Cyclogeography 5: Somewhere in Asia

miyadera-horinouchi-saitama-2016
Miyadera & Horinouchi, Saitama, Japan

When I was younger I used to watch re-runs of the stylish 60s TV cop series The Man From Uncle. Still like watching them now. Occasionally, a pre-sequence of an episode would typically begin with someone pursing someone with deadly intent and usually  in the middle of an uncultivated environment. Then, a screen title appears, ‘Somewhere in Africa’. Such vagueness with geographical referencing I found outlandish yet fascinating and original. When I get occasionally lost though usually not being pursued with deadly intent while cycling, that peculiar TV graphic reference springs to mind.

On this particular hot afternoon I wasn’t lost. I was drifting around Miyadera, a remote countryside area in Iruma shi, Saitama. Getting off the overbearing 179 road, I ventured into a quiet residential area. The look, the feel, the smell of the area was very scenic. I passed a closed post office, a closed independent grocery store, a closed hair salon and a closed petrol station. What was even more peculiar was the fact that I seemed to be the only person in the vicinity. The only thing in motion. Time was standing still yet I was allowed to move. The desolateness was most intriguing. I got off the ‘birdy’ and panned this experience. I waited a little, still nothing. I cycled back down to the main road, all the time, looking back, but still not a soul in sight.

SOUND DETAILS FROM FREESOUND.ORG:

Both effects put into audacity, amplified with echo. Details below from sound authors.

Howling wind effect: A doctored vocal imitation of a cold howling wind. Recorded using a Blue Yeti USB microphone. includes reverb and light stereo panning effectsCrickets: A minute of raw audio of night wildlife in Callahan, Florida. Crickets more or less dominate the ambiance.

 

Traffic interrupted the drift back to base. A long stretch of cars, bikes, trucks, some heavy articulated trucks were building up, clogging the 179. Many of the vehicles were too close to the curb so I dismounted the bike and walked for a while on the pavement slowly passing the steadily moving traffic. Down a few winding roads, I could see the turn-off in the distance. A small battered drive way on an incline caught my eye along the way. I noticed an old Showa house practically in ruins at the end of the drive. My eyes lit up instantly. I strolled down the drive way as though I lived there. Anyone watching me from the traffic would have thought so. Anyway, I was now on public property, I considered what to say in the event of being greeted by a person bearing a frown emerging from the front door entrance, holding a shotgun (as if!).  Fortunately, no one seemed to be around but a pair of old grey trousers on a rusty metal hanger hanging outside suggested a presence. Obscured from the drive way view was another ruin of a house but this one had much more character. This one was my cup of tea. It was connected to a structure I couldn’t work out. A workhouse of some kind. The protecting outer layers of wood had completely deteriorated. What was left were a chaotic assembly of upright rotting beams with buckets, bottles, ubiquitous yellow plastic crates and other nondescript ephemeral articles poking out of the weeds and brambles. Looking at this spectacle made me think if this were a human body, then I would be observing static internal organs. I sketched some of the outline but then re-positioned myself. Over the next few weeks I would return to this very spot. However, I’ve not been back to the area in Miyadera though. That picture of emptiness and abandonment still resonates in my mind.

horinouchi-saitama-2016

Horinouchi, Tokorozawa Shi, Saitama Ken (2016)

 

 

 

 

 

Cyclogeography 4: Spinning Tins & Rusty Ruins

Mikajima, Saitama, Japan

mikajima-2016

I cycled through and around Mikajima one ferociously, hot afternoon early this month. Mikajima is a very rural area of Tokorozawa-shi , Saitama in Japan.

In the middle of nowhere I felt, surrounded by fields, farms, orchards, meandering dirt tracks and farmers scattered around in the fields. I’m not alone then. The sky cloudless with a slight soft breeze, insects buzzing and screeching away at high volume. I’m filled with a wonderful agoraphobic sensation.

Along a long stretch of road, I passed an old house and stopped on pause. The improvised wind chime in the form of spinning beer tins tingled away when catching that bit of breeze. An old man gardening, looked my way, smiled though nonchalant about his spinning tins being filmed.

 

 

From the fields and down a mysterious pathway I pedaled, round a few corners, the not knowing started to excite. Then, a dusty lane took me down a path, obscured by flowing trees. I ventured down and come across a few hidden, rickety, forgotten old houses. However, my attention was immediately grabbed by a structure which seemed half standing and half falling, like something in suspended animation. The surrounding shrubbery, gloriously unkept with an abundance of discarded objects decorated the scene.  As I drew nearer, the rotting wood, rusty corrugated iron strips, weeds peering out and the hard dry earth all became more apparent and visual. A deserted spectacle but now left as an exhibit to the curious passer-by. I found a shady area, took out the sketching tools and began to record, after all, it might be gone by tomorrow.

Mikajima House (edited 2016).jpg

 

 

 

 

Cyclogeography 3:Tokyo to Saitama Drift

Asagaya-Sayamagaoka (July 30 2016).jpg.jpg

Drift Starting & Ending Points: Narita Higashi (Suginami-ku, Tokyo) -Nishi Sayamagaoka-Tokorozawa-shi, Saitama) 

Distance (approx) 20 miles/33 kilometres

A longer drift than normal and in familiar environments.  The starting and ending points are locations where have I have to where I presently live. Drift date, 30th July, 2016.

