Photo walks in summer and winter around University of Toronto’s (UofT’s) St. George Campus

University College, University of Toronto

Even now, despite all the new buildings along St. George and other parts of the downtown campus, and the twenty years (!) that’s passed since I graduated (BA Distinction, English, if you wanna know), the UofT campus still draws me into its orbit whenever I visit T.O.. Never mind that they paved Philosopher’s Walk; ignore the astroturf being laid for the 2015 PanAm games. The campus still feels like some secret garden in the midst of Toronto’s condo boom, one heckuva green space in the heart of the city, with acres of (real) grass and tree-lined paths and Hogwarts-style buildings.

On a more personal note, uni played an important role in the ongoing adventure of my life, and I always re-connect with my younger self as I walk past the houses and colleges and libraries where I spent much of my twenties – before this continuing adventure of life took me to Montreal for grad school, and Japan for a teaching career )and not a little writing and photography).

“Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”


I recently put together a slideshow of pictures from around campus, mainly Hart House, and University, Victoria, and Trinity Colleges, where I spent much of my time.

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Toronto Cityscape

Toronto Cityscape

A month(!) of photo walks in Toronto.

Amazing how quickly we can slip into a routine. Every day I’d wake early and leave the place I stayed in Davenport Village, before 7 am, to enjoy the last gasps of night’s cool air before the day got all hotted up by the sun. I followed familiar songlines along Davenport, Along Dupont, down streets I used to live on (Salem Avenue), until I arrived at the Starbucks at Christie and Dupont (my new favourite for decor, and for opening at 6 am!) for the first rest stop of the day. Then I would continue on to The Annex for breakfast, then to the reference Library at Bloor and Yonge to do a little prep for the new school year or some writing/research, or just to eavesdrop on the ESL students studying or just killing time between classes. The Starbucks at Bloor and Yonge, just past the Tim Hortons out the library doors, counts as my second-favourite coffee shop hangout this trip. Read the rest of this entry »


Toronto has changed a lot in the 46 years since we moved here, especially (the lack of) affordable housing.

Back in 1968 when we emigrated to Canada from the US, Toronto was a very different place from the big, bustling, cosmopolitan, and multicultural city it is today. As my Ma — a Chicago girl born and bred — likes to tell it, the first Sunday she went “downtown” (to the current site of the Eaton Centre and Dundas Square) “it was so empty you could roll a bowling ball down the sidewalk without hitting anyone. When I finally found someone to ask where “downtown” was, she just looked at me and said “This IS downtown!” (thanks for the anecdote, Ma!).

Even if T.O. Hadn’t introduced Sunday shopping back in the early 90’s, downtown now would still be nothing like downtown then. Condos continue to be thrown up faster than beavers build dams in flood season, so there’s a lot more people on the streets now than then. Immigration has also changed dramatically since then, as Edward Relph’s website, an online companion to his new book Toronto Transforms, maps out. Finally, and this is probably old news to most of us by now, Toronto’s housing costs continue to boom and boom and boom: according to this Toronto Real Estate Board website, in 1967 almost 12,500 houses were sold in the city for an average price of $24,000; in 2012 it was almost 86,000 houses at an average price of nearly $500,000 (still well behind Vancouver, Canada’s most expensive city).

Dawn in Davenport Village, Toronto. The neighbourhood is still a little raw: birdsong and electrical hum.


davenport village

This summer, my first stop in exploring T.O.’s neighbourhoods will be Davenport Village. Actually, I’ve been here before. Way, way before: like, 46 years ago. Turns out, this part of Toronto is also where we lived when my parents and I emigrated from the US back in 1968.

Initial impressions:

Keep in mind that these are my thoughts after a full day’s travel, doorstep to doorstep, from my home in west Tokyo to the place I arranged to stay through airbnb. Things may look very different in the light of morning…

The block of townhouses where I’m staying are quite new, having been built as far as I can tell in 2004. They’re bounded to the north by Earlscourt Park, which runs all the way up to the Corso Italia neighbourhood along St Clair West, to the west by train tracks and neighbouring Carleton Village, to the south by more railroad tracks and eventually Dupont Street, and to the east by some old – historic? – Factories, and by Lansdowne Avenue.

Tonight I walked briefly through the townhouse development where I’m staying, then headed south on Lansdowne to Dupont. Lots of young couples. Mostly residential, with a large playground in the middle of the development and green space near the tracks. Not much in the immediate area by way of stores, restaurants, Tim Hortons, and the like. More development is apparently promised for the Lansdowne and Dupont area, currently being redeveloped as mixed-use condos and commercial space, though at the moment what stands out is the demolition zone to the northwest, and the Coffee Time to the northwest with the kids hanging out front trying their hardest to look like drug dealers.

Davenport Village 2

Stumbled on this reality travel video created by Doi Nomazi (Travelo Therapy) about a husband and wife sea kayak trip in the Gwaii Haanas islands (formerly the Queen Charlottes) in British Columbia. Thing is, they seem like a really, really nice couple. They may remind you of people you know…. Watch when you’re in the mood for a little virtual travel but don’t need the adrenaline rush of oh, say, Les Stroud’s Survivorman, or Bear Grylls’ Man vs. Wild or The Island.

Did I mention they’re nice?

It’s Friday night/Saturday morning, and hipsters in knit caps skid home from the bars artisinal craft beer pubs along Dundas Street West.

“Whatcha taking pictures of bro?”

This magical, fantastical nightmare before Christmas.

Anniversary-Issue-Cover-Image-213x300England’s The New Idealist magazine have published in their first anniversary, “Doomsday Edition”, a dispatch from me  about the extreme winter weather in Tokyo and Toronto this year.  Check it out on page 9. Check out the other articles, too, of course. But check page 9…

The New Idealist magazine is online and downloadable for free at


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