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


Roppongi Hills, Tokyo

29 06 2009

On a recent trip to Japan I scheduled in a trip to Roppongi Hills, an upscale space in a gaijin-centric part of Tokyo. I had avoided The Hills when I lived in Tokyo but decided that as a tourist I really should check it out.

The Star Wars-like architecture of Roppongi Hills boasts open spaces, stone walls, wind tunnels, and space age design. The area didn’t win me over, but I’m glad I finally saw it and got to laugh at the boutiques of plastic bags selling for over $100.
Roppongi Hillsexplanation whywind tunnelgot milk?cascadesspiiiderI love you spider!

We took the Minato City bus to the Hills from the apartment but walked back (a few miles, 7 miles total all day)

Timing: Got bus at 10:30, arrived Azabu Juban at 11:00
Cost: 100 yen per person (one way)
Time elapsed: 5 hours
Walked home: free
Accomplished: omiyage shopping, gawking at Roppongi Hills, walking on a 65-degree day in February
Breakfast: Starbucks, 900 yen
Lunch: bakery, 1000 yen

Meiji Jingu Wedding

15 06 2009

I’ve been trying to figure out how to use my iMovie Application and so far I have figured out how to edit the beginnings/ends and add titles. Progress! Here is my latest project from our trip to Japan in February, a wedding at Meiji Jingu in Harajuku.

Ghibli Museum: Six Years Later

13 05 2009

Matt is a recovering anime geek and I am a fake one. We both love Miyazaki films. Anime became a part of my life when I was 8 years old, living in Japan with my family, and the only kids’ shows on TV were An Pan Man and Dragonball.  My 4-year-old brother and I would watch and learn random Japanese phrases.  When I met Matt, he was President of the Anime Club at his university.  “What a dork,” I thought.  And then the memories of my summer in Japan came flooding back, as well as the realization that Tonari no Totoro, one of my favorite films, is anime.  The horror!  I slowly gave in to the part of myself that likes some anime and in 2003 I went to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo for the first time (read my story on that here).  Matt had gone in 2002.  When we finally went to Japan together in February, we went back to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo together.  Fun stuff! Except that adults still can’t play on the neko bus and you aren’t allowed to take pictures inside. I did my best.



water fountain



the compound




dust bunnies



giant totoro


Not the Neko Bus, but it does Spirit You Away!

Buying tickets for the museum can be tricky. At any Lawson location you can purchase them through ticket machines. Very confusing, even with some language ability. Your best bet is to bring someone who reads the language or ask a kind shop worker for help. 

This website has step by step guidelines:

The only extra step not included in the guide is that you are asked to enter your name in hiragana on the screen following the last one they show. If you know hiragana, just enter your name as best you can (romaji was not an option) and take it to the counter.  If you don’t know hiragana, ask a kind shop worker for help.

Tickets are 1000 yen and you have to choose an entrance time (10:00, 12:00, 14:00, or 16:00) and then you can stay as long as you want to. The bus directly to the museum runs from Mitaka station on the Chuo Line very regularly. One way tickets: 200 yen. Round trip: 300 yen.

Sweet Potato: Asakusa

29 03 2009

Down a pedestrian side-street in Asakusa is an amazing shop that sells variations of sweet potatoes, a famous winter food in Tokyo.  Walk down Nakamise-dori towards Sensoji Temple and turn left on Shin Nakamise-dori (click here to view an easy-to read map).


The pureed sweet potato baked in an apple is 525 yen and big enough to share between two people.  The potato is browned and crispy on top.  The apple is baked to perfection and is soft enough to eat with a plastic spoon.

sweet potato baked apple

Another option is a steamed sweet potato for 100 yen:

sweet potato roasting

Jizo at Zojoji, Tokyo

22 03 2009

I decided to film a peaceful moment in the middle of Tokyo–the jizo statues with pinwheels at Zojoji Temple in Minato-ku. You can also hear the noisy crows in the background.

Zojoji Temple, founded in 1393, sits in the middle of a very busy and affluent neighborhood in Tokyo called Minato-ku. It is frequently photographed for postcards and promotional materials because Tokyo Tower looms behind it and the contrast between old and new is obvious.

