Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Life in Japan #2: Kofu

My parents bought me a new camera for Christmas, and though I always preferred to describe a scene with words, I’ve been snapping photos like mad since I’ve been here (except when I forget my camera, which happens often). I feel less inclined to take photographs in America because from any point of view in a given city there are a hundred—no, a thousand—things that we’ve seen before and make no firm impression on our consciousness: a concrete sidewalk, a gray brick wall, a passerby’s jacket, a gas station’s faded pumps, and so on. But here in Japan everything is different and draws my attention at every turn, for my senses have not yet adjusted to the onslaught of unfamiliar stimulation here.

Downtown Kofu’s main drag, which I refer to in my head (and occasionally when talking to others) as Main Street, even though it has a real name I do not know. The storefronts on the left house several restaurants, while Lawson’s is one of many convenience store chains here. Also note the NOVA sign on the upper right building.

The train station, figurehead of downtown, which also houses ECLAN department store. (To draw in the confused traveler market, the signs for all of the major department stores here are written in the Roman alphabet.) Check out the tiny Japanese cars on the street here. Because of its historical ties with mining and jewelry-making, Kofu is known as the Crystal City, though the diamond seen in the center is probably just an advertisement for a jewelry store.

Lord Shingen Takeda, whose statue watches over the park next to the station. Shingen was a 16th century warlord who ruled over Kofu and the surrounding Yamanashi area, and though he seems a relatively obscure figurehead in Japanese history, he is something of a local hero on the level of Franklin Pierce for the people of New Hampshire.

Main Street again, seen from one of the pedestrian bridge crossings that seem to exist primarily for tourists to climb and take pictures from. The clocktower building used to house a prominent watchmaker that has since gone out of business, Miki tells me, though it now it merely stands apart as one of several older Western-style buildings mixed in with the cityscape.

Another view from the pedestrian bridge, this time looking south. The city is surrounded by mountains on all sides. And yes, they drive on the other side of the road here to further confuse me.

A familiar face at last.

This is the path I walk to and from work every day. On the right is Maizuru Castle Park, an old battlement that’s been restored with new bathrooms resembling historical shrines, one of which has a homeless person living inside. The park is really cool, and I’ll post more pictures later.

This is the Tokyo Gas company’s storage tank across from the park. The brightly-colored logo on the side is actually a mountain and a bird, though sadly a work crew came and painted the tank a solid brown color earlier this week. I live in the blue apartment building on the right.

One of Kofu’s back alleys. Possibly an entertainment district that’s deserted during the day.

Even the bricks are different here!

I’ll post a larger album on Facebook later this week if anyone’s interested. The massive storage capacities of today’s digital cameras makes it far too easy to bury those few worthwhile shots amidst a thousand other pictures of the same scene from different angles; and though this online photo posting thing is still new to me I’ll try to keep it relatively succinct.

1 comment:

Randall said...

This all looks outstanding, sir.

I don't know what sort of hours you keep, but I know Lawson Station stores are often the haven for Americans who tend to be up after restaurants and other things in Japan have closed.

And Takeda is awesome.