2009/08/12

Fast Trains, Slow Life, and an Old Indian

Last Saturday I took the train to Hinuma to work on Bluesette. K had driven up to Mito City to attend an English language lecture about the Ukraine and would join me later for lunch. While on the train, I noticed a hand bill about a model railroad event that was underway. It was being held at the Keisei department store in Mito City. The last day would be Tuesday.

Sunday, we went sailing, just beating the heavy weather that was on the way with Tropical Storm Etau, which at the time was causing a great deal of flooding and several deaths in Hyogo Prefecture just west of Kyoto and Osaka prefectures. (A passing shower did soak us, just as were pulling the boat out of the water). Luckily for us, when Monday came, the storm headed south of the Boso Peninsula and we just experienced the rains on the norther edge of Etau. Tuesday, the weather was actually very nice, so K drove us up to Mito for this 'kid' to see the model trains.


Keisei has a large room on their 7th floor which is used for special events like this. There was a section for the plastic train layouts for younger kids to check, out some small "N" gauge layouts, several larger model trains of famous Japanese lines, handmade models of steam locomotives, and a huge N gauge layout in the midst of it all.

At ¥304,500 ($3,150) this handmade N-gauge steam locomotive engine - one of many on display - is obviously intended for crazy dedicated railroad hobbyists only.


The main layout goes from rural mountains at one end, to a modern city at the other.



At the rural end of the layout there is a castle, farms, and a lake. (click picture to enlarge)


There was a video simulator so kids could see what it is like to drive a train and official JR coats and hats for them to try on. A long counter displayed individual cars as well as complete sets of N-gauge and larger HO gauge trains along with kits for making buildings.

K seemed both surprised and relieved that I didn't buy anything. A long time ago I had an N-gauge layout which I built in a walk-in closet. These days, I have enough hobbies and so neither the time or space to add model railroading to the mix. I still enjoy seeing them though.

Moving toward the city one finds a temple, park, and apartment buildings. Shinkansen ringed the table, while other express and local commuter trains ran on other tracks. (click picture to enlarge)


Around noon we left to find lunch. We have often enjoyed the Japanese restaurant at the top of the Keisei building, but this time we were headed for a little shop with an organic food restaurant in the back. Its just across Izumi-cho from Keisei and a few doors west, next to a Yamaha musical instruments store. Called Kanazawaya, the front part of the shop sells handmade chothes, bags, jewelry, crafts, soaps, and such, as well as environmentally safe pesticides for use in the home. K discovered this shop a few weeks ago and brought me back a nice bar of homemade olive oil soap. The also feature organic foods - rice milk, peanut butter, cereals, etc. from Alishan Organic Center in Saitama, from whom I purchase grains and beans.


Handmade goods are very popular in Japan. There are even clubs where people get together to make handicrafts, then periodically hold one-day sales to finance their club.

Another movement of which this restaurant is an example is called "Slow Life", which has been around for 15 years or so in Japan. As the name implies, it eschews the mindless frenzy often seen in "modern" culture and seeks to provide a more mindful, meaningful, and pleasant life. This includes "slow food". A sign on the glass at the front of Kanazawa-ya says "slow STYLE".


The restaurant is small, and has a comfortable yet fun atmosphere. On the menu were a quiche, tofu burgers and other organic dishes. We had tofu burgers - which also have veggies on them and shiso leaves for added flavor. The meal came with salad, a vegetable soup of onions, mushrooms, and bean sprouts, beverage and desert. All for ¥880 (about $9).





"fig grain coffee" pudding for desert

Their website is here: Kanazawa-ya (Japanese, but lots of pictures).

Then it was time to head home. As we sat at a stop light, still in Mito City, I looked across the street at an auto shop and was amazed to see and old Indian on the other side of the window!

This wasn't a person from New Delhi, nor a Native American. It was a 1920's vintage Indian motorcycle, as seen in the Anthony Hopkins movie "The Fastest Indian". (A very entertaining film by the way and based on a true story.)

I asked K to pull over somewhere so I could get a picture.

Well this old Indian was surely not the fastest, but certainly a rare find, especially in Japan.


I don't know much about motorcycles, but I used the Indian website to date this one and it appears that this model was built sometime in the 1920's.


All in all a fun day and nice change from sailing. With the storm passed, we'll be back on the water in a day or two.

5 comments:

HappySurfer said...

What a day of fun. The details of the landscape are amazing. I don't know anything about bikes either but that old Indian sure looks interesting - and huge too.

Great pictures, PandaB. Thanks for sharing.

Don Snabulus said...

That train layout was amazing. I am like you in that I really enjoy the hobby but lack the money, space, or time to pursue it. Thanks for sharing that.

The bike was neat too. Seeing the engine designs of that era is always interesting.

Pandabonium said...

Happy - that train layout was almost overwhelming, but I really liked many parts of it. The Indian was a pretty big bike. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Don - Yeah, I like to enjoy seeing things (yachts, train sets, airplanes, antique cars) that other people have spent money on.

It is amazing that Burt Monroe took an old design like the Indian and modified it over decades to break the under-1000cc world speed record, at Bonneville, 26 August 1967 - 47 years after the bike was first built - a record that still stands today.

The Moody Minstrel said...

My grandfather (mom's side) had an HO-scale model train layout in a room he'd built in his attic. It had quite an array of control panels he'd cobbled together using parts of old industrial machines. It even included a scratch-built, manually-blown train whistle system with different settings depending on the type of locomotive! I loved learning how to operate that layout over the years. When my grandfather finally died, I and the uncle that moved into the house were the only ones who knew how to work the layout. Unfortunately, within a year, my uncle broke his promise to the extended family and took a crowbar to it so he could turn the room into a craft shop.

I suppose I can understand my uncle's motives, but it was still a shame. I miss it.

I'd say that Indian was a serendipitous find! Amazing!

Pandabonium said...

Moody - that is a sad tale. It must have been wonderful playing with that set up with your grandfather.