Industrial Wasteland 3

Kawasaki’s industrial zone has a strange, dystopian beauty.

The air stinks, it’s noisy, and the area’s not very pedestrian friendly, but it’s quite an interesting place to take photos in.

These photos were taken on the man-made island south of Kojima Shinden Station. See a satellite image here.

The Joys of Condo-hunting in Japan

My wife and I are looking to buy a condo, and we found a couple of really nice-looking ones in Yashio, a station about 20 minutes from Akihabara on the Tsukuba Express train line. One of the ones we found, a place called Comfill Yashio, was surprisingly cheap, and when we asked the salesperson why the price was so low, the only thing she could come up with was, “Actually, our company made a mistake. We set the price much too low for such a nice building.” My wife started interrogating her,  and when she asked about why it had double-pane glass (quite rare in Japan), it came out that there is a highway right beside it, and maybe that was the reason. (She also told us the apartment we were interested in was facing away from the highway when it was actually facing right toward it!) We also found out later that it was zoned commercial rather than residential, so anyone could build a factory practically next door if they felt like it. However, another big reason for the low price may be this building right here.

According to the signs outside it, this is an Aleph (formerly Aum Shinrikyo, the doomsday cult that carried out sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995) dojo (training center). They say things like “Aum, get out of your den fast! Get out! Get out!” or “This is one of Aum’s dens.”

I have to say that apartment hunting in Japan is quite an experience. At another place we looked at we noticed that the furniture in the model room seemed really small. It turns out that a lot of places put smaller furniture in the rooms to make them look bigger.

At another place we went to, they proudly showed off the entrance area with its wide sidewalks and parking area, without telling us that it’s scheduled to be removed when the road gets widened in a few years. Apparently, they tell you this on the day you sign the contract.

Another thing that makes it really fun is that there is a huge preschool shortage, and we’ve had to eliminate a lot of good-looking rooms because the waiting lists at all the area preschools were too long.

Anyway, the search continues.

The Minami-senju Fashion Plate

Here’s an unusual-looking character that I often see around the Minami-senju area.

The Hardest-working Homeless in the World

Japan must have the hardest-working homeless people in the world. I think I’ve seen about two panhandlers in the 17 years I’ve lived here.

I did some reading about them on this government survey and this blog. It says there were about 25,000 in Japan as of 2003, with 7,757 in Osaka, 6,361 in Tokyo, and 2,121 in Nagoya. It seems Osaka has finally found something it can beat Tokyo in!

An amazing 64.7 percent of homeless people do some kind of work, and 73.3 percent of those do some kind of waste collection. In 2003, about 35.2 percent of homeless people had a monthly income of between 10,000 and 30,000 yen, and 18.9 percent had an income of between 30,000 and 50,000 yen. However,around 2004, the price per kilogram for aluminum went up from 80-90 yen to between 150 and 170 yen, so they are probably earning more.

Japan’s homeless are a lot older than in other countries. 23.4% are between the ages of 55 and 59, 22% are between 50 and 54, and 20.3% are between 60 and 64.

Sign Trucks

One of the latest trends in Japanese advertising is the sign truck. They started appearing a few years ago, but these days if you go somewhere like Shinjuku or Shibuya, they’re everywhere. The trucks drive around and around in a short route through an area with a lot of people, and often play music as well.

According to the website of an ad agency that specializes in sign trucks, they’ll get seen by 400 people per kilometer, 48,000 people per day, and 1,056,000 people per month. They’re not cheap though, and a small 1-ton truck costs about a million yen ($10,000)  per week. The big 40-ton trucks cost more than 2.5 million a week.

This one is advertising the popular new game Monster Hunter 3.

This one looks innocent and says “A must see for women who are worried about finding a job.” When you visit the website, though, it turns out its recruiting female sex workers.

Ikukuru is an Internet dating/marriage site.


This one is a singing duo called Nezumi&.Seiko

This truck advertises satellite TV.

If they’re out of your budget, you could try one of these ad-cycles (adokuru).
).

It’s Tough Being a Japanese Fire Fighter


I see these fire fighters jogging back and forth in front of their fire station almost every day. They run about 100 meters, up and back on this really narrow sidewalk, and I reckon they go back and forth about 50 times. If there’s a slow-moving senior citizen blocking the way, they have to hop the barrier and run onto the road. I guess they can only do it here because they’re not able to get very far from the fire station in case there’s an alarm, but you’d think there must be a better way. Can’t Bunkyo-Ward spring for a running machine for these guys?

Fountain Fun

These kids were playing  in Heiwajima Park in Tokyo.

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