Secrets Tokyo: the lives of a prosperous and creative metropolis
Walk through the bustling metropolis, once again finding new life.
25 may 2019 14:09
Last June, the cool early morning. Before sunrise a couple of hours. Standing in the predawn darkness on the Western Bank of the Sumida river, I watch as tourists crowding around a pull bright nylon vest, as if preparing for impromptu football match. You might think that all of them, seven dozen shivering guests from South Africa, China, Malaysia, Spain and Russia, has come a long way to drive the ball on a sandy beach.
In fact, the congregation equips before going to Tsukiji Shijo – at that time still the largest fish market on the planet. Tsukiji – the maze of warehouses, freezers, loading docks, auction platforms and shelves. The market that feeds the city nearly a hundred years, turned into a tourist attraction, advertised in the press and television shows.
However, a historical market on its last legs. Shabby shelves and cobblestone floors attract tourists in pursuit of local flavor, however, in the ultra-modern Tokyo, such places are considered to be hotbeds of unsanitary conditions, the fragments of a tumultuous past. By the fall of Tsukiji should disappear, and the merchants preparing to move from the heart of the metropolis to a new, does not yet remarkable place in the South-East.
A worker at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo lays out a frozen tuna prior to the morning auction. Transverse sections of the tail allow buyers to assess the quality of each fish. Before moving to a larger building in October last year, Tsukiji was the largest fish market in the world.
Lined up behind each other, we rush inside. We rush past the trucks and the rumbling of the freezer with fish. Then I realize that our bright vests – and even security measure will help not to fall under the wheels.
Every day from around the world were brought about fifteen hundred tons of fish, marine plants and invertebrates wriggling. By the end of the day all this fantastic catch – worth about $ 15 million – escortreviews, was cut into pieces and transported to retailers. On my arrival at half past four in the morning trade was in full swing for several hours.
Around like squirrels in a wheel, spinning a hundred people, many smokers. Guards in white gloves to show us the way past the piles of Styrofoam boxes – some of them look like huge coffins with a bloody cargo. Ahead you can see the entrance to the warehouse, inside of which scream of a saw, cutting frozen fish flesh.
Most tourists come here for the famous auction, however, after the phantasmagoria, which we have just beheld, the auction seems awfully boring. By 10 am the fishing fever is on the decline, and I stealthily roam through the rows in solitude, communicating with the merchants, who bitterly lamented by the impending elimination of the old market. A few hours later humming alone truck delivering a shipment of goods: drivers wait in the cab while the trucks will immerse the fish.
Around midnight, I wander in a small Shrine with stone monuments in honor of various marine life. Tsukiji raised in my heart a storm of emotions, awakened animal instincts. I just feel so empty. On my legs rubs the cat. The inscription on the stone in front of me reads: Susi-Zuka, “monument sushi”. After a few hours all at the Tsukiji starts over again.
Buddhist priest in the temple Kokuji, where over 2,000 statues with led lighting.
According to Harvard University economist Edward Glaser, the city is the greatest achievement of mankind. In this case, Tokyo is perhaps the best creation of our civilization: a Grand metropolis with over 37 million inhabitants, one of the most prosperous, safe and creative cities on the planet.
All this he partly owes his tragic story. Over the last hundred years the city has twice risen from the ashes: after the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and in the next generation after the American bombing at the end of the Second world war. With each disaster the Japanese buried the past and re-created the world around him, couching it in an unprecedented form. Tsukiji fish market appeared after the Kanto earthquake, replacing the more ancient, for three centuries rustling near the center of the city.
In the middle of the last century rapidly paced forward Tokyo got an incredibly dense housing. As suggested by Glaser, that this is one of the reasons for its success. Space, where they live side by side people with very different backgrounds, where there are no barriers to trade and new ideas – positive environment for an explosion of creative energy.
Together with photographer David Guttenfelder I a few weeks came the city far and wide. We both previously lived in Japan and knew that Tokyo is hard to describe without abusing superlatives. We didn’t swing at a comprehensive chronicle, but I tried to find that invisible thread that connects the city and people. After all, it is they, the inhabitants, the city draws power.
