Plain Talk

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD 24 JULY 2015

Yume no Shima Tropical Greenhouse Dome by Simon Duncan

Yume no Shima translates as island of dreams, but in reality it is an island of garbage! This part of Tokyo, next to Shin Kiba station, is home to a large park built on a former landfill site and an incinerator for much of the waste created by Tokyo with an incredibly tall tower.

So, why come here? The park is nice enough but not worth traveling for and aside from the park the area is grey, drab and industrial. The reason to come here, aside from the fact that it is a relatively quiet part of the city, is to visit the Tropical Greenhouse. To get here from Shin Kiba station follow the signs which are written in Japanese (夢の島熱帯植物館), and walk around 800 m.

The main greenhouse is tall, really tall, easily double the height of the more famous and more popular greenhouse in Shinjuku Gyoen. Despite the height there are trees striving to push through the glass ceiling. The greenhouse is perhaps best visited on a day when it is not pleasant to be outdoors. In here it is warm year round thanks to the power provided by boiling water from the nearby garbage incineration plant.

There are three areas; one which focuses on the plants of Ogasawara (a subtropical island that despite being geographically far from Tokyo is technically a part of the metropolis) a tropical village and a tropical wetland. The latter two feature a large variety of trees, plants and flowers from rain forests around the world. Southeast Asia is particularly well-represented from the familiar; fruit trees bearing mango, starfruit, coconuts etc, to the less common such as Rangoon creepers and a collection of insect eating plants.

The domes are large, but perhaps not as large as you may imagine. Walking from start to finish, pausing to take a few snaps, smell the orchids and rest in the village hut probably won't take you much more than 45 minutes. At the end of the course there is a cafe with a relaxing view of the rainforest where you have a drink or a bite to eat. Yume no Shima also has a small cinema showing short films about rain forests and tropical plants. It costs only 250 yen for adults and under 12s are free with proof of age and proof of residence in Tokyo. It is a fine place to relax for a short time, but it is unfortunately a long way to come, so I would recommend perhaps combining a visit here with a trip to Odaiba, the Miraikan or Tokyo Big Site which are not so far away.

『ゆめのしま』の意味は夢の島だが、実際はゴミの島だ!東京都内、新木場駅の隣に位置する夢の島は、ゴミの埋立地に整地された大きな公園があるが、東京都のゴミの処分場であり焼却場だ。

なぜ、ここに来たかって? 公園自体はすばらしいが、まわりは、くすんで活気がなく工業地帯だ。で、なぜここに来たかっていうと、都内でも静かな場所である他に、熱帯植物館を見学しようと思ったからだ。新木場駅から『夢の島熱帯植物館』という日本語で書かれた看板を道しるべに歩いて800メートルだ。

熱帯植物館のメインの温室は巨大だ。本当に大きく高さがあり、みんながよく行く新宿御苑の熱帯植物館の2倍はある。そんなに高い温室なのに、熱帯雨林はガラスの屋根を押し上げるほど成長している。屋外の天候がよくない時は、温室で一日を過ごすのがいいだろう。ここはゴミの熱焼却でつくられる高温水のおかげで一年中暖かい。

3つのエリア、「小笠原の植物」「ヤシと人里の景観」「木生シダと水辺の景観」がある。後にあげたふたつのエリアは世界の熱帯雨林から木、植物、花が多岐にわたって集められている。東南アジアからは特にマンゴ、スターフルーツ、ココナッツ等のおなじみのフルーツの木から、シクンシのようなつる性常緑樹や食虫植物といっためずらしいものまで展示されている。

ドームは巨大だが、想像するほどおおきくない。スタート地点から終点まで、写真をとったり、ランのにおいをかいだり、小屋で休憩したりして見学しても45分でまわれる。終点にはもちろんのこと、熱帯雨林の景色を眺めながらゆったりできるカフェがある。飲み物やスナックが食べられる。夢の島には熱帯雨林やトロピカル植物を題材とした短編映画が見られる小さな映画館がある。大人は250円で12歳以下は年齢と都民だと証明できるものがあれば無料だ。つかのまの時間をゆったり過ごすにはもってこいの場所だ。しかし行きのに時間がかかる。未来館や東京ビッグサイトにも近いのでお台場に行く時に足をのばすといいだろう。