I set off quite late that day, around 3:00 p.m. The Japanese summer heat is much cooler at that time of day. By doing so, I found I could drift along fairly comfortably at a relaxed pace.

I had a rough idea about the route I would follow though it was expected that my direction would spiral out of control at some point. And that’s usually when the excitement and adventure starts. Like a boy scout, my crumpled paper ordinance survey is somewhere in the depths of my rucksack as it comes in handy when venturing into the unknown. comes in. As far as technology is concerned, I’m not quite up to date. I mean I don’t carry any electronic navigation tools so in that sense there is more chance of serendipity. A magical chance encounter!

I began by following Nakasugi-dori Avenue which would lead me to Saganomiya train station on the Seibu Shinjuku line. Then, I followed the line to Kampachi-dori Avenue which is an absolute mother of a road in Tokyo. I was relieved to get off that awful, obtrusive road. Anyway, the road headed northwards and I eventually got to Nakamurabashi station on the Seibu Ikebukuro line. Still on track (excuse the pun). The light was now dimming, the environment softening to oranges and browns. I was now in unchartered territory. All I had to do was simply follow the train line. Eight stops until Tokorozawa, that shouldn’t be difficult, I thought. However, when I got to Hibarigaoka I couldn’t follow the line so easily so I decided to deviate slightly but stay in the same direction. It was a welcome change peacefully riding along the country roads, I felt more freedom and unrestricted. No weighty, articulated trucks breathing heavily and overbearingly on your shoulder . However free I felt, I was beginning to get a bit anxious as I couldn’t see a road sign for quite some time. I was just floating around fields, along rivers and the occasional A-road. All the time hoping that I would end up back on course. Not that it really mattered.

I finally ended up at Kumegawa courtesy old an elderly lady who gave me directions using her walking stick! Now I was back on the Seibu Shinjuku line! God knows how and where I deviated but the line lead to Tokorozawa. I just took the long route, a more scenic route, the getting lost route. Eventually, I got to Tokorozawa station around 6 p.m. and I’m back following the Seibu Ikebukuro line. However, from Tokorozawa station to Nishi Tokorozawa station was another hurdle, it seemed impossible to follow the line. It was dark now too which changed the mood. I had never lost my way cycling in the dark before. After about an hour of cycling down dimly lit quiet streets, past a few creepy graveyards, going down numerous dead-ends and asking a few hundred people for directions, I finally got home and was shattered. But what an exhilarating adventure!

Part of this experience involves recording old Showa architecture. I saw many engaging places along the way. Oddly enough, it was a Yakitori (skewered chicken) shop, which caught my eye the most. It is located where I began the big drift, in Narita Higashi. One side of the shop is littered by greasy canisters and other with various dirty-looking objects. What a spectacle! You would never see this back in the UK, Health & Safety inspectors would have closed the place down years ago. It will eventually get knocked down or even closed down in the near future but at least now it’s recorded in my sketchbook.

Yakitori Shop 2 (2016).jpg

Cyclogeography 2: Sumigawa River Drift

Nishi Sayamagaoka- Ome (Hatanaka)

Drift Starting & Ending Points: Nishi Sayamagaoka- Oume (Hatanaka)

Distance (approx) 12 miles/19.3 kilometres

Following on from my first cyclogeography post back in November last year, a drift earlier this month took me around my new surroundings in Saitama prefecture  . Saitama  borders Tokyo and other prefectures. In an unfamiliar environment and my limited sense of direction, this mindless pursuit was very stimulating. Once off the busy, frantic , overbearing highway (463), my drift took me to natural surroundings and I felt more at ease. I found myself alternating between river trail and Route 63 . The river, being enveloped by trees, became a refuge as it offered resistance from the heavy sun and suffocating heat. The light flickered and dazzled brightly on the river surface while the lazy trout were clearly seen in clusters swishing around on the river bed. As well as the river trail, my attention was diverted to the surrounding architecture. There are many old glorious structures almost in ruins. How have they survived typhoons and earthquakes over the years?, I wondered to myself.

I recorded a bit of footage, the visuals are nothing special though it’s the sound that I find particularly engaging. The cicadas, when screeching in unison, are deafening but it’s a ubiquitous sound of the Japanese summer.

SOUNDS OF THE SUMIGAWA RIVER TRAIL  

 

I headed off from the Sumigawa river and pedalled still sprightly into Hatanaka, a district in Ome-shi. Along the way, I  was particularly drawn to this old house. A house most definitely build during the Showa period (1926-1989). It’s characteristics being a little unusual as it’s made up of wood and corrugated iron. The lower structure could have been built for industrial purposes. I’m memorised by this hideous yet fantastic spectacle. I decided to take refreshments at this spot near a desolate bus stop. With my note pad, I made a few preliminary sketches. The surrounding debris and worn objects were scattered around in no particular order. This space seemed still and lifeless, yet there was evidence of life existence within. It would be great to live here, I thought. I imagined about its interior and how worn the tatami would be.  Then I thought about my mother-in-law and her rambling shack  just up the road, comparing and contrasting while sketching. Here the mayhem is visible on the outside. A dusty, old, orange bus passed and a few curious heads looked my way.

 Ome-shi Showa House

Ome-shi 2(2016)