Friday, April 25, 2014


Yes, Golden Week is soon upon us. The time of year when Japanese workers escape the stress of work with the stress of endless traffic jams and packed trains. We're taking a few days off early to beat the crowds, so tomorrow morning we'll be on our way to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam. To nobody's surprise we'll mostly spend our time eating, buying foods, and walking between places to eat. We'll probably take a cooking class as well, though we don't yet know where.

My bonsai is alive, and possibly even healthy, one year on. I call it "bonsai" because it's a small tree, it's in a pot and it's alive; that seems to cover most definitions. From the looks of it I suspect that were it a human it would have a spinal problem, work in an ominous basement lab and say "Yeth, mathter" a lot. Anyway, it survived its first year, so now I have to figure out how to start shaping it into an actual bonsai plant.

Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is surprisingly photogenic. And it tastes very good; just separate leaves and stems, fry the stems in butter for 20 seconds, then add the leaves and fry a few seconds until they almost start to wilt. Black pepper and a dash of either soy sauce or ponzu and you're done. This, by the way, is my new desktop wallpaper.

And some recent pictures:

Kawachi Nagano
Kawachi Nagano station, in south Osaka. A typical small, edge-of-rural kind of station.

Tennoji Midosuji line subway station. This, on the other hand, is one of the larger stations in central Osaka. It still has the insanely cool ceiling lights specific to the Midosuji line; unfortunately it seems they're being removed in Umeda as part of a platform renovation, and I suspect the same thing will happen on other stations along the line.

The elevated highway crossing in Honmachi, Osaka. I actually like this; I'm happy all that traffic up there isn't happening down on street level, and I approve in general of anything that brings us closer to the Blade Runner/William Gibson aesthetic.


  1. Enjoy the holiday!
    Vietnam is in the map for a future trip and it seems quite a nice country and rapidly developing.

    Nice pictures of Japanese infrastructure.
    As my father worked a lot on it, I have a special feeling for them.

    Here in Barcelona most subway and train stations are bland and boring.
    Out of the city, many stations keep the original 19-20th century main building. And in the city itself they keep the old central station, though not very well.

    No overground bridge rails/roads, it would get people and politicians cringe.
    The closest thing is being demolished to be replaced for a park and a road tunnel underneath.

    I'd love that some Japanese/Central European Engineers got into here and taught us how to manage infrastructures!

  2. I don't think I'd actually recommend elevated highways in old European city centers. It rather detracts from the architectural beauty, and that's worth a lot of inconveniences.

    But for a place like Osaka, where even the tourist information doesn't have the gall to describe it as beautiful, it's certainly more convenient than widening the street-level thoroughfares even further.

  3. I hate the Hanshin expressway with a passion; you have to go round the Loop if you want to get from north Osaka to Kobe, for example, and that brings all that traffic (and noise, and fumes, and heat) right into the city centre. I wish they'd built a ring road further out, to keep through traffic away. Then it might be possible to do something with the canals and rivers that are now completely overshadowed. (I always balk when I'm given tourist or "branding" information to translate that refers to Osaka as the 水の都, "water metropolis" as the waterways are actually such a wasted resource.

  4. I can't say much about how the expressways themselves actually work, as I don't drive and never use them.

    I do agree that the canals are wasted by having expressways follow them - not to mention the canals that completely disappeared with the introduction of the subway system and major roads. On the other hand, my wife, who is an Osaka native, has a far less romantic notion of the canals. They're dirty, unsafe and they smell to high heaven during the hot summer months.

    On the third hand, they've managed to clean up doutonbori fairly well, and it shouldn't be impossible to do the same with a few other stretches.


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