Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My Complicated Relationship with Tsuchiura

Tsuchiura is arguably Ibaraki's #3 city behind Mito and Hitachi, but it is has plenty of significance.  It has had plenty of historical importance as a samurai clan domain, a castle town (though only bits of Kijo Castle remain, most of them replicas), and a way station along important roads and canals.  With the restoration of direct Imperial rule in the late 19th century and subsequent westernization of Japan, Tsuchiura became an important railway station.  Much later, in the 1980's, Tsuchiura became (rather grudgingly) a sort of gateway to the rapidly-developing Tsukuba Science City.

My first visit to the Land of the Rising Sun, during a college band tour in 1987, was to Tsukuba, and I went in by way of Tsuchiura.

When I came again in 1990 (and wound up staying), the city took on a whole new role for me.  Although I lived in the Kashima area, the majority of my ex-pat friends lived in villages near Tsuchiura, so the latter became both an important railway stop and a place we often went to for fun.  I came to like both the attractive lakeside views of the city and the fact that, despite being a city, it still had something of a small town vibe.  They also have some pretty amazing festival events there including one of the most famous fireworks displays in the nation.

When I ran into my Uncle Brad on a street in Tsuchiura one day totally out of the blue, it made the enchantment of the city even stronger.

But then things started happening.  I and several of my ex-pat friends noticed that, almost whenever we were in Tsuchiura Station, (mostly young) people kept jostling us as they passed even if it wasn't crowded.  On several occasions restaurants with "open" signs displayed told us they were closed when we tried to go in.  Then two of my ex-pat friends wound up attacked in the city, one by a group of chinpira (low-level Yakuza punks) and another by a passing high school student, and both were beaten rather badly.  The last straw came when I was talking to someone on a sidewalk, heard an engine behind me, looked over my shoulder, and jumped out of the way just in time as a BMW with four punks aboard (one of whom gave me the finger as they passed) narrowly missed me...on the sidewalk.  I was told by someone that there was apparently a lot of growing resentment against foreigners as a result of the cosmopolitan Tsukuba Science City next door.  I decided to give the city a wide berth from then on.

The opening of the Aeon Shopping Mall Tsuchiura about a decade ago gave me a reason to go back as they had a good music store, one of the first Starbucks and Tully's in Ibaraki, and a Tower Records.  But the Tower Records didn't last long, and coffee shops opened elsewhere, so I stopped going there.

Now my FIL has been hospitalized at the Tsuchiura Kyodo Hospital for more than a month.  I don't know how much longer he'll be there, but now Tsuchiura is once again an important regular stop.  As it happened, my wife and I wound up celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary at an Italian restaurant there in the city.  So at least I have one new good memory to stick on the rather dismal-looking mental bulletin board.

Tsuchiura, you are ever an engima to me...

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  • This is the first I heard about the attacks on gaijin. I think I lived in a bubble my whole time in Mito.

    By Blogger Jay Noyes, at 9:56 PM  

  • Jay, you didn't hear about those?
    I don't recall names off the top of my head, but the one attacked by a gang of chinpira was an Ibaraki ALT from Canada. He and a couple of friends had gone into a famous jazz club there, and apparently (though there are conflicting stories) one of the friends said or did something that pissed off one of the chinpira, and next thing they knew they were facing several of them. The bouncer told them to leave, and when they went outside, it turned out that one of the punks had called his buddies, and they wound up being followed by a growing gang of them that attacked them at intervals while yelling anti-American curses. Seriously injured, they were finally saved by, of all things, a couple of Iranian immigrant workers in a passing car. The Iranians took them to the hospital. The next day, the Canadian ALT informed his BoE of the incident, police investigated, several gang members were identified, and the BoE advised him just to forget the whole thing and not tell anyone.
    The other incident involved our female CIR at the time. She was jogging in a park, and suddenly a high school student just laid into her while yelling anti-foreigner curses. She wasn't so seriously injured, but it rather hurt her a lot psychologically.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:12 AM  

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