Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Akio-Peace 1990 Print E-mail

I was lying in the furo in Kyoto, letting my eye drift lazily across the steaming surface of the water to the point where it lapped over the wide timber surround and disappeared into another world. The Japanese boy soaking next to me discovered that I was from New Zealand. "Why" he asked "was it that when I was in New New Zealand, every time I asked for one scoop of ice cream they always gave me three scoops?" I felt pleased that he should be able to say that. "In Japan" I explained "every time I ask for one scoop I am given five". He was more mystified than ever.




Shugakuin lake at sunset

A dancing designer's guide to getting lost and found in Tokyo.


The personal diary of Tony Lucky Watkins

16 October - 6 November 1990


Udon in Tokyo
If I had said that I was also mystified we would have had something in common, but now I had declared that I too was from the world he could not understand. I tried to explain a little about hospitality but my lack of Japanese would not let me cross that boundary. Learning how to cross cultural boundaries is both rewarding and frustrating. You cannot do it on your own. You need someone else who will reach across and grasp you firmly by the hand.


I sank a little deeper into the furo and thought how lucky I had been to have so many wonderful helping hands reaching across the boundaries to let me see Japan in a way that was a very great privilege. Akio had christened me "lucky Tony", and he was right. Nothing escaped Akio and Kazuko. 


Mitumine architects lunch


Shugakuin Middle Pavillion


Autumn in Shugakuin

I had been given time to savour Japan. Three weeks is not a long time, but it is long enough to go through a mental change. For the first week everyone you meet seems to be simply Japanese. You see one culture. Another week makes it possible to make important distinctions. Architects all over the world are a wonderfully eccentric group of people, and Japan is no exception. They come in T-shirts and sandals. They come in business suits and Mercedes. They do not all like each other, or each other's work. They stimulate each other and rub off sparks. They are simply a wonderful group of people to be with.

By a third week you have forgotten that you are not Japanese. You lie in a furo in Kyoto, and find it surprising that someone should ask where you are from. "How did they know I was not from Japan?" you ask yourself, foolishly. It is that feeling of belonging which is so hard to explain. Of course you do not belong, but you see the world in a different way.

It was interesting to set out to discover the Japanese sense of humour. For a week it was hopeless. Polite faces looked back and smiled graciously, taking great care not to give offence. It seemed as though no one had a sense of humour. A cartoon which is brilliantly funny for a Frenchman totally escapes a Japanese. But after a week you begin to tune in to Japanese hopes and dreams, doubts and fears. Then you can go directly to a raw nerve end and tickle it just a little. By the  second week the Japanese were rolling around in the aisles with laughter. One word, such as "Oden" was enough to make everyone at a table roar with amusement. It seemed by the time I left as though everyone in Japan spent all their time laughing.

It takes time to clear away cultural myths too. Do not believe what you hear about architects' offices where there is not a drawing board to be seen. In many offices there is not a computer to be seen. Computers are not a status symbol in Japan in the way in which they are in New Zealand. The Japanese would be totally mystified as to why the people who take cell phones with them to New Zealand restaurants to leave them lying on the table beside them should leave demonstration CAD programmes running on their computers in the front office.

The Japanese use computers if they are useful, and they ignore them if they are not. In the electrical engineering offices, for example, where the work is boringly repetitive, all the work is done by computer. In the design area the brilliance of the human mind is fully acknowledged. The Japanese mind does tasks which we still do physically. Most architects have no layout space for drawings beside their drawing boards, which incidentally are much more likely to have a parallel rule than a drafting machine. I could simply not work in the way in which they do. It seems as though one task is completed, and then it is put away and another task is completed. To us it seems sequential rather than integrated, but the resulting design is very integrated.

Meetings are similarly well organised, and a sequential thinking mode is used. It took a week to tune in to the thought process, but then it became stunningly effective. You deal with one issue at a time, and you actually make decisions rather than leaving them half finished all over the place. After three weeks away I found it very diffictdt to deal with meetings back in New Zealand, where everyone seems to play political games. The minutes, if there are any, do not record the decisions. No one actually changes their stance. They simply wait for a chance later on to reverse the situation to achieve their hidden agendas. There is a cultural difference beween Japan and New Zealand about what meetings are for. It has nothing to do with management style. It runs much deeper than that.

Meetings are central to the organisation of an architect's office. A large office such as Nihon Sekkei has a meeting room, which looks like a restaurant, as part of the reception area. There are dozens of tables, with four chairs to each. Around this communal meeting room are six or eight individual rooms with board room tables of different sizes for perhaps ten to twenty people. Within the landscape officelayout there are numerous other meeting rooms, both open and enclosed, for internal, office meetings. Every middle range architectural office is the same.

The meeting rooms buzz with activity. An architect rushes down a corridor with a model of a fragment of a building. The client waits in the "restaurant". Contractors exchange information. Decisions are made, seemingly on only a few points, and then the meeting is over. You become very accustomed to going in to an office and sending off an order not for pie and chips but rather for whichever architect you wish to see. The meetings seem to be designed not to create barriers, but rather to take barriers away.

The myths about barriers in the architectural heirarchy are also not true. The structure is so flat I could not believe it. Wandering through Nikken Sekkei, which is a very large office, we struck up a conversation with two people who could easily have been draughtsmen. One was the designer of the Cairo Opera House, the other was in control of International Operations. In another extremely large office I was astonished to discover just how much the top people knew about all the junior staff~ and how they were concerned for their welfare. In smaller offices everyone works in together, and there always seems to be a willingness to share tasks. If the junior is busy talking to a client the boss makes some green tea for them.

Many cultural myths are in fact protective devices to help us avoid facing realities. There are some lessons we need to learn very quickly from the Japanese, and if we do learn them we could have a really enriching relationship, because there are many things which they wish to learn from us. They admire our sense of freedom, for example.

The Japanese work very hard, and they work long hours, but they do have ftm along the way. You can call in to most architects' offices at 8pm and find many people still working. The lights are often still on at midnight. When you call in everyone may well decide to stop work, and you will all go off for a meal together. This is why Sundays at home can be very special, as they are the only relaxing times which families have to spend together.

Everyone in Japan seems to work with enthusiasm and commitment. There is a great feeling of being part of a team, or perhaps some critics would say machine. There are personal rewards. When every person does their task well the result is superb, and everyone shares a high level of satisfaction. New Zealand was once like that, but now it seems to have been destroyed by mean and selfish economic theories which result in everyone working against everyone else, and no one getting any satisfaction out of anything. There are some lessons from Japan which we need to learn, as Vicky would say "real fast". I suspect our management experts go to Japan and do not have the opportunities to make the connections which I was able to do.

To help me understand the design process I was shown every stage of projects. I was able to talk to the designers and see them working in their offices. I was able to see models being made in spaces too small for me to even turn around in. I watched the perspectives being prepared for clients. Out on building sites I was able to talk to builders and watch decisions being made. In finished buildings I was able to talk to clients at every level, from the people who actually used the buildings to the people who had first approached the architects.

I may not have seen a typical cross section of Japanese society, as I was dealing with architects who had much deeper concerns than just style and glossy magazines.

However I was astonished to find that some of the central concems of these architects were similar to the concerns throughout the world of architects who are outside the current fashion grooves.

Everyone is asking what it means to be Japanese. They are very conscious that for forty five years the focus has been on Europe and America. A whole generation of architects who trained in the modem movement schools far away from Japan have now worked their way through the profession. I was very cautious about expressing my concerns at the dehumanising of Japanese architecture or with the brutalism of Tange, Isosaki, or even Ando, lest it should be taken as a ciiticism. They were very cautious because they did not expect a high level of awareness about Japanese work. It took a few bottles of Sapporo beer before we realised we had a great deal in common.

This upsurge of interest in "contemporary vernacular" of course leads directly to concerns about the design process itself. Again we had so much common ground, and we all found it frustrating to not have the language to really deal with philosophical issues. I feel sure we learned far more by observing each other than we did by trying to describe where we were at. On reflection I think that was a wonderful advantage. Words get in the way. Architecture is about doing.

The rituals of architecture say a great deal. In America you tum a switch up to turn it on. In New Zealand you tum a switch down to tum it on. Faced with the seeming inevitability of offending someone the Japanese have made the classic move. They mount their switches sideways. "But how" another culture would ask "is it possible to know if the switch is on or off?" Technology provides the answer. A small red light shows when the switch is on. No one has been offended, and in setting out to be hclpful the Japanese have ended being in front.

This is really what my journey was about. We have moved from bi-polar confrontation to multi-polar creative solutions. There are many people who still say they cannot see what architecture has to do with peace. Peace, like architecture, is about doing something. When peace is seen as words the arguments go on forever, and the confrontation gets worse. When peace is seen as turning a light switch on its side it becomes obvious that the people who understand the structural changes which can bring peace to this world are the designers.

In the Shinkansen trains the girl who wheels through the food trolley always stops after her trolley has opened the automatic door. She turns back to face the world she is leaving and she bows graciously to the carriage. She turns again, the door closes, and she is gone. It is a wonderful ritual. I hope that no American management consultant ever suggests that time could be saved by walking straight through the door.

Peace is not about leaving the old world behind. It is concerned with the relationship between the old and the new. It was very exciting in Japan to see the past being acknowledged, and the best of the past being carried forward into the future. It was stunning to see Miki dressed in a kimono going off to learn about the tea ceremony from her master. She is at the leading edge of interior design brilliance because she knows where she is coming from and where she is going to.

No one in Japan seemed to be self conscious about discussing roots, or the philosophical principles which motivated their lives.

There is a Zen saying, which Yoshiaki Nishijimo shared with me, "Spare not yourself". It is concerned with hospitality and generosity. It is, I imagine, concerned with helping your neighbour, rather than taking advantage of them to gain some advantage for yourself. It has something to do with giving three scoops of icecream to the person who only asks for one. It is about being fully alive. As I flew away from the lights of Japan I thought of that phrase "Spare not yourself". That was what I should have shared with my friend in the furo in Kyoto.

I may not have helped him to understand, but he had helped me. Back in New Zealand I looked at the Japanese Haiku which hangs on the wall of my office "Since my house burned down, I have a better view of the rising moon".

Words can only give a glimpse of a much more complex reality. Let me turn back then to the beginning again to tell you something about my journey.

Shugakuin top pavillion


Dawn at Kiyomizu


Capsule hotel
One of the great advantages of flying JAL is that the direct flight suddenly makes Japan seem very much closer. The 10 hours and 15 minutes of flying time passes very quickly when you do not have to suffer the duty free disruptions of Fiji. After a good meal I was able to settle down on a full row of empty seats and actually get some uninterrupted sleep as the 5600 miles slipped away beneath me.

Another great advantage of JAL is that a trip to Japan begins before you leave Auckland. It seems symbolic to be welcomed aboard with the formality of dark blue suits, and then as soon as the seat belt sign goes out to find the hostesses changing into informal brightly coloured pinafores to pass out the steaming hot towels and a good orange juice.

