Comments about technological history, system fractures, and human resilience from James R. Chiles, the author of Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology (HarperBusiness 2001; paperback 2002) and The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks, the Story of the Helicopter (Random House, 2007, paperback 2008)
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Tokyo, hoping for the best
NPR ran a piece last week about efforts in Tokyo to cut power consumption. One spot highlighted was Shibuya shopping district, northwest of Tokyo Bay.
My sons and I spent a week in Tokyo and Kyoto last August, and passed through Shibuya several times, making sure to catch it at least once by night, when it was ablaze with neon and acres of LED screens.
It's a major meet-up spot, and thousands of Japanese young people were milling about, phones in hand, hunting for friends. It's close to the Shinjuku train station, where commuters now walk through the vast tunnel system in dimmed lighting; at night they now emerge to a much darker landscape.
The Shinjuku area by daylight:
The next day I took a picture of another electricity-drawing entertainment powerhouse. It's a multi-level arcade called Joypolis, in a shopping mall called Aqua City, on the manmade Odaiba Island. Here's the entrance:
We checked out the Joypolis attraction called Prison Break: the guide spoke in Japanese, and Son No. 3 translated.
Now all amusement parks are on reduced hours and even days due to power shortages.
Shibuya and Aqua City are faves on the Western itinerary, but how many visitors make it out to Yomiuri Land? It's in the western suburbs, and took us a couple of hours to reach via subway -- because we went to the wrong stop first.
It's an amusement park near a training ground for the Yomiuri Giants baseball team. The roller coaster track is laid across several hills. The snack foods were very good, or maybe we were just hungry.
Tokyo lies on the Kanto Plain, without a lot of hills -- hence recent concerns on how the low-lying areas near the harbor and rivers will fare if a nearby temblor launches a tsunami.
We took this photo on the way to Odaiba Island. It's not set up to fight back the sea.
After Tokyo, we hopped on the Shinkanzen down the coast to the southwest, to Kyoto and Hiroshima. Very hospitable country, great for tourists. I'd go back tomorrow!
It struck me while riding the bullet train that there's little unused land anywhere near the populated areas. It's all taken up by buildings, roads, homes, cemeteries, factories, rice paddies, or forest preserves. So there's much discussion about where to put 100 million tons of so of earthquake and tsunami debris. After recycling and waste-to-energy combustion, I'm guessing some of it will be used as fill to elevate low areas.