Island a happy old age
Something over twenty years has not changed. The police, as before, go round the blocks on the white bike. Children with huge school bags safely get on the subway without an adult and most of Tokyo is still operating the usual route between home and work on ultramodern trains. Public transport scheme resembles a neural network. In new York, where I live, the stations have more, but the Tokyo underground daily transports about 10 million people – and that’s more than the population of new York city.
Over the past 100 years Tokyo has become a model of effectively organized environment. So, even at a construction site in the quarter minowa security guards in blue uniform politely direct the flow of pedestrians and cyclists.
Clear Saturday morning I walked around Hatiya those of Uguisudani and Ebisu-Nishi, took the train to Shibuya on the Yamanote line got to Ikebukuro – where the move is already on foot. In the Northern quarter Sugamo street vendors put tables and racks of clothes on the sidewalk along Jizo-Dori, hoping to lure buyers from the flow of pedestrians – mostly older ladies. What is there just is not: sweater, necklace, kitchenware, orthopedic appliances, walking sticks, knee pads, diapers for adults. Among all this variety catches the eye underwear – bright red panties, neatly Packed and folded by size. In Japanese culture the color red symbolizes good luck, good health and longevity.
Marching past two – three old ladies and then stop to examine the goods and ask the price. Younger passers are here too, they scurry past the shelves and dive into a nearby café, but mostly the crowd consists of elderly people.
City often flaunt power and youth – but in any of them there’s always old age and death. An anthropologist from Harvard’s Ted Bestor told me to look in Sugamo, for this quarter especially noticeable distinctive feature of Tokyo is its many, rapidly growing elderly population. “In Tokyo so a lot of old people that they have their own neighborhood where they themselves entertained,” explained Bestor.
Saturday afternoon in early summer, attracts young families in Yoyogi Park. Idyll should not mislead: the death rate in Japan exceeds the birth rate, and rapidly aging. By 2035, more than a quarter of Tokyo will exceed 65 years of age.
The birth rate has declined markedly in recent decades, in the most prosperous industrialized countries, but Japan is the most elderly of all. Almost 30 percent of its 126 million people are over 65. The death rate exceeds the birth rate. Soon Tokyo will fall the burden is to provide accommodation, maintenance and care for the people that built this city.
Aging nation threatens to drain the economy. But it will affect the psyche of people, and the most blatant proof – kodokushi, which is often translated as “a lonely death”: when the body find only a few days or even weeks. By 2035, more than a quarter of Tokyo will exceed 65 years of age, and many of them are destined to live alone.
However, from the street atmosphere in Sugamo are not blowing, neither sorrow, nor despair. At the entrance to one of the stores man and woman looking at window display, discussing robots as caregivers – struggling with labor shortages, the Japanese government funded a program.
“Maybe will buy already such that you were cared for?” gently, the man says his elegant companion more advanced in years. “Where do you want me going anywhere, she answers. – Besides, too, they are all terrible.”
District of Golden Gai in Shinjuku is the hundreds of tiny bars, where Tokyo and tourists until late at night singing favorite songs in karaoke. Small streets woven into one of the busiest areas of entertainment on the planet, and the karaoke was invented in another city — remains one of the favourite amusements of the Japanese.
A slice of silicon valley in Tokyo
Masanori Morishita recently sold his startup called Everforth larger technology companies for a very substantial sum. After the transaction, however, he continues to develop the product, and when we meet in the quarter Sendagaya, Morisita struggling to play the role of visionary leader slightly over 30, which is sufficiently liberal to invite subordinates to a barbecue.
The picnic he made his new house, turned into a space for living and working, where it engineers, sales managers and other colleagues could work side by side. There are offices and bedrooms for staff, a wine cellar, and a library.
Office workers on the train on the line Toei Oedo.
Tourists in costumes of video game characters drive around on the maps.
Lovers in the Park of Yoyogi.
We’re on the roof. Twirling a chicken over hot coals (a sauce for it and it has cooked itself), Morisita shared with me his plans: to make the traditional foundations of values came the era of new technologies. And he decided to start with your own home.
“I like the culture of Silicon valley, says Morishita. I’m trying to do something similar, but it’s hard.”
He pointed forceps where stretches of the city. “You know, Japanese culture is very strict, he continues. – Streamlined. Organized. People like being told what to do.” According to him, the house itself, and embodied it in new forms of life and work is truly revolutionary.
