Some Views of Niigata (And a Couple of Tokyo)

The prefecture office here in Niigata has a great observation deck on its highest floor. I took my camera up there on a sunny morning last week.

Chitose Great Bridge

That part of Niigata surrounded by water — the river, the canal, and the sea — is referred to as “Niigata Island.” That’s the part I lived and worked in when I first came as a volunteer with the Lutheran church. Here, you can see the heli-pad in the foreground. When dignitaries visit Niigata, they are often flown in by helicopters that land here. I cross this bridge a lot in my daily life.

Looking across the Shinano River toward the Sea of Japan

Niigata Island again. Can you make out the faint bluish outline of Sado Island on the horizon? I’m not sure if I can, or if it’s wishful thinking. Obscured by buildings in the left half of the picture, the Sekiya Canal connects the river with the sea. The sea-mouth is in about the top center of the photo.

Facing downstream; the Shinano flowing toward the sea

My stomping grounds. The Furumachi area is to the left of the river, and Bandai City is straight ahead on the right side.

Sado Island in the hazy distance

Or else wishful thinking. Sado is really clear on some days and invisible on others. Maybe it’s not always there!

The little holt at the foot of the prefecture office

When I take the bus to the university, I walk right through the middle of this little woods and then cross the bridge you saw in the first photo. Although this was taken in late February, the trees are vibrant in the warmer seasons. I always think of the path through them as “the Shire.”

A green and ancient corner -- idea place

Down there where the driveway makes a corner against the woods is one of my old places from my first couple years here. For some reason, I chose that spot to park my bicycle, and I remember scribbling notes there for what become A Green and Ancient Light, which I conceived as a dictionary cataloguing my childhood, including things that really were and things that were imagined, and making no distinctions between them. I’d like to re-do that book someday and get it into a form that’s actually publishable. It has possibilities.

Looking toward my place

See the distant tower in the top center? Okay, just beneath that is the line of the bullet train tracks. And just below those, straight down from the tower, see the next big building? That’s the movie theater complex I go to, about a five-minute walk from my apartment. On the horizon to the left of the tower, see the thing that looks like a giant clam or a landed alien spacecraft? That’s Big Swan, the soccer stadium.

Mt. Yahiko and Mt. Kakuda

We’re looking more or less south here. I’ve climbed both those mountains: Kakuda once, Yahiko many times.

The idea corner again

This is a closeup of that woody corner beneath the prefecture office.

Niigata Prefecture Office

And this is looking up from there at the office building.

From beyond the holt

This reminds me of a medieval castle rising from the woods.

Near my place

Here’s a street I pass along every day. The green building on the right is the veterinary clinic where I took the injured duck that time. The Cupid supermarket is just to the left. The big building right behind the clinic is where my good friends live.

Very significant table

No other table is more important to the writing and all other projects I’ve done in the past two decades plus! Hallowe’en jack-o’-lanterns were perennially carved here (until I started going to World Fantasy Conventions at that time of year). D&D metal figures were painted here, and D&D was played. Uncounted lessons have been prepared here. And stories and books, from the first to the most recent — this has been the primary writing place. I always seem to work better at a kitchen table than at a desk. The chair where I typically sit is that one closest to the coffeepot.

Post office at the West Gate

Here’s the little post office outside the West Gate of Niigata University. I always think of it as my “lucky post office,” since manuscripts sent from there seem to fare better with editors than those sent from other places. But that may simply be my imagination . . . the fact is, I’ve used this post office more than any other over the years. I’ve lived in different parts of the city, near other post offices, but mailing things from the university has been more or less a constant.

Approach to the building where I teach

I love this gap in the trees between the parking lot and the building where my classes are taught.

Sunny bank of the parking lot

Nice setting, huh? The trees are often full of crows that caw loudly, ransack the garbage, and will try to mooch food from anyone eating outdoors. I had one hop up and stick his beak into the top of my tote bag one day to see what was inside. Also, these trees rain down a brown powder at a certain time of year that coats all the cars in the lot.

Niigata University, very early spring

Sometimes I take the path through these trees; sometimes I take the path that goes around them.

Plastic food

Japan abounds with highly realistic-looking plastic food. These are models in the showcase outside a restaurant.

