August 30, 2009

A relaxing evening on the balcony

Yesterday, for the first time in a long while, the weather cooled down enough in the evening to go outside on our balcony. R. and I live in a small Tokyo condo in a large highrise. We are about halfway up on the 14th floor. One of the really nice things about our place, I think anyway, is the view we get.

So sitting out on our balcony, sipping a beer, we played a game: "What can you see?" I had to answer in Japanese, and R. had to answer in English. It was a very fun and relaxing way to pass the hour (we clearly are not going rapid-fire with this thing.)

So, what can we see?

The Monorail. Coming and going. I love watching the monorail roll past our place. We look down on it, but you can surprisingly see very clearly into the cars, and have just about enough time to wonder what is going on in the lives of the people as they commute from one place to another on the past's impression of the mass-transit-system-of-the-future. Also, about every one in five trains is the "Pokemon" train with cool pockemon paint schemes. The swooshing sound the monorail makes as it goes by is strangely soothing. Monorail is the same in English as in Japanese.

A four-lane highway, two coming, two going. This is kind of annoying because it can be loud. We are far enough away that it isn't too bad, but we don't have our windows open generally because of the noise. Late at night people zoom by in loud cars playing the real-life version of "Tokyo Drift". A surprising number of the popular-in-Japan motorcycle-sized scooters have ground effect lighting. They are fooling nobody. Highway / kousoku dourou 高速道路.

A canal. Just beyond the highway and monorail we have a canal. It is a nice canal. Fairly wide, calm looking. I get lost staring into it watching the motions of the ripples on the surface, and the reflections at night can also be mesmerizing. Sunset and Sunrise are also nice. R. called it a river, which you can do, but I usually go with Canal. In Japanese kawa 川 (river) or more correctly unga 運河 (canal.)

Bridges. Crossing over above-mentioned canal. 3 over our canal that we can see, and then one massive bridge off in the distance, the Rainbow Bridge. I once did a run through Odaiba with a leg over and back on the bridge. It is a nice bridge, and big. World-class sized.

Boats. More specifically, party boats known as Yakata Bune. Not too far from where we live, these things cast off for a night of drinking, food, and fun cruising around Tokyo Bay. They are particularly fun to watch as they slowly float by because they have lots of lanterns and lights that make nice reflections in the water. English: Party boat, Japanese Yukata boonay.

A big park. Across the canal there is a large park. Lots of trees and a nice jogging path. I usually run 3-6km weekday mornings there. Park / Koen (公園).

Traffic lights. About 4 of them. Shingo (信号).

Cranes, the boat-unloading variety. Many of them. Right beyond the park is Tokyo Bay. Lots of boats come in and unload their cargo there. So we have a kind of industrial view that I waffle over. I really like the industrial wasteland Bladerunner-esque vision of the future (from the past) but also would like to have a better view of the bay. If only we were 10 more floors higher. I kind of like the cranes though. In Japanese and English: crane.

Tokyo bay. As above, we don't have the best view of it, but it is there. Tokyo Bay / Tokyo Wan (東京湾).

Buildings. Skyscrapers. Highrise towers. Lots of them. Mainly from Odaiba. In Japanese: bi-ru. We don't have a view of the main part of Tokyo, but we do see a lot of city lights and stuff. It is nice. Lots of blinking red lights.

A Ferris Wheel. It is very hard to see, because we are looking at it side-on, and it is behind some other cranes and lighted things, but there is a large ferris wheel on Odaiba that lights up in different colors. When it does its colorful flower impersonation you can tell that it isn't a normal crane or tower, but is something more festive. In Japanese: Kanran-shya (観覧車).

Airplanes. We live pretty close to Haneda, the Tokyo domestic airport. So they swing a bit low a few miles out. We can't hear them, but they are fun to watch. In Japanese: hikouki (飛行機).

A giant Gundam statue that was built over on Odaiba for a limited time. There is lots of coverage of this over the web, and you actually can see it from our place if your eyes are very good or you have some binoculars or something. It just looks like a big blur of light at night. The same in English as Japanese: Gundam.

There is also a lot of construction going on, so we have some of those things to watch as well. Construction in Japan is pretty interesting. They create lots of jobs for people. For example, right out in front of our building they were working on the power system - laying new wires under the road or something. There were about two people doing the work, but five people directing traffic for them. Also, one or two robot sign-waver guys. In the US, they would have just set up the cones and stuff, and not worried about people to direct other people around. Over near where I work, there are two people who just stand at the start of the construction site and say "Sorry for the inconvenience" every day. All day. That is all they do.


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