1 Introduction and infrastructure
Table of contents:
- 1.1 Tokyo's Public Infrastructure
- 1.1.2 Railway
- 1.1.3 Motorway
- 1.2 Geography
- 1.2.1 Storm Water Prevention
- 1.3 Food supply
- 1.3.1 Supermarkets
- 1.3.2 Fast food trends in 2018
- 1.3.3 Tsukiji fish market
- 1.4 smaller business, dollar stores and more
1.1 Tokyo's public infrastructure
Tokyo's railway system is one of the most efficient in the world. The trains arrive on the second, inch-perfectly coming to a stand. During peak periods many trains run every 2,5 minutes.
By other train companies the Japan example is often consulted due to it's excellent organization and management. 1987 the state sold out the Japanese National Railway company to private companies. Since then Tokyo's rail network is run by 7 major carriers. Between them every ride has to be paid separately and except for the Tokyo Metro a long term ticket can't be bought. To take a full round in the inner city circle/get from one side of Tokyo to the other with the JR Yamanote line cost 600 Yen (~5 Euro).
For people the train is the most common mean of transportation in Tokyo. Depending on the operator the trains navigate on a vast net of bridge and embankment systems all around the city, in opened tunnels and underground systems or automatically driving on a monorail. All trains are equipped with earthquake early warning system (EEW) which automatically stops the train in the case seismic waves have been recorded. The busiest (underground) station is the Shinjuku station which is the central nod for Tokyo's many commuting employees. Three million commuters every day.
Due to elevated freeways transportation works very smoothly in Tokyo: Vehicles can easily navigate through the center, reach the outskirts and get to the countryside, as well. Regularly at daytime, especially during some night hours, the streets can be found quiet empty. I never encountered a traffic jam. Also I never smelled exhaust emissions when roaming through the streets.
Owning a car is not common for the local middle class. For small distances bicycles with a low saddle and a basket are favored.
Even tough there are special Japanese car and van models with small motors and speed maximum of 70 km/h. Tokyo is home to a big car tuning scene, as well. Tuners all around the world love JDM cars.
In residential areas pedestrians and bicycles have priority in traffic. In general there is more parking space than cars using it. For an expansive daily fee ground level parking areas are available at any time and everywhere in the city. Private parking space is build with adjustable multilevel-parking-decks.
70% of the land is covered with mountains and forests. Most of the inhabited zones can be found close to the coasts. The archipelago of Japan has a humid climate with cool temperatures in the north and subtropical temperature in the south. Constant strong winds bring fresh air from the ocean.
Japan is situated within a highly active volcanic region: the Pacific Ring of Fire. On the colliding edges of four tectonic plates modest earthquakes are occurring on a daily basis. Strong earthquakes usually are originating deep under the seabed and causing Tsunamis (a word also of Japanese origin) in their wake.
Historical records document one major earthquake approximately every 70 years. For Tokyo the next big one is about to come soon. The social implications will be further thematized in chapter 2.
Geographically, Tokyo is in a wild location: Constant strong winds, typhoons, heavy rains, earthquakes.
1.2.1 Storm Water Prevention:
This underground facility should prevent the flooding of 6 rivers in the north of Tokyo. Caused by excessive extraction of ground water in the 1960’s and 70’s the urban and agricultural areas around Tokyo had sunk below sea level, today.
1.3 Food supply
Japan is famous for many culinary specialties. In Tokyo I often ate Sashimi, Sushi, Ramen, Udon, Soba. The traditional kitchen is fresh and seasonal, style and ingredients of course refer to the different regions. The ingredients are separately prepared, separately served, and meticulously decorated. A second helping does not exist. There are small tidbits, bites and snacks, instead. Their flavor is differentiated and reduced to only some spices. The taste of traditional Japanese food can be described as mellow and pure.
For long time eating meat was a dietary taboo in Japan. Buddhism proscribed the killing of four-legged animals - until Japan adapted various Western technologies and practices during the Meji era. It is said, that the Japanese emperor was impressed by the physical appearance and tallness of the western military men. For that, he accounted their diet of eating meat. Soon he had his first meal with beef in 1872 and introduced this habitat to his own folks.
Food is relatively expensive in Japan. People spent 25 % of their wages on food. Two kilograms of rice cost about 1000 Yen in a supermarket. The rice agriculture is highly subsidized and imports sanctioned. Japan’s production capacity of rice covers half of the nation’s demand. Most of the imported food comes from China.
Mac Donald’s and plastic-packed ready-dishes from the convenient store also make up big parts of the fast food supply. For the cook at home, the highest quality of food comes from the supermarkets. An entire mackerel (30 cm long) costs just the equivalent of 65 €-cents in a supermarket in Tokyo. A cucumber (15 cm length) costs 40 cents and a normal apple costs 90 cents.10 % percent of world’s fish catch is eaten by one island nation. But the annual number is declining. The average fish & seafood consumption per capita dropped from 66,7 kg in 1991 to 33,5 kg in 2016. The younger generations shows more interest in meat and foreign food. Freezers (and the pizzas inside) can’t be found in supermarkets, yet.
1.3.2 Fast food trends in 2018
- Takoyaki (fried balls made from flour and octopus)
- American Dog (sausage, cheese and bun-on-a-stick)
- Grilled chicken and cheese (Korean origin)
1.3.3 Tsukiji fish market
The Tsukiji fish market - which had been relocated in 2019 and now has a new name - is the place where restaurant chiefs and sushi masters buy their fish in the early mornings. While people shout at the tuna auction very loudly, the rest of the market was an unexpected quiet bustle of electric carts, barrows and trucks.
1.4 smaller business, dollar stores and more
I found Japanese aesthetics in the small shops and businesses on Tokyo's small streets and residential areas. Taste, awareness and the perception by some store owners – well-frequented or unfrequented - were phenomenal.