As always Tuesday had been a hectic departure day. Locating information and addresses. Replying to the last of the unanswered mail. Farewelling Lizzie who would look after the house. Adding an extra super to the terrace hive of bees, and storing the rest of the supers in preparation for the November honey flow. A farewell call to George Thomas. John Betts agrees to do the research essays. Glenys tells me Dave does not need to borrow the computer while I am away. Found after going to hear David Stea that his talk had been postponed, but at least we had the chance to exchange addresses. We will meet some time in Mexico I hope. Collected a box of slides and decided the poor quality of the copies would have to do, as I did not want to carry originals around the world. Collected the coin purse I had had made, and at the bank bought Yen and travellers cheques to go in it. Bought a hat for Simon Reeves and delivered it to him, so that we would have a bond between the work I was doing in Japan and the work he was flying off to do in France. Some final thoughts on Brazil and the post Stockholm politics. A letter to take to Japan with the latest developments. New parka and overtrou to reduce the bulk of my luggage, and a new water bottle for train travel in Japan. Bought the book "Peace Squadron" for Akio and copies of Craig Potton's book on New Zealand for presents. The Peace Centre wishes me well for the trip. Damian Wojcik calls in to my office, just back from India, and we talk as I label and check slides to take with me. Damian always seems to have all the time in the world, and I always seem to have a thousand things to do. Cleared my Departmental mail, finalised the Graphics results from the late assignments, and put the marks up for the students. Letters for Mike to clear the formalities for my absence, and to John Hunt to ensure that the examinations my students will sit while I am away will run smoothly. Final xeroxing of data on Minshikus and some maps. It is already 8pm so I do not have time to stay for all of the Peace Lecture by Peter Watkins in the Conference Centre. Back to Karaka Bay to pack, and give the house a very cursory clean up. Joan Chapple is not in so I leave the Heralds. I ring Wailin and she is very understanding and happy to wait until my return for her alterations. I ring Dan Lyons and he is not happy, but I can do nothing about it. To Papatoetoe to leave my car with Clive, and he takes me on to the airport. It is 22.45, and the terminal is deserted. The flight is not until 23.30, but by then we are already taxiing out for take off, and soon I am watching the lights of Auckland from my window seat, as they slip away into the night.

I am already in Japan, watching the news in Japanese as we have a light snack. The 747LP, with its 3/4/3 seat configuration is less than a quarter full, which is always a recipe for a luxurious, happy flight. Only the news is very serious, with nothing on Iraq, but a great deal on Japanese business. I lie back and drink good French wine. The hostess seems to guess that I am really enjoying the flight, and slips me another bottle to take with me.

With more hot towels I am woken at 8am NZ time, which, when I have put my watch back four hours becomes 4am Tokyo time. Soon a blood red rim of fire etches the horizon. The orange dies into grey. A lavish breakfast. Time for some writing. Videos of golf. The coast of Japan, and then the coast of Japan again. We go into a holding pattern, and there are planes all over the place. The early morning rush hour. Golf courses are a dominant feature of the landscape. By 6.10 we are on the ground and taxiing in. All the information booths are still closed, and no maps or other details are available, so I was glad to be fully prepared, and to have some Yen with me.

By 7.15 1 am on the Keisei bus, which only takes six minutes to reach the station. It costs Y190. A Kiwi would walk around the comer, but I suspect would not be allowed to walk through the airport security fence. The ticketing for the train is automatic, so you need some yen in your pocket, but the machine happily gives change from Y5000 notes which it distinguishes from YIOOO notes. It all seems both amazing and complicated when you have spent all night on a plane. I take the regular train, rather than the skyliner. I want to savour Japan rather than rush through, not noticing the small stations. The glistening tile roofs, tiny houses clustered together in the valleys, and the narrow streets are enough to bring wonderful memories flooding back. I want time to dream a little. However by the time we have gone through what seems like hundreds of miles of urbariisation, and most of the morning crush hour crowd have got off as we emerge into countryside, I get the feeling that perhaps I have gone through Tokyo, and am now heading off to the other end of the line. All is well. The Kesei line actually ends at Ueno, so it is impossible to get lost. At 9am I take a deep breath of Ueno air as I change stations.

I do manage to get lost in the main Ueno station. My problem is getting started on the network, deciding what machine automated ticket to buy from the hundreds of alternatives, and sorting out the subway from the JR trains. I keep going around in circles, trying to solve problems which millions of other people seem to have under control. In another day I too will be unable to see why there was any problem. There is no connection between the subway and JR. You use one or the other. A few stations make changes possible. If you cannot work out the fare you simply buy a ticket and the really helpftfl folk at the exit gate will sort out where you have come from, which is much easier than sorting out where you are going to. You can get through tickets to let you pass from JR onto private lines, which saves time, but the trick for the beginner is to buy as you proceed. When you arrive in with a rail pass you do not need to work any of this out.

Through the ticket booth I am back on familiar ground, switching from the Yamanote Line to the Sobu Line at Akihabara, and from there it is only four stops to Ichigaya. Akio posted me an excellent map, so I found myself standing outside what I figured must be the red dot. I must have looked very puzzled. The next thing I heard was a voice calling out my name. It was Dana Belohlavkova, whom I had not seen since she flew from Montreal to New York while her luggage flew to Santiago. The room I am moving into is the same one which Dana is moving out of, but I will not be able to get in to have a shower until 3pm. There is a luggage check. Dana and I share a coffee in the sumptuous restaurant, looking over the outer moat of the Imperial Palace. It is wonderful to find out what is happening in Prague, and for an hour my mind slips back to cobbled streets and those heady days we shared last November when the government collapsed around our ears.

A brisk walk to stretch my legs. The fishing ponds below the hotel. A shrine across the bridge. Neon and people. Back to the Arcadia to meet a warm and smiling Alcio, and what could be more apropriate than going to a small restaurant for tsuba. I did not have the language to explain to Akio why I should ignore the other more exotic alternatives and have noodles, but I think he understood. In the next three weeks I would develop a very deep respect for the way in which nothing escaped Akio's very perceptive eye.

The first office we visit is Nikken Sekkei, planners, architects and engineers, meeting Satoshi Okuma, who will be at Saturday's meeting. Close by is the Tokyo Dome, which seems to have formally accepted the nickname of the Big Egg. It is an air supported dome for 50,000 people, designed by Nikken Sekkei. The pattern is set. We will visit offices, meet people, and see some of their work. It is a very rare opportunity to come to grips with the design process.

Alongside the Big Egg is an amusement park with, among the usual roller coasters, a tower from which five people could parachute to the ground, with the safety of knowing the parachute was still attached to the tower by a cable. Back at Sendagaya we look at Maki's National Gymnasium and swimming pool. Maki spoke in Montreal, and is coming to New Zealand for the NZIA Conference in twelve months time, so I was very keen to see some of his work. The Wednesday meeting will be held in Maki's hall, so there will be the chance to use the architecture as well. I am already very grateful that I have let Akio tell me what I should see, because he knows exactly what I do want to see.

Akio goes off to meet Oscar, leaving Dana and I to explore. I convince Dana that you only discover Tokyo on foot, and we plunge into the tiny streets and walk up to Shinjiku. Tokyo is about detail. The doors, the potplants, the opening of a jewellery shop, the astonishing mixture of uses.

Bright lights. The Shinjiku supermarkets full of televisions and cameras. At one of the large camera discount stores I buy 10 rous of Fujichrome, and that will hardly be enough. Train back to the Arcadia, to meet Oscar Margenet, who has spent several days getting up from Argentina.

Off by taxi right across town. I cannot understand why we need to go so far, until we go up a flight of stairs and emerge into a tiny restaurant, next door to the office where Aldo worked for 26 years. This is Japan. The trip would have been worth while even if I had had to go home in the morning. Of course I had difficulty going anywhere afterwards. New Zealanders are designed to climb mountains, not for making their long gangly legs disappear out of sight beneath them. Next year I am going to train to sit at Japanese tables.

There is no pretension. This restaurant has all the integrity of a folk culture. The food preparation is part of the meal, and all is visible. You sit at the bar if you want to talk to the cook. The tables are on a low platform, but the whole space is so small that there is one community rather than groups of isolated diners. We are welcomed as though this is a party just for us. Course after course is laid before us, and we all share from the communal dishes. Exotic vegetables, crisp skeletons of fish that melt their flavour into your mouth, and of course sake.

It is around midnight, which is 4am NZ time, before I collapse into a real dream at the Arcadia. Only later will I realise that we have been put up in a hotel with our own rooms precisely so that we will be able to recover from jet lag before the real work begins. This thoughtfullness of the Japanese has to be experienced to be believed. Dana spends the night at Akio's house as she will fly off early in the morning to join Sven in Kitakyushu.

Capsule hotel Osaka
On Thursday 18 October I am awake at 8am, but by the time I have oraanised myself and my gear the eager beaver cleaning ladies are wanting to transform my room. Oscar looks over my books on New Zealand, and then we set off together to discover Tokyo. I selected a walking route which would take us past the Imperial Palace to the area around Otemachi. There is not time to go all the way to Ueno, as there is too much of interest along the way. Oscar has not been to Tokyo before, and thus we enjoy the small entrances, the details, the narrow streets, and the building sites. The granite veneer panelling which clads the scaffolding on one site is so good that we cannot believe it is not the finished building. Every site has a high level of technology, but at the same time it is interesting in Tokyo to find old ways just as popular as new ways. Plane table surveying has not been superseded by the laser.

We study work methods. The sole operator in his meticulous little truck who is tending the street lights. It seems to take only minutes for him to stop his truck, set out the protective witches hats to direct traffic, extend the stabihsers for his cherry picker, clean and polish the glass, replace the bulb, fill out a chalk board with the number of the pole, photograph the old bulb and the chalkboard at the base of the pole, pack everything up again, and head on to the next light.

The Imperial Palace is closed for the crowning of Emperor Aklhito, and there are riot police everywhere. I have that familiar feeling of something about to happen. The stone wall is impressive from across the moat, and I love the protective covering to the beam ends on the bridges. Everywhere in Tokyo there are police, both on the streets and in their boxes at important comers. They are however well outnumbered by the vending machines, and like     everyone else I develop the habit of having a coffee or fruit juice, either while on the run or while waiting for a train.

There is a display of Graphic Design at the Museum of Modem Art. We lunch in a little tsuba bar which is immense fun. Most restaurants in Tokyo have     plastic models in the windows so  that you can choose from the priced models, but at the very top and the very bottom of the price  range chance seems to take over. Apparently tourists have started buying the plastic models to take home, but I did not have time to get out to the wholesalers who market them. Imagine being able to go into a restaurant and take your own model out of your pocket to place the order. Next trip.   

We go through a developer's office, in the post-modern tradition, and we spend time watching the steel frame of a building being erected.

Akio has left a message to say he has been delayed until 4.30, so there is time for a shower. I had expected cold weather, and instead it was sunny and hot. A wonderful time of year to be in Tokyo, but I should have reahsed that Akio had worked all that out.

The three of us set off by taxi at 4.45 to see an arcaded building by a classmate of Tange. Close by is Sakakura's office, where we meet more friends of Akio's. Behind the office is the Saka Gallery which has an exhibition of the models, drawings, and published material on the Salesian Church. The quality of drafting and modelling is simply stunning. Close by is Arata Isosaki's office, which is much smaller than I had extected. It is attached to a photographer's studio, and close by there are other design centres. This seems to be a little design enclave.

On by taxi past the Tokyo tower, which is superbly lit at night, but somehow very elusive. You feel you ought to be able to see it, but it is never there. The appearance is improved when you cannot see the ground level buildings at the base of the tower. The Ginza. Neon to make Las Vegas look like a power failure.

It is the opening of an architectural exhibition on housing. An excellent chance to see some very interesting work and to meet most of the architects involved. A very diverse group of people. It is the magazines which make them look as though they all come out of the same moidd. The origami wizz kid in his stipped T shirt. Sapporo beer, and of course no one makes nibbles like the Japanese make nibbles.

On by foot to a Yakitori Bar (yaki=roast, tori=chicken), where we sit at the bar to watch our yakitori being prepared. We are discovering Akio's authentic Tokyo, and Akio certainly knows Tokyo. Sake. Around 9.30pm we farewell Akio on the JR and head back to the hotel for a furo.