The statues in this video are called “jizo” and symbolize the Ojizo-sama divinity that protects children, especially those who have died before their parents.

Zojoji Temple
Jodo Shu Main Temple
4-7-35 Shibakoen Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011 Japan
Tel: (81)3-3432-1431

The closest subway stations are Onarimon or Shibakoen Station on the Mita Subway Line and Daimon Station on the Oedo Subway Line. The temple can also be reached in a ten minute walk from Hamamatsucho Station on the JR Yamanote and JR Keihin-Tohoku Line.

Tokyo Walking Tour: Shibuya and Harajuku

15 03 2009

Tokyo is a huge city. Luckily, it is extremely pedestrian-friendly so there are many ways to avoid the subways and trains and use your feet to see the sights. This is a pictorial essay, with descriptions, of a walking tour of Shibuya and Harajuku.

We took the Yamanote-sen to Shibuya, although there at least five other train and subway lines you can take into this part of the city. The Yamanote loops around Tokyo and takes you to all of the major parts of the city.

Exit the station at the “Hachiko Exit” and find this statue of Hachiko, a famous dog that has turned into one of the most popular meeting places in all of Tokyo. Hachiko was a loyal pet who waited for his master at Shibuya station every day and walked home with him. Even after his master died, he continued to wait at the station every day and was eventually memorialized in this statue.

Through the winding streets just outside of the station, you will find a hodge podge of shops and restaurants. We walked straight away from the station up Center Gai street, turned right, and sadly saw this Outback Steakhouse, which confirms the infiltration of bad American chains.

graffitti grafitti
Shibuya is popular with the younger generation and sometimes screams pop culture from every crevice. This side alley’s wall was popping with colors, and although the cuteness is obvious, there is usually a slightly macabre undertone to the art.


We walked away from Outback and saw a Lawson on the corner. For a cheap lunch, stop at any neighborhood Lawson. My favorite lunches were the fresh salads with one of the many varieties of iced tea–green, black, barley, you name it. If you love tea, you’ll be in stimulus overload. Lawsons are everywhere, but if you’d like a map, go to Google Maps and zoom in on any area. The maps will show most convenience store locations as icons. Lawson is blue with a white milk bottle.

taiko game
We turned right at the Lawson and walked towards the station again. We noticed this taiko drum game in one of the arcades that keep people busy at all hours. These are contraband photos–no picture taking allowed in the arcades! You can also get “purikura” with your friends to pass the time and take home as a cheap and unique souvenir.

manga shop
Mandarake is one of the most famous comic and anime shops in Tokyo. Walk down into the depths and the bowels of this shop and you are greeted with rows and rows of comics, home made figurines, and even a stage where the employees dress up and do cosplay.

random crepe shop
Crepes are another cheap snack and we stopped at this one across the street from Mandarake. Our choice: cinnamon apple and whipped creme.

Here is a great map of this area from the Shibuya Mandarake website:

Shibuya crossing
Be careful at Shibuya Crossing at the Hachiko exit. During the day, the crowds aren’t as thick, but when darkness falls, you could get lost in the shuffle.

The 30-minute walk from Shibuya to Harajuku is a straight shot up Meiji-dori. We passed this temple, and I still can’t figure out which one it is.random shrine


Our first venture in the Harajuku area was to Yoyogi-koen. For a snack, Matt got some takoyaki at one of the stalls that is set up along the edge of the park.


Back towards Harajuku train station is Meiji-jingu, one of my favorite places to escape from the frenetic nature of Tokyo. Since New Years had just passed, the sake barrels that were donated by breweries were still on display.


The famous torii-gate at the entrance of Meiji. I probably have a dozen different photos in front of this gate.

meiji wedding

We just so happened to be at Meiji on Valentines Day, which is why (I think) we saw so many weddings. Usually I would see a wedding every other time I visited Meiji but on this day, we saw at least three in a row. Meiji is one of the most famous shrines for people to get married.


Harajuku station
After walking around Shibuya, to Harajuku, and through Meiji, we were exhausted, but walking is always a great way to see more of the city. We hopped on the Yamanote at Harajuku station and headed home.

You can see more shots of our walking tour on our flickr site.