We look at the horizon to the East, where the towering cranes there in the next quarter of Kasumigaoka-machi, erect a new national stadium. It is the epicenter of transformations Tokyo on the eve of the summer Olympics in 2020. The games here will be able to watch the 68 thousand spectators.
Tokyo suffers from a shortage of workers in the service industry and workers, such as this team begins each day with a physical warm-up at a construction site in Shibuya. Japan opposed the influx of immigrants, but last year the government eased immigration policies to attract foreign labor.
The proximity to the stadium probably will forever change the lives of a quiet neighborhood, but Morisita doesn’t care a bit. He’s too passionate about his task – to break all ties with the traditional way of life that prevailed for decades. In his eyes all these overcrowded trains and roads, required for all drinking parties after work and other corporate tradition prevented Japan to build its own Silicon valley.
“All of us want freedom,” says me Morisita.
The new face of the urban environment
A few weeks later located on the other side of town Asakusa I meet with Kengo Kuma architect who designed the new national stadium. Kuma is one of the brightest talents of modern Japan. He’s older Morecity a generation, but they are linked by a common dream – to transform the city.
We settled in a small room on the third floor of the Cultural-tourist information center Asakusa. Like most other creations of Kuma, is a modern building faced with natural materials. In this case, wood; wood creates a cozy atmosphere and at the same time is a tribute to the skill of Japanese craftsmen.
The godfather is often called antiurbanism, the enemy crowded, sandwiched stone vise, but he hastens to tear off this label. “Say, I criticize the city, he says, shaking his head. I want to reshape the city. To break up the space, return him to the smaller scale.” According to Kengo, “small scale” were once a defining feature of Japanese life. He was “contained” more trees, gardens, parks, and more connections between people.
Tourists in one of the world’s largest underground water intake facilities on the outskirts.
A quarter of municipal buildings — Danti — in Itabashi.
Pedestrians in Ginza.
Of course, future generations will surely be remembered as the Godfather of the Creator of the huge oval stadium, which embodies the dream of the architect’s dream of a future when buildings will be used for different purposes and blend well into the environment. After the Olympics the stadium it will turn into a soccer arena. This arena will be surrounded by trees, and several floors will twine greens, planted on terraces.
“We have a really problem with the density, says Kuma. – So far all our urban design was to ensure to find a suitable piece of land and build some edifice. Make way for skyscrapers and shopping centers – they’ve done it in Asia.”
According to the architect, the building density increased after the kantō earthquake and later after the bombing of world war II. A major city in the world is ancient agglomerates, three-dimensional chronicle of human decisions and actions, “writing” for centuries. But modern Tokyo grew randomly and quickly – its buildings, highways and railway tracks were filled in gaps left by the elements and bombs. The consequences of those events, says Kuma, determined serious problems – including kodokushi, “lonely death”.
“Now my students prefer to live together in one house. This is something new… After the war, this lifestyle was unpopular. We lived in isolated spaces, separated by concrete, architect, taps the concrete column. But people don’t want to do that. They understand that it is bad.”
Owl posing in the owl cafe in Harajuku.
Care Fig, West of Tokyo.
Later, when we will climb to the observation deck on the roof of the tourist information centre, Cooma call Japan a “Mature society” – a wealthy, technologically advanced and aging. In other words, ready to grow more responsibly. “The best thing we can do is set an example, he smiles. – We can show you how to act otherwise.”
On the roof is full of tourists. Some pictures of the Tokyo silhouette against the clear sky, the other looking down at Senso-JI temple is a Buddhist temple complex, not less grandiose than the city itself.
We observe opposite to us the people go to the temple through the Kaminarimon, “the Gate of thunder”. To the East, on the opposite Bank of the river Sumida, was perched a dark squat building is part of the headquarters of the brewing company Asahi Breweries. It is topped with a Golden feather, which symbolizes the flame – popularly dubbed the “Golden turd”. Kuma, seeing him, frowns.
“Every building is living his life, and we should try to live in harmony with him, – he explains. – Location of the centre where we are now, very important – in front of the gate of the temple. Coming up with this project, I wanted to pay tribute to the “Gates of thunder”, this street… Many people think that history is a thing of the past. Yes, we live in a different era, but still interact with the past.”
