Now no longer the smokers’ paradise it once was, Japan’s cigarette lovers are slowly but surely being ushered into the shadows.
Hemmed in by a new car park on one side, and a ditch on the other, this abandoned house is small and basic to say the least. There’s no bathroom. Not even a toilet. A shared, breeze-block outhouse is the only facility. And, as far as a kitchen goes, it was presumably a case of making do with a two ring gas table near the door. Yet despite the building’s size and rather primitive nature, until July 2005 its two rooms were clearly very much a home for the old lady who lived there.
A tiny, rectangular space as one entered acting as a living room, dining room and pretty much everything except a bedroom.
And up some terrifyingly steep and narrow stairs one finds the latter. A room that was so sad and silent that the opening verses of John Betjeman’s Death in Leamington seemed unsettlingly apt:
She died in the upstairs bedroom
By the light of the ev’ning star
That shone through the plate glass window
From over Leamington Spa.
Beside her the lonely crochet
Lay patiently and unstirred,
But the fingers that would have work’d it
Were dead as the spoken word.
Many traditional shops in Tokyo open out onto the street — a lovely communal element that further cements their ties to the local neighbourhood. In older areas of the city, a surprising number of them still survive too, although there can’t be many that boast a working, and still in use water pump like the fishmonger’s below. A feature that has presumably been in place since the shop opened for business back in 1935.
The train system in Tokyo is, without a doubt, truly incredible. Similarly undeniable, however, is how incredibly busy said system can be. So while it’s possible to travel pretty much anywhere, the journey might well be a little unpleasant to say the least. But head to the Japanese countryside, and it’s a completely different story. Yes, the trains are often laughably infrequent, but once on board they can be fabulously relaxing.
*Over the last few days while traveling and riding trains like the one above, a site update was causing comments to be rejected. Sorry about that — I had no idea at all. It’s all fixed now though, so comments should work as normal once again.