Rainbow Bridge / 24 April 2011
The level of the river has been rising, and today there is a swirl of something that looks like seaweed. The weather is back to hot and sunny and we will repeat the roll into Tsukiji, but going on to Higashi Ginza, Ginza and Shinbashi where we will take the Yurekamome line will take us, via an unmanned train, out over the Rainbow Bridge to Daiba.
We are both surprised to be met in the station by a uniformed member of train staff as this line is supposed to be unmanned. It turns out that there is someone keeping a discrete eye out for anyone needing assistance and so the "man with the ramp" is called for.
I am assisted to board the front carriage. I have a clear view out of the front window, but there is no space for the wheelchair. We tuck into a gap between seats and soon we are rolling. The train is not on rails and the movement is very smooth, We rise gradually up over Tokyo; maybe we are five levels up: there are roads and rails beneath us, something overhead and many levels underground too.
The views are stunning. We travel in amongst the skyscrapers until we get to the harbour, where the train curves around in a giant loop out over the sea, to gain height. I sit glued to the panoramic view: mesmerized, astonished and exhilarated.
The sun sparkles on the sea, it all looks so gloriously harmless and beautiful. A second "man with a ramp" assists me off at Daiba. We are very high up, so when we roll out into the sunny day, the walkways and viewing platforms threaten to overwhelm me. All the muscles in my stomach scrunch up in a primeval terror.
I turn one way and there is a passing jumbo jet framed in the bridged space between two skyscrapers; I turn the other way and there is a viewing bridge hanging out over the sea. A scaled version of the Statue of Liberty heralds a wooden walkway snaking down to Tokyo Beach and, at the same high level as me, a walkway follows a line of shops and restaurants back to the next station, Odaiba.
I take pictures and more pictures and head down the walkway to the beach. Tokyo beach is a sandy cove, There are windsurfers and a few small boats anchored, but swimming is prohibited.
in the baking sun.
People sit on the
feet in the sand.
No-one removes shoes,
or clothes. Children
some still in coats,
play in the sand.
On the boardwalk
there are wheelchairs
mostly the elderly
wheeled out to enjoy
this sunny April Sunday.
There are quite a lot of people, but its not crowded, unlike some of the streets and people do not appear to stay long. Young women in stilettos tiptoe gingerly across the sand with their children and husbands. Some attempt to drag pushchairs with them, but soon give up when the little wheels dig into the dry sand.
Standing for fifteen minutes or so, with the children playing at their feet, seems sufficient here. Some adults do squat and join in the play and maybe further around the bay people stay longer?
So fond of the blue tarpaulins for picnicking, the Japanese to not seem to bring them to the beach and many of the young couples seem to prefer sitting on the edge of the boardwalk with their shod feet in the sand. No one is eating or drinking in spite of the proximity of a shop selling ice creams.
I roll further around the bay and discover grass on the other side of the boardwalk and here are the tarpaulins. Here people have removed their shoes and are enjoying their picnics; here are also the men in suits with their companions, equally unsuitably dressed.
And hidden far away amongst the trees I catch a glimpse of a foreigner, sunbathing.
Rolling back up to the scary heights and repeating my journey at a much higher level I roll toward Odaiba; on the way I pass street entertainment that attracts small crowds and I see one person with an ice cream; the ice cream shop has steps up to it.
At Odaiba I turn right and cross over the main highway via an overhead tunnel. I can see that the road under me is rather busy, but I'm heading for Tokyo Teleport station; being a sci-fi fan I have great hopes, but sadly its just another train station. I take the lift down, not to the station, but an open space/carpark area which I cross and take another lift up to Venus Fort.
Initially ignoring Venus Fort, I turn left towards the Tokyo Wheel and roll under it. I'm heading for the Toyota showroom and the Tokyo Universal Design Exhibition, This exhibition includes the new Toyota personal transport: a sort of wheelchair for all. Sadly I'm too late to try for myself, but do manage to see two chaps having a go. They look like they are enjoying themselves.
I check out all the accessible vehicles before finally heading over to the must-see Venus Fort. More shopping, but this time in a mall painted to look like an open-air Roman city. There is permanent blue sky overhead, walls and pillars draped with plastic ivy and a maze of walkways centred around various focal points.
SP and I have agreed to meet up at Fountain Square; a large stone-looking fountain with several larger than life figures draped in flowers and pearls, and gushing with water.
By now its actually quite late in the day and we decide to head back over to Roppongi for sashimi in a wonderful little restaurant that I remember. The ride back in the dark is also impressive; this time however I'm shown to the proper carriage for wheelchairs, so only get a side view.
The skyscrapers are lit up and the aircraft warning lights twinkle red in the night sky; my Tokyo might be muted by power saving, but it is still beautiful and looks very festive. We move through it, too low for aircraft, too high for any normal transport; I feel like I'm in "The Fifth Element".
After another delicious meal of sashimi with really fresh and hot wasabi, its time to go home. Even this late Tokyo feels a very safe place to be; the night is warm and magical and the skinny-wheeled powerchair still has life left in the battery. Heaven.