The Japanese are crazy about anything that can be called kawaii (“cute”, “adorable”, “pretty”) — how these beauties lined up for the photo shoot to the delight of the owners in the Park Ueno. Aesthetics “cuteness” kawaii victoriously marching through the world, introducing pop culture into the sphere of fashion, technology, video games and animation.
Where the suffering bring good luck
Sitting on the steps of the Shinto Shrine in Minami-Senju is not the most friendly quarter North-East from the city center, – Toshio Tajima waiting for a team of porters. June Friday happy warm, festival season is in full swing, and from loudspeakers, mounted on poles, carried the shrill sounds of traditional music. Tajima, serious corpulent gentleman, clearly irritated. Under the canopy of tall Ginkgo in a quiet courtyard must be collected about two hundred people, but so far came up only a dozen. Local spirit – deity named susanoo, the God of thunder forced to wait.
Tajima and his companions dressed in traditional clothes: same happi jackets of light cotton and white jika-tabi shoes Japanese workers “separate” the thumb. Knowing that you have to work hard, many wearing shorts, although some chose other clothes – fundoshi: something like a belt or loincloth, over which hangs a strip of cloth is threaded between the legs.
In one hand Tajima mouthpiece, the other balled in a fist. When he finally rises, no longer able to sit still, I notice on his neck a strange lump. I feel like she seemed swayed. Tajima catches my eye and touches the cone. She again swayed.
“This is my micosi-Dako”, – with undisguised pride reported by Tajima. Porter older suitable and examines the lump. “Huge!” approvingly he concludes. Then, turning half-turned, shows the same, but a little smaller: “They are only the most diligent”.
Before that I never had to hear about micosi-Dako. Tajima explains, is a combination of two words. The first means “portable palanquin”, and the second “corn” – although these calluses I’ve never seen: soft and look repulsive. Trying to imagine how they could take, and then the older porter, Teruhiko Kurihara, laughter indicates something like a huge Dollhouse, hoisted on a long thick logs. “This is micosi. When he is talking about, appear Dako,” he says and she slaps his corn joyful slap.
Buddhist statue of the patron Saint of children, Jizo Bosatsu in a residential area surrounded by Katsushika offerings.
Removing traditional sandals, the man has a rest during the festival in Negishi.
Apricots on the railing of the pavilion in the National garden Shinjuku Gyoen.
Only slightly inferior in size to minicooper, micosi, to which I look, decorated with gold and covered with red and black lacquer. Small Windows lined with paper screens, and in front of a carved door, under the steep roof, towering carved columns. Looks almost exactly like the sanctuary behind us, just scaled down for carrying. Private micosi is included in each local block, and Shinto priests performed special rituals to the festival deity of each quarter out of his temple and moved into his own palanquin.
Soon near us going for about four dozen people, all wearing the same clothes, and Tajima decides that you can start. Men approaching micosi and put his hands on the smooth logs. Team Tajima they bend the knee, bend the shoulders and push his burden up.
Such festivals are not uncommon in Japan, and a couple of hours ago, I have seen how other teams carried through the streets micosi, preventing the traffic. A few days micosi will travel through their neighborhoods – this community ritual intended to bring good luck and revive the ancient faith. In the latter, the most important day, all micosi will transfer back to the local sanctuary. This event will be followed by Grand celebrations. Susanoo and other gods will return home – people are too bent on tired legs.
Micosi before Tzimou as she staggered falls on the shoulders of porters, and they smoothly move across the yard. Coming up with a kind of sacred place, the procession stops. I can hear Tajima, and carriers start to shake micosi – at first slowly and smoothly, accompanying their movements with rhythmic shouts. Gradually the movement becomes more and more intense, and suddenly the palanquin almost falls to one side, threatening to crush support log men – but somehow, inexplicably not, and the palanquin swings in the other direction. Again and again micosi Bouncing around like a boat in a stormy sea: the necks and shoulders of porters is not to be envied.
Every time the palanquin lurches dangerously to the ground, Tajima laughs. “Faster!” – he shouts. Red from the strain, the porters grinning, moaning and groaning. The gravel beneath their feet, dark with sweat.
“Our God loves a good shake-up! – I hear the voice of the Kurihara. – Want to try?”
