Located on the eastern edge of the Eurasian continent, Japan is an archipelago, stretching east to west and north to south across some 3,000 kilometres. It is also a nation that is frequently the victim of natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and typhoons. Though the country is packed with a diversity commensurate with its various climatic zones, the images inspired by the word “Japan” are quite limited abroad. They include Mt. Fuji with a clutch of cherry trees, machiya townhouses and Buddhist temples in Kyoto, hyper-urban areas like Shibuya, and animistic spots like Ise Grand Shrine. All of these things are unquestionably representative of Japan, but the fact is they are only a small part of what makes the country interesting.
In the late 19th century, Japan was the first Asian country to undergo modernization. This led to rapid growth and guaranteed Japan a place among the world’s advanced nations, but it also created pollution and other crises. Today, many of these problems have been solved, and the focus has shifted to reconstructing ecological environments. There is also a popular movement to turn modern industrial heritages into tourist resources.
This exhibition aims to examine how Japanese people have engaged and struggled with the natural environment, how they have carried on and created locality, and to introduce the trajectory of these efforts in each area. Rather than merely considering aspects such as architecture, civil engineering, and landscapes in isolation, the exhibition approaches the subject from the unique perspective of built environments.
Among the wide range of examples are a huge park made by reclaiming a brownfield, a funeral hall designed according to modernist principles, and a roughly-hewn flood-control channel. Alongside former private residences, there are self-build apartments, and in addition to government offices and music halls, there are warehouses. There is also a tea planation that was designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage, a geopark that showcases the effects of volcanic activity, and an afforestation and flood control system. To adequately convey the diverse nature of Japan, every effort has been made to select at least one site from each of the country’s 47 prefectures, and to focus on as many different cities and regions as possible. The resulting exhibition promises to be a truly “alternative guide to Japan.”
Onagawa Station Nagaoka City Hall Aore
Photo courtesy of Onagawa Town Photo by Mitsumasa Fujitsuka