Welcome to this week’s review of notable instances of transit, place and culture as rendered in anime currently broadcast in Japan and simulcast internationally via the web. For a detailed outline of the approach, please refer to the explanation in the inaugural issue. Links to streaming sources are included when available, though not all may have current episode available at the time this column is published.
(好きっていいなよ。 Suki-tte Ii na yo.)
Lots of train time this week. Per routine, Mei commutes to school via the Chūō Line.
Yamato and Megumi use public transit to reach their part-time work after school.
Light on public space this week. Nice product placement, though.
Note the crossing and well maintained walking path between the homes and canal wall on the left.
Sakura-sō no Pet na Kanojo
Nakamise-dōri is the pedestrian street leading from the Kaminarimon up to the temple, and is packed to the brim with vendors selling food, charms and souvenirs.
Though they are one type of public space, I tend to steer away from tourist traps (both in this column and real life). I’m generally more interested in places that arise organically and those that serve the everyday needs of people who live there. However, I have a bit of a soft spot for this particular one. My very first week in Japan was spent based out of a budget ryokan in Asakusa and, having landed at Narita on New Year’s Eve, my earliest experiences included milling my way through the crowd up Nakamise-dōri to Sensō-ji for hatsumōde, the first temple visit of the new year.
There are two important things I think worth noting that apply to this place and many others like it around Japan. One is that, despite their historic status (some of the most famous temples and shrines are even on the UNESCO World Heritage List), these places are still very much functional and alive. In contrast to the fossilization found at many US historic sites (particularly colonial era), Japan celebrates its heritage by keeping these places in service. Temples and shrines continue to provide many of the same things they have for the past thousand and more years, to everyone from religious pilgrims to casual visitors. When things break, they get repaired. While the most delicate areas or structures may be limited in access, the grounds are for the most part open to the public. Though these places are old, each generation is afforded the opportunity to experience them in full and claim it as their own.
The second is that there is much to learn from the festival-like atmosphere (regardless of whether in the midst of an active matsuri) created by the large pedestrian space and ample offerings. Indeed, many of the elements of places like Nakamise-dōri are found in residential shopping streets (商店街 shotengai) throughout Japan. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that I’ve heard more than one person describe shotengai as being warm, peaceful and comforting. I’d love to bottle this sensation and inject it into urban planning curriculum around the world. Could you imagine what our communities would look like if we aspired to much more than just moving people and stuff around?
Warm farewells for Yūko at Mukōgaoka-Yūen Station. Just as she arrived, Yūko will make the return journey alone. Yūko is in junior high school. I started to worry that I might have begun sounding like a broken record, pointing out every instance of someone under the age of 18 (some much younger) both using public transit and doing so unaccompanied. Then I read stories about American school officials and parents threatening to report other parents to Child Protective Services for the “negligent” act of having a child use public transportation to commute to school. If it’s OK with you, I think I’ll just keep at it.