Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
It takes some cheek for Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara and local residents of Chiyoda Ward near the Imperial Palace’s Chidorigafuchi moat to complain that the Italian Cultural Institute building, with its eye-catching red color, “is out of place” and “inconsistent with the sensitivity of Japanese people” (“Italian culture institute said way too shocking red,” March 21st).
This is a modern Japanese urban landscape, after all, which means that any natural harmony that there might once have been was destroyed long ago by Japanese developers and residents themselves. The neighborhood in question is a typically Japanese jumble of unsightly incongruent buildings, interrupting bridges, unharmonious angles and the ugly, brackish water of the Imperial Palace moat nearby. It might be said that modern Japanese architecture and urban planning are almost uniformly awful, which makes the Governor’s comments more bewildering. And, perhaps the chauvinism the culture is blinding residents to the real situation.
Or, maybe not. In any event, I think the Italian Culture Center fits right in, and complaints that its design or appearance are out of harmony with the surrounding neighborhood or landscape lack credibility. But because the building in question is an Italian culture center, it can be taken as yet more of Governor Ishihara’s usual xenophobia.
Published on Wednesday, May 10, 2006 as “A little red blends right in.”
I was astonished that Japanese - who themselves are guilty of ugly esthetic sense sometimes/often - should take offense at and complain about the Italian Cutlrue Center. It is like the pot calling the kettle black. But I can see how Japanese will not see it that way because of the depth of the myth of Japanese culture being highly esthetically refined. I want to prick at the dishonesty of the assumption by bringing some attention to it. Japanese think their esthetic senses are highly refined. But I think, for example, that “Ikebana”flower arranging and “bonsai” miniature tree cultivation are barbaric examples of what I call “plant terrorism.” And I don’t much appreciate Japanese architecture, either. Despite this being a major earthquake zone I habitually call cite what appear to be the low production standard of domestic architecture.