Salt meet fresh Miyajima
At 7.30am on Friday 19 October the same businessman is back on the roof next door doing his exercises before beginning the day's work. Getting into shape seems like a good idea. I repack my bags, update my diary, and inscribe the books to give to Aldo. With life organised I wait while Oscar makes a phone call and then we set off once again to get lost and found in Tokyo.

We join the fishermen, who seem to catch great numbers of fish only to have them weighed and returned back into holding tanks. South then towards the Diet, but this route is not so interesting, and the street scale is closer to Western standards. We buy take-aways for lunch, simply because they are so wonderfully packaged, and as we are eating them in the courtyard of a small shrine an old lady approaches us and we share one of those impossible to comprehend conversations. Having decided she might be tying to invite us to share a cup of tea we set off to find her, and there in a little bar a few doors away she is waiting for us.

We are eventually to discover that it is a bar of a kind once frequent, but now almost non existant. It is a typical long thin space, with a cooking preparation space running the full length of one side, seats to sit up at the bar, and a low platform down the entire other side with low tables to sit at in the traditional way. The interior is warm, rich and chaotic. A visual delight to match the traditional music playing softly in the background. The array of sauces and condiments is matched only by the cooking implements. Each bottle in the line of Chivas Regal whisky bottles has the name of a customer on it. A tiny door at the end of the kitchen opens back into the street. In Akio's house there will be a similar narrow door opening out from the kitchen into a tiny service courtyard.

She gives us green tea and a rice sweet, and then is on the phone to get her friend to come across from the flats over the road. The friend speaks enough English to be able to translate. More delicacies, more green tea, and she insists on giving a present of a small bell to each of us. 'fhe bell is from the Hei shrine, and they not only give us directions, but also take us to the next intersection to set us off on the right road. The Hei shrine is a large complex now hemmed in by government buildings, and a hotel which is obviously for visiting bureaucrats.

At the Diet Library Oscar wants to look at newspapers and periodicals. There is strict security on entry, but it is an open shelf system and you can borrow books. The avid enthusiasm of the Japanese for learning is immediately apparent. A library and the way it is used says a great deal about a country's future.

We are able to pass through the exterior gate of the Imperial Palace on our way to Marunouchi, and this takes us north of the Imperial Hotel which I had been working towards. It is a fortunate move. On a second storey window there is a large sign "New Zealand". Exploration reveals that it is an extension to the New Zealand Embassy, and they have a very impressive and very efficient front to the world. I gather up some brochures in Japanese, and am making initial enquiries at the reception counter when a door bursts open and Richard Bollard appears. He has overheard my enquiries and is keen to help. What a great guy. In a few minutes I am previewing "Southern Crossing", a video on New Zealand in Japanese. Perfect. It is not only exactly what I wanted but it is also the image I wanted to convey. Low key, easy going, low impact tourism. Farm stays and horseriding, as well as a helicopter trip down Milford Sound and a flight over Mount Cook. All this built around the concept of friendship. The Japanese girl visitor hosted by the New Zealand girl, and the film of doing things together. I was able to show it while people were gathering in the room the following day, and four people wanted to come to New Zealand before I had even begun to speak. The video was eventually shown to JIA, AFPE, and on a dozen other occasions.

Richard also gave me posters to hang on the wall, which made the Japan Institute of Architects meeting look as though it was really on NZ, and some fold out "origami" boxes, which were meant to be static displays, but which I used during the lectures to unfold the connection between NZ and Japan. All this was the perfect compliment to the 1990 banner and other material I had brought from NZ. The posters made wonderful presents, and the video and boxes were returned to be borrowed again next year.

Almost alongside is the main Tokyo information centre, so I sorted out maps for Oscar and obtained a 1990 set of maps to replace my 1987 editions. We were running late, but so was Akio, so our messages for each other arrived together at the Arcadia, and then we all arrived together.

Only later did it become apparent that Akio took us on the Chuo line to avoid changing trains, and then we went north by taxi to Akio's house. It could have been Ogikubo where we left the train. A bus terminal, which you do not expect to find in Tokyo, and a queue waiting for the taxi, which you do expect to find. Street stall tsuba bars around the railway station.

A royal welcome by Kazuko. She has prepared an exqusite meal. We talk and eat and drink and finally watch Oscar's videos late into the night. The videos show the indulgent affluence, and sheer extravagence, of the so called third world, and this for me is a tension I will have to live with. It is a wonderful opportunity for us all to live together in Tokyo as it gives us time to really get to know each other, and to move beyond formality to wit, doubts, fears, hopes and dreams.

Octopus in Tokyo
After the many courses of a classic Japanese breakfast on Saturday 20 October there is time to organise slides and the final presentation for the afternoon. My ideas have changed and the format has become clearer, so the time is invaluable. It is wonderful to have our own little house in Tokyo, and to be able to stretch out with the sweet smell of tatami.

Kazuko has prepared Miso (fresh vegetable) soup for lunch, and then we set off by the Seibu Line for Sendagaya. I discover that the Iogi station on the Seibu Line is only a block away from Akio's house, and that Akio's office is right alongside the station. I unravel the intricacies of the Takanobaba change to JR, and the Yoyogi change to the Sobu Line. All very simple. At the Arcadia we team up with Dana and Sven Thiberg, who is back from the conference in Kitakyushu. On to Sendagaya. We taxi the short distance to the JIA Headquarters because we all seem to have a kit of material. I have slides, video, posters, banner, boxes, and tapes of NZ music. I set up the show, let the video run as people are gathering, and then relax.

At 3pm Professor Kato is introduced and begins very slowly with what seems to be a "deja vu" expose on the environment. Then he warms up with a few diagrams, goes looking in his bag for some symbols to stick on the board, and upends his bag which scatters diagrams, notes and his dreams all over the floor of the hall. Now he is in full flood with arms flailing, diagrams which extend far off the edge of the board, and castles in the air. Brilliant. He is unstoppable as he expounds theories that the rice eating people will always outlive the wheat eating people. The audience is totally wrapped and the translator who has been trying to sort all this out for us is exhausted.

Oscar talks while his video of Argentina is showing, which is very distracting. I use a lot of visual material to support my paper, and show slides, but the Serre and Bromhead cartoons go down like lead balloons, and the translator was at a loss to soft out what a lime pit was. It was a learning curve, and I was learning fast. It was very difficult to know what the audience made of it all. Dana shows the devastating video of villages being destroyed in Czechoslovalda. Very depressing. Sven mostly advertises the meeting coming up on Wednesday. At 6pm we have to cut the question time short to allow a half hour for drinks until 6.30pm.

I had hoped to leave more time for questions to catch the mood and interests of the audience, but we all seemed to lose a lot of time in the translation process. I had a lot of informal questions and I was rather stunned to find people wanting to follow up some of the triangulation of management theories which I had explained in Prague. No speaker should ever underestimate the ability of an audience to absorb and remember.

Next Tuesday the JIA news is delivered into every office in Japan, with not only a full report on the meeting, but also a photograph. The information network is astonishing. When I recognised a photograph above an architect's drawing board I enquired about a translation. It became immediately obvious why they all knew so much about me. Even to statements such as "we do not know what age he is" which was the response to the fact that I had not told them what age I was because I considered it not to be relevant to what I had to say.

Over the road at Svensens about twenty of us gather to celebrate the success of the meeting with enormous ice creams. We walk back to Sendagaya, passing Maki's swimming pool and gynasium, now fully lit, which gives wonderful views of the interiors. Along the way we are astonished to find a construction site where the hoarding has hanging baskets of flowers along the front. The quality end result in Japanese buildings begins before the first concrete is poured. It is a frame of mind.

Train back to Akio's, and as we walk through logi we buy roast "kumeras" from a street stall, rLm by a very friendly lass who has been to New Zealand. Over green tea we talk until midnight about the Russians and the meeting in Argentina next year. All our conversations were in fact conversations about ourselves, and we were measuring ourselves against external and unfamiliar territory.

Akio's Driving School in Maebashi
On Sunday 21 October I lie in until 8am, just enjoying my futon spread out on the tatami in my very own house. It is hard to explain to Akio just how much all this means. Over a long breakfast we talk through a reply to Jim Morgan's fax from New York, checking Sven's responses by phone from the Arcadia. Oscar types up our reply. We help Kazuko pick kaki (persimmon, but not the familiar variety), enjoy several cups of coffee, clean up our house and look over the upper level of Aliio's house. Simple, warm, modest, hospitable.

Akio's office was designed as a residence. It is simple, clean and minimal. I wonder how three people can be so tidy in their habits. The Prague poster, the diploma Akio won in Prague for the Peace Garden, and the framed photographs of the garden, which I had last seen in Prague, all indicate how important that meeting was to Akio, just as it was to the rest of us. I discover that Akio has another house in Maebashi, and see some photographs of it.

The sun is shining, and the weather is exquisite. Dana comes out by train to join us and we walk off through the wonderful local street network. Once the area had been farms, and the original farm houses remain, absorbed into the network of new streets, which are all of the same proportions. Japanese streets do not have footpaths, but they do have a white line which indicates where pedestrians are safe. Some gardens remain, and some plots are still devoted to vegetable growing in spite of their high value.

There is a jumble sale at the local school gymnasium, along with demonstrations of recycling. People are encouraged to turn their own waste paper into new paper. Lunch in a small neighbourhood park. Kazuko has prepared rice and fish, and hot tea comes from the Y 100 in the slot dispensers. A "traditional" house under construction allows us to see the conflict between the old and the new, in both materials and techniques. We go over the local branch library, which is one of seven in the area. There is no security, the building is immaculate, and there are dozens of people absorbed in books. The section on architecture made it very clear that a well informed public is a good starting point for high quality architecture.

Akio is keen to take us across town to a restaurant, as none of the many local restaurants are up to his discerning standard. We compromise and go to the Royal Host, which is the Japanese equivalent of an American Hungry Horse. The tiny waitress has a calculator almost as big as she is. She punches in the orders, with all the totals and the dishes coming up on the screen, and when everyone is happy the order is flashed through to the kitchen. There is food available from everywhere except Japan, so I settle for hamburger steak.

Dana returns to the Arcadia hotel, while we watch Kabuki on television. Over a cognac I linger on with Akio to listen to Bruckner's 8th. played by the Munich Symphony live from the Suntory Hall. Tokyo seems to be the cultural centre of the world. Lying on my futon I dream that one day in NZ there will be television without advertisements. It is not a question of scale. It is a question of belief.

Shutter lock in Akio's Maebashi house
At 8am on Monday 22 October I leapt out of bed, and had my bedding all folded up and stored away before I realised it was in fact 6am. Such is life. Time to talk to Oscar, who has cunningly talked about getting up at 5am, but in fact is still in bed. Another superb breakfast of Japanese delicacies, and then the morning is free. There is not time to get further afield so I concentrate on thc urban design of the local area, sorting out the block numbering system and the street address system along the way. Once you understand it is very simple. Time for photography.

After lunch we go to Akio's office to do some work, and then on to Shinjiku to the JICA office in the Mitsui Building. A long meeting with Katsuhiko Oshima. For a bemused kiwi the difference between a Japanese mind and a Spanish mind is hard to reconcile. I try to be helpful, but the giving and receiving of aid is so fraught with hidden agendas that only the naive would assume that it is just a question of getting the job done.

From level 46 to level 50 where the reception area of Nihon Sekkei, one of the largest architectural firms in Japan, is located. We are shown over the whole office, which occupies three floors, after watching the firm's PR video. The first few minutes of the video are a conservationist's dream. The philosophical commitment to green values is total with the soft music set to a visual backdrop of flowers and landscape. The film moves on to the wide range of work done by the firm. The Japanese are astute enough to be completely up with the play of public expectations, even if they are not sure what to do about it. I think of all the naive Kiwis who think that changing the words is changing the world.