"My" bench in Eleven Park

Eleven Park is a tiny park tucked between houses and buildings near my place. I’ve written many a letter from this concrete bench. I sat there this past summer to write most of “Someplace Cool and Dark” on my AlphaSmart Neo.

Yotsuya Station, Tokyo

This photo was taken last year. Back in my Tokyo days (1988-89), there weren’t convenient signs in English letters (romaji). We had to learn hiragana well enough to decipher the station names in time to know whether to get off or not before the doors closed. Yotsuya was the place where I and my two fellow volunteers who lived out my way would transfer from the long-distance orange train to the local yellow one.

Train station in Tokyo

I forget where precisely I took this picture, but it’s a station on the Chuo Line. I remember being the last person to squeeze into a packed train one day during rush hour. I was so close to the doors that, when they closed, the front of my coat was caught and held fast between them. I couldn’t pull it out — couldn’t retreat at all, because the train behind me was full of people. I was worried that the doors on the opposite side would open at the next station, and I’d be left dangling there. But fortunately, they opened on my side next.

A friend told me the story of getting onto a rush-hour train with a dingy, dirty tote bag. When he got off the train, it was all shiny and clean. All the passengers around him unwittingly rubbed off a little of the dirt with their backs and fronts and elbows and briefcases and manga covers.


Look at all the bilingual signs nowadays! Not so back in my day, let me tell you . . . Also, now these wickets are all automated. When I lived in Tokyo 22 years ago, station employees stood at every entrance gate and punched the edge of your ticket with a hand-held punch. Most of them kept up a constant rhythm, clicking all the time, even between moments when passengers thrust tickets at them. Clickety clickety clickety click.

Tokyo, March 1989

There I am, newly arrived in Japan, doing my six-month homestay in Musashi Koganei on the Chuo Line. I was reading Stephen King’s It then, I remember. I had been using a Smith Corona word processor in the States and had not yet bought my Ricoh “My Riport” N-10 word processor. I remember having hair. I’m still using those black PaperMate pens, the best pens made. Yes, that was my first kotatsu experience (the low table, heated beneath with electric coils that glow bright red). I shared this room most of the time with my host family’s poodle, Ringo.

This has been fun! I’ll try to take a few more pictures of city landmarks soon.


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17 Responses to “Some Views of Niigata (And a Couple of Tokyo)”

  1. Daylily Says:

    Thanks for sharing your world! I love big cities; they have so many possibilities: art museums, concerts, restaurants, people to meet . . . I doubt that most of us will ever see Tokyo or Niigata for ourselves, so thanks for giving us an idea of your life in Japan, including the common daily sights.

    Maybe Sado Island isn’t always there. Like Summerdark: “This is the mystery; Some say it isn’t there. Only shadows are the banners Along the brilliant stair. Phantom echoes, empty windows, No castle; just a mill, and stirring air, Summerdark.”

  2. Chris Says:

    ENOUGH OF THE LIES, FRED! You paint this idyllic picture of life in Japan, but we all know better. And now you’ve posted all these pretty pictures of life there. I suspect they have been highly edited. In fact just a little research on the internet and I’ve found the ACTUAL UNRETOUCHED PHOTOS SHOWING WHAT LIFE THERE IS REALLY LIKE!

    Here’s Fred’s picture of himself circa 1989…note the REAL difference (yet Fred somehow remains smiling and happy)

    Oh but that’s not the only one! Fred shows us a picture of the Prefecture building in Niigata, but that’s AFTER it was rebuilt! What? You say “rebuilt”??? Why would it need to be rebuilt???

    Well BEHOLD:

    Yeah Fred, you just keep up the rosy pictures. SOME of us know the truth! Are you trying to lure people over there only to be crushed and destroyed??? What’s your game?

  3. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    Ah ha! Thanks, Chris, for showing us the truth about life in Japan! I believe I commented some time ago about this tall red-and-white television tower in the background of one of Fred’s pics and I seem to remember it being blasted by King Ghidarah (aka Monster Zero).

    With a purposeful menace and terrifying sound/
    he pulls the spitting high tension wires down/
    helpess people of subway trains scream MY GOD as he looks in on them/
    he picks up a bus and he throws it back down/
    as he wades through the buildings to the center of town

    • Chris Says:

      Time and again/Nature points out the folly of man.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        This is a great blog moment, with Chris and Mr. Brown Snowflake spouting poetry!

