Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Neighborhood

This is the unnamed street I live on, part of a faded though very functional community called Takara (treasure in Japanese) a ten-minute walk from Kofu train station. Like most of the communities radiating around the station area, the buildings are older, the inhabitants aging, and the shop wares dusty and out of style. I like it here a lot.

This is the building where I live (middle floor, far left). It's a lot brighter than any other building on the street. The tiling is pretty cool, as well as the circular stairs outside, which offer a nice view of the surrounding street, the hospital towering above, and the mountains beyond.

This is the stand where I buy my vegetables and eggs. The outside is heaped with great boxes of onions and potatoes that go bad quickly, plus fruit of dubious quality. Most of the produce inside is better and keeps for longer, sitting alongside old display cases stocked with canned tuna and pineapple. There is usually a woman of indeterminate age in the living room behind the store who comes out when she hears the door open. Sometimes we talk in Japanese. Other times an old man rings me up, and he always counts what I've bought with an abacus. It's pretty awesome.

The building on the right is a bakery down the street. They specialize in rolls stuffed with different kinds of filling, though I also buy bread from there sometimes. Like the vegetable stand, I have no idea how they stay in business because there's never anyone inside. I always buy from the day-old rack because day-old bread in Japan is the same as fresh bread in America. If I go on Saturday evenings they usually give me an extra roll or two for free.

To the left is a small bar with wood-paneled walls. I've never been inside because it's always either empty or filled with drunken middle-aged men. In the interest of curiosity I may give it a try before I leave.

This is the inside of the laundromat (koin randoree) on the next block. It has a musty smell and is usually filled with old coffee cans. I don't need to use it since I have a washing machine, but if I was ever in a pinch and needed a dryer, it's reassuring to know that it's here.

This is the small medical clinic across from my apartment. I'm not sure what kind of clinic it is but I know they must have patients sometimes because the front room has a bed surrounded by a curtain and several machines. One of the nurses who works there is kind of hot. I saw her making the bed after I took this picture.

To the right of the clinic is a barbershop that appears to be out of business. The sign and barber pole are still there, but no one ever answered when I knocked looking for a quick haircut. Instead, someone always parks a moped (not shown) on the front step.

This is the nicest house on my street. A young family with kids lives here, and I assume that an older concrete building was torn down to build this one before I moved in. To the left of this house there used to be a really cool old building that was also torn down last spring to make room for a less entertaining parking lot.

There are a lot of vending machines (hapi dorinku shoppu) here. The second one from the right has Mountain Dew.

In the other direction sits this boarded-up machine shop. I want very badly to sneak inside but cannot discern any simple methods of entry. There are some other shops like this one a few blocks away still in business, but everything there is really expensive and there's never anyone inside.

This is a really, really small bar up the street from the electronics shop. Only about four people could fit at the counter inside, and I think it's the kind of place where everyone who drinks there knows the owner. I think it'd be pretty cool if your friend down the street owned a bar that you could drink at whenever you wanted. You also wouldn't have to worry about driving home.

Like most houses in the older city, this one has about a million plants outside. It's pretty cool to walk down the gray concrete streets and have all this nature around you, even if it is in pots and on people's balconies. One day I was walking by and the guy who lives here had set up a display of alpine plants for sale. The plants all resembled ferns and were growing out of shelves of rock. The guy said they came from Nagano and explained in Japanese how to take care of them. I bought one for a thousand yen and put it on my balcony, where it flowers whenever there's a rainstorm.

This is just a picture of the other side of the street. In the distance you can see a small machine shop that always has a lot of scrap metal stacked out front, and past that is the corner where we put our recycling once a month (I always forget, though). The tall building on the corner looks like it might be really fancy inside. Most afternoons and some nights there's flute music coming from one of the apartments, which I think is someone actually practicing rather than a recording. The music gives the normally-quiet street an upbeat, exciting feeling. It is a sign that people live there.

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