Tokyo Station’s long restoration is now finally over and the new frontage was unveiled in a big projection mapped light show just last week. It was officially open as of 1st October and is said to include new retail spaces, restaurants and cafes, ‘entertainment’ (but I’m not yet sure what that refers to) and of course, the luxurious Tokyo Station Hotel. If I wasn’t so busy I’d go down there and check it out first hand but it’s just not possible at the moment with all the work I’ve got on, and it’s probably best to wait for the crowds to die down anyway.
If you don’t know about Tokyo Station, it’s a train station in central Tokyo not far from the imperial palace that connects Shinkansen (Bullet Train), JR (Japan Rail) and Metro lines and serves as Tokyo’s main station. It’s not the biggest however, as Shinjuku station beats it in terms of size and sheer volume of passengers, but it’s the biggest in terms of the number of lines and services that converge here. The red brick side of the station has been around since 1914, and that’s the side which has received the renovation treatment. It was damaged by bombing in World War II and has been added to and expanded since then with the Yaesu side being added and modernised around the early 1950’s.
It’s interesting for me to see it finished now, as it’s the first time I’ve done so. Ever since I came to Tokyo in 2008 it’s been undergoing renovation and has been covered with scaffolding and sheeting.
I saw an advertisement on the train for a new iPhone app developed by Tokyo Metro, so I decided to download it. You won’t be able to ditch your Jorudan (Norikae Annai) app just yet, but it’s a worthy addition to your tool set for navigating around Tokyo. You can search for your nearest station (Metro only), explore the map of the Tokyo Metro network, find information about in-station facilities and exits, see a map of the inside of each station, and of course plan your journey from one place to another by Metro.
When you fire up the app, you are presented with a screen showing the symbol for each metro line. From here, clicking on the appropriate icon will give you information on service disruptions. This page is therefore totally useless unless in the event of some huge natural disaster as I’ve never experienced any service disruptions during my journey in the 3+ years I’ve been here. Another word of warning is that you will probably need to read some Japanese to use this app properly. Most of the functions are pretty self-explanatory, but the route planner is somewhat hard to find, but if you tap around you should work it all out.
As I said, this won’t replace your main Tokyo train app, because you can’t get the time of the next train and you can’t get the time of the all-important last train. Also, it doesn’t cover any other lines apart from the Tokyo Metro. It’s still worth downloading though I think, and the design is not too bad (better than Jorudan for sure).
This game is genius if not a little old, and at the detriment of the rest of the modern world, is only available here in Japan. If you can’t tell from the picture above (taken at one of my my local video arcades), this is a game in which you assume the role of a Japanese train driver on the Enoden Line and several other tourist lines located along the Enoshima beach area near Kamakura (outside Tokyo to the South West). These lines are famous for having old-style engines and carriages and tend to travel along the coast or through densely built-up areas of traditional Japanese housing, as well as stopping at some of the famous sightseeing spots in the area.
Your mission is to uphold the perfectionist ethos of the entire Japanese train network in general by driving the train observing signals and speed regulations and of course arriving at the stations at the exact designated times, plus/minus 4 or 5 seconds to avoid picking up penalties and thus maximizing your score. Penalties are also incurred for braking too sharply (causing the passengers annoyance) or for forgetting to trigger the announcements, and so on. You also have to open the doors having perfectly lined them up with the markers on the platform. Again, inaccuracy will get you in trouble and cost you points (possibly even resulting in a Game Over if you really mess up). The controls are supposed to closely mimic those of the actual trains in real life, so if the driver were to have a heart attack on the Enoden line, rather than hurtling through stations and ending up in a high speed collision, you could probably find a train geek somewhere on board capable of rescuing everyone in a smooth, controlled and orderly manner; as this is only one of a whole series of games totalling almost 30 different versions found in arcades, on Windows PC and on PS2, and is extremely popular here in Japan.
As a special bonus, here is a YouTube video of the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) version:
Musical Interlude. I couldn’t find any videos worthy of showcasing the fine electronic music produced by Susumu Yokota, so I made my own. The track is Azukiiro No Kaori by Susumu Yokota from his Sakura album. All of the footage was shot Autumn/Winter 2008 and Autumn 2009.
