A Kinki Drive: The No. 2 Keihan Expressway

Despite the beauty of Kyoto and Japan that I try to showcase in the photos I normally post, most of the populated ares of Japan are wall-to-wall unmitigated monochromatic urban blight. Concrete, utility poles, warehouses, convenience stores, congested traffic, anonymous nondescript office buildings.... just lots and lots of visually-neutered components pasted together with horrific amounts of mind-numbing blah.

The drive down to Hirakata (to see a doctor about my ouchy back, as I mentioned yesterday) is through this metropolitan monotony most of the way. As such, the drive is in no way pleasant, but it does offer one point that I find interesting: the ongoing construction of the elevated 第二京阪道路, the “No. 2 Kyoto-Osaka Expressway”.

Its planning dates back to 1969, but actual construction didn't start until a few years ago. According to its Wikipedia page, it's scheduled for completion in the spring of 2010.

What I find so interesting about it is that each small section of the most-northern few miles of it seem to have been designed by a different person having no contact with the others. As you drive along, its appearance is always changing, always dynamic.


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/180 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Under the Northern End of the “No.2 Keihan Expressway”

Autumn has arrived in full force, and lately we've been having wonderfully crisp, sunny, brisk days with few clouds and wonderfully clear air. But as if to highlight and enhance the total blah of the lifeless urban sprawl I was driving through, yesterday was overcast and exceptionally hazy, almost to the point of being foggy.

So, above we have these huge “sideways F” supports, yet just an eighth of a mile later, we have something completely different....


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 45mm — 1/50 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Ramps

And just a tad further, we now have both lanes together and single center columns....


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 30mm — 1/250 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Bus Stop? Emergency Exit?

It sort of sad, but among all the urban yuck that this highway cuts through, there's still the occasional remnant of old. After taking the picture above, I turned to the side of the road and snapped a picture of this little house and its garden, some of the only green I saw along the way....


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/250 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Hemmed In

Moving along just a bit further, we still have the unified roadways, but now the center columns are doubled in one style or another....


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 30mm — 1/125 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Columns Evocative of the Logo on a Hanshin Tigers' Hat

A bit further, and now we have these massive center columns with wide arms, holding very thin ramp flyovers....


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/160 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Impressive Balance

One reason for the dynamic nature, of course, is that they had to make the thing fit into the existing urban zone. However, once you get far enough south and into slighly more rural areas, it's apparently all new, recently-opened construction. A short section of the expressway there is already opened (crossing the Uji River), and when I discovered it, it took only half a mile off my trip to the doctor, but it cut out a nasty segment of conjestion that cut my 60-minute trip down to 40 minutes.

After that little segment on the expressway (fee is 150 yen – about a buck and a quarter American), I descended back down to the surface street underneath, which at this point was new, clean, wide, and eerily devoid of traffic.


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 55mm — 1/125 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Expressway Above, “New Route 1” Below

After the earlier chaos (both visually, and traffic/congestion-wise), the smooth curves and pleasant patterns of repetition made this short section an unexpected pleasure to drive. The lack of traffic was an additional bonus.

This area, and the open expressway above, are both new, so there's little traffic, and as such, little law enforcement (that is, a license to speed). I'd think it'd be the perfect place for a speed trap, but apparently not, because a friend of mine who has to drive long distances also likes to drive exceedingly fast, and he says he takes this part of the expressway at 150 miles an hour. (I like to drive as zippy as the next guy, but that's just insane, so I hardly approve.)


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 55mm — 1/40 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Another Long Vista
Facing the opposite direction

One of the “new construction” areas cuts through a region with a fair number of cross streets, so that area takes on the more traditional dual-level design...


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 20mm — 1/40 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Traditional Styling
(untraditional lack of traffic)

By the way, I live in the city of Kyoto, which is part of Kyoto Prefecture, which is part of the larger 京阪 region (keihan – “Kyoto-Osaka”), which itself is part of a larger region of Japan know as 近畿 (kinki – “environs around the capitol”, reflecting that Kyoto the capital of Japan for over a thousand years), which itself is part of an even wider region known as 関西 kansai. My trip yesterday took me out of Kyoto, but only just into Osaka Prefecture, so I probably should have titled this post “A Keihan Drive,” but that wouldn't be as fun a title as “A Kinki Drive,” now would it? 🙂


All 4 comments so far, oldest first...

Kinki Drive indeed. You are feeling way too good. 🙂 I am learning lots though.
Mel

— comment by Mel Lammers on November 29th, 2007 at 3:04am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

And I am learning that my son STILL plays in the middle of the road. Some grey hairs are easily explained. GROAN!

— comment by Grandma Friedl on November 29th, 2007 at 8:56am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

i used to have back pain….acupuncture helped me get rid of it and also lotsa back exercises!
I used to live in jp and now I am in Taipei, Taiwan

— comment by mark on November 29th, 2007 at 9:42am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

I’d love to see a follow-up of whether this road is still empty, is it nearing completion, etc

— comment by Eric Mesa on May 28th, 2009 at 3:15am JST (8 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink
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