Trucks and motorbikes are utilised for the bulk of small deliveries in Tokyo, but the trusty old bicycle is fortunately still a firm favourite for some.
The far west of Tokyo is far different from many images of the capital. There’s no neon. No immense swathes of concrete either. Not even many people. Instead, there are trees, mountains and also an abandoned train line. All of which make for an incredibly refreshing contrast. And on a day when a storm is fast approaching, those differences are made all the more striking.
Old Tokyo bars are fascinating little places, with layers of grime and lines on their owners faces hinting at the history played out in them. Key elements that were thankfully in evidence at the eatery below.
In business for 68 years, the current Mama-san has been in charge for a mere 13 years. Her mother, who originally hailed from Hokkaido, opened it and was the proprietor for the other 55. A period that has seen an absolutely staggering amount of change, but inside the bar, time has pretty much stood still. And all being well, it will continue that way for countless more years to come.
Due to their very nature, most train stations in Japan are merely functional. Buildings designed to simply get you somewhere, rather than destinations in themselves. And when it originally opened in 1936, Doai, in Gunma Prefecture, was also a regular, run-of-the-mill station. But after the addition of a northbound line in 1967, all that changed. A change brought about by the extra track being 70 metres underground, making it the deepest in Japan.
Initial impressions, however, are of a nicely stark, but not especially interesting structure.
Once the journey downward begins, however, things alter considerably, with a warren-like maze of tunnels setting you on your way.
A glance behind also indicates exactly how many steps those going up will have to contend with on their way back to the surface.
But before starting the descent proper, there’s a spot where Doai’s wonderful bleakness arguably reaches its peak.
Then it’s straight down, for quite some distance; the bottom barely visible from the top.
To be fair though, the bench on the left does offer at least some respite to those making the long climb up to step 486. But that’s it as far as any kind of help goes — there are no lifts or escalators.
And with trains not exactly regular — somewhere in the region of every 3 hours or so — timing is of the utmost importance. Get it wrong and the only option is the decidedly dubious pleasure of whiling away the hours in Doai’s laudable attempt at designing the world’s dreariest waiting room.