Transit-Oriented Development

21 07 2011

I recently found an entry in the Temple University Philadelphia Neighborhoods blog on Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), that just happened to be about my neighborhood near Fox Chase train station. Ever since I lived in Tokyo, where this concept works well, I’ve been hoping for more of this in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

I walk to and from the Fox Chase train station every week day and I often wish that there could be even more development around it, especially shops open past 5:00 and on weekends. I don’t generally shop at the businesses around the train station, and I rarely see any of my fellow commuters stopping as they walk home. One major difference between Fox Chase and a suburb in Tokyo is that many of the commuters at Fox Chase park at the train station and drive home, so there isn’t a huge need for shops located right at the station. In Tokyo, most commuters walk or bike home from their stations, so it is much more convenient to do their grocery and other shopping right around the station on a daily basis.

On the weekend in Tokyo, these stations are centers that people would take trains to and shop at or eat at local restaurants. On weekends, it is rare that I would walk to Fox Chase station to have fun. If I need something I may walk to Rite Aid or WaWa, but the local coffee shop isn’t open on weekends and the shops that are there are mainly for necessities.

I don’t believe that the mindset of Americans is to walk or take a train to a center of business, unless they already live in the city or want to take a train down town from the suburbs.

I found a similar article on TOD in Tokyo. Mentioned here is the “Transportation Demand Management (TDM)” system, where “relatively high gas prices, expensive and limited parking, and narrow roads” make “mass transit the only viable option for commuting.” The article also mentions that this is a “lifestyle” that all Tokyo-ites have embraced and made to work as a collective group of citizens. It shapes their family lives and social lives and I believe that this lifestyle is a healthy one that more neighborhoods in the U.S. need to adopt.

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Fox Chase Train station businesses

Kichijoji train station, Tokyo

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Ghibli Museum

26 04 2008

“Let’s lose our way together,” I read in the brochure I received at the entrance of the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, Japan. “There aren’t any set routes that you must follow. You are the one to discover your own way. Those who can lose their way and fully enjoy this space are welcomed at the Museum.”

I decided I would have to remember back to the first time I went to Tokyo with my family, over 20 years ago as an 8-year-old, when I was overwhelmed with every new sight and sensation. I gazed up at the painting on the ceiling of a giant, tangled vine-like beanstalk featuring characters from Ghibli films with a smiling sun in the center and immediately felt the years start to melt away. A group of professional animators called Studio Ghibli created the pastel colored, magical museum in Inokashira Park, Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo. Hayao Miyazaki, the most well known animator of Ghibli, has produced many of the popular films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and the recent Academy Award winner Spirited Away. Studio Ghibli’s animated features, some of which have American versions, offer adult themes in a form fit for children (and childlike adults). Princess Mononoke voices the importance of nature and protecting the environment and My Neighbor Totoro introduces two young sisters whose mother is sick and are being brought up by their father.

It’s a good thing the museum didn’t exist when I was a child (it opened on October 1, 2001) or I would have begged my parents to take me every day. Children ran amok through the maze-like museum and after I got over the initial shock of being encouraged to act with no inhibitions in a museum, I joined them. My mom and I tried hard to get lost, and eventually did, leaving my father and brother behind to explore on our own, as we peeked behind every door and around every corner. Unfortunately, we couldn’t join in playing on the giant, fuzzy cat bus, one of my favorite characters from My Neighbor Totoro (little tykes only).The Ghibli Museum reveals secrets behind the films by displaying replicas of the animators’ rooms and studios complete with authentic sketches, photo albums, and books, which show works-in-progress and the animators’ inspirations.

Museum goers can see unique, original short animated features from Studio Ghibli in The Saturn Theater. Outside on the roof, accessed only by a winding metal staircase, stands a life-sized statue of a robot from Miyazaki’s futuristic film Laputa: Castle in the Sky (sorry, kids, no climbing allowed).

After running ourselves ragged, my family met at the gift shop where we picked up some souvenirs and then relaxed at the Straw Hat Café. We sat in the shade on the edge of the park and sipped our cold “Lamune,” a very sweet and fizzy drink, before we headed home, ready for a nap, with years stripped from our hearts and weight from our shoulders.