Thursday, November 8, 2012

Go Souther West

(Map copyright google maps).

The weather in Kagoshima has been really changeable for the last month. It doesn't help that we're on the path for typhoons coming up from the south and it can rain for a couple of days as each storm passes by. Along with my work schedule, I hadn't been able to get out for a long walk for about a week.  My left ankle is still really stiff, and I needed the exercise, so when the sky cleared up recently, I headed out a little farther south than the route I'd taken for Go West.

(Looks like a regular Japanese sandlot park.)

In part, I was taking this route because of a missed event. The Nagashima art museum had put on an exhibit for Kunio Kato, an animation director that had won the Academy award for his "La Maison en petits cubes" short film (2008). Kunio is from Kagoshima, and one of my former private students wanted to take me to go see it.  But, she canceled out, saying she was too busy. I'd thought that it was the Nakamura museum, which is 30 minutes by train and another 40-minute walk, so I decided to not go out by myself (amazing what a difference not having a car makes). Later, though, I discovered that Nagashima is just behind Kagoshima Chuo train station, so I could have gotten there easily on foot. My plan was to go west a few blocks south from the Go West street, head west along the bullet train tracks, and circle counterclockwise around the big hill to come back to the train station from the south.

(It's on the side of a big hill, and it looks like there's a slide or steps down to the next level space.)

For the first hour, the streets were either boring residential areas, or schools. At one point, the street curved up past a road crew trimming tree branches around the power poles, and followed along an elevated road bridge up the hill for a quarter-mile. At the top of the hill, I tried following the crown as far west as I could go. At some point, though, it turned north and I was getting really close to the apartment complex I'd been at in Go West. The difference being that in Go West the apartment building numbers only went up to 36, and now I was in the 40's and 50's.  It was a nice quite area, with a few little ramen and coffee shops every few blocks. The houses in the area looked fairly upscale, and it wouldn't be a bad place to live, if you had a car for shopping. I was looking for a point where a side street would run back down the hill and cross under the elevated road so I could return to Chuo station from the other side. Eventually, I came to a single lane alley that was so narrow that if a car approached from either direction, I'd have to stop and press against the wall to let it by.  Stupid alley was surprisingly busy for being so remote.  About a block down, I came to this park on the left hand side.

(At the bottom of the next level. Sure looks like a really wide set of stairs.)

The wide staircase-like construction at the end of the park continuing down hill to the next level caught my eye so I went over to check it out.  Turns out that it's a climbing wall. The chains were rusty enough that I didn't want to use them without gloves.  I've never really figured out the idea of parks in Japan. Most are tiny patches of packed dirt that are no fun to run on. Others are bigger, with climbing gyms or swings, but the only people I ever see there are housewives standing around and chatting with each other. Very rarely are there any kids playing in them. So, why make all of these parks everywhere that go unused?  Recently, I discovered an answer. The ones in shady coves are popular with businessmen that park their cars along the side of the road and go to sleep for a couple hours before returning back to the office from a customer visit.

(I wish we had outdoor climbing walls in the parks in the U.S... But someone would probably do something stupid, get hurt, and sue the city for the public nuisance.)

Up the hill from the climbing wall, is building #72 for the apartment complex.  Halfway down the hill there's a stand of pines, and it suddenly felt like I was in Oregon. The alley ended in a valley at the bottom of the hill. The neighborhoods here were a mix of construction company offices, houses, and technical offices.  The elevated road was right in front of me, disappearing into a hill to the west. The street running under it continued into the hills, but there was no sidewalk and the buildings were starting to thin out, so I decided to call it quits here.

Looking east from the far end of the walk.

Many of the bridges are designed to allow the spaces underneath to be used for various purposes. but when you're in more rural areas, space is easy to come by and these areas just get fenced off. If you're in Tokyo, however, most bridges have shops or restaurants underneath.  Here, we have the city's dumping zone for abandoned bicycles. There's easily  a thousand in just this one spot alone. I saw a second spot under a neighboring bridge 8 blocks later.

A little farther down, there's some kind of a prefab office building, with these stacks of things in front. At first, I thought this was for a construction company, and that the things were heavy iron slabs used for counterweights on cranes. But, the ones in the middle are made of wood and seem to be hinged carry cases of some kind. So, I have no idea what they are or for.

Another half-mile down, I came across this scene. The one scooper is moving dirt over to slide it down the hill. Either they're just trying to get rid of dirt, or they're trying to extend the hill.  The barrier fence along the side of the hill doesn't look very sturdy either way.

Either the guy coming down the rope is going to man the second scooper, or he's spelling the guy in the first one. Seems to be a strange spot to have your place of work, in my opinion. They should have put up the climbing wall from that earlier park.

The sign says "Kagoshima City bicycle storage site, 100 meters".

This is the first time I've seen a mannequin like this at a crosswalk for warning drivers to slow down for children. The interesting thing about it is that the "child's backpack" is a storage case for the yellow hand flags street patrols use for waving cars to stop to let children cross safely.

I'm now at the backside of the hill behind Kagoshima Chuo station. The street runs through a 600 meter- (half-mile) long tunnel. Knowing the air quality in there, I opted to keep skirting the base of the hill south and then east. At this point, there's more older houses and schools again. There's a rundown feel to most of the places, with rust, water stains and peeling paint.  But, there's a lot more young children going to and from school in the afternoon, so there is a sense that the area is being lived in, at least. After about 15 minutes, I recognized the castle-like real estate agency building I'd visited a year ago. So, I knew that I wasn't that far from the Sazae-san bar, and the tunnel shrine. However, just a couple blocks before the shrine, I encountered the turn-off for the Nagashima art museum. So, yeah, not only was it within walking distance for me, I'd actually been in this area before.  Sigh.

From the tunnel shrine, it's 10 minutes to the train station, and another 5-10 back home. Total time, 3 hours.

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