urban thoughts


Juxtaposition of small and large in central Tokyo

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Why isn't there a bike park like this at Oxford station?

This is the bicycle park at the railway station where my parents-in-law live in Japan. I wish there was one like it in Oxford where I leave my bike most days. You can see the outside, a view of the interior with a ramp going up 3 levels. The final photo shows the pricing structure which varies by day and by month.
What do you think?

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

are you hot and thirsty?

Keeping the vending machines stocked with cold drinks is busy work in Japan. This delivery truck has been specially adapted with separate compartments just the right size for the cardboard boxes. In winter you can also get hot drinks - warm coffee or tea in a can.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The baked sweet potato delivery van ...

Sitting at my desk today I could hear amplified voices coming from across the fields - it sounded a bit like the Muezzin's Call for Prayer - but reminded me of the baked sweet potato delivery man in Japan .... 'Yaki - oi- m0'. A bit hard to explain if you haven't heard it - but here is a picture.

One small white van with a wood burning stove in the back cooking baked sweet potatoes. The loudspeaker is on the roof and the van trundles along the residential streets of Tokyo and Tarumi and the old chap will sell you one by weight. Lots of extra wood to keep the fire burning. What would UK health and safety inspectors say?

Thursday, 10 June 2010

after the sun comes the rain

Its's what the flowers in the garden need, but now that I've changed into a summer wardrobe of dresses and sandals, I feel cold. Even in August, it can be cold enough to need a warm jumper or even a coat. In Japan it's mostly warm when it rains - so you don't need a coat to keep warm. That's why umbrellas are so popular and necessary.

I have pictures of umbrellas somewhere but I loved seeing the abstract pattern of cherry blossom petals in the Sumidagawa River in Tokyo after a rainfall in April.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

English Spring is the best

I love this time of year. When the sun shines but the air is still cool and you can enjoy being out and about without worrying too much about getting hot and bothered or sunburnt. I leant to really appreciate the changing seasons in Japan where each change is celebrated - the hanami picnic under the cherry blossom or viewing the changing colours in the autumn. But the sun soon gets too hot for me in Japan - and I have to cover up with suncream, long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat. At least you can buy all this UV protective gear in Japan. It's still most fashionable to be pale rather than sun-tanned and women prefer physical sun-blocks to chemical sunscreens. I found the best hat shops in Japan - and there is also a huge range of UV arm covers, visors and parasols. I think there is an opportunity to educate sunloving Europeans and convert them to the benefits of covering up in the sun.

Friday, 21 May 2010

The grass is greener.

There is hardly any grass in Japan. Its either too wet or too hot. That's why there is a moss garden in Kyoto.
No one has a garden either - and Japanese gardens are for observing from inside and not for playing in. That's why you find tiny parks and playgrounds through out the urban areas in Japan.
The parks and playgrounds are just dirt - which is very dusty and dirty to play on and very hard to fall on if you are learning to ride a bike. This is the Robot Park at Roppongi Hills where the architects ordered every slide from the catalogue in every colour. In winter, the air is so dry the children get a static electric shock going down the slides.
It makes you really appreciate the green grassy parks and gardens in England - especially today when the sun is shining.

Saturday, 15 May 2010


As you may know, I think small dogs are not served well by the UK retail scene. So I was happy to see 'Holy Dog' featured on Zombory Moldovan Moore Architect's website. Still, in Japan the range of merchandise and services available for dogs and their owners is remarkable.

Monday, 10 May 2010

after Tokyo London looks so grubby

Walking along City Road straight after 3 weeks in Japan was a bit grim. Even on a sunny afternoon. Narrow pavements, litter, old grubby buildings - and people who have not bothered much with their appearance.

The Barbican looked better and it was lovely to see good friends for tea - and amazingly the circle line got me to Paddington as rapidly as Phyllida promised.