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A 360-degrees view from the I-House, Roppongi, Tokyo

11/06/2010 By Marco Kusumawijaya

WhenworkinginanorganicfarminTakahata,Yamagata,Icouldnotstopgazingaroundthe360-degreesbluedomeoftheskythatgentlyrestsonthemountainrangethatrimsthefarmlands.Theearthandheaventoucheseachothereffortlesslyandpeacefully.Onechangesslowlywiththeseasonsandlight,whiletheotherchangesquicklywiththewindthatblowsthecloudsintodifferent shapes.Ioftenfeltdisorientedasmyurbaneyesironicallycouldnotdistinguishanythingas“landmark”.

InTokyo,whatwouldIseeifItrytogazearound360degreesfromtheI-House?Myurbaneyesstubbornlywantedtodependonthegeometryofbuiltforms,whileslowlyrealisingthat,inthisageofcontemporaryurbanscape,graphicandliteral(insteadofgeologicalandarchitectonic)signsaretakingover.

Aboveground,buildingsarebusyscrapingthesky.Theyarefullofaggresion.Evenwhentheytrytobesuttleorartistic,theirambitionshowsitself,whiletheskyremainsindifferent.Doesanyoneevermissthewholebluedome,theopportunityofhavingthe“rightview”ofthewholenessofreality? Doesanyoneeverfeeltiredofbearingthelookoftensionbetweentheambitionofmenandtheindifferenceofthesky?

And,whatiswrongwithnotlookingup,butstraightinstead?

Lookingstraightattheworkandworkingofmen,oneseesthatthemagicofJapanisthatitisnotamagic.Itisaresultofhardworkandkeenfocus.Anattitudeofdoingeverythinglikeitisonce-in-a-life-timeprevails.Japanisamongthemostproductiveplacesintheworld,producingabout8%ofitstotalGDP,8timesofIndonesia’s, or 16timesofIndonesia’sifexpressedinpercapitafigure.

FromtheI-House,atleastthetwosidesofTokyoappear.TheleisurelyandpeacefulAzabujubansidecontrastswithhustlingandbuslingRopongiside.Insomekitchensofbothsidesonecouldfindsomeforeignmigrantworkers.TheconfidentAzabujubansidecontrastswithnervousRoppongisidewheresomepeoplereallyaretryingtoohardtomaintaindignityor,atleast,goodappearance.OnthehilluptheAjabujubansidethereisaworldreknowncontemporaryartsmuseumperchedonanolympiantower,withasignaboutitslocationbelowinamazeofconsumptionspaces.Ontheotherside,anexquisitedesignmuseumbyarchitectTadaoAndolieslowandhorizontal,bringingpeoplehumblingdownbelowapark’ssurface.Ageniusinmoldingspaceandlight,Andosandoesnotneedtomakeitstandtalltoexertitspresence.

Tokyotower(completedandopenedin1958)isyetabizarrephenomenon.Nowitisnotsurewhetherornotitwillbeasfunctionalasbeforeasasymbolofevertransformingdigitalcommunication,asitscurrentheightisnothighenoughtoadequatelysupportcompleteterrestrialdigitalbroadcastingtothearea.[1]DoesithaveafutureasaclimbingdestinationjusttohaveaviewofTokyofromabove,whenonecanhaveevenmoredetails(zoomin!)throughGoogleEarth?AndwhywouldoneseeTokyofroma“bird’seyeperspective”,whenthereissomuchmoretoseefromthelevel1.6meteraboveground,andstraight,anddown?

ThesubwaytrainsmakeTokyotickupto12pm.Itticksundergroundandaboveground.Itintegratesthecity,andyetitgivesposibilityforTokyotodifferentiateitsparts.Lifespinswithmostintensityaroundmajortrainstations.Charactersdevelopinandaroundit.Toreallyticktogetherwiththecityonehastolivewithandwithinthetubes,evenwhen oneishalfdeadtiredafterademandingworkday.Inthetubesonedoesher(orhistoo?)make-up,whilequickbreakfastisbecomingtoleratedandquickiesareactuallynotbeyondthepornographicindustrialimagination.

ThebignessofTokyo—itsindividualbuildingsandtheiragglomerationtogether,theoutreachofitsinfrastructures,anditsbuiltexpanse—belittlehumanswhileatthesametimeexpressesthegreatnessofhumanbeings, astotheir energytoflocktogethertosuchscale,andtheirwilltosatisfytheirdesires.Doantsdothesamescalewiththeirtowersofmud,relativetotheirownsize?Forsure,withtheirpopulationmuchmorethanhumans,theydoneitherconsumenorproducethatmuchtothedisturbanceoftheearth.

SustainabilityofTokyo,oranymetropolisofourtime,seemstorestonatransformationofitsconsumptiveandproductivestructuretowardsthatwhichwillscaledownitsecologicalfootprint(forwhichenergysourceisamajorfactor),reinvestgenerouslyinhelpingtheearthtorecoverandregenerate,andprojecthumangreatnessintoalargerproject:sustainableearthwithitsdiversityofspeciesandthriving,justhumansociety.Survivingclimatechangeonlymakesusbetteranimals.Tobebetterhumanbeings,weneedtosolveother,mostlyurban,problems:poverty,injustice,humanrightsviolation,migrantworkers,healthy(notjustproductive)works.

PublishedalsointheBulletinoftheInternationalHouseofJapan,Volume30,Number1,2010,Tokyo.MarcoKusumawijayawasafellowatthehouse,intheAsianLeadershipFellowProgramme(ALFP),inSeptember-November2009.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Tower

 

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