Japan Studio Apr11

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Japan Studio

Japan Studio Spring 2013, Ken Tadashi Oshima, Associate Professor | Arch 506/402

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This graduate/undergraduate architecture studio investigates the nature of Metabolic urbanism from pre-modern times to the present through a 10-day study tour to Japan during spring break 2013 as the basis for the design of dynamic urban infrastructure for Seattle. Traveling from Seattle to the contemporary Japanese capital of Tokyo and historic capital of Kyoto, students analyzed the evolution of buildings and material assemblies in relationship to their environmental and cultural contexts and investigate parallel possibilities within the Pacific Northwest centering on King Street Station in Seattle.

Impressions and images part 1 

NordstromDylan_080413Experiences in Japan | Written by Dylan Nordstrom

The first thing I noticed in Japan was the people as we proceeded through customs. Unlike other experiences of going through customs, the people were helpful, accommodating, and polite. These characteristics followed throughout the trip with every person we met; from people on the street, to store clerks and workers. The most important aspect, and most interesting in my opinion, was the layering of infrastructure, commercial, and residential throughout the country, especially in Tokyo. This is most apparent in and around the major train stations where massive super structures have been created that house not only the station, but commercial and business operations. This creates a very efficient “machine”, where you can take the train, get food, work, and get all your shopping needs done. I personally love this efficiency; everyone is always on time, but always in a hurry. This type of efficiency is helped along with the train system, which is always on time, and there are so many that come, you don’t have to worry about being late. Coming back to Seattle was a shock; the busses are slow and run late, and going anywhere needed a lot more planning in advance, and takes much more time.

The best part of free time in Japan was food, there is a huge variety and it’s pretty cheap. Before you get on the train, you can run into one of the convenience stores, grab a bento and a drink, and jump on the train; this is especially handy if you are taking a longer train ride. Street food is great, especially late at night and you are walking back to the place you’re staying. A few of us were able to get some street food at the beginning of the Cherry Blossom Festival from a small pop-up stand that was opened along the river. Japan has whole streets dedicated to restaurants or food shops; these places are great to go to if you don’t know what you want to eat since you’re able to just walk, look at the pictures of food, and decide that way. One of my favorite places we found is Rakuraku in Kyoto, its run by a guy named Akira, who not only is a pretty cool guy, but makes some pretty good food; and the best part is, if you don’t know what you want to eat, he will just make some food for you.Japan was an incredible experience, and I learned a lot from it. I know there is more to see and do in this amazing country, and I hope to one day return.

ChangWeiCheng_080413
A Different World | Written by Wei-Cheng Chang

After the long flight, I stepped into a different world.It was very different, unlike Taiwan, unlike Korea, unlike America. The buildings are different, the roads are different, the cars are different, the people, those friendly and extremely polite people are way so different. Japan is a special place, from its history that I have a deep bonding with, to its culture that long influences Taiwan, and the modern architecture style and the extremely careful hand-craftsmanship. It is Japan, a very different world.

AlteaGiselle_milk_bar_080413Photo Caption:  Milk bar at Akihabara Station

FOOD | Written by Giselle Altea

A small bowl of best online casino rice, miso soup, and a plate of fish is all you need for your first breakfast in Japan.  While my 2.5-month study abroad trip in Mexico City just a week before, was a unique experience in itself, it was a fascinating juxtaposition to the 10 days we were in Tokyo.  Japan is an unparalleled experience—the culture’s longstanding respect for the harmonious relationship between nature and its buildings, the people’s unmatched hospitality is definitive of their everyday etiquette but most striking of all, their food and the culture that surrounds it.