      • Chris Says:

        That woulod be Blue Oyster Cult poetry. And I misspoke. It’s “History shows again and again/how nature points up the folly of man”.

  4. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    I have google mapped Niigata and wonder: does Fred patrol the area near Kamitokoro Elementary? International news reports speak of an “Western professor” who is often seen writing in public and was once witnessed attempting to smuggle a live duck into a nearby building …

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Kamitokoro Elementary sounds very familiar! I can’t place exactly where it is, but I’d guess it’s right around here. Does your Google map show “Dekky 401” or the Cupid supermarket? That’s definitely my neighborhood.

  5. morwenna Says:

    Funny, Chris! But what about the picture where Godzilla gobbles up all of that yummy plastic food?

  6. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    According to my exhaustive knowledge of Japanese, the word “Gogira” which is their silly name for Godzilla, means “gorilla-whale.” Funny, I usually think of neither when I consider the beast about whom it was written: “oh no, there goes Tokyo, don’t go Godzilla!”

    And, my fellow blog guests, Fred continues to try and cover his track by responding to one of my posts by asking if Google maps shows Dekky 401 and/or Cupid supermarket. Both are phony names, the former for G-Force and the later for Tiny-Twos, the itty-bitty twin fairies who sing to Mothra!!!

    He is hoping you don’t notice, but in the pic titled “Mt.Yahiko and Mt. Kakuda” you can clearly see, at lower right, two cars belonging to the GOD (Godzilla Observation Department). They are the two white sedans with govt plates next to the blue Toyota and are clearly in town anticipating the next attack from Monster Island, here innocently called “Sado Island.”

    Take another look at the photo “near my place.” Fred clearly hopes you will not notice the “In case of monster attack, flee this way” official government announcement on the utility pole.

    And are we not supposed to notice the twisted and angled trunks of the trees surrounding the university? Clearly these are the results of high levels of radioactivity when they were saplings, proof of prior attacks.

    Ah, Japan, land of living terror!

    • Chris Says:

      Brown, I think Fred knows a LOT more about all this than he is letting on. I just found this shocking image which appears to have been ripped from a local Japanese newspaper (thankfully written in English). Do you notice anyone familiar near the bottom? Doesn’t look like he’s too “upset”. Oh sure he’s running away…probably to cover his implication in what is occuring.

      Frankly I think Fred is working _for_ the monsters. Hoping to bring some delicious western meat over for the roasting. But we’re all onto his plan.

      Otherwise Godzilla WILL have to resort to eating plastic food when the Japanese run out!

    • Chris Says:

      YET MORE DAMNING EVIDENCE COMES TO LIGHT! Thanks to my skills at research I’ve found another disturbing link between Fred and his radioactive overlords.

      I think we all remember Fred’s unfortunately sweater back in his January 2010 blog post:

      Well, I’ve just stumbled across this picture. A picture that shows someone else wearing THE EXACT SAME VEST! Did they just happen to shop at the same place? OR WAS IT A GIFT? A craven attempt to curry favor and not be destroyed in return for something far more sinister?

      DECIDE FOR YOURSELVES…but beware. The face Fred is showing you may not be the “real” face.

  7. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    I looked back in our extensive microfilm files here at work and found the following headline screaming (in 72 pt type) for May 6, 1980:

    OSAKA, JAPAN (UPI) — The monster Rodan buzzed metropolitan Osaka for several deadly minutes today, destroying numerous homes and killing as many as 5,000 civilians, the Minister of the Self-Defense Forces stated from Tokyo.
    “Preliminary reports indicate the death toll could rise substantially, but we are finding that many of those caught outside during the attack were simply struck unconscious by Rodan’s hideous attire,” Gen. Sato Tomishara said. “This was a brazen and unprovoked attack and we are already investigating what might have prompted this latest assault.”

  8. fsdthreshold Says:

    You guys are too funny!

    I wanted to look like the other kids, but Mom insisted on dressing me in the fashions that giant radioactive monsters were wearing.

    • Tim in Germany Says:

      Now THAT is a classic line, if I ever saw one. It’s the plaintive cry of the pubescent nerd. I’ve got to put it on the wall of my classroom.

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