I live in Tokyo now but most of my friends and family do not. The main idea here is that I can tell these people about interesting things that happen and are seen.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Happy New Year and Chiba Sucks


here is a pie chart that i made about new year's eve:

(click on the graph to make it legible eh)

I was blessed with the company of good friends over the Christ's Mass and New Year's period - our adventures were many, and our depradations upon the weak most grim. Tears and laughter spilled from our respective faces and teemed and roiled upon the streets, just as rain from the sky didn't - except for a couple of days maybe - what I am saying here is that we had fun and the weather was good (though cold! Oh so cold! I had to pull my hat down over my whole face more than once).

Further details of our exploits may emerge in the future but for the time being the flickers is updated. A record of selected moments from those occasional times that I remembered to bring my camera and didn't leave the battery at home... this included most times when nothing particularly interesting was going on nearby.

Anyway the main idea I have to present to you today is that Chiba SUCKS. This is a thought about Chiba that originally occurred to me one day when I looked out a window on the 19th floor of the 100 Sen building and saw this:

I think we can all agree that is mostly a picture of some bull crap - in fact this is kind of the good side as you can't see the exhaust stacks from the various oil refineries that dot the harbourside belching plumes of flame into the night. It is a terrible place. When someone uses the word "hole" in my vicinity I immediately think of Chiba city instead of, say, some kind of space in the ground or an aperture on the surface of an object.

Well, it seems my intuitions on the subject are confirmed. Yesterday, Dave was leaving and needed to check in at the airport around 3:30pm, so I figgered we'd kill the afternoon in Chiba - it's a convenient mid-point between my place and the airport, and the train station has ample lockers for a dude to stash his backpack.

"What attractions does Chiba offer a traveller whose stay is virtually over and who doesn't care overmuch about the quality of his last few experiences?" - that is what I wondered to myself. The answer to this question is: NOOOOOOO.


Here's the official japan-guide.com entry for Chiba. But don't bother reading it - allow me to summarize:

"Many tourists visit Chiba... because the main airport is there. Here's a picture of a plane! FULL STOP. [noise of a goose honking]"

I mean the entire purpose of that website is to make people hyped up about Japan being awesome. It is not supposed to be giving any real objective or critical view - yet their best attempt at positive spin is: "CHIBA... there's an airport!"

"CHIBA: We make it easy to leave!"

Japan Reference rather apologetically notes Chiba's economic importance and concedes that it is "not a major touristical destination" (touristical, Japan Reference? TOURISTICAL???). The reconstruction of Chiba Castle is damned with faint praise, being "large enough to be appreciated".

The Lonely Planet, meanwhile, maintains a monkish silence and omits Chiba from its index altogether.

And Wikitravel actually goes so far as to actively mock Chiba (in between irrelevant references to William Gibson's use of Chiba as a setting in Neuromancer, doubtless inserted by some fanboy editor). A sample attraction:

[Chiba Port Tower] offers views of the surrounding industrial wastelands and container docks, at least for a kilometer or two until they fade off in the smog. There is also a delightfully pathetic display of stuffed fish mounted on sticks in a simulated ocean environment downstairs; the simulation is needed since heavily polluted Chiba Bay hasn't sustained anything above seaweed (or with less than 3 eyes) for quite a while. Entry ¥410, open daily from 9 AM to 7 PM (or 9 PM in summer).

So basically I feel justified in being completely racist about Chiba now, and all the more eager to uproot myself from the suburbs and move into some over-priced meat locker of an apartment closer to the heart of Tokyo.

(DISCLAIMER: I guess I am mainly dissing Chiba City here. Chiba Prefecture appears to maybe have some pretty good stuff in it - but Chiba City is making a hell of weaksauce effort for Japan's 13th biggest city - does even the pachinko suck in Chiba? Do they only have like "Demolition Man" and "Addams Family Values" machines from ten years ago? I imagine a generation or forklift drivers, trapped playing "Guns'n'Roses" themed pachislot and dreaming of the day they can afford to move to Yokohama...)

No real conclusion by the way - Chiba sucks, I'm getting the hell out of it. That's the deal.


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