Tokyo: megalopolis of city-villages. / 12 September 2014
I've been on a photographic hunt for the little tin and wooden buildings that are disappearing from Tokyo. Today I watched the demolition of one. It was on top of another one story building and made mostly of wood and just streets away from the busy carriageways that contain everything bar strictly local traffic.
The site is being cleared for development and I had already noticed that one such building had gone from this particular patch.
I pause to watch. The buildings appear to be demolished with some care and respect. There are machines on site, but two men are in the tiny dwelling, taking things apart. A third man with a hose pipe washes down the wood which is stacked separately. Everything gets moved carefully.
Each side of the site modern buildings rise to the sky, with a higgledy-piggledy disregard for the homogenous. The little buildings are clumped together here where there is also a low traditional style Japanese building, well maintained - maybe in brick, with an amazing large, for Tokyo, walled garden. Not that I can see inside...
Often there seems to be just one of the ancient wooden dwellings with quite a big footprint - a valuable asset.
The new building may be offices, shops or dwellings, or a combination. Some of the remaining wood and tin buildings are homes, but some might (also) be restaurants for clued-up locals. They are never accessible.
The owners of the original buildings may be offered homes in the new developments, but there appears to be no pressure on them to move.
The demolition sites around here are well fenced and coned and, if work is in progress, traffic around them is managed by teams of uniformed men, usually with flags.
There is a constant programme of renewal and replacement that extends to culturally important buildings being rebuilt in modern materials as technology improves. Slotting tall narrow buildings into small gaps is a practiced art and neighbouring walls are never used. Earthquake safety demands cutting edge technology for those spectacular skyscrapers that do have bridging elements way up in the sky.
It's easy to get mesmerised by the stunning modern architecture, but I'm really drawn to the remnants of the old. The evidence of another way of life. My collection of pictures grows; widens it's scope to include other small mansions clinging on to plots of land in this crowded Mega-city.
The vastness of Tokyo contains city
villages, nudging each other, unsure
of boundaries, beginnings or ends;
each with an identity to maintain,
character to cherish, each with its own
people and contrasts of scale. Everywhere
vast and tiny co-exist, from person
to population, from mini-bonsai
to massive bamboo forest. From small stone
to Fuji-San, Tokyo embraces all
with considered calm, controlled peacefulness,
learned behaviours that teach people to live
in awe, not fear of the living changing world.