Friday, January 27, 2017

Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

Well, that's rather busy. Interesting to see but you wouldn't want to be in it. 

We did relocate quite a lot and I was never so happy to leave a place and never so sad. It was emotionally conflicting. Sad because I had developed the best group of friends and I really would miss them. That emotion was tempered by the knowledge that if it wasn't me leaving it would be them leaving soon enough so the whole friend network was temporary by design. And happy because the place would always be hopelessly foreign, there would never be full integration and because of the intensity of humanity this intersection shows is actually everywhere.

This intersection fascinates Westerners. It is an attraction greater than Tokyo Tower, more so than the imperial palace, the parks or any of its statues. The intersection is featured in news broadcasts, in movies and in television shows. The crossing is not spectacular, just a pedestrian crosswalk at the Shibuya station in the Ginza shopping district, the fourth busiest station in Japan. It's what happens when the lights turn red that Westerners find fascinating. While the lights are green pedestrians amass at its intersections. When all the lights turn red all at once and all traffic stops then pedestrians cross at all angles. How they manage to glide past one another without smashing into each other, as swarms of bees crossing and criss-crossing without damaging each other is a marvel to behold of individual decision making. It is organized chaos. It is exquisitely Taoist. 

Shown above is Saturday but it's not always this intense. There are dozens of videos on YouTube of this crossing, mostly by Westerners who just had to go there and are well chuffed having survived it. Here is a live-feed where presently things are much more quiet while no less fascinating.

My brother and I learned to navigate a section of Tokyo that included a tip of the Ginza, our purpose for striking out was adventure, our focus a tiny aquarium shop where we spent untold hours studying the tropical fish in aquariums and making our careful choices. We had eleven small aquariums bubbling away in our bedroom and all of that had to go when we left, except one. The reason all our junk must be culled was "weight allowance," the same reason our parents always gave that forced a major culling. No negotiation. Actually, lots of negotiation always with the same outcome. A single ten gallon aquarium survived four more moves. And that did take a lot of negotiation. And this forced stripping that happened so often formed a lasting impression, an attitude about collecting things, an aversion to hoarding. Having things around that are not actually used, and having an excess of things generally, gives me the creeps. I still cull even without a weight allowance to force it. It just seems like a good idea and that idea started in Tokyo.

I'm sad and happy all over again.

I noticed this intersection featured in the introduction to Diner: Tokyo Stories on Netflix. The glaring neon and compressed advertisements and large billboards are similar to New York's Time Square.  


Sixty Grit said...

Thanks for posting that. I took pictures of Ginza on a Sunday back in '82 - I was impressed at how many people were out walking and shopping. The street was closed to traffic and it was awash with a tide of humanity.

When I first went walking in Tokyo it took me a couple of minutes to realize that not only do the trains run in the wrong direction, and they drive their cars on the wrong side of the street, but one must walk on the wrong side - that is - the left side of the sidewalk. Otherwise one is swimming upstream. Never good - you are outnumbered.

I finished up Tokyo Diner and I hope the make more - ten episodes were not enough.

AllenS said...

I spent some time in Japan, and loved the place.

ricpic said...

I'm of two minds about these all ways crossing arrangements. We've got one in my small city of Ithaca and what I've noticed is that the people crossing from the northeast corner to the southwest corner or the northwest to southeast don't realize how much longer it is diagonally than a simple northeast to southeast or northwest to southwest, so they often don't leave themselves enough time to get across and the lights have changed well before they've made it to the other side. Accidents waiting to happen.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I can't imagine anything more horrific and awful than being around so many people in one place. I would go crazy if I had to be around that many people all of the time.

The average population density in this part of California where I live is 7 persons/square mile. Granted that takes in a lot of totally unoccupied territory (if you don't count the cows, deer and antelope) and people do tend to gather in larger groups, or small communities. I would hazard a guess of 20 to 30 people/sq mile in my immediate vicinity. The closest little unincorporated town near us has 600 people.

Sixty Grit said...

I, too, don't like being in crowds - the difference is, and it can be seen in the Tokyo Diner show, that the Japanese are polite. They don't run into each other, they are used to being out among giant throngs of humanity, yet even packed like sardines into a subway car, they can maintain their own sense of personal space.

It's a contradiction, for sure, but somehow they manage.

It was fun to visit, I always had a good time over there, but country living is the place for me, land spreadin' out so far and wide, just give me that countryside.

ampersand said...

They each should be carrying giant breadcrumbs.

Rabel said...

1. Well, I guess we can add "walking around in Tokyo" to the list of things I have in common with Sixty.

2. The city scene bring to mind a subject/thing/meme I've noticed just in the last few months. The popular media appears to have redefined the terms "urban" and "rural." Rural used to be used to designate people who lived "out in the country" and urban meant those who lived in the cities, large and small. Now, because I live most of the time in a small city of 30k or so, I'm a "rural" voter.

I'm sure that the reason behind this is that it allows for othering of Trump voters as backcountry hicks (which may or may not be correct in my case), but it's odd to find myself a country boy again. Thank God.