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Take a Stroll Through the Backstreets of Japan

Matsushima, Tsuruga. Photo: Nevin Thompson

Matsushima, Tsuruga. Photo: Nevin Thompson

In the age of ubiquitous smartphone cameras and free online video storage, Slow TV has become a phenomenon. In this emerging genre, videos featuring complete train journeys are popular, as well as three-hour videos of tropical fish. Artist Kees Colijn has embarked on a video project that documents his “walk to the East.”

One Japanese YouTube user, satobo3104, has uploaded hundreds of videos documenting walks through old neighbourhoods all over Japan.

The videos do not feature any commentary. It's just a stroll down quiet side streets. It's a unique, meditative way to become immersed in the sights and sounds of places one might never normally get to see.

Matsushima (Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture)

Tsuruga is a small city on the Japan Sea Coast about an hour north of Kyoto by car. Matsushima is an older neighbourhood in Tsuruga, and the video perfectly captures the atmosphere of a quiet summer day.

Watch Part 2 and Part 3 here.

Yokota (Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture)

Takaoka is another small city on the Japan Sea Coast, and features many old-style Japanese houses in neighbourhoods that haven't changed much in several hundred years. The video takes us on a walk through the Yokota and Kanaya neighbourhoods, visiting shrines and temples along the way.

Of particular interest is the Senbon-koshi neighbourhood in Kanaya, a heritage site featuring streets lined with restored traditional homes.

Sonoda Shopping Street (Amagasaki, Hyogo)

This video provides a glimpse of a Japanese shotengai, or traditional shopping area in Sonoda, Amagasaki, just east of Kobe.

For much of Japan's postwar period, shotengai served as the heart of urban neighbourhood life in Japan. Small family-owned shops and eateries provided cheap and convenient staples, and often there are awnings overhead that protect shoppers from rain, snow, and hot sun. As Japan's population ages, fewer families live in these older neighbourhoods. Fewer local customers means shotengai are becoming a thing of the past.

Nishiki Market (Kyoto)

Covered markets still do quite well in some parts of Japan, especially if they cater to tourists. This video features a stroll through Kyoto's Nishiki Market. It's a great chance to catch a glimpse of everything from snow crab to cut flowers being offered for sale.

Tsukiji (Tokyo)

In this video we catch a glimpse of daily life in the heart of Tokyo, the world's largest city. We take a stroll through Tsukiji, just east of Ginza. The narrow streets are lined with older houses, providing a sharp contrast to the sleek, gleaming cityscape located just a few blocks away.

Many more videos of neighbourhood walks in Japan can be found on satobo3104 channel.

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