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Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

on Japan [part 1]

In travelling on October 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm

The nights before big journeys. When there’s a strange feeling that it’s not you who’s doing this, but someone else. When you can’t think of anything, when you don’t know what to expect, when you don’t know who to expect. When you hope you haven’t forgotten anything and the gas is off. When you hope your dreams will match up with your pay.

So, after a marathon of three days in which I’ve ticked off the list coming back from Venice, changing the suitcase for the good old backpack in Bucharest, going to a birthday party in York and visiting family in London, we (Andra and I) have finally set off for Japan. Early in the morning, the Heathrow Express and the excitement in our eyes. A cup of coffee too many and we’re in Abu Dhabi changing planes. A long nap and we’re in Tokyo Narita. Could’ve been on a different planet as a matter of fact. As we head towards the train connection for Tokyo Shinjuku, the first thing that strikes us is the perfectly routinised, perfectly organised and perfectly executed movements of cleaning the train. Movements, as the women¬† looked like they were staging a choreographed dance rather than just clean. Strange, but somehow expected.

Tokyo. Well, how can one sum up the ultimate metropolis? City of infinite layers, home of around 14 milion people, challenged every single notion on urban planning I had in my mind. Everyone seemed perfectly adapted to the density (you share a square kilometre with only other 5654 people) , using every available inch and making the streets a place for manifestation. A place for trading, advertising, consuming, living, an extension of the Japanese home esentially. Tokyo is an endless aglomeration of many cities and villages, a mysterious, almost mythical place nurtured by fantasy, the layering of memories and the rituals of daily life, just as in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities…Who knew Venice and Tokyo would share so many folds in common?

So we started ‘sigh-seeing’. Quotes needed as the term is seriously challenged by the Asian lifestyle – you’d never apply the European ways of exploring (usually starting with the city centre) to this. As it has no traditional centre and no geometric framework to lend it a clear spatial hierarchy, it is easier to explore the city by embracing the ‘mosaic’ dimension and get lost around the maze of scales and ever-changing elements, one ward at a time.

The development of subcentres unfolds a series of densley built, villagelike districts, each centred around a subway or train station. So, you have Shibuya, a town that generates information and fashion, Shinjuku for business and entertainment, Roppongi, newly developed and packed with bars, clubs and museums, Ueno-Asakusa, the traditional centre, Ikebukuro, a town expected to grow into a composite city, Akihabara, or the town of crazy electronics and a real challenge for your senses and their limits, and the Waterfront development of Tokyo Bay(including Tsukiji Fish Market).

My favourites? There’d be Tokyo Met Building (by Kenzo Tange), Park Hyatt Hotel (52nd floor bar with amazing panoramic views, live jazz bands, and twee wine names after Lost in Translation – filmed there), Mori Art Museum (and its open air sky deck), Shibyua crossing and people watching, the Prada store in Omotesando (by Herzog and de Meuron), Electric City, utopian capsule hotels, winding alleys and hidden restaurants and clubs, Fashion’s night out on the 11th of September, Kagurazaka walk and the general urban maze.

Streets don’t have traditional names. Expressing the Japanese ‘nested’ rather than the Western ‘linear’ spatial conception, in their addressing system, territorial units (cho and machi) are identified with names while the numbering of lots is done according to the time-related process of land registration rather than along the street in sequential order. Enjoy the chaos and the chance encounters, get lost and say you’ve done it on purpose. Or that’s how we got by at least.

When we finally got our bearings around Tokyo, it was time to move on…

[to follow: Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Koyasan, Hiroshima, Miyajima, and Naoshima]

Snip, snap!

In Uncategorized on October 5, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Clinging on to summer was never a good idea. Especially when it’s already October. At the moment I’m just trying to get my head around school matters so I’ll post a few random things until I can try and summarise the past months and get the films developed.

Until then, enjoy the new Animal Collective video to one of my all-time favourite songs, Bluish, the Belle and Sebastian show on their new single (Write about love), and a little teaser.

P.S.: if you haven’t seen this alreay, you have to!

Talk soon,

C