 


Plain Talk

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD 10 JULY 2015

Secret Garden by Hiroko

When I lived near Waseda University in Shinjuku-ku, I found a temple with a not-so-large, yet lovely garden adjacent to a graveyard. For some reason, its stately gate with its wooden double doors facing the main street was always locked, and a smaller gate to the side was used instead. You need to turn in to a back street and walk up some 20 or 30m along the wall to reach the smaller gate, so not many passersby drop in unless they come specifically to visit it. It took me two out of the three years that I lived in the area to finally noticed the temple and wander in.

A temple’s premise is half private, half public, I suppose. I like walking through temples for their greenery and quietness, but when I enter a small temple without any specific purpose, I feel somewhat guilty, or secretive, as if an obo-san would rush out at any minute and accuse me of trespassing on her property. Once I was actually stopped and asked if I was paying a visit to someone’s tomb at a small temple in Taito-ku. They must have had some bad experiences with rascals who let themselves in and played practical jokes. Other times I pretended that I was looking for an acquaintance’s tombstone, strolling slowly among the oblongs of gravesites.

So I was feeling that way when I first stepped into this particular temple. Passing through the small gate, I saw the thick shade of trees to the left beyond a metal door. Locked? No, it creaked open.

I found myself standing in an enclosure of trees and bushes. To the right, I could see the graceful slope of tile-roofing through the leaves. To the left, a raised mound with an arbor housing a large bronze bell hanging from the ceiling. Beyond the belfry lies the graveyard. Despite the fact that the garden and the graveyard were located along the main street (I could now see the large wooden gate at the back of the garden, heavily bolted, with thick timber lining the inside) quietness prevailed as if it were a separate small universe. I stood still for a time in amazement. It was a secret garden.

Since the first time I discovered the garden, I returned time and time again while I lived in the neighbourhood. I visited there mostly on the way to or from my Saturday grocery-shopping, for the vigor of the garden never failed to give me a lift. The frequency of my visits has dropped since I moved, but I can still cycle to the temple reasonably easily.. I was there in late March when the weeping cherry tree was in full bloom in the garden. I sat on the dusty wooden veranda running around the main hall, listening to birds chirping and looking out over the garden. The willow-like cherry blossoms swayed in streams, sending petals on to my shoulders and lap.

The last time I was there, the weeping cherry tree was covered in fresh green.

Sitting on the veranda of the temple, I detected a smell that was almost familiar to me; faintly acrid, kind of similar to a type of herbs Ah, it was the smell of the old bathtub in my childhood! Made of cypress and oval-shaped, the smell of wood rose from the deep tub and I breathed in the scented steam as I soaked in the warm water years ago. When rubbed on with fingertips, the tub felt slick and at the same time a little fluffy on the surface under the water. The veranda was probably made of cypress too.

Triggered by the image of the ancient bathtub in the old Japanese house of my childhood, other images connected to the bathroom came back as well; afternoons in summer, me and my little brother, aged six and four, ran back home in their swimming suits in the sudden squall from the concrete neighbourhood reservoir; made into a makeshift kids’ swimming pool. Our flip-flops pitter-pattered hard under our feet, kicking dirt up, drawing spots on our thin, childish calves. We jumped in the bathtub together. We shot water at each other through linked fingers. We were safe now. Outside, raindrops hit the roof hard, drowning the world in slanted white sheets. Thunder rolled, and we imagined an enormous, ogre-like God of Thunder beating gigantic drums up in the grey sky. We were psyched up and happy.

A fat cricket with long and strong hind legs would lurk in the damp corner. It was scary because it leaped high in unexpected directions. I desperately ran for fear of accidentally stepping on it, its slimy juice all over the sole of my bare foot. We children were not assigned to cleaning the floor. Mother did all the cleaning, and I suppose it was quite an unpleasant task with all the slime and grime and tangled hair and possible crickets and snails hiding under the floor board.

