The street I live on

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This is a picture of part of the street I live on. It’s mainly out of view, but the house on the far left is the one I call home (you know I’m turning Japanese because I’m slightly embarrassed that you can see laundry hanging from the second floor veranda). Just to the right, a bit difficult to see, is a tiny alley that leads onto a slighly bigger pathway behind our house. I love these tiny passageways, reminds me of living in a maze. It’s difficult to capture the essence of the lane because of the lighting, but I’ll try for future posts.

The gravel expanse in the foreground is a large parking lot. We’re actually flanked by this parking lot to the front of the house, as well as a parking lot to the right (not in view). These lots are eyesores, but a necessity one lives with (I would say that half the houses on our street don’t have a garage or carport, including our’s). The two houses to the right of our’s are old and what I would call dilapidated, though not unpleasantly so. Both of them have san-gawara (glazed ceramic tiles) roofs (our’s doesn’t, sigh), and add a nice charm to the street. Unfortunately both have been modified over time. Witness the house in the middle with the balcony that looks like it was just plopped down somewhere it would fit. And both homes have fronting brick walls flush up against the outer wall of the house (for security I suppose), added without any apparent thought to how they might integrate with the main structure.

A closer view of the house on the right is available here.

Looking in my own back yard


After Jeremy Hedley’s recent posts (start at September 3rd and scroll up) about Japanese neighborhood architecture and the moribund state of Japanese aesthetics, which were occassioned by the pending razing of an old house in his Setagaya (Tokyo) neighborhood, I began to pay more attention to my immediate surroundings here in Warabi (Saitama prefecture, immediately to the north of Tokyo), and started to take better note of the mish-mash of sublime and hideous, old and new, built-with-care and pre-fab, that characterizes much of the urban and suburban Japanese landscape.

I’m not exactly sure why, but up till now, some 6 months after arriving in Japan, I haven’t been very interested in or inspired to document the place I will be calling home for the forseeable future. I think part of this resistance is derived from feeling self-concious about being a foreigner in a 98% Japanese city, and not wanting to elicit more attention (or suspicion, for that matter) than I already get by walking around with my camera snapping pictures. But a bigger factor might be that up until now, I’ve viewed my neighborhood for the most part as unremmittingly boring and uninteresting. This is somewhat of an embarrassing admission to make, being as I pride myself on the challenge of finding or discovering the visually interesting out of the mundane, the boring, the ordinary, and the ugly.

But I’m now seeing that my reluctance to Look In My own Back Yard — or LIMBY for short — has been at the expense of depriving those who’ve come to enjoy my Japan photo diary a view into what is an integral part of my existence, the neighborhood in which I live.

Jeremy has been planning on making this week “House Week” at his site, Antipixel, posting pictures of houses in his neighborhood, or “the good, the bad, and the butt-ugly” as he puts it. (He’s had some camera problems but hopefully he’ll be posting images soon). In a sort of virtual “tagging along,” I thought I would attempt to do the same, and force myself to re-assess the visual value of my suburban surroundings in the process. Hopefully I’ll also come to feel more at home in my new neighborhood as a result.

So consider the images in the previous post as an introduction to the neighborhood, with the expectation that we’ll amble a bit more slowly and peek a little closer in subsequent postings.

A tour of my neighborhood

The images below are hot off the presses, so to speak, having been shot a little more than an hour ago in my neighborhood. I’ll write more later as I’ve got to go to work, but for an idea of what this is about, see this post and the comments that follow over at Antipixel. I will post more pictures, and links to larger images, later tonight.

UPDATE: You can now click on the thumbnails above for a larger image.