We leave the centre of Tokyo, its suburbs, and the final but never-ending avenue where all the glowing love hotels are lined up with the noisy pachinko parlors. The rural ambience grows. Convenience stores are still dotted here and there but soon we reach the countryside proper. Japanese houses surrounded by paddy fields already make us feel we are a lifetime away from the city. We leave the last blast of small buildings behind with no regrets.
The road now winds through many industrial and run-down towns. We often have to stop at a junction although there are no cars – the stoplights are still functioning. Ghostly figures would be no surprise but they don’t show up either. In the distance, a humongous ferris wheel can be seen – crows too are wheeling around.
Then we reach the mountains. They’re never really far away. Black smoke, odd fragrances. In the shadows, industrial complexes are still running. They look like rusty antiques, an artistic mix of oily Art Deco and steampunk smashed together. Workers only seem to be active here and there and they already know they will be the last. We finally reach the local village, where these workers are from.
It’s already dark and only the street lights at the central crossroad are working. The village street looks desperately said and a melancholic song starts playing suddenly, out of nowhere. It echoes around the whole village. They say this is a gentle reminder for the kids to go home before dark but there are none on these streets. The little school has been closed for a long time now. This is just a test for the local loudspeakers, a systematic way to make sure they still work in case of a major disaster, throughout Japan.
Not everything is depressing and dark in these lands far away from the Japanese metropolises. Retired people enjoy their golden years surrounded by the friends they’ve had forever, sharing local dishes and sake while playing games until late at night. Their kids have all left home but there’s still hope they will return.
But now different kinds of people come here. They may be photographers, adventurers, historians, artists or anything in between, but share one thing in common: their wish for those fragile strings between yesterday and tomorrow to last a while longer. So that they can hear all the stories they have to share.