Back on the ground we look over some of the camera supermarkets to sort out some information for Oscar.

On to the Asagaya ? Station and a short walk past the Toa Fitness Club takes us to the best Oden Bar in Tokyo. We have to wait a little before there is space for another three, but then we all squeeze in. The cook used to run a small street stall, but then building alterations forced a move, and he went indoors. It has a mood like the old Wynard Architectural Association room. Toichi is there, and so are Akiko Koizumi and Yoshiko Sakata. Everyone seems to know everyone else, and by now everyone seems to know us too. The jokes and laughter ripple around the room.

Oden is a way of cooking where vegetables and fish are boiled in a broth. As food is taken out, with customers selecting whatever they like, more is added, and the broth becomes a richly flavoured soup. This is ladelled out whenever someone wants some soup. The sake flows. Faces press against the glass to see if there is room for someone else to join the group. A very happy trio makes its way back to logi.

Akio takes us on the way home for a cup of coffee in his favourite coffee house. There are hundreds of varieties of coffee, and they can be prepared in dozens of different ways. Turkey and New York seem close together, united by the rituals of coffee. The richness and variety of coffee is matched only by the generosity of Akio, and the diversity of the wonderful people in Architects for Peace and Environment.

Bar in Rossi's Hakata hotel
Akio and Kazuko wake us as they leave for Maebashi at 7.30am on Tuesday 23 October. Kazuko will lecture at the University and Akio will supervise the golf driving range and club house. They leave a lavish breakfast for Oscar and me.

At 1Oam Toichi arrives in his yellow VW beetle, and we drive off for a wild and wonderful day. Toichi begins with his own office, where he works with one assistant. It seems impossible to believe either the quality or the price of a recently completed developer's house. It is totally traditional and immaculately detailed and built. We run the costing through the calculator several times and eventually decide our minds must be wrong.

We also look at solar houses and solar systems using hot air rather than water to circulate the energy. Toichi is a member of the Steering Committee of the OM Research Group, which was founded in 1987 in conjunction with the OM Solar Association. Akio is also a member.

Around the corner is Tadeo Ando's hospital, right next to Sakakura's almost completed town hall. With the VW propped up on the footpath I race around clambouring over the buildings taking photographs. It would be a waste of time looking for a parking spot in Tokyo. I had been determined to find at least one Ando building, but without a guide it would have been impossible. It was cold and formal. Only now are Japanese begining to look back at their traditions of touchability.

Off to the Tokyo Map Centre, where we leave Oscar and the VW propped up on a railing while I do a lightning study of aerial photographs, historical maps, recent maps, and data bases for planning. No one except the Japanese would even attempt a land use map for Tokyo and the result has to be seen to be believed. I could have spent all day just admiring the draughtsmanship.

On to Toichi's tiny apartment where we abandon the car and carry on by foot. We meet Toichi's wife by chance in the local shopping street, as we make for the railway station. Endless changes of train as Toichi shows us all of Tokyo. Somewhere we pass Fosters office block, but I never manage to find it again. Out in the Ueno air, and back into the subway to go to Asakusa. Through the local streets and then a meal of yakitori (BBQ chicken) followed by eel baked and laid on a bed of rice. This is accompanied by eel heart soup.

Through the temple and across the Sumida River to the beer halls and office blocks on the other side, with the opportunity to see some of the craftsmen at work. It is too late for the river trip which was obviously part of the tight schedule. Back by subway to the market streets of Ueno, where there are goods from all over the world. If you want some Italian leather this would be a much better place to get it than in Italy.

On at speed to Tsunekata Naito's office. This has a personality all its own, just as he does. It is like a crowded attic. We look over an urban design development, which includes a golf course and substantial areas of housing. Spirits are high in the office because approval has just been given for the development to proceed. It is on a large tract of land bought by a company as an investment many years ago. The design seems British, with that "new tovm" feeling. There are millions of tons of soil to move as the ground is unstable. Yoshiko Sakata is working on late into the night, without a glimpse of the hilarity of the Oden Bar.

We walk on, passing an architect's house on a 6 tsubo (one tsubo=two mats) site. Included in this are decks and an entrance way. I am standing in stunned admiration when it is explained that as well as the three stories above ground there is a level underground which is his office, and three staff manage to work in this space.

On to Masamitsu Nozawa's office. We see a video of the opening of a service station, with full Shinto ceremonies, and also a video on their competition winning town hall entry (from 242 entries), which is now a completed building. I also go over all the details of the solar heated hospital, and Masaniitsu gives me the book on it which will enable me to eventually find it. It is another tiny office with four working in one small office and Masamitsu somehow squeezing in among the filing cabinets, models, drawings, tea making facilities in the other entry space. My good friends here will feel really at home at Karaka Bay.

After a beer at the office we go on to the VIM bar at Shibuya for an endless array of delicacies. Beef, cockles in the shell, vegetables. Late into the night we farewell Toichi, and back at Akio's, around 11.30pm, we tell a tale or two over green tea.

Facade of Rossi's hotel in Hakata
On Wednesday 24 October we pack our futons away around 8am, and share breakfast with Akio, who shows us the JIA report on our Saturday meeting. I cannot believe it. We talk. I think of myself as someone who talks at length, but Oscar makes me look like an amateur. At 10.15 we are back on the train to the Arcadia, and as we walk alongside the moat to the'back" entrance we find Dana and Sven already lost in deep discussions in a coffee shop. Over coffee we talk through a revised structure for the meetings leading up to Brazil. Sven has done exactly what I have done, resorting to flow diagrams to try to distinguish the facts from the rhetoric. Our diagrams come to very similar conclusions.

We carry on briefly at the hotel, and then go by subway to the 'Tempu Tempura House", in the basement of the Tokyo Bocki Kaikan Building, in Maranouchi. It is, as far as I can ascertain, the best in Tokyo. The 68 year old master chef, Teiji Kazama, has spent fifty three years getting eveiything just right. He even mixes the flour right in front of us, lest someone else should get it wrong. The shrimps have presumably been swimming around in the kitchen, because they must be absolutely fresh, with not even a hint of grey on the tail, and the tails must be so perfectly cooked that they melt in your mouth, instead of being discarded, as they would be in any lesser restaurant. We sit in a line at the bar, while the eagle eye of Teiji watches our plates. it would be a disaster to let something get cold on your plate, so he picks the precise moment when you are thinking about another shrimp, and only then does he intuitively put it in front of you. Tempura is dipped in salt, and we have dishes of other spices. After a variety of fish and vegetables we finish with soup. Then, just as there is a separate sitting space to prepare for the ritual of the meal, there is yet another sitting space to move to for the melon which will freshen our palates. I try to tell myself this is just lunch.

On by subway, and then we walk to the JIA Headquarters for the Arc-Peacc Executive Meeting. First the rituals for the meeting in the evening are organised. In Japan nothing is left to chance. The positions of the boards, speakers, translator, and audience are all drawn out in a detailed plan. In New Zealand we would assume that something would go wrong anyway, but in Japan nothing goes wrong.

We move on to Brazil. Sven goes over the plans. By now I am becoming tuned in to the Japanese mind, and so I pick the precise moment to suggest that the Moscow meeting should be moved to Tokyo. Without a flicker of an eyelid the logic is acknowledged and the decision made. Astonishment is expressed that we should spend time discussing the US$75,000 budget for the project to prepare the reports. The budget materiahses in front of our eyes so that we can move on to the next business. I think back to my first international meetings with Pax Romana. As a young graduate I could not believe that the thought processes of different cultures could be so different.

After the meeting, at 5.1Opm, we move upstairs to meet Tohru Nakada, the Executive Director of JLA, but there is only time for a brief discussion with him and another architect specialising in building for the handicapped. I explain the NZ regulations, and also that we have moved on to the much more diffiewt questions about balancing different levels of access. I did not expect the issue to be understood, but as quick as a flash the Japanese knew exactly what I was on about.

We walk on past Maki's buildings yet again, for coffee in the basement of his Tsuba Hall, with a Danish pastry rather than a Japanese delicacy. The translator had requested a full copy of our presentations, and I had given this to her a day ago for her to study. By now I had also learned exactly which ideas are dfflcult to translate into Japanese, and I had noted all these for her. Now over coffee we went over all the nuances I wanted her to pick up. It was time well spent. She was relaxed, and amused. I found I could get her to laugh in Japanese at my remarks and this broke the barrier so that I was able to get the whole hall laughing and enjoying themselves. Finally I was able to throw away the text. It had done its job.

I had not been watching my watch, and I was thrown for a moment when we went upstairs to the hall to find that it was already full of people. It was in fact almost 6.30pm, and there was no chance for any of that preparation which avoids disasters. I quickly sorted out the lighting system, and then we were on stage for the AFPE Meeting. I had to load my slides into carousels as Sven related the history of Arc-Peace, and Dana showed her video and explained the Czechoslovakian situation. Then I was on.

I decided the audience by now was ready for a little loosening up, so I threw the video up on the wall, and let the audience helicopter down Milford Sound and fly over Mt. Cook while talking to the good old Kiwi pilots in Japanese. That gave the translator a break as well, and let me find out how the slide projector worked. My next problem was that I had dressed a long time ago for other events and was wearing my "Nuclear Free New Zealand" T Shirt under my layers of clothing, so that somehow I had to get changed in front of a hall full of people. I looked at Toicbi and decided to take a risk. "I know that you are all concerned about how to make a yen in these difficult times" I began, 'but beneath every architect working late into the night in the the office there lurks another architect. "Super-architect." I proceeded to tear off my clothes to leave me dressed in my T Shirt. The hall cracked up. No one guessed I had worked this out in the last five minutes. I raved on, trying to out-Kato Professor Kato.

Oscar totally changed his presentation and picked up on my themes. "Can you imagine" he began "living for a week in Tokyo with Tony?". We were beginning to work as a team now, and the crowd roared at Oscar's jokes. It had taken a week to work out a formula, but we were beginning to communicate.

Akio concluded with slides and an excellent presentation on AFPE. We had all taken longer than we had expected, as the process of translation simply cannot be speeded up without evcrything getting out of control. There was only time for a couple of questions before the 9.30pm conclusion. Meetings in Tokyo stop at a precise point because everyone has a train to catch to somewhere. A bevy of helpers were stacking chairs away while we were all trying to catch our breaths.

After it was all over I was surrounded by people. "Fantastic, amazing, astonishing" they said. "Yes, yes" I replied, "but tell me what exactly did you like? The philosophical position? The theoretical ideas? The practical examples? The visual material? The cross cultural perspective?" I have been on the road long enough to know that the audience always hears something different from what you think you are saying. "No, no" they said "none of those things". 'Tell me" I insisted "what then did you find so interesting?" The amazing way in which you turned the lights on and off, worked the projector, organised the video, drew the diagrams, and kept the whole performance running. And you did it all yourself." It had never even crossed my mind. All my preparation back in New Zealand had been peripheral. What I had done was to give a practical demonstration of the networking of relationships within a designer's mind without even realising I was doing so.

Twenty of us then set off for the Korean BBQ to celebrate. On the grills set into the table we cooked our own food, while sitting in a great circle. A great variety of meats and vegetables. Farewells at different stations as people change to other lines, and it is 12.40 before our remnant of the hilarious party is back at Iogi.

Tokyo excursions (not to scale)
There is time to do a little work, lying on the tatami, before a 9am breakfast on Thursday 25 October. At 10am we are on our way to the Arcadia to meet Dana, and then we go to Tokyo station to take the train to Kamakura. It seems as though we never leave the urbanisation of Tokyo. On arrival we begin, of course, by looking for a restaurant. Oysters for Akio, scallops for Tony. Soup, side dishes, and hot towels to refresh us after the journey.

