JIN-301 -- Heartsease Under the El

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:

T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R

Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
Issue No. 301
Thursday December 9, 2004

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Heartsease Under the El

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Heartsease Under the El

Several decades ago, Arthur Koestler, the eminent Hungarian writer, on a
stroll through a d馗lass・Tokyo neighborhood, remarked upon the 鍍ortured
use of space.・Indeed space in Tokyo is put to excruciating uses --
postage-stamp patches of land turned into two-car parking lots, shrines
set atop roofs, buildings erected in pencil-narrow dimensions, pubs
and eateries opened in cubby holes under elevated railway lines.

The last-mentioned have enjoyed anything but a posh reputation.
Besides greasy spoons the area under elevated tracks is associated
in the popular mind with push carts and parking spaces. But that
conception may change as the below-the-rail honeycomb is put to
new uses. Public baths, nursery schools, nursing-care facilities
and even hotels are opening beneath the tracks.

A ramen, or Chinese noodle, theme park opened in a previously unused
space beneath the elevated railway tracks near Shinagawa Station on
the Tokyu Line. 展e decided to make an investment in a business that
would bring a greater return than a parking lot,・commented a
spokesperson for Keihin Electric Express Railway Co., Ltd., the
railroad owner.

Odakyu Electric Railway Co., which has increased the length of its
elevated railway in tandem with laying quadruple tracks, is
commercially exploiting the ribbon of el way through Tokyo
metropolitan residential districts. The railway is not only renting
out storage space under the tracks but also opening sub-railway
nursery schools in succession.

This has been made possible by structural improvements in rails and
rolling stock that have rendered the sub-el environment quieter.

摘ven during nap time the rumble of trains doesn't bother the children,・
says the director of the Odakyu Mukku Nursery School, built beneath the
elevated railway near Izumi Tamagawa Station. 典he children are louder
than the trains.・

Near Maihama Station on the JR Keiyo line, a 10-minute walk from Tokyo
Disneyland, the Hotel Dream Gate Maihama hangs from the bottom of the el
like a bat from a belfry. What seems to require a willing suspension of
disbelief is real thanks to JR East Japan痴 new anti-vibration
technology for a quiet environment.

The technology has converted the once-weed-covered sub-el space into
a gold mine. Hotel Dream Gate Maihama had an occupancy rate above 90
percent, and sales, including sales from its convenience store, have
reached 5 million yen in a single day.

Meanwhile, across the Alps, in Nagano, students at Kita-Saku
Agricultural High School have begun experimentally raising shiba goats
beneath the intersection of the Koumi and Shinkansen lines near Saku
Station. Students are raising five goats in two areas cleared of garbage,
enclosed by wire fence, and supplied with water from drainage pipes for
the elevated railway. The goats subsist on weeds. More than just subsist,
they are flourishing, having given birth to two kids.

Seniors and families come to feed the goats in the ranch under the rails.
Its student-ranchers wrote in their reports the ranch had become
a place for relief of stress.

The sub-el netherworld of coffin-like space and shaking walls is
shedding its down-at-the-heels postwar lumpen proletariat image. It
has morphed into a place of consolatory power.

-- Burritt Sabin

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Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)


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