It was quiet in the garden. The metal door creaked and someone came in.. He was in samue, the Japanese working clothes that Buddhist priests wear. He walked briskly toward the belfry. After a moment, there came a strong, vibrating sound of the bronze bell. Dinnnnnggg…. Donnnnnngggg…. I imagined the priest holding onto the strap attached to the lumber mallet and swinging his body, building the right momentum to drive the lumber to the bell. I felt the sound on my skin as well as well within ear drum. The bell sounded 18 times, and went silent. The priest came back and looked over at me. I nodded, he nodded back, and he then disappeared beyond the metal door, which he left open behind him.

The quietness returned again. A truck rumbled down the street outside, but the noise didn’t register. My mobile read 5:11p.m. The late afternoon light was slanting low, but it was still some time before dusk. I stood up, dusted my backside lightly, stretched my arms up; ready to go.

This is my secret garden. I can’t tell you exactly where it is.

新宿区の早稲田大学近くに住んでいた時に、墓地の横に大きくはないが素敵な庭のある寺を見つけた。道路に面した立派な木造の観音開きの門は、なぜだか常に閉まっていて、そのかわりに横っちょの小さめな門が使われていた。その小さな門は路地に入って20mか30m壁沿いに歩いたところにあるので、用事でもない限り、通行人がふらっと立ち寄ることは少ない。その辺りに3年住んでいた私も、2年経って初めてその寺を認識し、入ってみたのだった。

寺の地所というのは半ば私有地、半ば公用地、という感じがする。緑があって静かなので、寺を散策するのは好きだが、特別な用もなく小さい寺に立ち入ると、何とはなしに悪いような、隠し立てするような、坊主がそそくさとやってきて不法侵入をなじられるのではといった気分になってしまう。一度は台東区の小さな寺で実際に呼び止められて、墓参りかと聞かれたこともある。きっと以前にいたずら共が進入して悪さをされた経験があるのかもしれない。長方形の墓石が立ち並ぶ中をぶらついて、知人の墓を探している風を装ったこともある。
この寺に初めて入ったときもそんな気分だった。門をくぐると、左手の金属のドアの向こうに木々の陰影が濃い。施錠してあるのか?いや、キイと音を立てて、ドアは開いた。
木立ちや茂みの一角に、私は立っていた。右手の葉陰越しに、優美な曲線を描く瓦屋根が見える。左のほうには、大きな釣り鐘を擁した鐘塔が数段の高みにある。その向こうが墓地だ。庭と墓地の外は往来だが(庭の奥に例の大きな木造の門が見える。太い角材を横にわたして内側にしっかりかんぬきがかけてあった、)まるで別次元の小宇宙のように、そこは静けさに包まれていた。私は驚きでいっとき立ち尽くした。それは秘密の庭だった。

その最初のとき以来、近所に住んでいた間に何度もその庭を訪れた。大抵、土曜日の日用品の買い物の行きか帰りに立ち寄り、いつも爽やかな空気に触れさせてくれた。頻度こそ少なくなったが、引っ越してからもその寺には自転車で何とか行ける。3月下旬には、庭の枝垂桜が満開の時に行った。本堂をぐるりと廻る木造りの縁側に腰掛けて、鳥のさえずりに耳を傾け、庭を見渡した。柳の枝のように下がる枝垂桜が揺れて流れ、私の肩や膝に花びらを落とした。

最後に寺に行った時、枝垂桜はすっかり緑の若葉だった。

寺の縁側に座ると、何か懐かしいような香りがした。かすかにつんと鼻を刺激する、何かのハーブにも似た。ああ、これは、子供の頃の古い風呂桶の香りだ。ヒノキ造りの楕円の深い桶から木の香りが立ち上り、私はお湯に浸かって蒸気と一緒にその香りを吸い込んだ。お湯の中で風呂桶の表面を指先で触ると、滑らかであると同時に、柔らかい毛足のようなふわふわした触感もあった。この縁側もおそらく、同じヒノキなのだろう。

