Thursday, January 25, 2007

The City of Change

Within a quarter mile radius from my house there are three major constructions going on building a house and there are four square vacant lots for sale. It has been like this more or less for the past decade, as far as I can remember, with housing constructions going on constantly at one place or another in turns.
My way to work is very similar as well.

Tokyo, is a city of constant transformation.

I did not notice this until I had a chance to see an exhibition held at a museum in Stockholm, Sweden a few years ago. I was only traveling using my holidays from school and I only happened to be in Stockholm and stop by in the museum while the special exhibition was held - but anyway, this special exhibition was a comparison of the capital cities of Sweden and Japan, i.e., Stockholm and Tokyo.

There were all kinds of comparisons made in various forms. For example, there was a comparison of transportation fares: I don't remember the exact numbers or ratios but I do remember that public transportation such as buses and subways were three-four times more expensive in Stockholm whereas taxi fares only showed a modest difference.

There was also a comparison in the crime rates, which to my slight surprise, said that the crime rate in Stockholm was higher than Tokyo although not dramatically different. I mean, determining only from my several-day-stay in Stockholm by that time the city gave me an impression of an extremely peaceful place. Come to think of it, though, considering the huge difference in the population (S-less than or more or less a million: T-twelve million) the gap between the actual numbers of those committing crimes widen largely.

Anyway, there was this display of a very well-made model of a certain area of Stockholm and Tokyo, three decades ago and today. Whereas the model of Stockholm thirty years ago and today showed only a mild difference, the models for Tokyo now and then looked almost entirely different that it was harder to spot the same buildings. Next to the model there was a brief analysis of the models and the cities, telling how things in Tokyo are literally constantly changing.

Viewing Tokyo as a city of busy transformation doesn't give me a strange feeling or the thought that "geez why are people so busy?" at all probably because I grew up most of my life in it. But I did feel a funny sense of contradiction cuz we often times boast our country's millenniums-long history and tradition. Perhaps the intangible things and artwork continue to be handed down, but look at the land, there's hardly anything left.

My father who is an architect once asked me to translate a presentation document explaining a project to completely renew an apartment building that was thirty years old. He needed an English translated version because he and his project team was going to ask for an opinion from a British architect.
One of the reasons for renovating the whole building was because it was getting old. Old.
My father, who (naturally) is an architechture freak who knows and has seen hundreds of buildings around the world laughed, "what a joke it would sound like to him (the British architect) to renovate a 30-year-old building because it's old." ...My understanding is that in Europe there are hundreds of buildings that are centuries old that it would sound ridiculous to address a 30-year-old flat to be old.

Well then, what about Japan...? That remains hidden for now, although I kind of have an idea for the answer.

Overall, together with the observations I make on other elements of Japan, I analyze that Japanese people have an aspect of not fearing changes at the very same time as being extremely conservative.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Sakidori Events vol3 - I think this'll be the last for February and will go on to March and April fairly soon.

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