Large Chain Stores

I often go to this home improvement center to buy garden tools and fertilizer for vegetables on the weekends.
As you can see these photos, the center has a large area which offers gardening goods, furniture, kitchen materials and car parts.
Besides you can buy beer, vegetables, snacks and rice at this center
There are also McDonald’s and Starbucks in the same area.
You can finish your shopping in just one place.
Sure it is very convenient and I need these shops but I feel a kind of strangeness.

This center is full of chain stores like IKEA, Costco and Carrefour.
(Carrefour has pulled out of Japan.)
So there are many of the same centers in the Saiama, Chiba, Kanagawa next to Tokyo.

Actually if you were blindfolded and taken somewhere, you couldn’t find out where you were because the cityscape looks alike everywhere.
I heard that this also happened in the US and other countries.

If a city wants to keep its character, it should not attract chain stores even if it becomes inconvienient.
If the government restores the Tohoku affected area, I hope that the unique and advanced town will be built.

Globalism means that every thing is unified but localism is the opposite.

I’ll write about local affair and things next some posts. 🙂

Diminishing light


Shinjyuku city.This lights are reduced than before.


Tokyo Bay. Is this ad good or bad?

When you walk the busy streets of Shibuya and Shinjyuku city located the center of the Tokyo, you can see many outdoor advertisments.
However, these advertisments are decreasing in the city because of the following three reasons.

1 The overall advertising budget in Japan is decreasing because of the recession

2 Advertising medium have become diversified. Of course there are also internet, web service and pamphlets handouts with or without coupon tickets.

3 During the night outdoor advertisements can’t be turned on for long hours in order to save energy right now. 

Most of these advertisements are made with LED lights although they had been made with neon lights in the old days.  The neon tube needs special artisan skill.
Some older people cherish the neon light.
 There is the Japanese term “Neon town” but young people don’t use this term. 
Perhaps these outdoor neon light advertisement will only be displayed some museums in the future.

“Neon town” google image search

Compact city


At last I could buy gasoline the last weekend after waiting in line only for thirty minutes.
I didn’t think that it was so difficult to buy gasoline.
It’s been only two weeks, but it feels a lot longer.

It is easy to say that you shouldn’t use your cars or you had better use less energy.
In particularly our lifestyle hasn’t changed much yet.
For example, when it rains, we feel it is so tough to take our two young daughters to school or the nearby store by bicycle or foot.

Our destinations are so far to walk to.
If we will be able to buy gasoline as easily as before, we will never change our way of living.

To change the way of living needs a big change in city planning.
“Compact city” is an old fashioned word among the city planners because motorization and the information society have progressed extremely.
However, we should rethink the new “Compact city”.

Living gathered around the center of the city is good for not only saving energy but also developing the local community.

At one time, we lived close together downtown (shitamachi).
For example, Tsukishima and Asakusa city in Tokyo have their own characters and human touches even now.

☆All links are google image search.

Kawagoe-city 02 the history of a traditional area

Today I continue to write the history of a traditional area in Kawagoe-city.

Kawagoe-city had many big fires since Edo era.(※1)
Especially the big fire in 1893, more than one third houses were destroyed by fire.
So merchants built many “Kura”(※2) in Meiji Era(※3) which were resistant to fire.
“Kura” were usually used as storage but the merchants in Kawagoe-city used “Kura” as their shops.

In the 1960s, some merchants tore down their “Kura” because they thought that
“Kura” were darkish inside and inconvenience to use.
Besides the center of the commercial zone moved
from this traditional area to a place near the new railway station.

In the 1970s, it reached a turning point. Some “Kura” were designated as national cultural assets.But at first the merchants couldn’t believe that “Kura” were valuable and many people came to see the “Kura” .
Later both the city government and citizens began to protest
when high-rise apartments were proposed by developers.

In the 1980s, a citizen’s organization was established to boost local development.
Merchants thought that activated commercial area was more important than they saved “Kura” .At long last the merchants in association with specialists drew up a ” development standard”.

This standard was inspired by pattern language wrriten by Christopher Alexander(※4)
which contained city and architectural design guidelines.
For example city design guidelines was written on “feeling a familiar green” and “living and
working at same location. “And architecture design guidelines was written on “height”, “natural and local material”and “shape”.

Later visual design guidelines wew introduced and Kawagoe-city was subsequently designated a protected district with traditional architectural value.
Citizenz could see more blue sky as aresult of the electric cables were built underground,

The movement thrived around this area.
For example “Taisho Roman”(※5) avenue where some Eropean architecture with
nostalgic atmosphere were preserved.

Now more than four million people come to see Kawagoe-city every year.

I hope that you can understand clearly what I mean.

(※1) Edo era:a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of
the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868.

(※2) Kura: storehouses made of roof tile and clay.
(※3) Meiji Era:Japanese era which extended from september 1868 through July 1912.
(※4) Christopher Alexander:architect
(※5) Taisho Roman:nearly Taisyo era

Stylish Restaurants

In Japan, unfortunately most of the restaurants you can see are fast-food or
chain stores.For example there are McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Denny’s.
So you can ‘t tell one cityscape from another.This restaurant which I go to once in a while in the picture is one of the few stylish restaurants.Inside the restaurant, I can feel natural atmosphere.Because there are many climbing plants. The interior design is stylish and the exterior is nicely cladded with a lot of timber wall panels and floor panels.
This restaurant serves delicious curry, sandwich and the other cuisine.
I am afraid to say that I have never eaten any dessert in this restaurant because I don’t have much time on my lunch break.

Tstukishima monja

This photo was taken in tsukishima Tokyo where there was an old traditional district.
This typical Japanese district has some unique characteristic.
First there is ally called “roji” in Japanese.
This ally is not safety for conflagration but is used as standing around talking place and
path of living.
Second there are row houses called ” Nagaya “in Japanese.
These have long depth and narrow frontage. Besides there is earthen floor.
People can live and work in these houses.
Third there are various craftsman and conventional shops.
You can feel Japanese nostalgic atmosphere by these characteristic.
Especially in Tsukisima you can eat ” Monjayaki. ”
“Monjayki ” is a dish resembling oknomiyaki made from a thin flour paste with cabbage and
small amounts of otheringredients and cooked on an iron plate.