Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Old Relics of Tokyo 東京

You’ll still find the structures in obscure narrow alleyways in downtown areas, or even in parts of Ginza - one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world and the most expensive real estate in Japan - like this samurai armor shop (right) that I stumbled across last year.

I’m talking up architecture.

And no, not the newer, over-the-top miracles of stone, glass, plastics and metals that crop up in Odaiba and Ginza and Aoyama. This month I decided to peer instead into the rear vision mirror, looking for the sense of history that (sometimes) feels like it’s sadly lacking in this metropolis.

You can forget the ancient temples and shrines; they already get plaudits even though most of them have been recommissioned or rebuilt after the general destruction of the Great Kanto earthquake (1923), fires, and the Allied carpet bombings during World War 2.

So what precisely am I thinking?

Well, the wooden abodes, quite often plastered; they’re simple houses, shops and other treats with shoji doors and strange takes on the “bay window” concept.

You’ll see them poking out behind people in old Japanese movies like Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953) and Akira Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel (1948) or Ikiru (1952), most built before or during the Taisho period (1912-26) or early Showa era (1926-89).

When I moved into my apartment in Okusawa, near Jiyugaoka, five years ago there was a brilliant two story derelict house just round the corner (see picture above left). As-yet-unslain curiosity cat that I am, I just had to investigate.

The place was open to the street, yet—as per most Japanese derelict abodes—no squatters had ever lived there. In the drawers were old clothes including dusty kimonos, and while the tatami mats were water-logged and buckled up, and the building wasn’t in the best condition, it could’ve been fairly easily renovated.

Six months later it was torn down and replaced with a car park for the apartment block next door.

* The remainder of this self-opinionated rant is online now @ FORCES OF GEEK.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh my, those buildings are so beautiful! I'm also very interested in Asian cultures.