Ever wondered what it’s like to drive a Tokyo JR train? Actually, I hadn’t until I got a rare chance to see the driver doing his thing. Usually the glass is smoked or there’s a screen obstructing your view, and I’ve never seen this again since. Check out the illegible display on his computer screen!
In accordance with building a more harmonious and civilized society for everyone to enjoy, Tokyo Metro (the local government controlled subway train service provider) has been campaigning via this series of brilliantly illustrated posters. They are looking to reduce incidences of inebriated salarymen sprawling themselves across carriage seats, and the evil of talking on mobile phones, whilst spreading awareness of the dangers of running to make the train as the doors are about to close. That’s hardly important to me; I’m already pretty compliant with the rules of Japanese train ettiquette. Mostly I like the style of these posters and some of them are quite funny.
But, this time, I’m riding the weird Romance Car from Shinjuku to Hakone. In this train, passengers see through the front window and not the driver. Actually, he’s in a cockpit on the roof, not dissimilar to the shape of that on a fighter jet. If you go onto my vimeo now, there’s a bunch of other videos taken from the train. More views of the outlying areas of Tokyo and beyond.
It looks a little bit like a Shinkansen train, but it’s not quite as fast. It will do 99mph and get you to Narita airport from Tokyo in just 36 minutes. And when the Japanese say 36 minutes, they mean 36 minutes. Exactly. You won’t be able to ride it until sometime in 2010, but it’s going to make a lot of people’s lives a lot easier. The train is designed by Kansai Yamamoto, a leading Japanese fashion designer. See the videos and download the wallpaper at the official site. Information courtesy of Shibuya246’s tweet.
Looking from the window of the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line subway train on my daily commute to work I noticed this gloriously dated mural in Suehirochou station (which will spit you out in Akihabara, electric town should you take the main exit onto the street). I had to step off the train and get a picture of this retro masterpiece (above).
This is a video I shot during a train ride from the center of Tokyo to the airport (1hr 20mins or so away). It gives a good impression of the Tokyo cityscape, the buildings, logos and colours of the city rushing by. There’s also a few more videos from this series on my Vimeo.
Darling wa Gaikokujin (ダーリンは外国人), which roughly translates as My Darling is a Foreigner, is a manga series that deals with the author Saori Oguri’s life as a Japanese woman married to an American man living in Japan. The reason I’m writing about it is that I’ve been watching an animated version on the JR line trains just recently, and the animation style is really nice. The animation has been on the trains since last year. In the most recent installment the couple have a baby. Watch out for it if you’re on the Yamanote line in Tokyo anytime soon.
This is what it looks like as you exit Inaricho Sta. at around 5.30am after staying up all night in Shibuya. I’d forgotten I’d taken this picture. I just found it in my camera. The wind is pretty strong in Tokyo at the moment, and it blows into the entrances and exits of the metro stations. As your walking out feeling delicate after not sleeping, or having just woken up after half-an-hour’s sleep on the train, it chills you to the bone. I’ve done a lot of not-sleeping recently, and I’ve also got into the habit of sleeping on trains in the early hours of the morning and riding past my station, out into the suburbs and beyond.
If you are on facebook, allow me to direct you to the group Nobody Sleeps Like the Japanese Do. For foreigners in Tokyo, it’s common knowledge the Japanese people can and do sleep anywhere and everywhere. Here is photographic proof of just how awesome the Japanese ability to kip actually is. I was amazed when I first arrived here. I came to the conclusion that they don’t get enough sleep during the night due to work or staying up late after work, and so they supplement their sleep with power-naps throughout the day. It should be noted that in some cases, the people in these photos are just drunk.
I find myself in Ikebukuro a lot more now that I live out on the Seibu line, so everyday on my way from the train I see this advert on the station platform and it makes me smile. On the one side of this ad, you have the guys, suited and ready for action in what appears to be an aircraft hangar. Then, on the other side of the same ad you have the girls, in cheerleader outfits. I’m not saying anything.
This shot was taken as we pulled out of Shinjuku station at 12.39 on Saturday night. As you can see, it’s sea of suits, and as the train lurches they slosh up against the sides of the train and you get caught in the current. Suprisingly, it’s not annoying at all. It’s pretty hilarious, actually. The train is so ridiculously full that you can’t help but laugh (and take pictures).