子供の頃の古い日本家屋の古い風呂桶の記憶に連なって、風呂につながる他の記憶も甦った。夏の午後、6歳の私と4歳の弟は、近所のコンクリートの子供用プールから、突然の嵐の中、水着のまま走って帰宅した。足元でビーチサンダルを激しくペタペタ鳴らして泥を跳ね上げ、子供らしい細いふくらはぎはまだら模様になった。私たちは一緒に風呂に入り、手を水鉄砲にして水を飛ばし合った。そこは安全な場所だった。表では大粒の雨が屋根から何から全てを激しく叩き、世界を白い滝で水浸しにしている。雷鳴が響き、巨大な鬼のような雷神が灰色の空の彼方で大太鼓を叩く姿を想像する。私たちの心は躍り、幸福だった。

長く強靭な後ろ足のカマドウマは湿った隅の方に出没した。どこに跳ねるかわからないので恐怖だった。必死に逃げたのは、誤って踏みつけ、裸足の足の裏に体液がべったりつくのが怖かったから。子供に床掃除は言いつけられていなかったから、母親が1人で全部やっていた。べたついた汚れと絡みつく髪の毛に加えて、床板の下にカマドウマやナメクジがいるかもしれず、ずいぶん嫌な仕事だったと思う。

庭は静かだ。金属のドアがキィと開き、誰か入ってきた。僧侶が着る作務衣を着ていた。彼はきびきびと鐘楼の方に歩いて行った。ほどなくして力強く反響する鐘の音が響いた。ゴォーン(オーンオーンオーン)…ゴォーン(オーンオーンオーン)…私は僧侶が突棒(撞木)に結んだ紐を握り締め、体を揺すり、絶妙な勢いをつけて撞木を鐘に打ち付ける姿を思い描いた。鐘の音を皮膚に、鼓膜に感じた。鐘は18回鳴り、静まった。僧侶が戻ってきて、私を見やった。私の目礼に僧侶はうなずき返し、金属のドアの向こうへ消えて行った。彼はドアを開け放していった。
再び静けさに包まれた。表の道路をトラックが通り過ぎるが、その騒音は静寂を破らない。
携帯は5:11の表示。遅い午後の光は低いが、夕暮れにはまだ早い。私は立ち上がって軽くお尻をはたき、腕を上に伸ばした。帰ろう。

これが私の秘密の庭。正確な場所は教えられない。

Unfinished business

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD 24 JULY 2014

I Did It! by David Gregory

She had been here before. But, those were tour-guided or hand-held visits. After living most of her life in white-bread suburban USA, driving everywhere, shopping in giant malls and supermarkets, and needing only one currency and one language, my mother ventured out on her own, within and beyond Chiba, during one trip to Japan. From her notes, here are Dorothy’s...

ADVENTURES IN JAPAN
Grocery Shopping in Neighborhood―Walk five blocks...buy only one bag...walk five blocks back. Survived it!

Shopping in City Center―Walk six blocks to bus stop. Ride bus fifteen minutes. Arrive at stores. Walk around. Look. Decide: cookies.

Buying: “Ikura desu-ka how much?” Hmm. “Kakimasu kudasai write please.”

Paying options: give large bill, let clerk figure change, or open change purse, let clerk take out correct amount. Decide to just give some cash.

Clerk shakes her head (“NO! MORE!”), then counts out correct amount needed from register and shows me. I mimic her action from my change purse. Smiles! Deep bows with many, “Arigato gozaimasu thank you very much!”-es.
(My error: thought there was decimal point in Yen price....)

