This is Japan for me...

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Japanese neighborhood.jpg

This image of a 平凡(heibon) / ordinary neighborhood road pulls at my heart. This is the kind of road I grew up with, walked to school in. The architecture (like 雨戸, amado)、the walls, the hot weather (shown by the parasol), are so familiar. I played with friends in these streets without caring about the danger of cars. I didn't know the people in many houses of my neighborhood, but it was still, a neighborhood. It was safe and home.

I miss the small roads that were organically made over history vs. a car-culture constructed city. It's a feeling that is *so* different from here. And now that I have a child, I appreciate these streets in my memory that were full of kids playing with no adults supervising because it was a true neighborhood. I'm not sure this exists in any U.S. place I've lived. Perhaps the rural areas? I know it must exist here somewhere. I mean, my childhood street was in Tokyo.

Credit goes to Akira Kawamura. Thank you for taking this perfect picture.

5 Comments
E Jetmar Author Profile Page said:

I understand your feelings. Even after just one summer in Japan (Kyoto) I miss walking those safe, narrow streets.

And I am very glad Kai gets to grow up in the same house I grew up in as a child -- a nice family home on a safe, quiet side street in a quaint, historic Austrian small-town where neighbors know each other, bring each other fruit from their gardens and home-baked pies, etc. Kai now gets to visit the same neighbors that I visited as a child since people in Austria typically stay in the same home their whole life, and so the neighborhood provides a secure feeling of history and consistency that I've never found in American city living; plus an unhurried pace of life that revolves around family time.

On the other hand, one shouldn't over-romanticize those things, either, since driving and parking a car on those tiny streets can be a nightmare, and especially the older generation's vies on life are quite conservative, which can sometimes be a problem if your life is a tad more unconventional than what they'd like to see.

Mie Author Profile Page said:

I can see what you mean. But I'm talking about such a neighborhood in Tokyo...where there are small (and economical) cars, and Tokyo is a vibrant cosmopolitan city. A pretty darn good combination, if you ask me.

Either way, Dav and I enjoy being a tad unconventional anyway. It gets boring if everyone is like us : )

Thanks for the lovely picture. I spent some time in Ōita, Kyushu, and recall coming across (and cycling along) many a dusty semi-urban house-lined path like this one, on my way to the nearest station (generally in the middle of nowhere).

I'm now living and working in Tokyo for my 4th summer (thus far), and I've come across a few similar places. Not as dusty, and definitely more car-friendly (i.e.. tarmac), but still extremely light on traffic. Such a place is the quiet (and probably horrendously expensive) residential neighbourhood that stretches between Kaminoge and Futako-Tamagawa, in Setagaya, Tokyo. It's a leaf-bordered series of intertwined streets and paths, where one would be lucky to come across a car, aside from the luxury imports parked in the driveways of some of the homes), and it makes for an excellent and calm morning promenade.

I've taken a few pictures of this area (and of other things), which you'll find by clicking the link below (in particular the "Views from Tokyo" I and II). That is, if you want to.

http://egrefen.blogspot.com/search/label/Photography

All the best,
Edward Grefenstette

Mie Author Profile Page said:

Just visited your site, Ed. Makes me miss Tokyo!! Nice pictures. Thank you.

Edward Grefenstette Author Profile Page said:

Thanks for the compliment. Glad you like the pictures!
I miss this place too, every time I leave.

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