©2012 Darren DeRidder
Whenever I visit Japan I'm always struck by the odd sense of scale. Everything is slightly more compact, and space is used much more efficiently than we're used to in North America. This seems especially evident in cities where the compactness of buildings has an additive effect that can skew my perception of distance and perspective. What appears to be a large office building in the far distance can turn out to be a a mere 1-minute walk away, and fit within four of our typical parking spaces. Of course, there are large buildings in Japan, big shopping arcades and all, but the way things are arranged within them is still done with an eye towards efficiency and flow that's unfamiliar to someone who's used to rambling through the chaotic unkempt aisles of their suburban big box shopping plaza. It's one of the things I like about Japan. The tight and tidy use of space, the feeling that its a precious commodity, and that it's used with respect and gratitude. This scene, taken in what you might call a "back alley" in downtown Ishigaki, isn't at all atypical. Tucked between a row of darkened doors, a little pub, open late, with the noren curtain veiling the entrance and a warm glow spilling out onto the pavement through the glass panes of the sliding doors. Irashaimase! yells the owner as you duck inside. Welcome!