Freak of nature or thing of beauty? Shortly before New Year’s, Abby and I chanced upon this choice cabbage perched regally in front of a chopstick store on the Hiroo shopping street. Just look at its girth! Unfortunately, I no longer remember the cabbage’s exact weight (which was noted on a piece of paper nearby) but it was roughly 40 pounds, or about the same size as our dog, Pippi. Now that’s a whole lot of cole slaw!
Just look at the leaves on that thing! And the veining …. oh my. Hailing from Hokkaido, it is surely as impressive as a country fair prize winner anywhere. Below you will see the cabbage in situ which should give you some idea of its size.
The japanese fascination with large vegetables is by no means limited to cabbages. Aren’t these radishes amazing? Here the small stuff is sometimes very, very big.
You can tell a lot about a culture from how it disposes of waste. Especially in a place like Japan which is so fastidious where garbage is concerned. Apparently, you can also tell a lot about a person by what they throw out. While working on my book Modern Japanese House (check out this link to learn more), I interviewed a Tokyo-homeowner who lives in a niseitaijutaku (two-generation home) with her in-laws. They live downstairs while the woman, her husband and their son call the upper floors home — not an uncommon arrangement. In response to a question about the privacy pitfalls of such proximate quarters she said “There is privacy even in garbage.” Enough said.
This post is not actually about trash per se but rather about some very special trash cans that Pippi and I zeroed in on during a recent walk. Riddled with cracks, these blue barrels might have been destined for the closest landfill but, fortunately, some industrious soul saved them from that fate. Instead of using their damaged condition as an excuse for giving them the heave ho, this person meticulously punched holes in the plastic and laced the jagged fissures back together with plastic rope — quite possibly a discard in its own right.
While I applaud the thrift, I am equally in awe of the care that was taken to put these once broken goods back in the line of duty. With a repair like that, they are practically as good as new.
After taking Pippi for her monthly check-up at the Kamishakujidobutsubyoin (try saying that three times in quick succession) out in the wilds of Tokyo’s Nerima-ku (its a real shlep but so worth it), we did a little exploring of the neighborhood: a charming, mostly residential community interspersed with agricultural plots. If you read my old blog, The Thing Is, you may remember that I have a real thing for urban agriculture. Imagine my delight and surprise when we discovered rows of artichokes (yes! artichokes!) ready for picking!
But I digress. While wandering, we chanced upon the adorable railroad crossing pictured above. Intended just for pedestrians and cyclists (a metal pole planted in the midway across blocks vehicular passage), it is really cute. It looks like a Brio train set come to life. As you can see, the gate controls passage and drops down, accompanied by a clanging bell, when a train is about to pass. What an idyllic scene.
Imagine our surprise when we discovered this sign near the gate. It is a list of Inochi no Denwa hotlines for those contemplating doing themselves in. Despite this sobering message, the ripe produce and rich, loamy landscape lingered on in our thoughts.
Recently, I accompanied Abby to her final voice lesson with her teacher here in Tokyo. This entailed traveling by train to Higashi-Kurume Station which is located in a kind of suburban netherland between Tokyo and Saitama. Abby’s singing was absolutely exquisite. In fact, her breathtakingly beautiful rendition of Mozart’s operatic aria ‘Un Marito, Donne Care’ made me cry. But her translation of the libretto made me laugh! Mozart and his cronies definitely had a sense of humor.
On our way back to the station, we snapped these photos of a bike parking lot. In Tokyo, where many people commute to stations on two wheels, bike lots of various types are common. What caught my eye this time is the cute, little gate — the same type used for car parking lots in miniature! It almost looked like a toy.
Located near the gate, the above sign indicates that there are empty spaces for both bikes (above) and motorbikes (below).
As you can see in the photo at the end of this post, there are separate sections for the two types of cycles. But both areas are remarkably neat and orderly.