We walk up to the city hall for a meeting at 3pm with the city planners. Oscar only wants to talk about Argentina, and Dana wants to head for the temples, but I am fascinated by the opportunity to explore the Japanese planning process. We look over zoning plans, plans of protected sites and buildings, and urban design plans which form part of the "district scheme". It all seems very British. I edge my way in with a few questions about Japanese traditions. 'Very good questions" they comment, as I feel very frustrated that I do not speak Japanese. The patterns are there on the landscape, but they are not reading them. The river comes out in the centre of the Bay, and it establishes one springing point for the axis which is the basis for the whole town. It is most unusual to fmd this bay/river relationship. The bend in the river where it forks is the other springing point for the axis, which is then projected back until it meets the hill, and at this point of transition the shrine is established. It is significant that the axis touches, but does not cross the landscape elements. This seems to me to be the essense of Japanese urban design. It is totally different from the Chinese or the Western approach to the problem. The new planning process ignores all this and looks as though it was done by a British architect. We talk and I draw. I doubt if they can see what I am on about, but they can tell I am excited. Only later when I go out to explore my thesis on the ground will I find a tori, exactly at the point I had identified on the map. I will also fmd a new park with solid masses fracturing the relationship of the axis to the bay. I want to go on encouraging them to look back at their own traditions, but there is no time. I know that if they came to New Zealand they would see our situation just as clearly, and they would despair about what we are doing to our waterfront traditions.

Oscar goes on to talk to other members of the staff about the possibility of a sister city relationship with Santiago del Estero, while I cheer Dana up by taking her to look at the main shrine. We are just too late to get inside Sakakura's museum, but I am able to see the inside from wandering around the grounds. It is very sixties, and has weathered poorly. Concrete is not the ideal material in a land of moss gardens, unless the builders achieve the almost polished finish which now seems to be the norm in Japan.

It is quite an experience to walk the full length of the axis from the shrine to the sea, and by now this has become a spiritual journey with an urban design dimension. Along the way I enjoy the hundreds of tiny shops, and am delighted to find the old public bath house is still a thriving focus of the community. Oscar and Akio join us on the beach as we look out through the darkness at the lights of the bay.

We walk some distance along the promenade to have coffee in a very decadent, up market, British post-modem hotel. This journey is one astonishing experience after another. Oscar is a brilliant comedian and he does a one person floor show of hilarious impersonations. We all end up rolling about with laughter. Back to the station by taxi, and on by train to Tokyo.

Subway to Roppongi and dinner at the Domani Mediterranean Restarant. Akio explains that it is "another face of Tokyo", and to a humble Kiwi who eats at Ivans in Ponsonby it seems almost like a film set. Akio is known here, as he seems to be known almost everywhere in Tokyo. One of the many chefs is a good friend. The wine is bottled in France just for Domani, and of course comes with the Domani label. Domani raises the question that anyone seeking the very best of Italian food might be better to go to Tokyo, rather than Rome. The concept of an egahatarian society is so far beyond Oscar's third world affluence that he cannot understand the processes of adjustment and comprehension I am going through. Tokyo is a cutting edge.

When it seems that it would be impossible to astonish us any more Akio takes us on to Birdland Jazz Club, and the Hidehiko Matsumoto Quartet. We are actually six flights of stairs down into the bowels of the earth, but it seems as though we are in New York. The drinks list has at least fifty brands of whisky. Apparently the last train for the night has gone and so we taxi back to Iogi, arriving around 1am.

Eel in Tokyo
Akio seems to work all night. I am still sleeping when he wakes me at 8am on Friday 26 October for breafast at 8.15 with Kazuko, who has now arrived back from Maebashi. At 9.33 we rejoin Akio at the station, and at 10am we are walking through Shinjiku on our way to the 10.15am meeting with JICA on level 46 of the Mitsui Building. Katsuhiko Oshima is joined by a companion with more knowledge of Latin America.

Over green tea I ponder how astonishing it is that what one person sees as a self evident truth is not even comprehensible to someone from another culture. Long before we look at answers we need to define questions, but long before we define questions we need to decide whether reason is much help in human affairs. I wish some of my planning students could be here. Up to level 50 to look out over Tokyo from the Nihon Sekkei meeting room. I am beginning to piece the fragments of Tokyo together into a comprehensible pattern. Tange's town hall is outside the window. I try to ring Reiko to keep her in touch, but she is not in. Nora arrives to talk in Spanish about translations, and then Miki, Akio's daughter comes to join us.

Miki is a dream. She graduated in architecture, but has worked almost entirely in the area of interior design. Her work is stunning and her level of professional competence seems out of all proportion to her years. At the same time she is steeped in traditional ways. She is learning the tea ceremony from a master.

It seemed totally appropriate that she should take us to lunch in a classic Japanese restaurant, with a wonderful sense of interior design. I try to hide my legs in my pockets, while Miki gracefully illustrates the comfort which comes with a thousand years of learning. I leave the others to lesser rituals while I join Miki and Akio in having cold noodles and tempura shrimp. The noodles lie on a bamboo mat so that they can drain. Then they are dipped into the sauce as they are eaten, and after the noodles are finished the water in which they have been cooked is added to the sauce bowl and drunk as a soup. I remember that Reiko first introduced me to the ritual three years ago. Memories flood back. That is what ritual is about.

Everyone else went back to work, leaving Oscar and me to meet Shuichi Ishihara and Toshiko Tanioka, who have come a considerable distance to be with us. We walked over to the Royal Host. I had met Toshiko on Wednesday, but this was my first chance to talk about her job as editor. I was keen to find out as much as possible about publishing in Japan. She may come to New Zealand on a working holiday.

The formal part of the meeting was really only two sentences long. Oscar's request for funding and Ishihara's approval. It was so fast I thought there might have been a communication misunderstanding. Not so. When I suggested that Akio should ring to check, Ishihara simply confirmed that he had given approval. Ammitsu jelly, which is a Japanese delicacy, and coffee round off the social occasion and then we went back to Nihon Sekkei to introduce them to Nora. They set off on their long journey home.

Oscar and I went off to inspect Tange's Town Hall. It is a very disturbing building, with Imperial overtones from another time. Statements of power are always alarming, and the granite walls here have none of the charm of the old palace walls. It is easy to see why other architects feel apprehensive about Tange. We watch some street theatre close by.

I leave Oscar and go on to Higashi-Nakano. In fact I go through Higashi-Nakano at IOOkm/hr, having caught an express train by mistake. I take the slow train back from Nakano. I feel as though I am coming home as my memory guides me through familiar streets. Reiko is not in so I leave the book "Reiko" by Ian Middleton, which I brought from NZ with Yoko. A little time to explore the local area, and then back to Ichigaya. I can waste a lot of time just looking at simple things in Tokyo. The design of each element of a beauty parlour is fascinating, and the people there are just as interested that I should be interested. A check to see how the fish are doing.

At the Arcadia I meet up with Akio, Oscar and Dana. After some confusion about different possibilities for meeting Sven, who is we presume on his way back from Sendai, where he has been giving a lecture, we decide it is our turn to do something for Aldo. Off by subway to Nagatacho Station. The subway network has all the exits labelled in English, but this is not a lot of help if you do not know which exit you want anyway. Later I discover there are two Nagatacho stations, so it is little wonder there are so many exits. It takes a quick scout around to find some familiar point of orientation, but once I have located the Supreme Court bunker there is no difflculty finding the little bar again.

A royal welcome. Akio is delighted. When we all stop talking in the great collection of languages with which we only have a few words in common we eat fish and rice and drink sake. It is really a celebration of fi-iendship. The warmth of human understanding is one of the great treasures this world has to share.

Akio shares one of his superbly proportioned buildings close by and then we meet Sven and go on to Birdland for Shoji Suzuki and the Rhythm Aces, with Matsuzaki on vibes. Like most of our meetings now there is a pleasant combination of work and fun. We start faxing messages across the table on the bottom of the beer mats. The jokes become more outrageous, while the serious messages make some critical decisions about the lead up to Brazil.

Kato's office, Tokyo
Saturday 27 October begins as a rest day. A late breakfast. Futons out to dry and air in the hot sun. Photographs in the garden. Oscar does the housework, vacuuming the tatami. and then he decides to stay home and work.

I set off to Takadanobaba and Hamamatsucho. Trying to find my way out of the station I end up in the tile display centre, with an astonishing variety of mosaic glazed and decorative tiles. Off the shelf art works. Close by is the Peace Museum. The photographs are mostly of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the prints are Picasso, but essentially this is a working museum. The messages of goodwill, memorablia, and buttons are from all over the world. New Zealand is well represented. There is a small meeting place at the entry, with notices to keep locals in touch with Peace events around Tokyo. The shop sells badges and buttons, mugs and mementos. There are heaps of books for children being sorted and packed, I presume for distribution to schools. The desk has an air which is familiar all over the world. Volunteer people trying to do twice as much as they possibly can. In my best Japanese I try and communicate the message of goodwill from the Auckland Peace Centre. I buy some postcards, and a peace badge for Oscar and me.

The Kyu-shiba Rikyo Garden, which once connected with Tokyo Bay, is close by. I spend some time sketching and thinking. I think of Professor Kato's warniing that carp are not a sign of a healthy environment. When there are many carp it is a sign that the environment has died. Once there were 54 species of fish in one locality, and now only the carp remains. I think of the debate about carp in New Zealand.

To the Pier, but the boat I really wanted, which meanders through the Port area is not running. I cannot work out if this is not a tourist season. I am too late for the last boat to go across to the Maritime Museum, but collect the schedule for some future day. The river boat to Akasuka runs from here, but this is really a tourist trip, and I really want some grubby tramp steamer. The "Symphony" looks very up market, but does at least go up and down Tokyo Bay. I decide to explore on foot, which gives me a good feeling for the space, and also some contact with the working boats. I watch the police launches come and go.

A phone call confims that Reiko is home, so I make my way back to the station, discovering along the way the blaring loudspeakers of a convoy of right wing extremists. They are closely watched by a convoy of police vehicles, but seem to have total rights to annoy everyone.

Reiko is preparing Oden, which I share with Shota, Yoko and her. Morri is still at work. This is the first Oden of the year, as she thinks of Oden as a winter dish. They are all keen to watch a programme on the environment, and it seems to me that it has been put on just for me. It is three hours long, with the first two hours devoted to surveying the issues and the alternatives from all over the world. The last hour is entirely devoted to putting Japanese businessmen on the mat, asking them what they are doing about it. Astonishingly hard hitting. I find it hard enough to believe that Japanese television has no commercials. It seems to be a dream that three hours of prime Saturday night time should be totally devoted to the environment. The Japan Times had devoted a full page to the environment two days ago, and this seemed to be part of a daily series.

My idea of an early night had gone, but we had shared a great night together. I left the "Southern Crossing" video for them to look at, as I knew Morri would want to see it, and walked through to Nakai to get the Seibu train.

The Tokyo Peace Museum
My alarm watch rings at 5.30am on Sunday 28 October. It is first light. Oscar had already woken me at 4.48 because he thought it was after 5. My futon is packed away, and I have showered and had a cup of coffee before I arrive at logi station at 6am. I just miss one train but it is only a short wait to the next, and from Takadanobaba I take the Yamanote north to MebukL~o. I panic for a moment when I cannot locate the Seibu line, but at the scheduled time of 6.30am I join the cheerftil team of architectural trampers. Some old friends, and some friends I had yet to meet. At exactly 6.50 the super express heads off through the maze of Tokyo. Two of the group demolish a bottle of whisky, but I decline their generous offer to join in. They have taken another bottle for lunch. The message must have got around that cold weather was expected, but in fact it is an absolutely perfect day.

