display | more...

Tokyo, May 2000. On a normal, i.e rainy day, I was in Ginza, the central commercial district in Tokyo, when I decided to walk to Nihombashi. Nihombashi is one of the most famous bridges in Tokyo, and was the symbolic center of Japan during the Edo period. Its name means "Japan Bridge", and it used to be the starting point of the major roads. You can see it on the first of Hiroshige's "Tokaido 53 Stations".

Well, that's what they say to the tourists. After walking under a thin rain during almost an hour, I finally got to the bridge. It was a pretty bridge indeed, and it did cross a little river as they said. But there was something else: a gigantic expressway, fifteen meters above the bridge, which followed the course of the river. The beauty of the bridge was completely spoiled by the expressway, and the river was half-hidden under the hideous beast. How many of the innumerable salarymen who drive the expressway every day think about that bridge, somewhere under the wheels of their cars?

I had already noticed that the Tokyo expressways seem to have their own life, independent from the rest of the city. Sometimes there are two expressways, one above the other. They run here and there, usually above normal streets. One of them rushes out of a block of buildings like a train out of a tunnel, crosses the Sumida river in a very large curve and comes into another block on the opposite bank, with absolutely no care for the existing urban spatial structure and aesthetic unity.

I was amazed. I came from Paris, a town where every remainder of the past is carefully preserved and emphasized: large squares make beautiful churches look even more majestic, major buildings are located at the end of long and large avenues, and the bridges in the center of the city offer a unique view where everything is old and charming. In Paris, no detail must break the unity of the district, and every district contributes to the beauty of the city.

Tokyo is different. Every building and construction has its own style, so that the city, as a whole, has absolutely no style. Stunning and exciting. I have only spent one week in Tokyo, and I wish I could live there for a couple of years.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.