The first bus to ever run in Japan in was in Kyoto, on the 20th of September 1903. The busline ran from the street crossing near Horikawa Nakatachiuri over to Shichijo and ended in Gion. To commemorate this important development in Japanese civic life, September 20th has been named Bus Day (basu no hi). On this days buses are decorated with special flags, like these buses I saw in Tokyo’s Nezu district last year. There are also many special bus events taking place around the country. If you are interested in buses, or more likely, you have kids that like them, today is your busy day!
By the way, photographing the “displays” of the buses is really difficult, as the lights of the displays flutter at a speed that looks good to the eye but looks terrible in digital photograph. You can trick it by using a very slow shutter speed, but then you get a blurry photo if the bus is moving or you shoot without a stand or tripod. The second photo is a montage of a slow and fast photo. Sorry for ‘shopping!
Japan has any numbers “days” to commemorate something, some of them are annual, some are even monthly! I used to be surprised at the number of special days but not anymore. Personally I enjoy October 1st as it is Coffee Day. It also happens to be the day to celebrate Stamps (the ink kind, not the letter one), Sake (the Japanese kind), Glasses, which relates to Design and also Assistive Technology, International Music, and finally the perfect combo of Perfume and aftershaves, and Septic Tanks!
If you can read Japanese, you can enjoy checking out what is celebrated on your birthday for example!
And for activity tips, there are festivals in Nezu Shrine and Akagi Shrine this weekend.
The other day I had a little time over to just walk around Shinjuku after dark. The day ends so quickly and suddenly these days, I had been hoping to catch the golden hour light but in November it is more like the Golden 10 minutes. I walked from the west station exit area to the south, and over to the east side. The seventh photo is of the new Keio Bus Travel center, a must spot for budget travelers around Japan. Personally I would use it every weekend if I could only sleep on long distance buses. Alas I can’t so I usually end up going with the four times as expensive shinkansen bullet trains. The following photo (the eighth) is of the Starbucks on Southern Terrace, in what has to be one of the best Starbucks locations on Earth. In the photo it looks all dark and cold and isolated but in real life it is actually a quite cozy and fantastically interesting spot if you are into people watching.
Shinjuku is probably the capital of Tokyo both in name and in spirit and a bit more mature than youthful Shibuya while not as conservative as the Tokyo area Marunouchi, Yaesu). I also hold Shinjuku as one of the must see spots for casual tourists to Japan, not least because it is within walking distance of the Tokyo Metropolitan government office viewing platforms. Some day I must really publish that tourist guidebook I have written, presently just gathering digital dust on one of my many hard disks.
Okutama station, the terminus of the Ome line is the highest elevated station in Tokyo, at 343m above the sea it is just a few meters short of the height of Tokyo Tower. It is the main station of Tokyo’s western most town, Okutamamachi. With an area more than half of The Tokyo 23 wards area it is also the largest town, city or ward in terms of size. In terms of population, at just above 6000 people it is barely one tenth of some Tokyo wards. The town also contains the tallest mountain of Tokyo, the westernmost and the northernmost points of Tokyo, bordering both Saitama and Yamanashi prefectures. The station is tiny, with a little shop selling local specialities (including some mouth watering fresh wasabi plants) and not much more. In front of the station there is a bus station for those who want to go even further west. The main industry of the town itself it the lime stone mine and quarry, manufacturing various slaked lime and crushed stone products for industry and agriculture.
Arriving at the station, it is really hard to convince oneself that it’s just an hour and a half from central Tokyo and the massive Shinjuku station, which sees 2000 to 3000 times as many passengers as little Okutama station in a day. It feels very much like you are in some fantastically tiny village in the remotest parts of Hokkaido or Tohoku. Now that I have blogged from the easternmost, westernmost and northernmost parts of Tokyo I really have to get down to the southernmost point, Ogasawara Islands.
It’s not very new anymore but I still make a point to go up to the top floor every time I pass, the new tourist information building in front of Asakusa’s famous Kaminarimon, the entrance gate to the huge Sensoji temple. I took these photos at the Sanja festival earlier this month, just as the dozens of omikoshi, portable shrines, leave the temple through the main street and spill out on the big scramble street crossing. It was fun to see it all from above, as I have been down there in the middle of it all many times, trying not to get trampled by the rickshaw pullers, the busses, the police cars and the omikoshi! I think it was the first time I ever saw an omikoshi from above like this.