At 4:00 p.m. today I left the 20-storey tall Nakano Sunplaza entertainment and recreation building in Nakano Ward where I had just finished performing two Christian wedding ceremonies. It was a cool day with mixed sun and clouds and the cherry trees that line both sides of that stretch of street were already blooming. Not yet near full bloom, but still ...
Nakano Sunplaza was built in the early 1970s on the major Nakano dori (Avenue) thoroughfare, and is adjacent to the Naknao City Hall/Ward Office (the "kuyausho"), and kitty corner from JR Nakano Station. Nakano Ward has a population of about 310,000 which makes it a biggish city in Canadian terms. It's more than two-and-a-half times the size of my hometown. Across the street, parallel to Nakano Avenue but hidden behind street front buildings is the Nakano Broadway shopping street, called a "shotengai" in Japanese. It's a kind of shopping mall. Traditionally, every neighborhood in Japan is served by its own shotengai. But these days internet shopping and American style bulk stores are putting the squeeze on the neighborhood shopping street. Nakano Broadway is actually a little famous in Tokyo as an "otaku" (geek) magnet. While electronic geeks often gather in the Electric City district around JR Akihabara Station, Nakano Broadway attracts many comic book and plastic toy geeks to the novelty boutiques on the second and third floors.
As I exited the building I heard the cacophony of many sirens and right across the street I saw two police cars, one ambulance and a total of ten fire trucks - pumper trucks and ladder trucks - gathered in response to an emergency. I usually try to avoid gawking at others' distress but this time I stopped and took a few pictures, and waited around a little to see if I would see a real live fire. (I didn't.) More emergency vehicles arrived as I stood there. But I saw no plume of dark smoke. I heard no hew and cry. A few times I thought I could smell the scent of burning rubber. But that might only have been my imagination. There is a pedestrian croswalk that leads directly from the Nakano Station North Exit to the Nakano Broadway entrance, and pedestrians were still swarming into the shopping street, weaving their way around the emergency vehicles and men. (Buss and taxi cabs gather at the South Exit.) The emergency personnel were not entering the shopping concourse entrance. Instead they seemed to be focused on another street just beyond that gives access to a warren of boutiques, shops and closet-sized restaurants that is connected to the east side of shopping street. I have been to Nakano Broadway many times. I like to buy shoes there, and it has a great 100-yen shop. But I have never been to the additional warren attached to it. It is a labyrinth that reminds me of underground shopping in the Arab section of Jerusalem's Old City, stretching from the Damascus Gate almost to the Western Wall.
Anyway, after a few minutes I walked to the buses and went home. I hope disaster was avoided.