Sunday, September 23, 2007

Down and out in Tokyo (Einstürzende Altbauten)

Eric Berman of Mutant Frog Travelogue has a daring series of photographs of the interiors several buildings set for demolition in the Shimbashi area. The south end of Shimbashi, once a warren of the lowest end bars, soaplands and cheap eateries, is rapidly being scraped down to the foundations in preparation for a tumult of new building, perhaps a mirror of the great Wall of Shiodome.

At the same time Lionel Dersot tries checking out old haunts in Shimokitazawa, the only neighborhood in Tokyo anyone could ever have possibly called "funky."

Unless a miracle occurs (they don't, if you really want to know) much of the savor of Shimokitazawa will be lost. You see, it was necessary to demolish the maze-like warren in and around the station in order to create space for...a highway.

In Setagaya Ward?

The other day, while on a walk over to Temple University to go to hear a talk, I found that over the summer the forces of renewal had demolished 7th, 8th and 9th blocks of Mita 1-chome. Now a lot what was demolished was barely habitable vinyl-siding over wood-frame tenement-like housing. However along the fringes stood some really charming mid-Showa commercial buildings.


A single cussed homeowner has refused to sell out, leaving the white barrier fence to cut a sharp U around the property.

Best catch a glimps of the 10th and 11th blocks of Mita 1-chōme, the isolated low-income neighborhoods on the bend in the river (euphemism, euphemism) while they are is still there. Heartbreaking for me it is finding out it is too late to take a final bath in the Komanoyu, the Taishō-era sentō where the water was scalding one night and tepid the next, where one of the signs above the bath exhorted patrons show respect for human rights and where gents with full body tatoos were not turned away.

They'll come for Yodobashi 5-chōme after that.

I have seen the plans.

Camera crew filming a "police in a bar in a rundown section of Saitama Prefecture" scene in Yodobashi 5-chōme.
Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo Metropolitan District.
July 3, 2006.


Jun Okumura said...

Einstürzende Altbauten...


? ??

Da, das ist German, nein?

Sie haben emotionalische Problemen, eh?

MTC said...

jun okumura -

Technically, since almost all of the buildings being destroyed are post-1945, they should be called Einstürzende Neubauten.

When I think of Japanese urban architectural decline, however, the Einstürzende Neubauten are the crumbling, multi-storey apartment and office blocks of the 1970s currently being abandoned and demolished to make way for The Permanent City.