Earlier this year I added an audio track to some photos of a wonderfully atmospheric old drinking alleyway. It was an experiment that definitely gave the images something extra, so having made a few recordings in Niigata’s unique Tsutsuishi station several years ago, I decided to re-edit the photos I’d taken, narrow down the selection and post them below with sounds that are arguably as distinctive as the station itself.
First built in 1912, it was originally above ground, but that all changed when the station underwent substantial changes in 1969. Now it’s 40 metres below the surface, and the only way to access the 2 platforms is by navigating several damp tunnels and 290 steps. A trek that users of Tsutsuishi have to make without any aid whatsoever, as there are no lifts or escalators. That said, it’s not exactly what you’d call a busy transit hub. Even back in 2004 the average number of daily commuters was only 68, but by 2019 it was down to just 15 hardy souls.
Also, despite it being a hot day when we visited, the tunnels and stark waiting areas were decidedly chilly, so what the temperatures must be like during the region’s long, bitterly cold winters really doesn’t bear thinking about. And if that wasn’t enough, the air pressure created by passing trains can cause hurricane-like winds — hence the austere looking metal doors.
Finally, in regards the audio, the first track is a reminder to help other passengers should there be any problems — something that’s especially important with the station being unmanned. The second clip indicates that a train is leaving, and the last, rather unnerving sounds, are to alert passengers when a train is arriving.
From January 8 to March 21, Tokyo was under its second state of emergency, which, just like the first one, pressed establishments serving alcohol into calling last orders at 7pm. It was a mostly observed request that resulted in fewer people going out drinking, and perhaps inevitably, more people just drinking early. Either way though, that freedom was missed, and the man below missed it so much that it rather ironically resulted in a temporarily enforced lockdown all his own making.
A restrictive measure that did lift after a little while, but just like the aforementioned rule on serving times that has been reintroduced again this week, the poor fella was forced into a further lockdown shortly afterwards.
On Monday, I sadly had to write an update concerning my wife’s now terminal cancer. It was an incredibly difficult post to put together, but I’m so very glad I did, as the warmth and support in the comments that followed were absolutely lovely. Responses that we both appreciate enormously.
Along with detailing my wife’s situation, I also mentioned that the time now devoted to care, and also simply being together, would inevitably mean a reduction of photographic updates from the usual three posts a week to just the one. Since then, however, I’ve realised that when the various health workers are here doing their thing, and when rest is required, I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands. Time that obviously has to be spent at home, indoors, which is something I’m really not that used to. As such, I’ve found myself going through older photos, doing some re-edits, and also thinking about different ways of presenting them. Hence the set below, and another schedule change, meaning for the time being at least, I’ll almost certainly be updating Fridays and Tuesdays. The latter with new photos, and the former with mostly older, or reworked images. The results of which will hopefully be as interesting for you as they are a welcome distraction for me.
These shots then are all from 2012. Photographically it was a pivotal year I think. After investing in a Leica in late 2011, I fully embraced the switch to a more compact camera system, and along with exploring certain themes, there was a concerted effort to get a bit closer, as well as embracing eye-contact instead of shying away from it. Approaches I’ve continued and hopefully expanded on ever since.
Back in 2015 I wrote about my wife being diagnosed with breast cancer, and then after an operation and extensive treatment, the joy of a clear result. The stress felt prior to subsequent tests, and the relief that followed them, continued for several happy years, but in 2019 the cancer returned. Even worse it was incurable.
Since then there’s been various kinds of treatment to try and contain it, along with the incredible strength, bravery and stoicism shown by Akiko, but the disease has continued to spread. So much so in fact that now all that’s left is time. Time to spend together, and hopefully time that doesn’t involve too much suffering. But it’s a time that’s distressingly limited, with only months rather than years remaining.
With family nearby, the necessary care and the importance of being together will be shared, so there’ll still be days when I get out with the camera for a stroll and a bit of a break. The simple pleasure of wandering about and taking photos has helped enormously up to now, and without a doubt that will continue to be the case. That said, the usual 3 updates a week simply won’t be possible, so from next week, I’ll keep Tokyo Times ticking over with posts every Wednesday, plus some possible extras should I have the opportunity. It’ll provide a welcome diversion more than anything, but also a chance to share what I’ve seen on what’ll be far more sporadic outings.
It sadly goes without saying that since the cancer returned, this truly awful scenario was always the outcome. Preparing for such an eventuality, on the other hand, is utterly impossible. We certainly weren’t prepared for it getting to this stage so quickly either. And that, I think, is all I can write for now. Life can be okay at times, even quite nice on occasions, but my god it can be cruel — horribly cruel beyond all belief.