Autumnal Influences - Colours of Cherry / 17 September 2013
Typically the day of my planned Sky Tree visit, it rains. Early morning thunder is accompanied by sheets of vertical water that obscure visibility and never quite relinquish their hold on the morning. Plus endless rolling black cloud sitting low in the sky.
By 14.00 when it really is too late, we have blue sky and sunshine and an alternative plan.
Tokyo Hands is permanently on my wish list, the one in Shinjuku having a great selection of craft and DIY stuff perfect for arts and installations. Getting to Shinjuku on the metro requires a change of line along the way and to my surprise the man-with-the-ramp had no ramp. Often the ramp is not technically necessary, but I certainly felt safer with it. Here the gaps were wide enough for the little front wheels of the chair to fall through. I was met at Shinjuku by a female member of the station staff, again with no ramp.
Shinjuku's Times Square is being renewed and had almost disappeared under scaffolding, my route looked a little uncertain, but patience revealed ramps and elevators and good access to the Tokyo Hands store.
It does not disappoint. I could spent weeks inside if they would be happy to have an artist in residence. As it is I came away with a bag of small tools and various bits and pieces. I left wanting to take with me beautiful pieces of wood, brass and white enamelled fixings, pieces of leather, gorgeous paper, paint, more neat tools and fixings, wire and sheets of smooth and textured rubber...too much to catalogue, but at least half of the stock on seven floors of inspiration.
Outside it was already dark - the bright-lights, mega-city dark that is so invigorating; Tokyo dark that I find such fun to be out in, wheelborne, female, but safe. People safe.
Coming back on the train I do not ask for assistance, without the ramp it seems pointless. The sway of this giant snake-train through its underground lair (seven levels deep) is more obvious when it is practically empty. Tokyo trains are not always packed with bodies. I sit, people watching.
Out and about today I met three other people in wheelchairs and five ambulant people with noticeable mobility impairments. One of them almost collided with me in spite of my best avoidance tactics, his side to side sway being not easy for him to control. I have seen deaf people signing, but no obviously blind people. No guide dogs... But there are Braille signs in most lifts, and bright yellow raised lines and bumps on pavements and also in the metro. Underground they serve to indicate platform edges, routes to elevators and ticket facilities.
In 2003 a law was passed guaranteeing full access rights to Japanese trained service dogs: guide dogs, hearing and mobility dogs. Temporary ID's for visiting service dogs may be obtained from Japan's Guide Dog Association JGDA.
Disaster struck when I attempted to get off the train. The little wheels got jammed in the gap between platform and train. My cushions slide, so in spite of clinging to my chair, I was being tipped out in that dramatic slow motion sensation caused by fear.
And pain freezes me.
Concerned People gathered instantly. Arms reached out. Before I can pass out my chair was lifted and I was rescued onto the platform.
I sat quietly on the empty platform to recover a little and adjust my cushions. I needed to get back up to ground level and into a better state before continuing my journey.
With assistance, I would probably have been advised to board a different carriage, or maybe the driver would have been advised that this carriage needed specific positioning not to lean away from the platform.
And I probably need to learn how to ask specifically for the ramp, rather than just 'assistance'.
Happily I could be relaxed about the final part of the journey. At my destination the platform lift for my wheelchair needs station staff to operate it so they are always forewarned and always come with a ramp.
People-watching on the train
I get opportunity to see
the sockless feet of male
followers of fashion, but
fail to spot last season's trend
of flowered trouser. Autumn
influences everyone. People
anticipating colours of acer
and cherry turn to autumn
foods with seasonal attention.
'Autumn Knife Fish' awaits
my homecoming, grilled Sanma
bought-in to avoid the smoke.
The tang of this ungutted star
excites my taste-buds, draws
my thought out
of the snake-train depths
up, closer to the sunlight.