What Became of Wash Heights? 1

Since youíre reading this, you probably lived in Washington Heights .. or Grant Heights .. or Yokota .. or Kanto Mura .. or Tachikawa .. or one of the scores of American housing complexes that dotted the Kanto Plain from the Ď50s through the Ď70s.

Regardless of whether your home town is temporary (as it was for us) or permanent, like those kids who grew up in the same place all their lives (what a concept!), the word "home" is relative.  Itís where the most emotional tug is.

If you lived in Japan as a military dependent while in elementary school, you wonít have the same feeling as those of us who went to high school there.  To me, Japan is like this 3,000-mile-long bungee cord that keeps wanting to yank me back, whether I like it or not.  Try to remember all the pop songs of your youth, and youíll know what I mean.  Itís the songs from high school that have the most emotion tied to them. Whenever they come on the radio, you canít help but get nostalgic.  You remember exactly who you were with and where you were when you first heard those songs. Why?  Because those songs are the soundtrack of your life.  Thatís why Dick Clark sells so many millions of those oldies CDs.

The teenage years in Japan will forever be imprinted on our personalities, and the desire to recapture that is understandable.  Understandable, but a BIG mistake to try.  Go back to Tokyo and nothing is left there that you remember.  If youíre going with that in mind, it wonít be so much of a shock.  Iíve been twice in the last few years.  The second time was considerably less traumatic than the first, because I was prepared for all the changes.  The first time, I tried to find anything I remembered, but couldnít.  The second time, I just enjoyed Tokyo for what it is.  On one block, it can be as familiar as Seattle or Boston.  On the next block, it can be as alien as Neptune .. which is something I always loved about it.

So, if you ever decide to return to Tokyo, this will help prepare you for what used to be Washington Heights, Harajuku and the surrounding area.  Wash Heights was razed for the 1964 Olympics, a stadium was built and the rest was turned into Yoyogi Park after the Olympics.  The park is spectacular.  There is a road that bisects what was Wash Heights; to the south is the stadium and to the north is the park.  As you walk from the Harajuku train station, the Meiji shrine is on the right, as it always has been.  Then, you see the only thing left of Wash Heights .. the stone wall that marks a rise in terrain as it slopes up to the top of the hill where the stadium now is.  Facing the stadium is the headquarters for NHK.  First, here are several maps to orient you.  By the way, in this first map, up is south, not north.  Immediately to the right, at about 2 o'clock, under the "yama" in Harajuku-Aoyama, is .. was .. Wash Heights, with the west-east road bisecting it.

Here are some other maps of other train station areas (click on the name):



Yoyogi Park Map
This is a proper north-south facing map, with Yoyogi Park to the north and the stadium, next to the oval track, at the bottom.  The NHK building is at the bottom.  This defines the area that was Washington Heights.
Yoyogi Park
(click on any photo outlined in red to see the full size pic)
The park during spring time.

Yoyogi Park is one of the nicest major metropolitan area parks in the world.

NHK Building May Day festival: no red banners? May Day: didn't we look forward to those?
...... ..........
Yoyogi National Stadium
Trees losing their leaves .. The park during fall .. then winter The same benches in a white blanket

Overcast winter afternoon

You can have the park to yourself

The fountain never stops

Could this have been the site ..?

.. or this ..? of the Teen Club??

.. or the BX??

Absolute quiet in the middle of Tokyo

A snowfall this heavy is a rare treat

 However .. as you can see here ..

.. just like any major city ..

 .. not all is perfect in Yoyogi Park


© 1998 Jazzbo

Some photos .. only the ones outlined in red .. have larger versions that can be viewed by clicking on them.