walking Shibuya

Red light is on, hundreds of people are waiting quietly. Red light blinks, it changes to yellow and then to green, and movement in all directions starts. I cross the street and I need to decide quickly which direction to take. As I want to observe the area, without having specific spot on my mind and by stopping, I am disturbing the flow of those who are on their way to ‘somewhere’. First thing that I can see is the construction site. It adds to the image of the place (of a small piece of Shibuya that I can see from this point) in a way that imposes upon all other, less obvious and smaller in scale places. One would think – there is nothing around there except the construction site. However, on the left side there is a line, people are lined up and waiting patiently (as people in Japan do, without noise and somehow unnoticeable, if you don’t stop and take a moment to look around). They are waiting for the bus, which at the very same moment when I saw them, approaches slowly making wide U turn. Behind this one is another one, and two more are showing their noses, arising and coming up and coming out from ‘under’ the elevated railway track. Bus stations themselves are wrapped up, composed out of simple elements including traffic cones in vivid colours, fences (without colours) etc... East side of the station holds these elements all together, in a form of a ‘wounded’ bus stop, temporarily protected by ‘bandaids’.
Amount of the signs is impalpable. Besides the sounds of traffic, sounds of cars, trains, cranes, voices of traffic officers and noises of the crowd, sounds of the shoes of the crowd, and conversations of passengers; these signs are screaming out the proper and accepted ways of behaving and ‘using’ the station area. They are also warning us and saving us, pedestrians, from any possible mistake such as moving in a wrong direction or towards the forbidden area.
As I move forward I see a man, a worker, in his 60s. He is standing there in his yellow fluorescent uniform, holding a sign and redirecting buses, helping them to arrive in perfect order, at the very exact time when they are supposed to arrive, to the small wrapped up bus stops. In front of him there is a small installation of temporary elements; one of them is a fence, separating people from vehicles, creating two kinds of flows (the one for the people and the one for the buses) and forming the third one, the area for workers. On the fence, there are two ‘string bags’, a bottle of water and a cleaning liquid, hanging on it. And there is a plastic bag, leaned on it. Appropriated and domesticated place.
On the right side, just in front of the entrance to the train station, there is a kiosk. I see a woman and a woman sees me. We look at each other for a split of a second and I am embarrassed for making a photo of her. Then, when looking at the photo I realize she posed, she was aware of me. Surrounded by the movement she sits still in her small box, less than a meter wide. She sells luck, lottery, and she looked at me. I wonder how does she move, does she move at all and does she make a break? As I move forward I see – she probably does move, she makes the break (the one that comes out of the necessity at least). On the left side, under the stairs, next to the pedestrian, there is a restroom. For man and for man. Maybe she doesn't move, after all? There are two doors, lavatory in between, light above and a small green fence on the left. And a storage. Two of them, to be more precise - formal one and informal one. Formal one with space for utilities and informal one, just behind the fence, with a towel hanging on a hanger, with a pair of purple gloves, a bucket and a locker. Altogether they are adding to the cityscape with their colour. Even more, they are signs and traces of ordinary, daily life that takes places along and in parallel with the life of the passers by. It is the environment appropriated and transformed, domesticated.
A little bit further, if one keeps walking through the narrow path, between grey fences and noises of the site, two things are noticeable. On the right side work in progress, similar to the ones described above, on the left side traffic. Four lanes are coming from the lower level up, through the concrete structures holding the ‘highway’. In front, but above, on the third level, are trains and people waiting for trains. Light doesn’t come in, at least not at this hour or not at this point. It’s cold, dark and eyes need to adjust, temperature in the shade and temperature in the sun must be at least 10 degrees different. Purpose of this space is only one – to get to the entrance of the train station. After that, one keeps moving, hurrying to escape the noise if familiar with the environment and stopping to make photos if visiting for the first time. Or for the second time. Maybe for the first couple of times? Maybe every time? If one stops, one can see the other side through the forest of columns. On the other side of the road with four lanes lamps are lanterns and shutters. Shops are closed, but again, perhaps only at this hour. Whether closed or not, they don’t give a sign of comfort, having no windows, but only small doors and ventilation (coming out directly to the street). But to discuss that, one needs to enter. While looking at lanterns, thinking about their interior, only thing one does is causing a congestion.
Soon after, the entrance to the train station is a parking for bicycles. Or rather an illegal parking for bicycles. It’s next to the beds and paper homes of homeless in Shibuya. Behind them, few steps away, overpass finishes and there comes the light.
Evening light.
Low (blinding) sun,
long shades
and view of another overpass
and another,
high Shibuya.