It was a cool, sunny day here. I did a wedding ceremony job at a luxury hotel near Tokyo Station in the morning. As I was waiting for it to begin, resting in the chapel with the other celebrants (singers and musicians) after we had all done our rehearsal and warming up exercises, I looked out one of the windows towards the 634-meter Tokyo Sky Tree in Sumida Ward to the east. I was thrilled to see an advertising blimp beyond the tower, moving slowly. I watched it disappear behind the office tower that I always think of as the Mandarin Hotel, because I know that that rival luxury hotel occupies its upper floors.
Then in the afternoon I was doing laundry at home in Nakano Ward and I was excited to see the same blimp there or, at least a blimp with the same advertising on its sides. But what are the odds of that, even in a big metropolis like Tokyo? I noticed it sailing around in the sky as I was hanging up the wash on the balcony. I think “sailing” is a better word to describe it than “flying.” It was the sound of the blimp’s propellers that attracted my attention: an odd sound, not a jet or propeller plane but not a helicopter either. I’ve seen blimps flying around before, and I remember occasionally seeing them in Canada, too. But I seem to think I’ve seen them more here than anywhere. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived here almost longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, and maybe because this is a larger city than Guelph, Ontario. Guelph isn’t a big market for airship advertising.
Seeing this blimp made me think of the much larger dirigibles that were used for transoceanic flight in the 1930’s, before intercontinental passenger planes were developed. And it made me wonder what it must have been like for people back then to see them floating over the city. Not Guelph or Toronto, but New York anyway. Did people on the ground think intercontinental flight was romantically adventurous? A more uncommon experience then than it is today, did they imagine women in diamonds drinking champagne while gazing at the ground below as they passed? Did they compare it to transcontinental train travel? Did they think to compare it to anything else? In my mind I compare crossing the Atlantic Ocean by dirigible to crossing Canada today. I’ve done the latter a few times and I’ll do it again. Four days from Vancouver-to-Toronto.
Whenever I see a passenger jet in the sky - cruising, taking off or landing - I always imagine what the passengers are doing: eating, looking out the window, watching movies or some other entertainment. (The “some other” entertainment is only a recent development.) Maybe I shouldn’t rule out nausea, although it’s not a problem for me.
I imagine dirigible advertising might become more common during the 2020 Olympics. It will add to the memorable sights for visitors to take home with them. Or not.
Published by Tokyo Noticeboard biweekly magazine, January 10-January 23, 2014.