Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Heisei no Miyako

On one hand overseas travellers coming to big cities in Japan like Tokyo and Osaka say that big cities in Japan are fairly clean considering its size and population, but on the other hand I have heard many people pointing out the lack of scenic aestheticism of the cities especially Tokyo. As I have written some time ago, Tokyo is a city of constant transformation and the buildings change at a very fast speed. Some of the buildings promoting the specialness of their designs, boasting that this one is designed by the famous architect so and so, but many of them actually don't bother considering how it would look with their neighbors so this is how this messiness of the city expands.

The messiness in Tokyo, the capital of the country and the symbol of Japanese modernism, is in a way special and even one charm of the megalopolis but the case is a little bit different as well as sophisticated in our ancient capital city Kyoto. A draft of a new landscape conservation regulation will be suggested to the city council shortly and this regulation is causing a huge controversy between the city and the residents.

Basically what the draft says is that the law is going to prohibit all buildings in the city to exceed the height of 10meters which is no more than a 4-story-building. This is not so much for safety whatsoever but is solely to make the city look nicer, to get back the wide and calm sky that probably spread above the city more than one thousand years ago. The city explains that the regulation allows the city to retain the unique and proud atmosphere of the ancient times and the tourists welcome the idea for the same reason, but for the residents the regulation is so much more than a joke. Of course.

Currently there are about 1,800 residential buildings (what we call mansions in Japanese) in the areas the draft covers (city center and 14 other locations around the world heritages) that exceed this height limit and if the regulation passes they would be torn down to the limit. People living in the disappearing floors would be forced to move out, but being unable to sell their houses because no one's going to live in that vacant space, and even if someone bought the place their loan requests will not be accepted because the places are illegal. This way the values of the real estates are dragged down to almost nothing, and no one expects that the city can afford compensation.

The regulation also claims all neon and flash/blinking advertising boards to be ripped off and that also half kills the residents and the advertising industry. At the moment there are about 4,000 sign boards that would become illegal by the definition of the suggested regulation, and if they don't obey the new law they would be punished by it. Ad agencies say that the passing of the law would only increase the number of illegal ads and would most likely kill the local agencies because advertisers would only go out of the city or prefecture to continue their ads. The city is already full of illegal ads and the situation probably won't improve.
One ad agency commented that people won't gather to a place without light (neon) - well, I don't know about that. Could be true to some extent, but I don't think all of the big cities in the world are filled with neons the way our cities are.

I don't know which side is going to win the discussion... I don't really think that the attempted law would pass because there are too many problems dangling along... but in case it passes this is going to be a huge huge news that would shake all kinds of businesses.

Today's Update on Japan Mode:
Men's Fashion Spring 2007 - for the first time Japan Mode focuses on men's fashion... at least tried to. Men's fashion circumstances in Japan has changed dramatically over just the past few years. I only wish I had more photos to show. Anyway, the links give you a pretty good idea though they're only available in Japanese.

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