Slowly we see more and more fields of cabbages. The rows always seems so straight, and cabbages so perfect. How do they do it? We climb up into foothills covered with cedar and chestnut forests. We leave the express, walk through a row of stars, and cross the road to join another train. On up into the mountains, with stations where the few people standing around seem to all have boots and a pack. I think of Switzerland. We leave this train and carry on by bus. More stalls. I stock up on delicacies to share for lunch, seeking advice as the options for food in Japan are quite bewildering. Someone suggests I should get a big mushroom, but I decide the translation must have become mixed. Later I will understand. We walk across a bridge and up a path with many lanterns to the cable car terminal.

The cable car is like a rush hour train. Not only are the seats full, and every standing spot full, but also the last people have to be pushed in to get the door shut. In the distance we can see the mountain which will be our objective. Autumn colours. Distant views. The sea is lost somewhere in the haze. On to the temple, with a complex array of buildings. A traditional rural farm house, which as events turn out will be the only one I will visit on this trip. Up the ridge until we reach a tiny shrine on a peak. A priest and two nuns are praying at the shrine. It is a scroggin stop, but the message is that there is not enough space here for lunch. That mystifies a Kiwi, who thinks that any flat land is hard to find on a tramping trip, but this also becomes clear after we have made our way back down the ridge.

Yes. This is a suitable place for lunch. The shafts of sunlight fall through the autumn leaves. The contents of the packs are emptied out. It seems that trampers in Japan do not carry emergency equipment, spare clothes or other things which are peripheral to the quality of life. They carry lunch.

The cooking equipment comes out. The gas burners spring to life and and the campfires are lit. Food soon makes this look like an Everest expedition base camp. The condiments come out. Where the huge pots come from remains a mystery. Everything from Miso to dim sims to Thai soup to popcorn. Toichi cooks Oden. The courses go on and on. I cannot believe my eyes. It would not be an exaggeration to talk of fifty courses. Everyone shares. Everyone laughs. The children race around kicking the leaves. The smoke drifts through the autumn colours.

Lunch takes the rest of this wonderful day. The plan to walk back to the bus has to be scrapped. We are lucky to catch the last cable car. Indeed some miss, but they put on a special cable car to rescue them. I am to make my way back to Tokyo while those who have missed the bus come later, but suddenly a bus comes around the corner and we are all united on the train again. We change trains several times in a complicated manouvre which gets me directly to Iogi, but I stay on until Nakai as I want to return the video in the morning.

I walk around to Reiko's. She is playing the piano and the sound drifting through the still air is so beautiful that I cannot bring myself to interrupt. I sit and listen. When I do go in she gets Yoko to play for me. They have not had time to see the video so we watch it together, and she tapes a copy to show to Morri when he gets home from the hospital. At 9.30pm I am back on the train for Iogi, with many a tale to tell everyone. I realise I am becoming like a local when I notice the road signal go red to show that a train is coming, and manage to run to the station, get a ticket, pass through the barrier and catch the train.

Akio is just going off to the office to see Oscar, and I understood I was to wait until they returned. I waited and waited, and eventually went to bed. I never quite worked it out, but I think they were waiting for me at the office. We were nearly united by a traffic accident some time after eleven. I rolled over and went back to sleep. Akio and Oscar were walking home at the time. It was the only accident we saw in Japan, in spite of the difficult and congested roads.

The Tokyo Peace Museum
At 7.30am on Monday 29 October Akio wakes us so that we can go down to his office.

Oscar wanted a meeting to go over the details for the Argentina conference, and to organise yet another fax for Jim Morgan. I am staggering a little from lack of sleep, but am happy to take a rest day if I need it. At 9am we are back home for breakfast. An hour over many courses.

Oscar packed and I decided to stay and see him off so I took the opportunity to sort through all my paperwork and pack all my things ready for a final departure. In the event it saved me time which I was not to have at the end of my trip. Lunch at Ipm. with octopus, noodles and an omlette. Yesterday when Miki went to the tea ceremony her master gave her a special cake and it was a great honour that Kazuko should share these with us. They are like teardrops, one white and one pink. Aliio gives each of us three books to answer all our questions about Japan. Narumi Kato, from Akio's office, has sent a present for each of us of a special cloth in a traditional pattern.

Gen arrives to help carry Oscar's enormous suitcase. At 2.30 we farewell Kazuko and Oscar bids goodbye to Akio at the station. As the train pulls away Akio is standing at the back door of his office. A change at Takanobaba and I farewell Oscar when he gets off at Ueno to catch the skyliner to Narita. We have shared a lot in the last two weeks and he has been a wonderful companion. A true Monsieur Hulot. As the train pulls away his smiling face beams over a thumbs up sign. We will meet again in Argentina next year.

I go on to Yurakucho, and after walking around the block to get my bearings I return the video and fold up boxes to the NZ Embassy. Richard Bollard is out of the country, so I can only leave a message of thanks. On to the Information Centre for a railways timetable and other data I will need as I head west. I cannot pin down any festivals for the national day of culture. I walk up to Tokyo station to activate my rail pass for tomorrow, and then I am all ready to go. It is 5pm. I actually discover how the two sides of the station relate.

I have one night left to do whatever I like in Tokyo. I start to walk towards the Ginza, and then I think of all the wonderful people I have met. From a green phone I call Yoshiaki Nishijimo at Nikken Sekkei. He has finished work for the day and invites me to come home with him. Unless something escapes me there seems to be no way of knowing that another Y 10 is needed, so I get cut off three times. I remember Mon Oncle as Yoshiaki quietly presents me with a phone card to help me with my problem.

My over confidence is my downfall. I figure I had been to Nikken Sekkei before, and figured I could recognise it when I got there. No one explained that they have three different offices. I figured that I had been directed to get off at the wrong station, got lost, but then found the Toyota building. The building next door was not what I had expected and it was bolted and barred anyway. Eventually I found the office I was looking for and entered through the side door and found my way to the sixth floor. This was not the right spot. Eventually I sorted it all out and set off back to the Toyota building and found a back entrance to the building next door. Yoshiaki was waiting patiently on the sixth floor.

He showed me over the whole of the office. I saw the perspective section with the superb rendering of the "spire" in Hakata. Alongside was a photograph indicating the accuracy of the perspective, and in a week I would be able to see the final building. We went over their other officies, meeting Masami Tanaka, who is in control of Overseas Operations, and Koichiro Shikida, who designed the Cairo Opera House. Masami is very clear about not wanting to do any work in Argentina.

We set out by subway and train for Setagaya. The Kurihara House, designed by Masaaki Narukawa, is close to the station, and I am very graciously allowed to see over every detail from the furo to the roof terrace. Jinko Nishijima did all the interior design, and her fabric is exquisite in the polished concrete and "industrial steel" interior.

We walk on to Jinko's office. The interior is white and sculptural. The childen are playing with CAD on the computer in the comer. She is working on a model for a project which needs to be completed by the morning. Other models on the white bench glow in their whiteness. They seem like origami. A short passage, which is the sink bench, links the office space to Yoshiaki's tatami Zen meditation space, which looks back across the street to the temple on the other side. The huge trees in the temple grounds look back again to the bonsai forest on the deck. The forest belongs to an uncle who is staying in the flat below at the moment. How wonderful to take your forest with you.

Yoshiaki is the 86th disciple of Buddah. His master from Kamakura, where Zen was first intoduced into Japan, died two years ago, but his new master is also of considerable standing. We look at his genealogy, and also the garment he wears for meditation. He wants me to stay in the meditation room, which I would have loved to do, but I have to explain that my time is running out. I will return. The way in which the Japnese are looking back just as they are looking forward seems to me to be central to urban design.

In the house, across the deck from the office, an exquisitely presented meal is laid out. I admire Jinko's flower arrangments and her photography, which tells the story of the houses they have lived in. I enjoy the calligraphy and listen to the music played by the children on violin and cello. They ring Maya Soeda, whose daughter Maya Robinson is coming to New Zealand, and she comes some distance by train to meet me, and to share some champagne. It seems impolite to go, but I am concerned about Jinko's project which must be finished by the morning, and I also know I have a network of trains to master to get back to Iogi.

At 11.50pm Akio is still working, so I call briefly in at the office on my way home. It is after 1am before I have written up some notes and unfolded my futon.

Shugakuin middle pavillion
At 6.30am my alarin rings. Breakfast is at 7am. I decide to travel light and probably come back to Tokyo rather than going north. It is the right decision. At 7.30am Tetuhito Suzuki, who works in Akio's office, drives Kazuko and me off to Maebashi. After a tangle of impossible streets, and endless time waiting at level crossings for a gap between the trains, which seem to be going one way if they are not coming from the other way, we link up with a toll motorway. (Was it Y4800, but that seems too expensive?) Views are very restricted as most high speed roads have extensive acoustic screening. I could not work out exactly how the low frequency noise is controlled.

Kazuko drives on for a day of work at the university, dropping us off at Tetuhito's house, where I meet his wife Masde and two children Ippei and Sinsaku. Back in Tokyo he has a tiny room, which seems to be in the attic of Hana's house, where he stays during the working week, and he only gets home to his wife at weekends, or when there is supervision to be done on the Maebashi jobs. We drink green tea, and with classic Japanese selflessness, Tetuhito leaves his wife to spend all day driving me around in his own car.

Maebashi is a modest town ringed by mountains on three sides and almost connected to Takasaki on the fourth. It is grey and raining today so we will see nothing more than a hint of the mountains. Akio is concerned that I will not see how beautiful it is, while I am so delighted at the wet granite and sheer beauty of Japanese gardens in the rain that this one day of rain seems to be just another face of Japan. Besides I not only have a car, but Tetuhito even holds an umbrella over me while I take photographs.

The flat plain of the town itself is a mixture of glistening rice fields, tile roofs, and tiny walled cemetries which seem to be packed full of granite pillars. Perhaps there is a book on Japanese cemetries, showing how they are symbols of the density of living and the relationship to the landscape. A 450 year old tree is supported by hundreds of props, which arc added as the tree grows out.

Akio's Medical Centre (1983) has a residence attached which, with its stepped stair balustrade, finely detailed timber dado, and upper level gallery has an almost central European feel. The housekeeper gives us green tea. The doctor shows us over the centre itself. Double glazed for noise as much as climate, with wonderfull hardware, and the space as well as the building meticulously pieced together.

The Peace Garden (1989) is the focus of the Maebashi High School, with the courtyard experience heightened by the opportunity to look down on it from the first floor gallery It is a wonderful statement. Bold yet reserved. Powerful and yet calm. The wet granite glistens, reflecting the bronze sculpture. I stand quietly and let it all sink in, feeling very glad that I made this journey.

In the centre of town we park in one of those wonderful garages where an elevator whisks your car away to be stacked up on another level, and walk on to a stunning inner city building. (1986) The form is reminscent of Botta, with a cylinder sitting within and just breaking a rectangular form, but the detail is much better than on any Botta building. It is astonishing to walk in and find that the cylinder is open to the sky, with a spidery steel stair winding up the inside of the cylinder. We are made very welcome at the first floor restaurant. I cannot believe the quality. The plaster on the walls is transparent eggshell which seems like an Italian fresco. Indeed some of the detailing makes me think of Scarpa. The mural is absolutely new, while the small rooms are absolutely traditional.

The elevator door opens and our car drives out. On to Akio's library (1975), which is in the shadow of Sakakura's town hall. With brick for both floors and walls, concrete spandrels, and motifs such as the diagonal roof light cutting across the structural grid, the denied corner, or the heavily planted inner courtyard there is an Alto flavour. I am begining to understand Akio. He never imitates, and never copies, but he begins with acute and accurate observation. He determines the philosophy which will be the foundation for a building and from there he is absolutely consistent. He is a philosopher, not a stylist.

