It is my great happiness to be invited here and to have an opportunity of giving my talk to the distinguished audiences in such honorable and epoch-making event.
Before my speech I like ask a favor of you. As I am not so fluent in English I need text to see. If I were in the Whitehouse I would find a invisible prompter on my desk. However, here is not any such devices, so I will looking down my text.
Well, We are now living in such a small world where we are moving around without any difficulty except some trouble like jet lag. However, I believe, there are still many things for us which is difficult to understand.
Today, I have only 30 minutes . It is too short to talk everything about these deep issues. Even if I had one hour, it would seem still difficult to discuss Japanese cityscape and landscape generally if comparing it with the Dutch equivalent. It is because Japanese cityscape and landscape is visually very diversified and they reflect our complex sentiment, that mainly derives form the situation that Japanese reached summit of economical prosperity in 80's although Japan or Asia is still located on the periphery under the cultural supremacy by Anglo-American or western culture in 20th century.
After being worried what should I talk here, I hit good idea that I should talk about things occurred and occurring around me in half of my life. It might be easier for me since I experienced them and ,I think , what is most necessary in understanding the other culture is to know what is most ordinary things for the residents, but people never talk such ordinary things because it is too ordinary for him to talk about
JAPAN IN SHOWA 40's
I was born in 1949 in a city named Gifu located in the center of the Japanese islands. Gifu had 4 hundred thousand population in 60's. You know, 4 hundred thousand population is big here but it is not so big in Japan, it is actually medium size city.
I remember there were many machiya, or traditional townhouse which derived from the medieval period. In my impression, such typology occupied almost quarter of the houses in the central area of my hometown in the 60's. The other building were built after the WW2, when most of the city area was demolished by the fire caused by the bombing by allied forces. This is famous painting on the folding screen in 17th century which depicts the city activity of Edo, old name of Tokyo. You can see the old but same typology in this painting as you saw in Gifu.
It is pity that these traditional houses like machiya are illegal in the built up area in present Japan because the timber structures are exposed in machiya to the outside. Law regard it weak in the occasion of fire.
As Edo was suffered from big fire every 20 years, Japanese city planner and government had earnest wish to build fireproof city. I knew it is quite responsible regulation but its consequence is a loss of traditional wooden houses.
Next photo shows the displacement of machiya with contemporary structures caused the widening the road. To accommodate ever increasing car traffic is another reason to clear up our beautiful tradition of the townhouse.Thus they are destined to be disappear.
On the other hand we had many modern architectures in Gifu, one example was the railway station. I believe that most of citizen accepted this kind of architecture as a symbol of the development of technology and life which promised the prosperity.
Let us examine briefly how the modernism was accepted by Japanese. We know we as well as western people have improved and reformed technology as well as political and social system in this century. We call this process modernization process. In this sense we took the same path except that modernization in Japan or maybe in Asia includes another connotation. It is a westernization process as well.
"Modern" is one of many English terms which were adopted in daily Japanese conversation. When people in my parentsﾕ generation say "It's very modern", it means it is nice and fashonable in western manner. If it is fine traditional things, you never say "modern".
This special connotation come from over one century history of importing culture and idea from the west. For example, government decided to build many new public building in the western classic style after Meiji restoration in the mid of 19th century.
Even in the nationalistic period which follow the first phase of adoption they promoted Japanese head over the western body. Although these kind of architecture is often regarded a fascism expression. It was common manner in many Asian countries to have a traditional roof on the western stylish body.
Now after 55 years after that periods people again pursue new combination like western hair over international body. Dyeing hair is all the rage among young people now.They prefer blonde and brown instead of afro or pigtail in Chin dynasdty.
Concerning architecture, I think that Japanese people accepted modern architecture as a heavy one. I agree with this opinion. It is quite contrary to the acceptance of the modern architecture by the European people. Architecture became lighter by the emergence of the modern architecture here in the western country. But for the Japanese at that time, it looked genuine and trustworthy or robust architecture comparing it with the traditional building which burn easily and is weak against earthquake. I guess not so fresh for the Japanese were the distinctive features of modern architecture like flowing space, continuity between inside and outside and direct connection of rooms without medium of corridor. Because these characteristics were familiar for them.
This history is one reason that contemporary Japanese architects achieves light expression. Japanese architects had an advantage to take the orthodox modernism architecture as a tight and heavy since it was heavier than traditional architecture.
We took the place to make it possible to reproduce, or you may say simulate the modernism revolution in 80's and 90's
TO GO TO UNIVERSITY
Let us return my history. I lived my hometown with my parents by 18 years old and left there up to Tokyo to study at the University. To be born in the provinces and go up to big city like Tokyo for study and to get job was quite usual for the high-achieving pupils in the last 150 years. Tokyo has been gathering talents harvested in the provinces as every big city do.
This is a map to show the hometown of well-known architects. You will find many architects came form the various cities. You may find some differece in his attitude between thoes from provincial area and from Tokyo area .
This moving of population was not limited within the architects, it was a general phenomena. People gathered to get their job and success, in big cities especially Tokyo metropolitan area. This was the period of moving.
I came to Tokyo in 1968 when student rebelled against the establishment all over the world. We also involved in this movement and boycotted lectures for 8 months and battled with policeman.
