campaign season

Elections start this morning, so there’s been lots of activity recently.


The slogan on the top reads “Now it’s my turn.” This candidate (not the man with the camera) is running for  party that had been in power for over 50 years until they were deposed last year. The campaigners were handing out lots of literature, even to these Chinese tourists in the Ginza:




At a different hour another candidate stumps on a small truck in the Ginza. She’s an animal-rightist who believes that lives of humans, cats and dogs all have the same value.



Below is a campaign flyer for a well known inventor. He claims that looking through  the mask improves eyesight. Incindentally I once had lunch with this guy a decade ago. Back then he looked older than this mask shows him. I can’t imagine what he actually looks like now.


In Ueno:


In Yoyogi, they were removing posters from the campaign trucks on the eve of the election.


downtown living

meiji03It took a while to make the connection, but this blog, misebiraki, and this real estate site, RealTokyoEstate, are discussing the same place.

Misebiraki is a blog for the times: Its writer travels all around Tokyo looking for those hand-written notices shopkeepers put up when they go out of business. There are lots of them now, all over town.

RealTokyoEstate specializes in odd, interesting or otherwise different places that you can rent or buy.

This place in Iriya, somewhere north of Ueno, dates from the Meiji Era and was once a shop specializing in kamaboko (pureed seafood stuff made into a loaf). Supposedly the owner of the apartment building in the background paid a lot of money to buy this building because he wanted to preserve it. That’s very unusual in Tokyo.  The first floor is now a gallery (could it be this place?). The second floor is for rent for 220,000 yen a month.

bike town is down


So-called “Bike Town,” an area near Ueno known for motorcycles and motorcycle goods, has lost a lot of it’s vroom. Passing by recently, I noticed that Corin, the firm that ran most of the shops there, has gone out of business, and hurriedly too. The shops’ windows are covered with red union flags and posters condemning the old boss, who seems to have taken the money and run. Bike Town is more like a ghost town now.

ueno no mori

ueno parkUeno park is a great place for families. When I go there it’s usually on a weekday, when most of who you see are scruffy types shuffling along or sitting on benches. Yesterday, Saturday, though, I was surprised by how many families make use of the place. Families in parks is no big deal, because parks are designed for them after all. But a lot of the families here don’t look the way you’d imagine a family to look. They are hip-hoppers and red-light “hosts,” walking beside faux “celebs” and cabaret club “hostesses” pushing prams. There’s an air all around of parenthood reluctant or rushed.
It’s a good thing, because these are the people doing their part to stem Japan’s population slide. Other people, in fact most everyone I know, spend far more time imagining a baby than actually trying to make one. That was brought home to me when I met my colleague, who came to the park with her husband and child to enjoy the zoo. In 10 years of work, she’s the only person I can think of who actually took time to have a kid. More power to them. Downloading Tupac now.

landscape change: ueno

céline clanet Une mélodie japonaiseThis building at left, taken from Céline Clanet’s photo series Une mélodie japonaise, no longer exists. I am not sure exactly when it disappeared, but its destruction was decided long ago. For as long as I’ve been in Tokyo, it feels, the space it occupied was held behind a shroud — first as the old building was being pulled down, later as a new one went up in its place.

Looking like the prow of an old ocean liner, it was one of the last really old western buildings left standing in Ueno, most of which was destroyed in the war. It was art deco showpiece in its day, with its big porthole windows, so it’s sad no one protested it’s demise. But then again, who would have? Ueno is in decline and welcome to any new business.

Seeing this postcard, I realize it was once a hotel. What has taken it’s place is big-box Yodobashi Camera —here— shaped liked a cheese wedge like its predecessor. Somewhere inside the new shell is an echo of the past.