In Mexico, the chaotic organization of tarp-covered ‘tiendas’ to large ‘mercados’, food is sold and consumed just about anywhere where it is visible and accessible to the public.  On the other hand, while street food in Japan is still trying to flourish, there remains a sense of organization and artful presentation that displays the Japanese culture’s attention to detail.  Vending machines that sell hot drinks and appear awkwardly on the side of the street, alcoves and narrow alleys of fresh fish heads, octopus lollipops and soy donuts, small specialty kiosks of ten different types of milk and ramen food stands are just a few to capture the visitor’s interest.  Strangely enough, the food wasn’t so strange even when advertised through plastic model displays.  But it’s easy to get lost in the pool of choices—from yakitori (mystery meat on a stick) to katsudon (breaded pork on a bed of rice) it is no wonder that Japanese cuisine has remained an incredibly rich and varied food culture.  At the end of the trip, while I had hoped to take much more of the Japanese cuisine back home with me, the green tea Kit Kat’s was enough to satisfy my sweet tooth until my next trip back to Japan.

FanWendy_080413Written by Wendy Fan

It finally struck me that I was really in Japan during the transition from Tokyo to Kyoto. When I saw this vintage-colored cruiser bicycle parked in front of a living quarter inside the Myōshin-ji temple complex, I was reminded by the surprising number of bicyclists roaming the streets of these Japanese cities, and the fact that pedestrians  also share the sidewalk with bicyclists. The network of infrastructure was definitely overwhelming and frustrating at times. Yet, in the mist of all the chaos, something always captured my attention. Imagery is essentially what the cities were about and how individuals were able to express themselves in the ways they dressed. Thus, variety and intricacies were important aspects to the Japanese culture, which was compelling and inspiring. I was constantly encouraged to experiment, always trying new things, and making the experience memorable.

UntitledWritten by Gabrielle Glass

Packing for the Japan trip, I brought two pairs of lace up shoes.  The first couple of nights we went out for dinner to restaurants where we needed to take off our shoes.  Those couple of nights taking off and putting on my shoes was a drag.  It wasn”t until we stayed at the temple when taking off shoes became an integral, and with my lace up shoes, slow part of the entry sequence.  Entering the temple, you first pass through a gate, around a corner and then through a large doorway.  Once inside the door you take off your shoes one by one, stepping backwards onto a slightly raised platform where no shoes were permitted.  From there a larger step up entered us into the complex.  Taking off shoes, stepping up then finally entering the main space, created a visual and also experiential entry into the building.

This entry sequence was present throughout many spaces that we visited; temples, restaurants and at one of the hotels.  The steps involved in taking off shoes and the changes in section slowed you down and created a feeling of being in a different and special place.

MengDi_Yokohama ferry terminal_080413My Impressions of Japan | Written by Di Meng

Before this Japan trip, my impression of Japan was its electronic products, Zen garden, tea ceremony and “pencil” buildings. But now, I am more impressed by the railways, stations, and the passengers in Japan. Take Tokyo Station as an example. Each day, over hundreds trains depart and arrive at Tokyo Station. With the high density of trains, the density of people in this station is incredible. During rush hours, almost every corner of the station is occupied by people. The station itself is not only a temporary place for passengers to pass by, but rather is a mini city that includes everything you would need. From convenience stores to restaurants, from drug stores to massage centers and even shopping mall, it seems that you do not need to go anywhere else except working place, apartment and the train station. The business in train station also contrasts to the quietness in each train cars. I was really shocked by how quiet it was on Japanese public transportation.  I can barely hear people talking. Though people are constantly on their phones, they do not make phone calls. Even for kids, they just quietly play their gaming devices.

Japan is an intriguing mix of tradition and modernity. While walking down a street, I often passed by a modern luxury store and confronted by a quiet traditional temple. Small traditional moments against modern high rise buildings and women in kimono walk beside women in business suits, there are scenes that we always see during this trip.   The idea of convenience and Japanese attention to details are also carried out almost everywhere in this country. There are vending machines on almost every corner, selling both hot and cold drinks. Two convenience stores may just 1 minute’s walking distance from one to another. The notion of detail is not only expressed in the design and construction of buildings, but also in the careful cooking and arrangement food in Japanese dishes.

This trip to Japan left me with many memories that this short writing cannot express. In short, I will definitely go back again!

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