The reservoir is closed so we pass it by and go on to the Driving School (1989). The philosophy is different. This is an assemblage of components with the form finding its own expression. The way in which it is followed through is impeccable. Greenery winds its way around the rivetted joints of the exposed steel frame.

The golf driving range alongside is still under construction, with the 45M poles in place, the steel frame of the range completed, and the clubhouse just coming out of the ground. We talk to the clerk of works, and look over the job.

It is 3pm, so we take a break for, some tsuba and coffee in the cafeteria of the Driving School. Like Akio I feel that using architecture is always to be prefered to looking at it. Somehow Kazuko knows we are there and she suddenly sits down beside us. We go on in her car to see over the university campus where she works, and to see the very modem movement building where her office is located.

It is a considerable drive to Akio and Kazuko's second house, which is in a rural setting. Sitting at the dining table you look through Kazuko's favourite window across the paddy fields to the mountains. On the other side a stream rushes down a rugged valley and cascades over a waterfall. In the rapidly fading dusk light it is moody and magical. The house sits tightly against the road. We can only park as Toichi would have done. The entry crowds against the timber cylinder of the stair. It is nailed in the traditional way. The house is both traditional and new. A timber tree form (Futuna) supports the roof structure.

It is a ritual to open the shutters and the set the many alternative combinations of screening. The lock on the window shutter is exquisite. Green tea and apple. I sit quietly on the tatami. The Akio bench, almost at floor level. The furo.

On again to a very traditional restaurant. The space in which we sit is only one room and a passage wide, with enclosed gardens on either side. The rain turns the gardens into magic. Another culinary experience. Very fat square noodles, cooking over a hot plate, in a broth, which is I understand a secret formula the chef never reveals. A huge plate of fresh vegetables is provided, and these are added and then eaten as they are cooked, along with the noodles. The broth becomes the soup at the end of the meal.

Kazuko returns to the house to work. Tetuhito takes me to the Takasaki station, and returns at last to his own house. I think he enjoyed the day almost as much as I did. My happiness overflows on the platform as I try to explain to Seinosuke Iwata, a pharmacologist with Ajinomoto, what a wondedful day I have had. He probably concludes I am a little delerious. He is probably right. Shinkansen back to Tokyo, and as I have my own key I do not need to wake Akio.

Shugakuin top pavillion
On Wednesday 31 October I am up at 6.30am, but I only have time for a shower before Gen arrives, and just after 7am he leaves with Akio for Maebashi. I give Aldo my "schedule", which I have been promising for some time. How can you explain the mind of a kiwi who follows the sun and the moon? Akio tells me he will be at the Nikko hotel in Hakata for the 2nd. and 3rd. November, and I arrange to leave the key with Hana. I quickly clean up, have a coffee, and agonise over whether to take my bivy bag and extra pullover. Another right decision.

At 8.30am I ring Reiko to apologise for it becoming impossible for me to get back to Tokyo by Sunday to go with them to Morri's parents, farewell my little fish, give the key to Hana, and set off for Ueno. To honour the enthronment of the new emperor a special exhibition of "Masterpieces of Japanese Art" is being held in the Tokyo National Museum. It will be closed on Monday when I return, so I decide to see it now. Indeed this was my reason for stopping over in Tokyo. The dancing man and woman are very personal. The crane and the dove remind me of the peace garden. Calligraphy.

A very quick look at the Museum of Modem Art next door, some photographs of the policeman's box by Shigeno bu Nakyama, and off by JR to Tokyo station. It is already after mid-day. By the time I find out exactly where Okayama is I have missed the first Shinkansen, but it is only a few minutes to the next one to Hiroshima at 12.50. There are plenty of seats, and thus there was no need for a reservation. Some rice rolls wrapped in seaweed for lunch. Valleys with rows of tea bushes. Rivers. Memories of wood block prints.

We are at Kyoto in an astonishing two and a half hours. I cannot see any lockers but can see the platform for the Nara train, and the subway. Without even leaving the station I subway straight up to Immadegawa and leave my bag in a locker there. Out into Kyoto and across the road to the Imperial Palace. There are only tours at 1Oam and 2pm. Around the back to check out permissions with the Royal Household, but it is 4.Olpm, and they close a 4pm, which in Japan means 4pm. I decide to walk on out to Ryoanji, which is much further than I had thought. Along the way I eat and get yet another set of batteries for my camera, which is continuously giving me problems. I will eventually discover that the meter has been erratic to compound the problems with the shutter.

It is after dark, the full moon is rising, and Ryoanji is deserted. I slip in quietly and indulge in the magic. For a long time I just sit on the granite bridge to the island in the lake. The full moon gives life to the water and the garden. I let my mind drift back 25 years. Alone it is possible to understand the urban design context, and the use of water to provide the open aspect of the buildings, which mark the point where the landscape changes. I wish I could show some of Auckland's waterfront "designers" this temple, but then I think how it is impossible to give eyes to those who do not want to see.

A 59 bus takes me all the way back to Immadegawa, but I cannot locate the Noh theatre shown on the subway map. At Kyoto Station I watch the 7.36 to Nara leave me behind because I cannot see how to get across the platform. I need not have worried. The next train is at 7.54.

Nara by 9pm and off to the Osakaya. The Ryokan is not there. I am bewildered. I decide I must be lost, and go round in increasing circles. Eventually I ask, but I cannot understand what they are trying to tell me. Finally they take me by car to show me. The Ryokan is demolished. It is a building site with a hoarding. I am struck dumb.

It is too late for a Minshiku, I cannot think how to find a capsule hotel at that time of night, and by the time I walk to the youth hostel it is 10.30pm, and they close at 1Opm. I decide to be a Nara deer for the night and to camp in the park. It is a freezing cold night.

Split granite car ramp by Akio
Before 6.30am on Thursday 1 November I am on my way to the Kasuga Shrine to see it in the early morning mist with the chance to be completely on my own. It is important to miss the tourist rush hours when travelling in Japan. Shafts of early morning light break through the trees as I go across to Nigatsudo Hall. Down to Todaiji and across to Shosoin. The five storey pagoda at Kofukuji and by 12.45 1 am back at the station and my way to Kyoto.

By subway straight to the Imperial Household. It is impossible to go over Katsura before Tuesday, but there is just time to get to Shugakuin for the 3pm group and one space is available. When I try to pay and they insist that it is free I suddenly realise that it must be the tourist companies who pocket the fees which the guide books talk about. I am supplied with an excellent map. Two stops by subway and a 5North bus to the familiar walk alongside the river. At 3.02 1 am welcomed at the gate. Three of us are not Japanese, and unable to comprehend anything of the long explanations, but guards insist that we do not stray away from the group or delay to take photographs after the crowds have gone.

Shugakuin is a complex of three gardens linked by paths through the paddy fields. The ideal time to be there is in the autumn and the ideal time of day to be there is as the sun is setting over Kyoto, which lies in the valley below. It is autumn, and it is sunset. The lower pavillion is set in a very small water and moss garden. The middle garden is more "unkempt" and the buildings are more complex both spatially and in their materials. The storehouse with its most unusual metal shutters could be Chinese. The upper garden is again simple, but grand in its expansiveness. The teahouse looks down on the lake which is formed behind an earth dam, and the hills beyond Kyoto form the horizon. The trees are cast into silhouette by the sun. The autumn colours reflect in the lake.

I met Roby Sloan and his wife, from Detroit while walking to the 5 bus back to town. Darkness envelopes Kyoto. The bus network is very good, and all the buses announce important stops in recorded English messages. With a little planning you can get anywhere. The fare on some buses seems to be fixed, and on others it seems to increase as you go along. You pay as you get out by putting the money in a box, but the buses have change machines to help you to get the right money. The only tricky part is that the "north" or other designations are all in Japanese. Later I will find that a 5 goes all the way to the station, but at this stage I am totally lost. When I see a neon "hotel" sign I leap off.

Now I really am lost, so I decide to have a meal while I sort it out. Lots of fun with plastic models. An American student comes in for a meal, so I ask him if he can recommend anywhere to stay. He points out that I am 50 feet from the Youth Hostel. I look under the other neon sign and it is a love hotel, so at 7.20 1 check in at the hostel. The counter closes at 7.30. He is very apologetic. Only private dormitories are available. I end up in my own room, with my own television, and even my own telephone, not to mention the hot plate for making my own green tea. Meals are included, and the kitchen closes at 8pm, so I have another meal. The timing is so perfect that I feel Akio must have set it all up. Perhaps he had.

There is nothing I need from my bag so I leave it in the locker at the station, and try to do some writing. As is always the case in hostels there are many people who want to talk, so I finally leave the work and settle for a beer and a furo instead.

Shading above Miyajima street
At 6.30am on Friday 2 November the clarion calls. By 8am I have soaked in a ftiro, had an excellent breakfast, sampled the throwaway razors and toothbrushes, decided there is nothing on television, and I am off templing. My aim is to look at Kiyomizu while the cast light is low enough to find its way through the maze of supporting beams. It is within walking distance of the hostel, and along the way I discover one delightful street after another. It is an astonishing part of the town which I had never been to before. As I go through Maruyama Park the women are sweeping it with brush brooms.

Kiyomizu is perfect. I walk back to the 59 bus terminus and it takes me right across town to Ryoanji. In the autumn light it is astonishing. Photographs of the small new (1987) building I had found close by. Back on the 59 and I am at Immadegawa around 1.50pm. to retrieve my bag. A car has commited a traffic offence and the traffic cops are entering it all up on their lap top computer. Very high tech.

The next 2.36pm Shinkansen only goes to Shin Osaka, but I decide to spend twelve minutes there anyway. An empty train, a window seat, and urbanisation all the way to Osaka. The next train hardly even has standing room. It goes straight through Himedgi, so I cross the castle off my schedule. When I got back to New Zealand I discovered from Yoshimasa Sakurai's presentation to the Earth Building Conference that Himedji Castle had been extensively renovated about five years ago.

I get a seat at Omayama, and we are at Hiroshima by 4.30pm. My immediate objective is to find the hospital by Nozawa. The information centre is really helpful, if a little mystified, so, leaving my bag in a locker, I set off on the Sanyo line, or rather on what I hope is the Sanyo line, as there are no signs I can understand.

Ogiwa is seven stops down the JR line, and the hospital is there on the hill. It could not have been simpler. Once they reahse that I am fit and well and do not want to be admitted the staff are really helpful, and give me the freedom to explore the whole complex. It is efficient and yet human. I need to get back to Masaniitsu to ask all the detailed questions raised by the hot air solar heating system.

Logic suggests going back to Hiroshima, but what use is logic when the moon is full and clear again after being hazy last night? The form of the landscape has left me convinced that I am very close to Miyajima, but I am surprised to find that Miyajima-Guchl is only one stop down the line. The ferry is run by JR so that it is free with my rail pass. With no effort I find myself floating around in the bay with the full moon dancing on the water. The Tori is floodlit and magnificent. The row of lanterns which edges the bay forms a backdrop.

I walk on around the point next to the tori, skirt the shrine, and follow around to the last buildings. There is time to wander back for the light sound display at 8.20pm. With headphones I can hear the story in English, and watch the shrine bathed in different hues. The girls who have been handing out the headphones think there is a hostel on the other side, but they do not know where it is. An enquiry at the last remaining open shop brings a wonderfld response. They ring two places on the island, but there is not a bed to be found. I head back for the ferry, as my camping gear is in a locker in Hiroshima. Suddenly I am greeting by three smiling faces. The girls from the light sound show have run a mile around the coast to present me with a map to show me where the hostel is, only one minute from the feny terminal. As we safl though the full moon I can only think what an amazing country Japan is.