It was the time when by the modern architecture completed its occupation of the Japanese cities except small towns and villages. It is most important features of Japanese town that the life of building is so short around 30 years that the cityscape is always suffered from the over-all changing. I remember there are only one skyscraper in Tokyo and in Japan. Now it has more than・・・・・・・
The university of Tokyo which I studied was the oldest biggest national university and has the longest history and has produced many leaders in social and scientific field including architecture. As I mentioned, most of public building in Japan were designed in western classic style after the opening of Japan in 1968. So was our university done. Its campus is located in the core of Tokyo and its buildings were designed in informal Gothic style even after the big earthquake in 1917.
I remember 18-year-old student form the small provincial town felt as if I had been in another world when I visited there for the first time. I believe such feeling was the same as the people's feeling before the ww2 when they stood in front of the big public building in western style like the Tokyo Central Station. People say that it resembles the Amsterdam Central Station.
PLACE TO LIVE
If you come up to Tokyo alone for studying at any university, you must find your place to live, as university did not and does not have enough dormitory. .You must find your place. When I was a student it was usual to find lodging and use a public-bath near by. Recently student find a partment with bath. As you cannot afford more than five hundred euro so you will find your apartment in 2 story house with wooden or light steel structure. This type of apartment house are usually built in the private property of detached houses for making money for the heavy future inheritance tax or present fixed property tax. By the way, this heavy inheritance tax guarantee the social class fluidity in Japan. Any way, such kind of private development is so usual in the big city that they have caused a high density residential area.
Well, after graduation, you luckily get job in architect's office then you must stay in the small apartment along the narrow lane. But, if you are employed by the Mori Building Co. then you will move to a sunny and spacious apartment and soon you will probably buy a MANSHON . MANSHON is different form the mansion in English proper use. It is just a condominium. MANSHYON is a name given by the developer as a sales strategy. Names in any European language for everything in most cases convey a good meaning and atmosphere. So even if you find Chambor, Palace, Grand Court so on in the address of your Japanese friend's name card, you need not be surprised with such names. They must live in the smaller apartment than 100 sq.m.
MANSHYON is usually located on the edg, like big road sidoe, park side. river side or railway tarack side due to the zoning and shadow regulation.
Ordinary young couple can afford three hundred thousand Euro at most for their MANSHYON using bank loan. You must choose to live in the very tiny apartment in the city center or to live in a rather satisfactory apartment but located in far suburb. In the latter case you must bear the crowded train for over 60 minutes for your daily comuting
If you are born in Tokyo, you may live in the detached house from the beginning in the suburb with your parents before being married.
If you came from other city like me and save a good deal or you succeed to your parents estate, you will build or buy a detached house. Otherwise you can buy an apartment in the high rise tower.
The status of the high rise dwelling is well accepted and is regarded as prestigious dwelling among Japanese. This tendency is shared by Asian countries and in strong contrast to European countries. Most of the high rise tower dwellings so far were built in the area which used to be industrial area in the coastal area. This change of land use occurred from 60's.
If you are not care design quality for your house or you think your house should be ordinary, you possibly go to JYUUTAKUTENJIJYO, where many prefabricated house company exhibit their products with luxury furniture and smiles of attendants. They will give you a beautiful catalog. You will choose your options on door color, kitchen set, wall paper so on These are similar to you buy a car. They will bring a custom-made plan by computer fitting to your odd property shape and your budget in a week.
If you do not have any property, you can buy a detached house from TATEURI, which are build and sold by developer.
Some developer told me that half-timber style is most popular now in TATEURI . Of course these half-timber is just a fake. Next slide is not a half-timber style example but shows strange taste which related with wetern feeling.
You can call it Disneylandaization of environment or theme park phenomena. We can observe this kind of phenomena in Japanese city in mnay aspects. Public work like housing as well as commercial development is designed by this strategy. Even public work are forced to compete in the market. Most up-to-date popular shopping spot is Venus Fort on the reclaimed land in the Tokyo Bay. This is a indoor shopping mall gathering the European brand shops. Interior street is a reproduction of the European 19c street including artificail sky which is changing quickly from morning to evening. Brand freaks need not pay travel expenses and speak Japanese there.
You can buy more fresh Japanese brand fashon items in Shibuya. There you find everything are installed and superimposed on the old things which were new only one month ago. Wherever you buy things Japanese are the most wealthy in the world concerning his possesion. Some editor of the gadget magazine wrote that standard Japanese has eight thousands items with him/her. This number is indeed the top in the world. The second is German. They have six thousand items. The tail end of the world is Indio living near Kusuko ,Peru. They have only 8 items. We have too many things. Sometime we feel as if we lived in junk. We are surrounded with over-possibility.
Finally we must go back to my hometown Gifu. Most of the small and medium city are worried with the decrease of population in the city center. People like to live in its suburb with car and road side shops, and it cause the decline of the commercial activity in the city center . The city center is losing their historical identity and community. These cities are in a critical situation of its survival. People in suburb is living in a domestic or international chain store. This situation is quite same as the suburb of big city. People living in the suburb have no choice but to go to the theme parks. I dont know whether they enjoy them or are bored with them. Whole city become suburb in the medium and small city.
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