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13 November 2014 @ 12:55 pm
A Tour of Chiyoda! Part I  
I've wanted to make a post like this for a while, but I've always been stymied before because I didn't think of using my phone to take pictures everywhere until about halfway through my time living in Japan, and even then I didn't typically take pictures of daily life. Everything you do all the time seems ordinary even if other people wouldn't think so, after all. I could have used Google maps, but the only places the picture vans had gone were the major thoroughfares, and even then a lot of the major side roads hadn't been explored at all.

Today, I looked on Google maps and found that Chiyoda had been thoroughly mapped by Google Streeview, even to the point of a lot of the single-car roads leading to nooks and crannies all over! So here, I present a lot of the places I remember and my memories of them, with Streetview links so you can see them yourself.

You'll have to forgive the constant shifting between overcast and sunny in the pictures, but on the other hand, it does a good job representing Japanese weather.

Home Sweet Home
We lived in that house for three years. The discolored one on the left is abandoned and had been abandoned for years before we got there, but ours was in great condition. It looks like a cement block on the outside, but the inside is all tatami and wood floors, sliding panels, shōji screens, separate bathroom and toilet, and all the other elements of a traditional Japanese home.

It was subsidized by the Kitahiroshima Board of Education, so we got a huge bargain on the price--monthly rent was 170,000円, which was around $200 at the time and is more like $160 now. That's a big part of the reason we were able to save so much money and also why we never moved, even in the winter when it got incredibly cold--most Japanese houses are uninsulated, and ours had concrete walls filled with sand so it was even worse than usual--or the summer when it was muggy and hot.

We had holes in our shōji screens for a while before we learned where to buy the supplies to repair them, so our house enjoyed brief fame among softlykarou's students as the creepy house.

A Picturesque Path
If you've ever seen those various postcards or pictures or anime sequences where children are walking along raised paths through the rice fields, while cicadas buzz or crows caw, then you recognize that picture. That was the route that softlykarou took every day to get to school. Or at least, to Chiyoda's schools--she was at three other schools on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but since they aren't in Chiyoda and I never went there they won't feature here.

That route is also the path we always took whenever we went walking toward the town center or whenever we had to drive anywhere. It's about as wide as our car was, so it's a good thing we never ran into a car going the opposite way. There's a kind of car in Japan called a kei car that were narrower than normal and better designed for urban roads, but we had a Mazda Familia (which we affectionately called "Uncle Enzo"), so we sometimes had to be careful on the smaller rural roads.

Minimalist Intersection
This is what I mean about small roads. This is where we turned left after going down the path between the rice fields. It seems ridiculously narrow, and it was ridiculously narrow, but it's built for left-hand turns so we got used to it pretty quickly. If we were going to the high school, then we kept on straight ahead.

On the right at the side of the road, you can see an open rain gutter. These ran along the roads all over town, filling the air with the constant sound of flowing water even on hot summer days. Sometimes they had stone plates put over them with small holes to let the water in, but in Chiyoda at least, they were usually uncovered. We called them "gaijin traps."

Local Okonomiyaki
When we first moved to Chiyoda, this building was a bakery, but even though there was a sign out on the main thoroughfare and some of softlykarou's students bought bread from there, we never managed to get there when it was open because it usually opened early and closed early. The one time we arrived during posted hours, it wasn't open.

About halfway through our time in Chiyoda, though, the family who lived there (shop/house combos are very common in Japanese towns) converted their bakery into an okonomiyaki restaurant where they made okonomiyaki to order. We'd select from the menu--no noodles, plus dried squid and kimchi for me, mochi and cheese for softlykarou--and then they'd make it on the grill in view and bring it over to us. It was amazing, and writing this reminded me how much it annoys me that I can't get good okonomiyaki anywhere in Chicago.

Local Brewery and Shop
I don't have many memories associated with this place, but I'm including it because we walked past it a lot and because we'd get gifts of sake from the various people we worked with--softlykarou's co-workers, our students, and so on--and a lot of them came from here. The shop is actually quite small and you can see most of it through the door there. The building is primarily the brewery.

And yes, that is a booze vending machine on the right.

Chiyoda High School
I don't have nearly as many memories of this place as softlykarou does, but it was still kind of the center of our lives in the town, along with the two English conversation classes we taught. I'd walk by it a lot, we'd see softlykarou's students and their parents, around town, and I'd go to the festivals they'd hold there, like Sports Day or the Culture Festival.

If you've seen any school anime, you might recognize the building. This is because all Japanese schools look basically the same, and we were able to instantly recognize them no matter where we went. The main building is on the left, and the building on the right was a theatre and gym.

Next time, more pastoral memories!
 
 
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: Retrograde podcast
 
 
 
marianlhmarianlh on November 13th, 2014 08:56 pm (UTC)
That was very interesting. Thanks for posting it!
dorchadasdorchadas on November 13th, 2014 09:39 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it!

I've got enough Streetview images for several more posts, and might do one for Hiroshima City too if I can find the places we went.