cultural

Have you seen Shibuya Station recently? Seems to be demolition time, with a new mega-building in the making?

shibuya_station_demolition

最近渋谷駅を見ましたか。今デパートとJRホームの構造を取り壊しています。手前で、新しいヒカリエという東急会社のビルが登場しましたが、どんな新しいショッピング・ターワーを作ろうとしているのでしょうか。東横線が今は地下に入ったので、もっと地上のスペースができたのでしょうか。

It seems the Tokyu department store above the station is being demo’d. I expect it will be another mega-shopping, “cultural” and office tower like the brand new Hikarie across the street. I wonder how it will be different and even “newer.”

Another rail change is the demolition of the elevated Toyoko line to Daikanyama, Nakameguro, and on to Yokohama, which has been replaced with the underground extension of the Fukutoshin subway line. Is there a plan on how to use this reclaimed public space?

shibuya_station_demolition2

Exploring canals, water works, and urban edge in Shibaura

最近、芝浦の辺りをオーストラリア人の建築家・ランドスケープアーチストと散歩しました。芝浦ハウスという新しくてかっこいい文化のスペースは、一度行ったことかあります。今回は、色々な運河に区切られた人工島を観察できました。一番驚いたことは、水道局庁舎が5件もあることです。地図から、たくさんの水道局関係の言葉を勉強しました。排水機場、下水、汚泥、処理、庁舎、水再生、ポンプ所。芝浦は東京都の下水道と雨水の処理に不可欠だそうです。

Last month Australia’s smlwrld‘s Bianca and Lucas invited me to go with them on a walking adventure in Shibaura. They took some great photos and wrote up a post calling Shibaura “an infrastructure theme park.”

I’d only been once before, drawn to see the new cultural space Shibaura House. This second time, in addition to stopping back at Shibaura House, we explored the neighborhood and were stunned by the mix of uses being made of these small man-made islands criss-crossed with canals.

There are many water works facilities, a giant incinerator, docks for shipping and at least one re-purposed warehouse named Tabloid, offices from the 70s and 80s, newer apartment towers, industrial buildings, a cement factory, elevated monorail, and the base of the Rainbow Bridge. The top photo shows party boats and a fishing boat, alongside offices and residences.

The water works facilities include sludge, sewage, treatment, and pumping. It seems like most of Tokyo’s plumbing ends up being processed and then released into Tokyo Bay in Shibaura. It’s something to think of when using a sink or toilet, or imagining what happens to the sewers during a heavy rainstorm. Below is a map showing five water work facilities.

I like how on this very official map, someone has written “これ?” (here?) with an arrow pointing to the giant round entrance ramp to Rainbow Bridge. I’ll post more photos in the coming days from this walk.

New book features global artists & cultural figures talking about favorite places in Japan

Travel Guide to Aid Japan」という本は3.11の後、外国人にもっと日本を訪れるように勧めます。この本の編集者が、僕の「のんべい横丁」の写真を使いたいと連絡してくれました。世界の芸術家や作家やファッションデザイナー41人が、日本で一番好きなところについて書いています。この本に参加できたのがうれしいです。

I just received my copy of Travel Guide to Aid Japan, a stylish book with 40 artists, writers, fashion designers, and other cultural figures recommending their favorite places to visit in Japan. The WAttention editor had asked me recently for permission to use my Nonbei Yokocho photo, and it’s amazing how fast the book went to print. The foreward is by Alex Kerr and participants include Tokyo’s Jean Snow. I was glad to participate in this book.

Giving a talk at the Portland Japanese Garden

ポートランドの日本庭園で、「都市グリーン」というプログラムに参加します。5月26日、私は「東日本大地震後の東京グリーン・スペース」の発表をします。24日は、品品の小林先生が盆栽ワークショップを教えます。26日は、小林先生の盆栽の展覧会が催されます。

I am very excited to travel to the Portland Japanese Garden next week as part of their Urban Green program. My good friend Kobyashi Kenji, of Tokyo’s Sinajina, will be leading a bonsai-making workshop on May 24, and opening his bonsai exhibit on the 26th. As part of the opening, I will give a talk on Greening Tokyo after Tohoku.

It’s a great honor to participate in the excellent cultural programming at the Portland Japanese Garden, and to explore connections between two global cities whose residents are reinventing urban life for the 21st century. If you know anyone in Portland, please let them know about these events! Thank you.

“We do Eco” from Tokyu

"We do Eco" from Tokyu

In the subway, I noticed this striking image and cloying tag line from Tokyu. The ad talks about the importance of growing plants on buildings, and cites a hospital they are building at Oookayama station (大岡山駅).

Tokyu Group is an old-style conglomerate built around a railway company, and including other businesses that enhance the value of the transport network, including retail, real estate, construction, leisure and cultural centers.

"We do Eco" from Tokyu Hospital

Here’s Tokyu Group’s We Do Eco website.

Nodai Trip (part 2): Obuse

Obuse Revitalization

Obuse, as I mentioned in the previous post, is a revitalized small town that was once a center of commerce and culture. Revitalization centers on tourism and agricultural production, with a restored city center that is very charming. Above are wood sidewalk pavers made from chestnut trees: unique and tied to the town’s 600 year history, in which chestnuts were one of the few agricultural products that could grow in the silty river valley.

Obuse sake distillery renovated

It was also wonderful to see the old sake distillery buildings reworked into a chic restaurant and high end hotel. It is rare in Tokyo to see creative re-use of old buildings. The restaurant where we ate featured chestnuts with rice, and displayed an enormous wood sake barrel and old photographs in the bathroom. I like how preservation and stylishness are combined here.

Obusedo Honten Restaurant

The Obusedo Honten Restaurant serves seasonal food and aims to be a “vegetable showroom” with a “from the countryside to the kingdom concept.” The restaurant was able to accommodate all 55 of us, and it was chic and tasty.

In addition to the obligatory “omeyage” store where you can buy chestnut sweets to bring back from your trip, there is also a revitalized Masuichi-Ichimura Sake Brewery that uses old techniques like wood barrels for distilling and ceramic bottles for sale. Again, they do a terrific job of making Japanese rural traditions modern and appealing.

Obuse Masuichi Ichimura Sake Brewery

One of the driving forces behind Obuse’s revitalization is an American woman named Sara Marie Cummings, who settled in the town more than 15 years ago. In a country that is often resistant to foreigners, it is great to see how an American has helped this town find its future by reviving its past and appealing to modern sensibilities. She gave a brief talk to the students and professors.

Obuse's Sara Marie Cummings talks to Nodai students

Cummings has created a cultural salon and a marathon to engage locals and bring in visitors. In collecting information about the town, the students and I discovered that there is also an “Open Garden” program where residents and small businesses create gardens open to the streets and sidewalks. A plaque shows their participation, and provides an English-only welcome.

Obuse Open Garden

See some more photos after the jump:

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