Japan’s “soft” lockdown began in early April and was more commonly referred to as a State of Emergency. It continued till the end of May and I was off from work for most of that time. Although it may have been a break from my job it certainly wasn’t a proper holiday due to the restrictions on what we could do and where we could go. The highlights mentioned below were all brief and though they took my mind off things for a while, it was actually a fairly stressful time regarding the threat of coronavirus and my work situation.
Whilst I’d love to say I used the time wisely to read, study or learn new skills, the first couple of weeks was pretty much spent being a couch potato and watching TV series, films and YouTube whilst eating and drinking too much! As the weight soon piled on it became apparent that things needed to change and so daily walks in our neighbourhood became the way of life.
As a resident of Itabashi ward, there aren’t too many interesting places around so it was quite surprising to notice these waterworks (above) which look like some kind of villain’s lair. It is more commonly known as Oyaguchi Water Tank (Oyaguchi 1-4, Itabashi-ku) and stores water for use in disasters.
Another water-related thing we came across one day were these old-fashioned water wells known in Japanese as ido. Basically you turn the wheel and then the water comes out of the nipple part of the breast-like stone thing. I’m not sure how you put the water on you or in you or if the latter is even possible.
There were a couple of other water wells in nearby parks too.
A couple of other very minor “sights” to mention. First up is this ridiculously thin house alongside the Shakuji-gawa which is a river we walked alongside a fair few times during lockdown.
The other is this motorcycle shop with the “interesting” name and the rising sun flag or the controversial Imperial Japanese military flag if you prefer!
Wanting to get out for some exercise (other than running) I often just went on Google Maps and zoomed in and out of our local area in search of anything mildly interesting such as parks or gardens. One such example that I came across was Mitsugi Park which seemed to possess a big lake. A most surprising sight to see on my smartphone screen but how would it measure up in reality?
To be honest it was nothing special but during those times it probably felt like an amazing find and such lakes really are not so common amidst Tokyo’s concrete jungle. It was admittedly quite nice to chill out by it for a while. What was more interesting for me was a sign that said no passive smoking!! Yet another case of a Japanese sign being poorly translated! I can picture a guy without any cigarettes desperately trying to take in the smoke of some nearby smokers and being warned not to do such a thing!!
Rightly or wrongly we stopped by the nearby Aeon Mall on the way back from there. It was pretty much devoid of any customers so we had some lunch as the Ringer Hut chain (specialising in Nagasaki-style food) offers bigger portions of certain dishes for the same price. I can’t remember if this Nagasaki champon dish was 50% or 100% bigger than the regular one. For those who don’t know, champon is a Nagasaki ramen speciality consisting of octopus, squid, kamaboko (white and pink fish-based patty), pork and vegetables in a white, salt-based broth.
My wife was working throughout the whole lockdown of sorts and I met her at lunchtime one day for another double portion dish. This time it was Tokyo Abura Soba (1-23-1 Nishiikebukuro, Toshima-ku) which is basically ramen without soup. The noodles are thick and chewy and the key is the vinegar which you apply doing a few circles of your bowl. It really is fantastic and much better than I’ve made it sound!
Other than that I can’t recall eating out at any other time. I did do some proper cooking but that’s not so interesting to show here so instead I’ll show the edamame (green soya beans) and cheese on toast which I created for a post during the early stages of lockdown.
In terms of beverages the number one drink that people were talking about was Corona; the Mexican beer with the unfortunate name. One convenience store seemed to be trying to use the Corona situation to help promote the sales of the beer. I couldn’t resist getting a few bottles and, alongside some taco-flavoured Doritos (with melted cheese on top), I had a very lame Mexican-themed night at home.
In Japan there is real beer and then there is happoshu which is basically low malt beer which gets round the tax-on-beer laws. Sapporo Gold came out a few months ago with a ¥100 can (350 ml) and that was followed up by Asahi Rich and Suntory Blue from rival companies. At that price I was delighted by these new drinks and had a fair few in the first month off.
The only other drink of note was this choco-mint one I picked up when passing by a Cafe Veloce. Japanese people have something of a love-hate (more hate to be fair) relationship with my favourite flavour and it was rarely ever available. That’s changed though in the last couple of years as each Summer has seen a bombardment of choco-mint flavoured chocolate, cakes, ice-cream and drinks.
My bike had been out of action since just before Christmas and I considered it not worth repairing this time. Typically it was when I needed it most with work continuing for over six weeks as Covid-19 struck and I had to ride the trains everyday. A new bike was definitely needed as I was desperate to get out and about a bit more without using trains. I finally bought a new bike (plus cycling shorts and gloves) in May; the first new bike I’ve had since I was about 11 as the five or six I’ve had since then were all bought second-hand from a variety of friends.
Getting the bike was a game-changer and I hit the roads on many days after that as my pointless mission to cycle to all Inari Shrines in Tokyo’s 23 wards began. Hopefully I can park my bicycle better and far more considerately than the person below!
On to animal-based news and I came across this Crocodile (or is it an alligator?!) atop the entranceway for a supermarket in our local ward but quite far from our house!
There’s been a few panda playground structures on Tokyo Fox over the last few years with the most famous one probably being the sad, lonely, solitary panda rocking-horse type ride in Kanda. That was in the middle of an empty concrete space on an intersection corner whereas this one (below) was an actual playground but again the one and only ride for kids to play on!
A nearby shrine sounded quite (well mildly!) interesting when my wife explained it possessed the oldest lion-dog statues. All seemed pretty impressive until she added the words “…in Itabashi!”. How underwhelming and surely nothing to write about…although technically I am now writing about it!
Whilst this post isn’t exactly gonna sell Itabashi ward as a tourist destination for many, it does prove that it’s always worth getting out and exploring your area as all too often there are some hidden places of interest.
Click here to read ‘Foxed In The Head: Cycling To All Inari Shrines In Tokyo’s 23 Wards – #1 Itabashi’
Click here to read ‘The Lion, The Bridge & The Watergate – A Cycle Ride Up Into Saitama Prefecture’
Click here to read ‘Japan’s 3rd Largest Buddha Statue Is Actually In Tokyo!’
Click here to read ‘Interesting Japanese Playground Structures #25’