Open cookies, expecting pirouettes with chocolate centers. Instead, peanut butter waffle rolls, no chocolate. No wonder, now I see peanut sketch on package. “Shoganai can’t be changed,” I did it to myself. It could have been worse!
~~~
Travelling to Visit Friend’s Family on Other Side of Chiba―Walk ten blocks to train. Purchase ticket. Electronic lady on ticket machine screen says, “Arigato gozaimasu” and bows. Ride train twenty minutes, watching for correct stop, get off, walk seven blocks to house. I did it myself!

Visiting Hisae Overnight―My Japanese study partner in USA returned to Japan, now lives on other side of Tokyo Bay.

Take large purse and large tote bag with jacket, nightie, toothbrush, cosmetics. Walk six blocks to bus stop. Ride bus to train station. Ride train eighty minutes to Yokohama. Find correct exit from station. EASY. Did not even look at note in pocket explaining route and Japanese signs. And, look! Hisae and three-year old Kei are waiting! “Hello!” they say! Many hugs!

I did it!

Then, still more travel: train together fifteen minutes, short taxi uphill to lovely apartment, sunny and bright.

Returning to Chiba, just reverse process. Next time, we can meet at a station halfway in between. I can do it.
I can do it!

Copyright (C) 2015 David Gregory. All rights reserved. Chiba, Japan

Tokyo Fab

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD 24 JULY 2015

The Blue Hood by Joshua Lepage

Horror stories may be popular around Halloween in the West, but here in Japan, they're most often told in the summer, when their chilling effect is said to counter the hot weather. So here's one of my favorite creepy Japanese stories, Ao-zukin (The Blue Hood).

Once upon a time, Kaian, a wandering priest of great virtue, stopped for the night at a large house in the village of Tomita. At the sight of the priest in his black robe and blue hood, the villagers became frightened. Seeing Kaian's confusion, though, the owner of the house invited him in and explained their predicament:

In the hills by the village lay a temple whose head priest had once been known for his good virtue. However, after a trip to Echigo, he returned with a twelve-year-old boy whose beauty and elegance drove him to neglect his daily work. The boy became ill and died, and the head priest, consumed by grief, remained by the corpse's side for days, caressing it as if it were still alive. He finally went mad and ate the corpse's rotting flesh, then started visiting the village regularly to dig up and eat the fresh bodies from their cemetary.

Kaian had already heard similar tales of people who had become demons after being led astray by passion. To thank the master of the house for his hospitality, he decided to help.

He visited the mountainside temple, now overgrown with bushes and covered in cobwebs. The head priest came out slowly, thin and haggard, and told Kaian that he could stay or leave as he pleased. Kaian settled for the night.

At midnight, the head priest rushed out of his room, looking around frantically. "Where is that damn priest? Where did he hide himself?" But although Kaian was sitting close by, the head priest could not see him.

In the morning, Kaian asked him what he was suffering from. The priest explained that he had become fond of human flesh. With his demon's eyes, however, he had been unable to see virtuous Kaian in the night. "You are a true saint," he said. "Please teach me how to be cured of this shameful sin."

Kaian put his blue hood on the priest's head and recited a poem:
The moon shines bright above an inlet
A fresh wind blows through the pines
Why this eternal night, this pure evening?

"Think about the meaning of these words," Kaian said. "When you understand their meaning, you will find relief." He then left the temple.

When he visited again a year later, he found the temple grounds covered in even thicker reeds and bushes. A shadow of the head priest remained in the exact same spot, whispering the poem over and over again. Kaian approached and the shadow vanished, leaving behind only the blue hood and some bones in the grass.



What’s App With You?

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD 24 JULY 2015

Splitwise:

This app is a great way to keep tracks of bills and of the money you borrow from or lend to your friends. Simply create an account and you can start keeping track of your rent, utilities, group trips and any other IOUs you may have. The app also shows your overall balance and makes it super easy to add a new expense or modify an existing one once you've settled up. If you've got roommates with whom you're splitting the rent and grocery bills, this app is a great way to keep track of it all and make sure everything gets paid on time. And on top of being easy to use, the app is pretty easy on the eyes as well, with a pleasingly simple white, teal and orange interface.

