three phone booths that are mostly lost in the glare at the bottom of the slope, behind the two shadowed phones that are clearly visible here. The left side is actually another pachinko parlor, though this photo was what caused me to notice how shiny the marble front of their building is--like a pretty good mirror. My station is just off on the right side at the bottom of this little slope.

Here are the three phone booths, and that's where the course ends. Behind the phone booths is actually a parking place for taxis that are waiting for customers. There's a bus stop on the right side and a bus is just pulling out. The big building on the left side is probably part of the station building itself, or joined to it. It's full of businesses, and you can just make out Colonel Sanders there--that's one of the KFCs I mentioned. Across the street on the right edge of the photo you can also see "Fresh Foods", a logo on the front of the Yuri Store, the grocery store with the best location for this station.

Yuri Store is a very minor chain, perhaps two or three stores in total, though I think they're an old store since they have such a good location. This is one of the famous all-in-one small groceries of Japan, with a wide range of foods on the first floor and a second floor with a wide range of dry goods. This particular one actually has a third floor, but I don't remember much about the businesses there, though I did peek one time. Maybe some kind of real estate office?

Now for some weird meta-notes:

The main string of pictures were actually taken on Sunday, 6 August 2000 on a bright, hot afternoon. The times are rather rough, but at least give some idea of the relative distances involved. Figure about 30" per 100 meters. The secondary pictures were mostly taken on 20 August.

The camera that took the pictures is an old Casio QV-100 that I bought for about 30,000 yen some years ago, just after the new model had come out--which I believe is the best time to get the best price on a known quantity. The newest models are actually unknown quantities with high prices, but the QV-100 was actually Casio's third or fourth digital camera, and I felt that most of the glaring bugs had been worked out. Of course the quality of the images was still rising rapidly at this time, but for a computer display, the 640 pixel image isn't too bad. The camera does have an annoying "memory error" problem that seems to be getting worse with age, but I finally learned how to reset it, and so it hasn't died on me yet. (Hold down <Effect> and <Del> when you turn the camera on, and it goes into the reset routine--but make sure you're on AC or have nice fresh batteries. Losing the power during a reset it a big no-no.) However, the memory problem can make it a painful multi-step process to get the pictures out of the camera.

For those of you into such weird details, here are the shoes that did the deed. Well, actually only the first set of pictures. They were a few years old, but I hadn't noticed they were in any kind of trouble, and I actually used them at the sports club twice after that run, but when I got ready to run the next weekend, I noticed they were dead--the sole was basically falling off of both of these cheapies. I actually switched to an aged pair of Nikes and bought a new pair of Reeboks at my sports club on that very run. They had given me two 1,000 yen merchandise discount coupons when I joined, so I paid about 7,500 yen for a 9,500 yen pair of shoes.