People around Kyojima, Sumida-ku, might feel they are part of a news event. Not necessarily the News at 7. But something big is happening. Even the buildings seem to know it. Earthquake regulations and developers’ cash are winding up the wrecker’s ball. Doomed are the warrens of streets and low-rise homes, the small stores and community feeling that encourages random kerbside conversation.

Crossing the road you say to the woman in red what a fine set of wooden row houses this is. Yes, she says, not many left. You may find some others here and there, perhaps behind the shopping street, but not like these ones.

kyojima red woman

I couldn’t say for sure, she says, but I believe these are from the Taisho era, so they survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Pacific War. I was born Showa 12 [1937], but we lived in the countryside. I came to Kyojima when I was 25 or 26. They have just always been here. People often take photos of them. Well, I better be off.

Another motivation for people to talk to strangers may be simply they’re voicing appreciation for what they’ve got. A neighbourhood where people seem happy as they are. How ironic it’s under threat.