March 05, 2007

Scenes from Mito

Mito, Ibaraki is the prefecture's capital. It is famous for natto, plum blossoms, Tokugawa legacy and Confucian scholarship. Anyway it was the nearest next-biggest city to where I was, so it was a good place to go for shopping, video games, a walk in the park or just trying to find something more intersting to do.

The band is playing on the intersection of pedestrian overpasses connecting Mito station with nearby stores and the other side of the road. The band name is Carry Smile. We were pretty sure they were not busking, but possibly doing promotional single sales (or at least advertising by the looks of their small signs). Occasionally, especially on the weekend, you'd see a performer or two on this area. Near the evening you'd almost always see a few beakdancers, and a few "window dancers" (the peculiar activity of using a shop windows reflective properties as a dance mirror) busting moves while the homeless moved their cardboard beds in.

This alley is just up the road from the station. I just feel this picture epitomises the urban feel I got in a lot of regional Japan. It has signage, writing on the road, vehicles on the side, some splashes of grafitti and not enough room. It also has the most ubiquitous feature of any photograph in an urban Japanese setting, overhead powerlines. Seriously they were everywhere. You can't even take photos of quaint old-style houses without getting a nice black horizontal across it. They must have a special photoshop technique to remove it, mustn't they? Another thing to note is there is no litter at all. It's certainly not clean, but it's still a bit tidy. There is no soda can, no paper trash. I found that the urban you went the less crap you saw about. Walking on a mountain highway near hitachi you'd find soda cans, newspaper, porn and even an entire guys record collection stashed inside a broken refridgerator. But maybe this urban/country trash appearance problem isn't exactly a Japanese problem. I guess I'm used to living in a regional urban center, and thus litter.

The last pic is from a small shrine, still just up the road from the train station. This is a cool juxtaposition of just the serenity of the calm temple grounds, and then popping out of the background a vibrant loud (western) commercial reminder that this is still in the middle of downtown.

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