The gutted shell of the abandoned Keishin Hospital stands blank and ghostly on the rural Kanagawa sky-line. It once housed state-of-the-art radiology and cancer departments, now the only pieces of equipment remaining are the chairs bolted to the floor in the dentist’s office. Up close its walls are a vibrant cacophony of ever-changing grafitti, its forecourt a wash of shattered glass and empty spray-paint cans, its encircling car park overgrown with a thick smog of twisted brown underbrush. All record of its previous life has been erased by decades of vandalism, theft, and neglect.
On Saturday June 14th the latest and possibly last subway line through Tokyo, the Fukutoshin F-line, opened up, and I was one of the first people on it.
The line runs from Saitama down through Ikebukuro and on to Shibuya, with extensions into other train lines at both ends. Trains run around every 5 minutes.
I boarded early in the morning, but the whole of Zoshigaya was already a-buzz like I’d never seen before, I suppose chiefly due to F-line tourists checking out the stops along the way. I imagine this new station will inject new capital into the area, perhaps we’ll see more renovations, more classy restaurants and bars and the like.
The line itself is quite deep, not as much as the Oedo line in Roppongi but still a good 4 escalator rides down. The platform has the new motorized railings to stop people from falling off. The walls of the line are curved like the Oedo line, unlike most other Tokyo subway lines, reminding me of London’s Tube.
I only rode one stop, but it was a leisurely and pleasant affair. Full marks, the F-line. 5/5.
Capsule Stations or ‘Gashapon’ are a big deal in Japan, located outside any place that kids or otaku (nerds) might go. They are basically toy vending machines, like gumball machines, but for toys in plastic egg-shells. The name Gashapon is onomatopoeic, where the ‘Gasha’ is the sound of you turning the handle, and the ‘Pon!’ is the capsule toy popping out. They dispense a whole range of toys, from super-cheap garbage up to higher-end ‘adult-content’ type stuff.
Ashes to Ashes is a sequel series to the fantastic Life on Mars, the show depicting a Manchester policeman sent back in time after being nearly killed in a hit and run accident.
That show ended on a massive high after 2 seasons, and I thought there was no way they could replicate its quality or success. But, having just finished all of Ashes to Ashes season 1, I can say they’ve out-done themselves.
There’s a brilliant arch-plot spanning the season, reminiscent of the way they did Season 1 of Dexter, if not better as I didn’t guess the mystery until almost the end. There’s the usual completely un-politically correct banter and wise-cracking of the ‘Gene Genie’ Gene Hunt, DCI. There’s Alex Drake the lead character spooling around and going a bit mental, while taking everything with a pinch of salt as she believes it to be unreal. There’s the same support cast of coppers on the team, taking the pratfalls as well as shouldering sub-plots and one-liners.
Add to that generally excellent scripting, some genuinely moving emotional moments, high production values and delicious tongue-in-cheek retro humor, and you’ve got an all-round excellent show. The best thing on British television, I’ll say, by far superior to the creatively exhausted doddering-along Dr. Who.
Here’s a clip of a BBC trailer:
To watch this you’ll have to either wait for the DVD’s or go grab it from a torrent site like thepiratebay.org. The next season is not coming until October 2009- the writer’s say it’s going to be darker, better than LOST, with bigger and better mysteries being solved. Cool.
The Negishi Racecourse Grandstand in Yokohama looms like an ancient 3-headed Titan over the Negishi Plateau. It once drew crowds of thousands to cheer the racing horses from its elaborate bleachers, to wander its long hallways and admire its extravagant architecture, but that was over 80 years ago, before it was surrendered to the US military after World War Two. Now its racecourse is a floodlit naval base, its bleachers are fenced off and overgrown with ivy, its innards rest silent and dark but for the steady drip of rain-water leaking through its rotting concrete skin.
My old gym shoes were pretty much rotten, so I decided to buy some new ones. I wandered the streets of Ikebukuro for some time trying to find a decent priced decent looking shoe. I was on the cusp of giving up when I saw the Climacool Adiprene:
It only cost about 8,000 yen, and though that was higher than I wanted to pay, the cool white and silver of the shoe won me over. Plus it has great aeration abilities and is really light. For style as well as substance it’s the perfect gym shoe.
Watch out though, these shoes make me a furious bad-ass.
Beer and beans go hand in hand in Japan. In bean season (spring) you can’t go to an izakaya (bar/restaurant) without having eidamame (spring beans) thrust upon you along with your nama beeru (fresh beer). It’s no burden however, because chilled half-boiled lightly salted beans go very well with beer, the one complementing the other.
So why not make snacks that equally complement each other, available not only in the spring, but year round? Or at least for as long as the product life-cycle in Japan’s fast-paced novelty foods market.
With that in mind, Glico brings us Beer Pretz (els)-