For the average resident of Tokyo, they are invisible – seen so often that they become visual white noise, scrubbed from the conscious mind, but noted if absent.
For the visitor, their presence is ubiquitous, inescapeable and everywhere, marring any scene and impossible to ignore.
They are of course the electric power lines skeining their way among and between buildings, along streets and roads. They are, along with neon signs, one of the characteristic features of urban Japan, and especially Tokyo. Far from being an eyesore for me, they are part of the cityscape, as much a part of the neighborhood as stores clustered around the train station and bikes parked in front of supermarkets.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the unimpeded view of the sky that I have in Chicago, and the tree lined streets of Evanston. But one of the things that lets me know I’m back in Tokyo and heading home are the jumble of cables criss-crossing their way over the tracks and running along the roads.
Next time you find yourself wandering the lanes of shita-machi or the maze of backstreets in Shinbuya and Shinjuku, take a look up and enjoy one of Tokyo’s most enduring landmarks; I’m sure the power cables will be around far longer than many of the buildings that they supply power to…