Monday, 12 March 2012

The end of an era

Our neighbourhood is home to a lot of apartments provided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Housing Commission in practice but lacking the ghetto atmosphere that can characterize government housing. When I first arrived in the neighbourhood, there also used to be a reasonable amount of company housing for employees of national government bureaucracies - mostly the Ministry of Finance, much of that has now gone, the land sold to private developers. The era of mass migration from rural areas has ended and accommodation in large companies is increasingly being left as the responsibility of individual.  Public housing however is still being built and rebuilt. 
Although the Met. Gov. Housing was dilapidated, and I am sure not particularly comfortable, with only basics provided, there was some kind of charm about them. Four or mostly five stories (no lifts),some of them had thriving gardens, often a mix of flowers and vegetables tended very carefully by residents for whom it was a close and convenient, hobby.  They didn't seem to need to mandatory "grass picking day" that our apartment building has, lots of retired people lived there and they enjoyed it.

It's with mixed feelings I'm watching them gradually being torn around on three sides of us.  The replacement housing will offer a better standard of accommodation for the new residents, but at the same time 5 story buildings are being replaced with ten stories, and it remains to be seen whether the "danchi" - ( estates*) nearby will retain space for gardens or increase the public area to offset the increased height.   The buildings will have lifts - a great help for the elderly, but taller buildings, more aircon, less wind movement, will need to be offset by more green, more trees, more public space, more gardens to be an improvement.......
I wonder...

* I am not sure if estate is the best translation, the danchi here don't have connotations of crime etc - just a collection of apartment buildings built together in the same style, at the same time, by the same company, as part of the same project.

Public housing 

The same building above being demolished


Public housing - with savagely pruned trees in front.
This will be soon to go I imagine.
The new style - 10 floors replacing 5 - function
rather than aesthetics takes priority
The new buildings are wheelchair accessible
Just before reopening - there didn't seem to be any
solar power, water tanks, or garden on the roof.


Anonymous said...

I've often wondered what those apartment buildings were...I thought they could have been government apartments.I could have just asked Masaaki but i never I know what they are. Even here they look the same as your pictures.

Cecilia said...

Imagine if the architect got royalties!

Rurousha said...

I've noticed lots of construction (mostly apartment buildings) in the shitamachi. We get all their flyers in our mail box, and every flyer boasts that this particular new development has, gasp!, a view of Tokyo Sky Tree! I love that tower, but I have an uneasy feeling that the world is suddenly going to discover the shitamachi, and I'm not so sure that I'm happy about that. Am I making sense?

Cecilia said...

It makes perfect sense. If people loved shitamachi as they found it, or even if they found it and wanted to spruce it up like Yanaka I wouldn't mind. It's the supersized mansions with obligatory car spaces and two, three four air cons per apartments. What particularly upsets me (and I am feeling a bit upset about it) is the security buildings that kill the street life - and ironically the security of the area.

I shouldn't write when I am feeling jaded.