Habitat destruction, work gear and photos


A distressing end to 2004 . . . off to a resilient and positive start in 2005.

Lost habitat

SM writes in a state of upset from Zushi in Kanagawa Prefecture: “Recently I went through the park at Hachiman-gu in Kamakura. I love to sit by the lakeside, where the many water birds, which nest on the two islands, are my favorites.

“To my great shock I realized that all the trees (on the islands) had been cut. The smaller trees seemed to be gone completely and the big ones looked like broomsticks.

“I, and probably any bird lover or photographer, would like to know the reason.”

A good question. Many of the hillsides are also in danger of losing their remaining green and most residents are very unhappy about the prospect. Also Zushi City has been trying to protect itself from high-rise development, but once again Kanagawa Prefecture (ruled from Yokohama) has seen fit to decide otherwise.

Officials at Hachiman-gu will say only that there had been complaints about the islands being messy with birds and droppings, and there being too many birds in general.

Overall, however, the shrine seems to be suffering a makeover on the side of convenience — and making even more money, of course. In the 1980s Japan began to take a stand against the inconvenience of leaves, in the ’90s branches, and now trees themselves are being cut back, either to the ground or to what Sielinde calls “broomsticks.” Whatever next?

The Kamakura Trust, which campaigned in the late 1990s and succeeded in saving two forest areas, is still active ( www.hiromachinomori.org ) and maybe Oya-san on (046) 731-8771 could suggest how to get involved in Kamakura Green. (Japanese only. As usual, language is the key).

Baggy pants

John wants to know where to buy the baggy pants that he sees construction workers wearing all over Japan.

“Quite often they are worn with matching waistcoats and the rubber-soled socks that have a separate big toe. I have never seen a shop anywhere that sell them, yet I see guys wearing them everywhere I go.”

The pants are called “bontan” in Kansai dialect, and “nikkazubon” in Kanto. The gripping shoes are “jikatabi.” Since there are rightwing associations, shops are not so easy to identify, and Web sites are in Japanese only.

Having said that, and if you can override language and cultural problems, here are a couple of suggestions.

Workshop Sawada in Kyoto has five shops in the region and offers great online shopping with bontan (and a wide range of other workmen’s clothes) in all the colors of the rainbow – purple, bright pink, etc. The phone number for the headquarters is (075) 661-4529. The Web site (with maps, full color range of items) is at www.workwork-world.com

By contrast, a very traditional company in Gunma Prefecture has a online shopping service with nikkazubon in “shibui” (understated, subtle) colors only. Their Web site’s at www.takusyo.co.jp

You could also try Shibusyo at 2-33-2-102 Torimachi, Minami-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa-ken (phone: 045-742-5824). The Web site’s at www.shibusyo.jp

Workshop Yokohama MAC also has a great selection of colors and bontan/waistcoat combinations. Check out the models, who all look like “bosozoku”. Call (045) 742-2100 for details or see www.y-mac.com/shop/tobi/tobioll/tobioll.html

Hot shots wanted

Fujimamas Restaurant Bar and Cafe off Tokyo’s Omote-sando will be hosting a group photo show from Feb. 1-28. The theme of the exhibition will be “VIEWS OF ASIA” and photographers can submit up to three shots in color or monochrome. Contact Lauren Shannon at lauren@fujimamas.com for details. The submission information deadline is Jan. 15.