Tokyo & Kyoto, Japan

image For many years, I dreamed about going to Japan.  This is my first time visiting an Asian country. What strikes me right away is how friendly Japanese are not only to strangers but also to each other. Perhaps this is just show. Not understanding Japanese at all, I cannot figure out what goes on behind these friendly faces. I am surprised by how much I like Tokyo’s hypermodern Kinza district. Typically I react coldly to modern cities that grew quickly. Jeffrey Alexander articulated precisely the quality of cities such as Paris that grew very slowly over many centuries, giving builders time to make the whole fit together in an organic way: They make you feel more alive. LA, New York, Chicago may awe your eye but they don’t make me feel more alive. In the U.S, only San Francisco, Charleston, or Portland, Maine had this effect on me.  Much of modern architecture of the Kinza district is so well done that I feel mysteriously attracted to this urban space (See photos). Kyoto’s charms are the opposite of Tokyo’s. image  There is no coherence to the layout and design of modern Kyoto. Modern Kyoto represents architectural chaos. The idea of building codes seems to have eluded the city council. The charm of this city lies in the old palaces that the rulers of Japan built when Kyoto was the capital city.  Did they want to calm their minds by erecting buildings whose lines are straight dispensing with elaborate ornaments? European rococo castles from the same era could not be more different. The imperial palace is a place to calm your mind. Perhaps Barak Obama should build himself a little Japanese garden in addition to the new basketball court that is planned for the White House.

 

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Travel, Asia

No Comments 4 May 2009

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