Tag Archives: Japan

After the Typhoon, Part II

Yokohama, Japan. September 2013.

As is turns out, we slept through typhoon 26 in the safety of our well-engineered apartment tower. We woke in the morning to clear blue skies. On the right, a brilliant rainbow sprouted from the cloud-capped shoulder of Mt. Fuji. On the left, a daunting wall of grey rain and clouds hovered over the bay. I wasn’t sure if we had missed the typhoon or if it was just about to arrive.

Before long, we learned that the worst of the storm passed through a couple of hours earlier, between 5 and 6 am, leaving only the uncommonly clear skies of an atmosphere scrubbed zealously clean.

But elsewhere in Japan, Typhoon 26 caused landslides that killed at least 17 people. It is a strange and heavy thing, to sleep restfully through something others will never awake from.

These are the last photos from after Typhoon 18, the ones that I took with my regular camera. The wake of the storm, the day laid to rest.

After the Typhoon, Part I

Yokohama, Japan. September 2013.

We are expecting a typhoon tomorrow. Typhoon Wipha, number 26. A big one. A once-in-ten-years kind of blow-down throw-down. Apparently the last time a storm of this magnitude came through, they had to pick up the front gate of our school down the street from the parking lot of the gymnasium. School has been cancelled, we bought some groceries and are battened down for the night.

There was another typhoon, number 18, in September. In its wake, the particulates of industry were washed out of the air, nature’s version of high-definition clarity. The windows were covered in dried-in-place drops of salt sea-brine, and as the sun set, the colors lit up a cloud-painted sky.

Over Under

Yokohama, Japan. April 2012.

This is how we go. To move in Yokohama is to go over or under; it is a city of overpasses and underpasses, of foot bridges and elevated highways and subway trains. Much of the city is built of land reclaimed from the sea, seamed together with waterways and canals under a network of pathways held up in the air by riveted pillars and boxy beams, a strangely graceful curvature of concrete and metal woven into a future as it was imagined in the industrial age.

Over and under we go.

Flight

Kamakura, Japan. April 2011.

And so begins another school year; from out of the seasonal interstice, a blur of bright yellow school-bags like jet-packs when standing, then beating wings in motion, and the momentary repetition of stamps of white socks in Mary-Jane’s thumping along from the train platforms to school rooms.

The Bakery Window

Kamakura, Japan. April 2011.

One more bicycle before summer ends. I took this one a couple of years ago, meant to post it and never quite got around to it. It encapsulates something quintessentially Japan for me. It’s not a place of big supermarkets and concrete-block malls—there are big supermarkets, don’t get me wrong, but there is still very much a culture of locally owned shops and services. Instead of pulling the family SUV into the superstore lot, for the most part in Japan, you can pedal a bike to the bakery or the or the fruit seller and buy what you need put it in the handlebar basket and pedal home.
In spite of the surrounding metropolis, it seems to keep life on a livable scale.

Platform Reflection

Kamakura, Japan. April 2011.

It is very nearly Sakura season again in Japan, which has me thinking of this trip we took to Kamakura the first time we came to Japan.
We were heading for the main street where there is a two kilometer stretch of boulevard lined with cherry trees and I took this photo on the train platform. Originally, it was the poster that drew my attention, looking so like what we had come to see. In retrospect, though, it’s the likeness of the woman in the poster to the woman on the platform that makes me smile. You know, life and art in mutual imitation.

Skylines

Yokohama, Japan. Fall 2012.

When we started apartment hunting in Yokohama, we had some criteria about space and number of rooms and location – proximity to work, to the metro, to grocery stores. When we rented a place facing away from the bay, we thought we were giving up the view. We were told that we would have a view of Mt.Fuji in the winter, but we couldn’t see it in August. What we didn’t count on is the beauty of Yokohama’s atmospherics. The clouds over Yokohama are exceptional, and the magic-hour twilights imbue even the dreariest of urban landscapes with something near sublime.

These are photographs taken from our balcony. It’s the clouds that get me. They look like they spun up out of a Lawren Harris painting, or else it’s the colors of the sunset, the impossibly dramatic combinations of steely blues and greys with burnt pinks, the glowing embers of a sky on fire somewhere just over the horizon. We can see Mt.Fuji, by the way, but that’s another story.

Pacific Approach

Over Japan. August 2012.

The approach to Honshu island of Japan from around 30,000 feet. Mount Fuji is visible from the balcony of our apartment, but to see it from the sky puts things in an entirely different perspective. It looks a little like the sort of mound kids make on beaches by gathering sand from all around into one well-packed peak. Its symmetry seems particularly Japanese.