Today is no ordinary day – it is the Mother’s Day here in Japan, celebrated on the second Sunday of May every year. Hahanohi (母の日) is apparently the busiest day of the year for florists across the country, so if you are going out to pick up some flowers for your mother today spare a thought for the staff in the flower shop as well! I saw these two panda in Tokyo’s Ueno district, famous for its pandas. Happy Mother’s day everyone – present as well as future moms!
I took these photos of one of the more popular tourist destinations in Tokyo on Midnight eve last year, just as the stores and the fishmongers were closing down I was stopped by a phalanx of guardmen advancing down the street followed by a veritable armada or convoy of garbage trucks. The Ameyokocho is famous for its incredible high turnover shopping and it is packed to its limits with people most of the day and now I finally got to see what happens at closing time when all the garbage needs to be cleared up. It was beautifully choreographed and over in a matter of minutes. With the crew of trucks, the drivers and the guards clearing the way ahead there must have been well over 50 people sweeping down on each narrow street, clearing up small mountains of garbage in one fell swoop.
Garbage disposal in central Tokyo with its population of between 13 and 15 million people (depending on the time of the day) is a massive undertaking. The majority of all household garbage is sorted and recycled while strict rules handle industrial and construction waste. The burnable garbage collected is incinerated and creates heat, electricity and material for the many landfill projects ongoing in the capital. It has been calculated that if the waste material was not burned but simply dumped into Tokyo bay the the entire bay would be filled in less than a century at the current pace. Moving all of this material to somewhere less populated and then burning it is an impossible project. There is nowhere within a couple of hours drive from central Tokyo that is not as densely populated as London! Hence there are waste disposal plants scattered all over the city with state of the art emissions control. The plants have gotten around the “not in my backyard mentality” by incorporating free sports and pool facilities providing plenty of incentives for neighborhood to host these plants.
Air quality in Tokyo is generally good to excellent, much better than in many small town and cities in Europe. In spring however the air usually turns quite bad as pollution with a poetic sense of justice drifts over from China. Since so much of the pollution comes from producing goods that are actually used by the people of Tokyo.
But apart from the well thought out garbage collection in Ameyokocho the area is hugely popular with residents and tourists alike for it old time feel and the bargains to be had. It is also great fun to listen to the banter and the peculiar dialects of the fishmongers as they compete for customer attention at the top of their voices. It is a marvel any of these men still have vocal cords at all! The last few photos are from the main street of Ueno as you escape Ameyokocho just to the south. And I could not not share this photo of the statue of Saigo Takamori walking his dog.
Oh, and this happens to be the 1900th post online right now (not including the posts I have deleted along the way). Maybe I will hit 2000 posts sometime in August this year?
In January I visited the graduation show at the Tokyo University of the Arts. For most visitors, the first work of art they encountered was the “OYAJYO-JIN” A-Un sculptures by Kanagawa sculptress Momoha Harada (原田桃葉). The words A-Un (阿吽) comes from the Indian religions and has also been adapted by shintoism and buddhism here in Japan. A is the first and un is the last character in the sanskrit alphabet and they represent the beginning and the end of the of all things, very similar to αω (Alpha and Omega) in christianity or the emet in judaism. In front of most temples and shrines in Japan you will find two statues, sometimes lions, sometimes foxes, sometimes demon or even tengu, one with their mouth open (阿) and one with the mouth closed (吽).
The statues of Ms. Harade guarded the entrance to the university and were quite popular with visitors. The portly human figures in a their metal grey hue looked great next to the black wood of the gate.