Little Alchemy:

If you're looking for a super simple puzzle game that'll give you several hours' worth of entertainment, Little Alchemy is a great (and free!) option. The app starts you off with the four basic elements -- fire, water, air and earth -- which you must combine into other elements by dragging them over each other. The combinations are obvious at first, leading to things like clouds and lava, but soon enough you'll find yourself creating dinosaurs, swamps, and skyscrapers. There are 540 items to create using that simple method, so you'll be busy for quite a while! The game nudges you in the right direction when you get stumped, and you'll never be bothered by any ads or micro-transactions.

Tokyo Voice Column

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD 24 JULY 2015

The War behind Ueno Zoo Tokyo Japan by Jennifer Nakajima

I have once been to Ueno zoo together with my family. We are excited to see a panda like other animal species. If you’ll take a look, it’s just a simple zoological park like any other zoo, except that the difference is its history behind those animals living there.

Back to its sad history after the March 1945 bombings of Tokyo, the Japanese Army ordered that all wild and dangerous animals at the zoo be killed; claiming that bombs could hit the zoo and escaping wild animals could wreak havoc in the streets of Tokyo. Because aside from atomic bombings on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which killed at least 200,000 people and most of the dead were civilians, the rest suffered by radiation sickness, compounded by illness and malnutrition. It’s not only people who are victims of war, but also the animals who are taken cared of in Ueno Zoo,Tokyo Japan.

The animals were executed by poisoning, strangulation or by simply placing the animals on starvation diets. And during that time, Japan, overlaid with sorrow and the flood of tears of the Japanese people and their children. Now a permanent memorial can be found in the Ueno zoo.

War reminds us that his victim is not our true enemies, but the innocent people and living things on this planet. There is no victory in war, we can’t get satisfaction with a violent way either by taking the lives of many people; it never has a happy ending.

We can obtain victory and happiness by unity and peace whatever your religion, race, culture, and nationality is.

Although, it is hard to accept what the war brought to us, we need to move on and live peacefully in the present. Pray and hope that it would never be happen again.

家族と上野動物園に行った。うちの家族はパンダを含め動物を見るのが大好きだ。上野動物園は、普通の動物園と変わりないが、そこで暮らす動物達のたどった歴史を振り返ると大きな違いがある。

悲しい歴史とは1945年3月、東京大空襲以後、日本軍の命令によって動物園の猛獣は殺されたことだ。空爆で動物園が破壊され、猛獣が東京の街に逃げ出し大惨事を起こすかもしれないという理由からだった。広島や長崎では20万人の人が命を落とした。その大多数が一般人で、生き残った人達も放射線症やその他の病気や栄養失調を煩っていた。戦争の被害者は人間だけでなく、東京の上野動物園で飼育されていた動物も同様だった。

動物たちは毒殺、絞殺.あるいは餌をあたえられずに死んでいった。殺処分が行われた期間、日本は、子供を含め日本人の深い悲しみと涙で覆われた。現在の上野動物園には永久の記念碑がある。

戦争とは、戦争の被害者は本当の敵ではなく、罪のない人々やこの地球上で生を営んでいたものだった事がわかる。戦争で勝利はない。多くの人の命を奪うという野蛮な方法で勝ち誇ることはできない。つまり戦争にはハッピーエンディングは決してない。

地域、人種、文化、国籍にちがいがあろうと平和に共存する事で勝利と幸福を得ることはできる。

先の大戦がどんな結果をもたらしたかを受け入れるのはむずかしいかもしれなが、前進し現在を平和に生きる必要がある。二度とこんな悲惨な戦争が起こらない事を願ってやまない。


Strange but True

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD 24 JULY 2015

Shakespearean play featuring sheep

Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear has gotten a surprising and absurd remake in the form of King Lear with Sheep, a London production written and directed by Missouri Williams.
The play is exactly what the title implies: as the audience watches, sitting on bales of hay, lead actor Alasdair Saksena tries to convince a cast consisting entirely of costumed sheep to cooperate with him and give a good performance. Or, as the press release reads, King Lear with Sheep "overturns theatrical conventions through the starling and revolutionary device of costumed sheep."
The production has been praised for its humor and ingenuity, undoubtedly helped along by very low ticket prices and a great performance by Saksena in the role of the director tormented by his bleating cast.

An alpaca as a wedding witness

Those currently planning a wedding may just want to consider Hotel Epinard Nasu in Tochigi prefecture, who have made an alpaca available to add that certain je-ne-sais-quoi to typical Western-style wedding ceremonies.
After making a deal with the neighboring zoo, Epinard Nasu is now able to rent out the fluffy animal on request, providing a handler to walk it down the aisle during the ceremony and help pose it while wedding photographs are taken.
Where this idea came from is a complete mystery, but the fluffy critter has proven to be surprisingly popular with the Japanese public.

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