Slamming on the shoulder of one of the porters, he gives him the sign to fail, and I squeezed in its place. Although the burden shared by the whole team on my shoulders it falls heavily, and in addition the sense of responsibility I feel a sharp pain in the back. I propped up a whopper of wood, gold and lacquer weighing no less than half a ton, and it drives me into the ground like a pole. A few minutes later, above the cervical vertebrae I have a bruise the size of an Apple – and will be sore for a week. Finally Kurihara tapping me on the shoulder out. I feel like I was a few inches shorter.
“What’s inside?” – I ask Kurihara.
“The spirit that answers. – It was too heavy.”
The heart of the city craves diversity
The Governor of Tokyo Prefecture, Yuriko Koike, admits that sometimes she lacks the chaos.
Koike is the first woman to become Governor of Tokyo, studied at the University in another metropolis, Cairo. It is hard to imagine two cities, the contrast between them would be even more dramatic, but Koike even liked it.
“Cairo is in a perpetual chaos, and this is its charm, – she says with a smile, remembering the confusion on the ancient streets and bazaars. And the beauty of Tokyo is, of course, that there is order”.
We walk along the shady gravel path in the gardens of Hama-Rikyu. We are in the heart of Tokyo, right by the river Sumida.
In the past Koike led the news program, and the Cairo experience helped her to interview many Arab leaders, including Yasser Arafat and Muammar Gaddafi. In the 1990-ies she went into politics and for 24 years was a member of the National diet of Japan – and during this time has worked in government under two premiers, and even briefly occupied the position of Minister of defence (becoming Japan’s first woman to hold that post). In 2016 Yuriko Koike has gained the absolute victory in the elections of the Governor. Her triumph was a Testament to the fact that the male monopoly on power seems rooted in the past.
Stand for photography near the pharmacy at Shibuya: any may present themselves geisha.
Man feeding birds in Ueno Park.
Characters Tokyo tower greeted visitors at its foot.
According to Koike, technology and financial resources allow the city to become greener and to prepare for future problems such as sea level rise. But first and foremost she was concerned about social issues.
“What Tokyo today is lacking is the diversity of the urban environment, she says. I’m sure this problem will be successfully solved, if we have more involvement of women in city management and get rid of the Japanese “iron curtain””.
I understand what he’s talking about Koike. In the capital, home to many Koreans and Chinese, many of them Tokyo is not in the first generation. The number of “permanently residing foreigners” in Tokyo, too, has increased over time: in 2018, every tenth Tokyo-ITE at the age of 20 to 30 years – not Japanese. But in such a huge city, these groups quickly dispersed, and the ethnic diversity here still can not speak.
The rapid transformation of the country after the Second world war is often explained – and the foreigners and the Japanese themselves – its homogeneity. There is a perception that Japan is ethnically and linguistically one nation that its people value harmony above all else and what do not forget about obedience, loyalty and sacrifice.
Such generalizations are quite dangerous, and this list of the top Asian virtues most associated with the image of some caricature of a samurai. But some Japanese do consider them sacred and even threatened: there are fears that they can be dissolved in the influx of outsiders.
Samu Koike criticized for the fact that the words it stands for diversity, but in fact almost no steps in this direction are taken. However, her election victory shook the foundations of society – and, perhaps, was a harbinger of larger shifts. According to Koike, the change has pushed Tokyo Olympics 2020. It is expected that during the Games the Japanese capital will be visited by tens of thousands of foreigners – a good opportunity to show itself in all its glory. And Yuriko Koike understands that the composition of Tokyo’s population would soon change, at least for one simple reason – the nation is aging.
“Our biggest problem is care for elderly citizens, – says Yuriko. But Tokyo is not afraid of difficulties. Endurance is not only Tokyo is a common feature of Japanese.”
(To view an infographic, click to expand and zoom in the picture)
With water cool – shot up the breeze for a few moments, propels the heavy damp air and rustles the tops of the pines near us. Somewhere in the distance buzzing cargo ships.
All day Koike was in troubles around the closing of the Tsukiji market. Not without problems – another big project in a big city. Yuriko Koike associated with Tokyo, nearly four decades, and today, under her leadership, it made a Grand transformation is not as dramatic as war and earthquakes, but no less fundamental.
I ask Yuriko, how the city has changed in her lifetime. Standard journalistic question – surely she had to ask him early in his career. Koike laughs. “I know he’s changed, but sometimes it seems that no, – she says. – When you’re part of the story, to see the change sometimes is not so easy.”