a local mode of transport
a typical house/building
a street nearby
a school, nursery or other education facility
a market, supermarket or other shopping outlet
This is typical transportation. You really don’t need a car; Tokyo has one of the most premier train systems in the world, and bikes make marketing and getting around much easier than simply getting around on foot. Battery-assist bikes take moms to the next level, as they can get up the hills with children and groceries, no problem. Plus, the added benefit of a car means super-expensive parking and finding spots for your vehicle. This is a mega-city with millions of people riding a most efficient train system. I hop on that, too. Doing everything but riding in my own car feels pretty green.
Streets here are narrow and trucks have to get through. Needless to say, garbage trucks, moving trucks, basically all vehicles must be small and able to whip around tiny places. No jeep/truck crossovers here. Our former house just about dropped us out on this narrow street. There was no driveway; there is nothing close to a sidewalk when the actual street may almost be as narrow as an actual sidewalk! When leaving the house, I’d have to slowly sneak my nose, then forehead and eyes outside. Whizzing-by delivery trucks and motorcycles had come very close to clipping me!
When my mom first visited, she was shocked when I directed her down a particular street. She refused to call it a street, as it was more like an alley.
Normal street/home sightings: On sunny days, futons hang out of windows to air-out after the futon-owners smack them with special futon-hitters to spank-out any allergens and dust. Sun, of course, has its own anti-everything yucky properties, so airing-out futons is an important part of keeping house in Japan.
Oh, and you will see lots of your neighbors’ underwear, as most homes do not have dryers. The people of Tokyo practice the art of line-drying. You will always feel a bit closer (or not?) after seeing your neighbor’s red undies…
Apartment buildings are called “mansions” here. Even when teeny.
Our area is one of the older parts of Tokyo, in terms of physical features, shops, temples, and such, as Kita-ku did not suffer from the fire-campaigns that much of Tokyo, and 65 other cities in Japan experienced. This is an old and special part of Tokyo, for sure.
Flowers! Green! We are lucky to live so near to a renown garden. During their rose festivals and evenings of illumination, busloads of Japanese and international tourists pour in and enjoy the Western garden and traditional Japanese features. Brides clad in silk kimonos take their pictures here.
See the cute aqua taxi? Just to the left is one of the buses bringing people to the rose garden. In a city where space is at a deluxe premium, being able to take the kids an easy two minutes to a park or garden is so appreciated. Space!!!! Speaking of space, or lack of it, most everyone has container gardens, as opposed to planting anything directly into the ground. Some people even employ strung PET bottles as hanging pots.
Fresh Air n Play:
We look forward to our rose ice cream at the garden, too, made with petals and rose water!
Of course, there are more parks with playgrounds.
We also have CHERRY BLOSSOMS in two neighborhood parks! I don’t mean to brag. It is not a fancy neighborhood. Houses are quite modest, plain, and small. However, our parks and gardens are written-up in the top five and top ten lists! Here is a peak at sakura/cherry blossom time:
One of the local kids’ spots is actually situated under a bridge. In warm months, the city turns on the water so that everyone can enjoy water flowing over rocks. Hot Tokyo summers spent splashing in the shade of cherry trees is just marvelous.
Looking up, the typical Tokyo neighborhood like mine is a grid of telephone cables and internet cables. Electricity serges overhead.
FOOOOOOD: Our Tokyo neighborhood has oodles of noodle choices, like ramen, soba, and udon, along with tempura and sushi. My faaaaave, though, is a swankish spot called The White Fox, that is an artful fusion of Japanese and European. The chef is classically trained, comes from Michelin-stared restaurants, & is here, right in my neck of the woods!
Of all the possible places a New Yorker could have set up his pizza shop, he chose our area! NY pizza in Japan?! You should have heard me flip when I first found out. We are in their delivery radius and that, my dears, is a glorious thing. Won’t you be my neighbor now?
Here is a nearby open-all-night soba and tempura shop, a few strides from the train station. How about that poster?! This is a poster for a cool kind of fight/musical set in Tokyo!
There are tea and coffee shops, too, from Starbucks to mom & pop shops. My visiting mother & I spent a relaxing morning in this neighborhood tea shop, Orange Pekoe.
Nursery school life:
Both of my children are at a hoikuen, a public nursery school, supported in part by the government. In Japan, teachers are nationally certified and wonderful. Have you read Bringing Up Bebe, an American expat’s look at raising kids in Paris? The author toutes the creche, the Japanese nursery school system. Japanese hoikuens and yochiens also boast many of the same benefits and features! The kids’ meals are also wonderful. Being a foreigner and choosing to place your child in the local school system is such a fantastic decision. The school becomes the heart of your community & you are connected–voila!
Here is a snapshot of our guy in his classroom, while his sister is underneath, enjoying a summer festival day in yukata, or a kind of summer kimono.
As for markets & grocery shopping, there is a main walking street. Think old-time tofu shop (making several varieties), produce stands, bakeries, and three or so fish shops (duh, right! This is Japan).
Here is a picture of some tentacled goods:
See this post for more on octopus on the table!
Thanks so much for dropping by.
Always lots happening–the challenge is sitting down to give words to all the fun and change.
Wishing you the very-ery best,
8 thoughts on “My Neighborhood, Be Mine”
So wonderful, Ms. Uchiyama!
Some beautiful pictures. My little one would love to try out these playgrounds. Thanks for taking part in the series.
Thanks, Annabelle! We’d love to have you! Wouldn’t that be fun? A field trip to all of the places and neighborhood hosts? Thanks for having me, Annabelle. So glad to have taken part.
Thank you Mel for the wonderful insight into your world! I enjoyed reading your story and looking at your pictures.
Lisa, thanks for taking time to write such a kind comment. I miss you! Always love the updates from your neck of the woods, or ocean, shall I say. Be well!
Thank you! I miss Japan so much! I lived there for 6 years thanks to the military and we were at the Air force base very close to Tokyo in the Fussa-shi area. I love your blog! And thanks for helping me to remember just how wonderful it was to live there. I hope now that we are living in Hawaii we will get the chance to go to Japan again since it’s cheaper and closer now.
I love cherry blossoms! Your (husband’s) town is pretty! I loved the parks and the schools and don’t worry hanging undies in the balconies to dry is more common than you think 🙂
Great comments, Swapna! Love the range of what you commented on, from blossoms to bloomers, right? Thanks for writing!