A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Archive for the ‘Maps’ Category

Saying Goodbye to Two Tsukuba Icons Early This Year – the VLBI Antenna and Seibu Department Store



For 18 years (since 1998) the VLBI Antenna stood a few hundred meters from the center of Tsukuba University. At 32 meters in diameter it was long a grand and mysterious Tsukuba landmark. But alas, at the end of 2016, the antenna went out of service- and now, mid-January 2017, it is being dismantled.

By Avi Landau

Long term residents of Tsukuba have gotten used to saying good-bye. Those of us who are sentimental, have had to harden our hearts – or we just wouldn`t be able to keep our emotional sanity. What I`m talking about mostly is the fact that are friend are always leaving ! Amazing, talented people, from every corner of the globe, come here on short-term research or study projects…. you become friends… get close…. and then they`re gone. Sure there is email – but it`s just not the same…

The dish being disassembled

The VLBI Antenna in the process of being disassembled at the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (Kokudo Chiri in) formerly called the Geographical Survey of Japan (January 12, 2017)

On January 18th....

On January 18th….

January 20th..

January 20th..

Then there are your favorite shops and restaurants that have to close down and go out of business because of all these years of sluggish economy – and all the new shopping malls (four in little Tsukuba City alone).

VLBI Antena

In its full glory, as it stood for 18 years, Tsukuba`s VLBI Antenna was used for monitoring the minute movements of geological plates, and for making extremely detailed geographical surveys – making use of electic-waves from distant stars

Another loss some of us old-timers have been pained by is that of the very landscape itself ! When we first came to Tsukuba, we fell in love with its still extensive forests – in which you could hike for hours – and its abundant flora and fauna, which thrilled us with every encounter.

That`s pretty much all gone now. Replaced by parking lots, convenience stores…and plenty of  chintzy looking (yet very expensive) housing developments.

The iconic VLBI antena

There were formerly three other VLBI dishes in Japan, besides the one in Tsukuba, at locations in Hokkaido, Okinawa and the Ogasawara Islands. From the end of 2016, though, they will only be operationg out of one place – Ishioka City, Ibaraki Prefecture – just on the other side one Mt. Tsukuba from here! So if you`d like to see an old friend, you won`t have to drive very far!

At the beginning of 2017 we find ourselves saying good-bye to the familiar yet again !

The big antenna dish that stood not far from Tsukuba University`s Foreign Student Center is currently being dismantled. For nearly twenty years it help us keep our bearing as we cycled  about the maze-like old Tsukuba neighborhhoods. When you got lost you looked for its immense parabolic dish and you`d know which way you`d have to go (and each time you did spot it, its dish would be facing a different direction – which was also fun in its own way.

The dish was also a great conversation piece. When you passed it with someone new to Tsukuba they would inevitably ask – What is that for? Studying quasars? Gathering Satellite data? Searching for alien life?

I always sensed that the amswer. the antenna`s true purpose, came as let-down to whomever I explained it to.

The antenna was for measuring the minute movements of the Earth`s plates – and for carrying out detailed geographical surveys. With that, I almost felt a if I had to say I was sorry.

Anyway, I will be asked the question no more! At the end of last year, the antenna went out of operation. Now it`s in the process of being dismantled. Native Tsukubans and long-term residents alike gasp in dismay when they see what`s happening to it.

Apparently, they will be carrying out the same sort of measurements from Ishioka City – on the other side of Mt. Tsukuba.

If you`d like to say good-bye to the old familiar dish, you`d better go soon!

As of today (January 19th), it`s nothing but a stump !

Oh, the fleeting nature of this world……

Seibu Department Store

For more than 30 years Tsukuba`s Seibu Department Store has been much more than just a physical landmark at the center of the Tsukuba Science City, it was also long the lone outpost of modernism and sophistication while this area was still mostly woods, vegetable fields and quiet hamlets. Competition from multiple shopping malls, a shift towards frugality among consumers, and changes in tastes and cultural values have forced the venerable chain to close its doors in Tsukuba at the end of February.


In the following weeks you might spot one of these posters announcing the closing of  Tsukuba`s Seibu Department Store after having served as the commercial (and cultural, many would say) center of this city for the past 32 years.

In the following weeks you might spot one of these posters announcing the closing of Tsukuba`s Seibu Department Store after having served as the commercial (and cultural, many would say) center of this city for the past 32 years.