As a tourist in Tokyo most people are pretty much limited to getting around on trains and subway, with the occasional use of taxis, trams and ferries. My dream of a zeppelin passenger service connecting Hakone, Odaiba (in Tokyo) and Odawara still hasn’t won the approval of the Japanese government! Actually though, there is also a pretty excellent bus service in the city, filling the gaps between hard to connect stations. For example, the most convenient way of getting from Shibuya to Roppongi, to major centers inside Tokyo and not far away there is no trains or subways and you’d have to do a lot of tricky detours to stay within the subway system to get from Shibuya to Roppongi, if it wasn’t for the excellent bus service! Things have become even more convenient in the last few years as you can now use your train passes on buses as well. In Tokyo’s tourist destination number one, Taito City (home of Asakusa, Kaminarimon, etc.) there is a loop bus system aimed exclusively at tourists, the Taito City Loop Bus, or Megurin for short. Consisting of small frequent buses on three interconnecting routes and tickets for 100 yen per ride or 300 yen for a day pass it’s easy and convenient for local tourists to travel around Taito, and especially the route connecting Ueno station with Asakusa station. Taito is also full of other more minor things to see and do and if you’re into the charms of downtown Tokyo but want to spare your legs it is a good way to just loop around and see so much more of the city in these slow buses than what you can see from the subway or trains. The only trouble is that most of the information is in Japanese! But if you have a local friend to help out, or if you are a local and want to show visitors around, this is an excellent way to spend a day in Tokyo. Besides, the buses are really cute. Here’s a map in Japanese of the routes – pretty impressive!
When I was kid I would rather spend time reading atlases than any other kind of book. I used to lie in bed and study maps of all the places I had never heard of, trying out strange pronunciations and exotic tasting names of cities and deserts all over the world. For example, the was nothing more exotic than the place names of the North African deserts (check it out for yourself some time). Likewise, there was a reassuring style to the names of the great inner Asian countries, every region and every country ending with -stan. North American place names likewise intrigued me, most of the cities of northern USA has very familiar European sounding names (there must be a dozen London in New England alone!) but when it comes to the names of lakes and rivers all of a sudden they take on older aboriginal names, totally alien to any European language. I could understand why early settlers would name their villages after their hometowns or biblical places, but why would they keep the Indian names for lakes and rivers? Of course I have studied more maps and more cartography since then but I sill love looking at maps. So when I found this art work by Aiko Furuta (古田藍子) I was intrigued! She has taken a basic Japanese map of the world and cut out all the names from it, painstakingly reassembling every single character in their correct order on a separate piece of paper. The title of the work is in Japanese Re (世界地図の場合). I’m not even going to attempt a translation of that! She is graduating from Joshibi University of Art and Design (女子美術大学) this month.