No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

12 August, 2009

Chitose Funabashi

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about the new neighborhood. Compared to my old quaint neighborhood of Okamoto with peaceful Kinuta park nearby, Chitose Funabashi felt dingy and blah at first. With so many massive apartment complexes in the area (we're talkin 150+ apartments in each building), you feel like you live in a city soup, that doesn't let up for miles. But as with most things in Tokyo, I've learned it just takes a little bit of digging and time to uncover the real gems that exist in each neighborhood.

This is just one view from the balcony of one of the many big "mansions" that seem to block me in. But, my balcony gives such a feeling of openness that you don't feel too hemmed in.

Maybe it's because there is an incredible view of Shinjuku, the Tokyo equivalent of a view of the Manhattan skyline, from the balcony. On sunny days it shines brightly, on rainy days you wouldn't know there was a city over there at all. The complex on the right hand side of the picture is all but abandoned and I'm hoping someone has the guts to tear it down and give me a view of Shibuya also. And on perfectly clear days, the other side of the balcony has an unobstructed view of Fuji san.

This is a neighborhood sushi restaurant, one of the many little mom&pop shops along the vein leading from the apartment to the station. You can find tofu shops, recycle shops, fruit & veg vendors, bicycle repair, cafes, tai-yaki grillers, pharmacies, futon sellers, grocery stores, bakeries, sports shops and even kimono tailors. Slowly the people in the neighborhood are starting to recognize me and not just look at me sideways. I've made buddies with an old man at one of the dry cleaning places. There are very few gaijin in this neighborhood, which is one reason I like it. I love that a neighborhood offers everything you would need no further than a walk or bike ride away. And even better, there are very few cars on these shopping "promenades."

And there is so much more to this little neighborhood. Tonight I found a long wooded path leading to a park that boasts sight #37 of the 100 scenic views in Setagaya (the ward of Tokyo)....I didn't go too far by myself, I'll have to drag James there later. And then there's the 7-11 just around the corner where I can pay my bills at all hours of the night and get an ai-su-ku-re-mu to cool off in the heat.

Today we lazily rode our bikes around the area, stopping wherever we found a green spot or a cool place to eat like a little French-only cheese specialty shop. We found a beautiful temple surrounded by old trees and the coolest record shop with a hip old dealer who loved practicing his English on us. I picked up a record of Joni Mitchell and the owner promptly told me I looked like her (so now I'm a cross of Cameron Diaz & Joni Mitchell with a voice like Jessica Simpson & Olivia Newton John). Then he looked at James and stated that I must like to date older men!

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