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.
A dancing designer's guide to getting lost and found in Tokyo.
The personal diary of Tony Lucky Watkins
16 October - 6 November 1990
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.
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.
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.
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.
No one in Japan seemed to be self conscious about discussing roots, or the philosophical principles which motivated their lives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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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