Sunday, March 29, 2009

Big Walk 2009

NOTE: This year's Big Walk report includes some terminology, denoted by orange type, which is part of a unique lexicon developed by Craig and I while we were roommates during our early days in Tokyo. When you see orange words in this report that don't exactly make sense, you'll just have to use your imagination to figure out what they mean. (Half the time, we don't know what they mean, either.)

It may not have been the ideal timing for a sakura photo trek, but Big Walk 5 proved to be just that: Big. Due to insufficient planning and note taking on my part, the actual distance of our haphazard route proved difficult to measure. Near as I can figure, Big Walk 2009 came very close to matching the distance of Big Walk 2005. In fact, taking into account the time we spent double-backing and wandering aimlessly, we very well may have outdone that distance. Here's the blow up:

We start in front of Kitasenju Station, the same place we began Big Walk 2007. It is 11:00 AM on an unseasonably cold but sunny day. According to my so-called "plan," we will cross the Sumida River and then slam west to something called Arakawa Shizen Kōen (Arakawa Nature Park). I've never been there, but it sounds rad like a pipe bomb. So we follow Route 4 southward and over the bridge.

After bashing a trick over the river our goal is to stay as close to the river as possible and follow it west. We soon happen upon a little park called Tennō Kōen, which has a few cherry blossom trees (although most of these are still budding) and an artificial pond with tadpoles swimming in it. We find our way onto a path that follows the river and brings us to our first decent sakura of the day:

Craig's a damage fiend.

At a few minutes before noon, we reach Arakawa Nature Park. We soon realize that the park is located adjacent to Mikawa Water Recycling Center. This means that, from where we're standing, we can look to the east and see this:

But if we look to the west, we see this:

Ah, nature. Just when we think we can't take anymore of the pastoral serenity of this idyllic nature park and its neighboring industrial facility, we discover this filthy bridge leading from the park, over the water filtration equipment and down to the street:

Craig observes, correctly, that this bridge would be scary at night. Oh, mercy!

After leaving through the south exit of the "Nature Park," we decide that our next order of business should be to slice our way to Nippori Station. At this point we get a little lost because none of the streets in the area seem to go in the direction we want to go, which is southwest. On the way, we capture these random cherry blossoms:

We can't figure out our location until we find ourselves on a tiny street called Shichigosandōri (Seven-Five-Three Street, apparently named after a festival for children of those ages). Thank god for Shichigosandōri. Not only does this street help us get our bearings, it leads us to what is perhaps the highlight of Big Walk 2009: Swamp Thing's House.

Killa! We stop to marvel at this epic failure of pruning (half-expecting the house to catch on fire and burn down before our eyes), and also to take artsy photos using the traffic mirror at the entrance to an adjacent parking lot.

Nippori is one of Tokyo's Korea towns and, as such, is full of Korean restaurants. On reaching Nippori Station, we're bleeding for some medicine, so we decide it's time to stop and snort some Korean food: Chijimi and bibimba. It's a napalm lunch. We smash on and head west.

On the west side of Nippori Station is a Yanaka Cemetery. Even though most of the cherry blossoms are still closed, the road through the cemetery is bustling with flower viewers. On closer inspection, we notice that a lot of people are using the cemetery as a picnic venue. Apparently it's not considered morbid or taboo in Japan to get tinned and eat onigiri in the presence of the deceased. Bang dat! If I were dead I think I might be a little annoyed that everyone is enjoying food and drink in front of me while I'm preoccupied with not even being able to manipulate my environment. Remember how Patrick Swayze's character in Ghost could only do damage in the real world if he really concentrated? With practice, could that skill be applied to post-mortem consumption of fried chicken and Chu-Hi? Anyway. Back to the matter at hand.

Our route grows more and more complex as we hook east toward Uguisudani, which is a hotbed (if you will) of love hotels and appropriately trashy-looking women. From there, we bash a completely unnecessary half-circle around Ueno Station and into Ueno Park, Tokyo's de-facto hanami location. The park is predictably slammed with scum. Defying the slow tide of the crowd, I stop to take a close-up of an especially full branch of cherry blossoms. The photo doesn't turn out because some drunk guy, a real juice bag, distracts me by grabbing my arm, pointing at the tree I'm shooting and saying, "Eh, eh, uh, eh, TOGETHER?" To that, my response is a brusque "No." Must be the rage talking. The drunk guy leaves, presumably to go home and cry himself to sleep because his well-intentioned attempt at speaking English has just been crushed like a bug. Poor guy got a dose of reality.

Ueno Park is the last place I take any pictures. We exit the west side of the park and follow Kototoidōri past Nezu Station and through the campus of Tokyo University. Then we circumnavigate Tokyo Dome and take Sotoboridōri and Yasukunidōri west, past the defense ministry where the PAC-3 missile launchers that will defend us from North Korea's "communications satellite" are deployed, all the way to Shin-J. At 6:30PM, Big Walk 2009 is finished! We hit an izakaya to celebrate the completion of our journey with a food smash.

click map to blow up

1 comment:

BobOwen said...

I love that slang, and I'll definitely be stealing some of it. "Juice bag"... Hilarious.
Great pics too.
Smash on.