I check in at the hostel, race back to get a quick meal and make it back again just after ten. I need not have worried. The warden is very laid back.
It is already daylight when I wake on Saturday 3 November. Breakfast is at 7.15, and I sit opposite a Japanese girl who gets very excited when she discovers where I am from. She visited New Zealand in April, and loved it. A Danish designer and her artist husband, Henrik Leach Hansen, are also staying. and we all get involved in very animated discussions. The wise old warden has nothing to say, but whenever we are totally stuck he does a little translation to help us out. I suspect he was the only one who understood the whole conversation.

At 8am I am back on the feriy on my way to the high tide coinciding with the full moon. Once again I am at the right spot at the perfect time. The water laps against the decks. The light quality is astonishing. The monks perform the ritual of laying out the offerings for the day, with traditional music. Three girls are very hesitant, but then they ask where I am from. Two of them were in New Zealand in March. A small girl is dressed in a beaut[ful kimono. She is too shy to let me photograph her. Children are brought to the temple when they are 3, 5 and 7 to seek blessings on their lives. In the Noh theatre out over the water there will be a performance tonight, and it is very tempting to stay on.

The tide retreats. The magical moment has passed. I explore the other buildings of interest and turn back through the streets which now have their canvas awnings pulled over, so that there seems to be a Moroccan canopy. Across to the mainland, and on to Hiroshima on the Sanyo Line.

The castle. Right wing vehicles with their loudspeakers blaring. The Peace Park. Millions of paper cranes. I meet Roby Sloan again, so we agree to meet next in Detroit. The old museum, and the new museum with its structure almost complete. The Conference Centre to watch a tea ceremony. A tram back to the station. 6 minutes to wait for the 3.56 Shinkasen to Hakata. Time for a coffee.

The journey seems to be mostly in tunnels, with little to see of the inland sea. At 4.26 a refinery which seems to go on and on. A new motorway link under construction, struggling against the form of the landscape. At 5pm we stop at Hokuma. Tile roofs. Smoke. Paths. Rice fields. Hakata.

My usual difficulty getting oriented in the dark. Found the lockers, the Nikko Hotel, and the tiny hotel where I stayed three years ago. I had convinced myself it would have been demolished, but instead it still offered a bed for Y650, and your own "room" for Yl 000. 1 hesitate. This will be my last opportunity to stay in a capsule hotel. Back at the station the information centre is open and they direct me to the Capsuleland. I check in. Akio is not in at the Nikko, so I leave a message and make a reconnaisance sweep through the town. An area packed with private clubs. Food stalls along the river. The new centre. The denial of the waterfront does not make this a very good sister city for Auckland. Back to the Nikko in the rain.

Every time I think that Akio has no more cards left to play he manages to find five aces somewhere. I expected no surprises, and was totally astonished when Akio took me for a beer and some octopus in the Rossi Bar of the Aldo Rossi hotel. It is ten times better than any of Rossi's other work. Indeed it is stunning. Japanese minimalism, life style and craftsmanship have combined to make Rossi actually work. The crowning glory was to have the bottle of beer chatter across the marble table top and upend itself over me. Instant fame. The staff came rushing from every comer with trays of hot towels to try and mop up the mess. They just could not believe it had happened.

It is lam before I crawl into capsule 026, and I decide to find out how to work all the controls in the morning.

Layers of texture at Ryoanji
I sleep in until 8.30am on Sunday 4 November, and then I try to get my capsule to fly. I master the light, the TV and the alarm clock, but everything else defeats me. Life was meant to be a mystery. The whole point of staying in a capsule hotel is to try everything, so after a a good scrub up, and shave with the razors supplied, I begin with a normal sauna. Normal may not be the right word for a sauna which has a fibrous plaster ceiling, kitsch light fittings and a television. The poor Finns would never believe it. Then a mist sauna. Then a hot soak, a super hot soak and a cold soak. I still have not begun on the hair dryers, array of after shave lotions and assortment of perfumes. You feel as though you have never been so clean, and then you have to get into the grubby clothes which have been squashed into a tiny locker. Another mystery to unravel some time.

Breakfast, photos, and farewell to capsule 026. 1 walk around to the Rossi hotel to get some photographs, and find that like Corbusier's La Tourette, it is the place where designers meet. Simon Chang is from Taiwan. We share a coffee in one of the bars, and meet other designers. We end up having a look behind the scenes, or perhaps I should say scenery. Bought the book, which comes with a free Rossi poster.

I had been trying to ring Shigeru Yura without success, and finally got the hotel to check the number. I had assumed a 9 was a 7. At 1.54pm I finally made contact. While he was driving up to meet me I walked along the river to the park, where preparations were under way for an outdoor festival. At 2.30 1 met Shigeru at Il Palazzo. Off to Kunio Mayakawa's Municipal Art Museum (1979) to see an exhibition of Recent British Art, which even included the work of a kiwi from Christchurch now living in England. I ask if I can take a photograph, so Shigeo asks the attendant, who asks the senior attendant, who asks further up the line. I am duly presented with a yellow arm band which gives me total permission to photograph anywhere.

Shigeo is well known at the museum and the curator provides us with tickets, as well as a car park. We have a coffee in the expansive gallery restaurant. I am keen to see the housing development with Mark Macks work, but have not done my homework well enough to have the address. Shigeo argues that there is no good architecture in Fukuoka. Outside it a brilliant sunny day and I am keen to look and share while we talk, rather than spending my very limited time indoors. I am also becoming nervous about missing the last train, after already deciding that it will be impossible to catch the early train.

Eventually we set off for a Richard Rodgers job, which we never seem to reach, and we end up caught in a traffic jam. We talk about the possibility of an exchange scheme between the sister cities, with perhaps eight architecture and planning students coming from each city for a study tour. They could billet each other. We agree that an emphasis on urban design and on working projects rather than just observation would be desirable.

Finally we emerge at a housing complex in which most of the Japanese "name" architects have competed. Shigeo is right. iIt is somewhere between Gowing Drive and California, and seems to demonstrate mostly that Japanese architects have lost touch with traditional skills. Windows look in to other windows. The spaces are all out of proportion. The commercial development alongside is even worse. Post modem facades never did relate to the street, and in Japan they simply look ridiculous. The area is indeed a demonstration of modern architecture, and I have to agree it is a cause for concem.

I have no time to do more. We pass the new museum and the Nikken Sekkei "spire" as we take the elevated expressway which divides the city off from the waterfront. It enables me to grasp the form of the city more clearly. We make the station by 17.23. 1 race to find my locker and the Shinkansen platforms. At 17.30 1 am on my way back to Tokyo.

I had intended to reserve a seat, but there was no time. and the train is very crowded. Eventually I get a seat. I need it. Somewhere a bomb is planted on the track, and the Hikari express ceases to be a Hikari. I never do find out what it was all about, as there is no pre-recorded English message about bombs on the line. We are more than two hours late getting to Tokyo station, and I do not know the schedules of final trains. It may have been possible to save time on the Chuo line, but a Yamanote train on the line is worth two in the timetable. The last Seibu train has gone when I reach Takadanobaba at 12.40, and they are just turning the lights out. I taxi and walk, and get Akio out of bed around lam to let me in to my little house. I am home again.

Nature comes between the audience and Noh
I take my last deep breaths of the wonderfid scent of tatami around 8am on Monday 5 November, and pack my things for the flight. Breakfast at 8.30am, with final questions to ask. Akio presents me with a wonderful set of photographs taken during my time in Tokyo. I give him my nuclear free T shirt. A very quick, and I am afraid very rough, clean up, and then off to Nakai station around 10am to walk through to Reiko's to give her the Czechoslovakia article which Dana had left behind, and one of Craig Potten's books which I had left over from the bundle I had taken with me.

We set off at 10.45am for Musashi Kogani station, on the Chuo line and then take a taxi to fmd the Salesian Boys Home. There are no liturgical surprises, but many architectural moments of joy. The sunlight shines through the solid glass of the tabernacle. The steps lead down to the snug of the reconciiation space. After looking over the main church we meet Mrs Mikiko Sekiguchi who takes us over the entire complex. The private chapel, which visitors are not normally allowed to enter, the library, the lecture room, the tea house and its tiny garden. One delight after another. The holy water stoup, The light reflected off the pond through the stained glass. The organic table in the libmry. She gives me the book "Space Modulator", and I leave a donation. She is unable to get a taxi, and so she takes us back herself to the station. I am desperatly short of time and I know it.

At Shinjiku I farewell Reiko, and run across to the'Yodobashi Camera" shop. Down to the basement for 10 Fujichrome films. Up to the second floor for a portable CD player. There was no time to even think and I arrived home with a 11Ov edition, but that only needs my transformer. As I run out I check the price of an OM40 to find they are now discontinued. There is no time to check out a flash. Back to Takadanobaba and on to logi. It is already 3pm.

My farewells are brief, my final clean up non existant. Kazuko comes down to the station. Gen and Tetuhito come down from the office to farewell me in the street. Akio comes with me to Takadanobaba and saves me critical seconds by changing to the express train. Farewell to wonderful Akio. On to Ueno. I get lost in the station, and it is almost critical. Out into the fresh air. Across to the Kesei station. The person on the ticket counter is just hanging up a sign to say the next train is 16.40. 1 know that is too late for my plane. I have fortunately done my homework and know the trains go at 40 minute intervals. I look at my watch It is 16.00. 1 know there must be a train somewhere. I see the ticket booths. There is no time to explain to the astonished man who wants to clip the ticket I do not have. I feel sure he understood as I bounded over the barrier. Down the stairs. A whistle is blowing. In the blur I see the door of a train and I leap in. As the train gathers speed I ask where it is going to. Narita.

The journey seems very relaxed. I spend most of it explaining to another traveller just how to get lost and found in Japan. He seems to realise that I am a wild enthusiast who has had a fantastic time and loved it to the very last second. I tell him where to go when the moon is full, and where the sun shines best through the autumn leaves.

It is 17.15 by the time we have changed to a bus and reached the airport. It is crowded and the queues are long. There is no time to check bags. I have a juice because it will take less time than a hot coffee. The postcards I have completed are all sent off. There seem to be delays at every check. I am the last passenger through the gate, and I wait to let the others onto the 747LR. It seems appropriate that I should have the last seat at the back of the plane. At 18.00 we are taxiing out to the runway. Less than two hours ago I was still at Ueno.

As we rise above the lights of what I assume must be Chiba a blood red moon is also rising. When I point it out to her the hostess says she has never seen a moon like it. Neither have I. We turn to leave the moon and the lights behind. The JAL staff change into their pinafores and bring me hot towels and a bottle of French wine. The seat next to me is the only empty seat on the plane. I lean back and laugh. Akio will be wondering about lucky Tony.

At 3am the stewardesses wake me for breakfast. It is already 7am in New Zealand. A dawn coffee. Some JAL postcards for those friends who would know that I really did not have time. Trying not to let go of Japan. We come in right over the top of North Cape, and have incredible views all the way down to Auckland. JAL think of everything. My whole end of the plane gets excited about it all, because I am excited, with even the stewardess looking out the window. I explain that in NZ it is ok to do that. Around 8.20am NZ time we touch down. The weather is wonderful.

I hope that the flight into New Zealand will be like this when Akio, Kazuko, Miki, and all my wonderful Japanese friends, come down one day to see my country. Anything less would be inappropriate. 






Image These Haniwa, or terra cotta tomb ornaments, of a dancing man and woman, are from the Kofun Period, 6th century. they were on display in the exhibition "Masterpieces of Japanese Art" held in the Tokyo National Museum to celebrate the enthronement of Emperor Akihito.

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