Today marks the beginning of my fourth day in Nihon… the past two days have been very busy because of countless paper works and school. I arrived in Fukuoka last Thursday. As our plane pulled into the terminal we were immediately welcomed by the airport crew by bowing from tarmac… I was so amazed with this gesture of respect that all that I could say was “Whoa… Now we’re in Japan”. Shortly after getting our landing permit and luggage, the group was welcomed by our school with Japanese tutors and shuttle services. Each one of the students that came from Cal Poly got a tutor that was designated by the school to help the exchange student adjust in the country, but unfortunately not me… at the airport I was told that he/she (I still don’t know cause they referred to him as Nakamura San which I’m assuming is a last name) is not coming because he/she had a prior engagement at an architecture conference in Osaka…. and the unfortunate streaks kept on coming when we arrived at our dormitory, and the room that I got had no running water so a nice shower in a humid day was not possible. Then when the other tutors took us to the bank, they could not change all of my “moving-in” money because most of them were not as crisp as the machine would have wanted. So I have300 dollars in yen to pay for rent, bills and hopefully meals for the next couple of days… Anyways, after the bank we went to the school and spent a couple of hours there roaming around and knowing where our studio and labs are located. Then we found out that our first class starts the next day and we are going to a fieldtrip to Kurogi town, the site of our main project… after a couple more paper works and some helpful advice with our classes… we head back to our dormitory and unpacked everything….
…2nd day in Nihon was welcomed by pouring rain… it was a nice change to the always nice, sunny and temperate California. But with a field trip later on the day, a kasa (umbrella) is essential. Then we went to school where we had a 2 hr lecture in Japanese that was translated in about 15 minutes...(I really need to learn more Japanese). From what I got at the lecture, we are going assign a program and design a structure that is going to be inserted in an old town called Kurogi. This beach town was built during the Edo Period of Japan which according to our translator about 200+ years old. Before, this town’s main product was salt but today there are some hotel/hostels, an Indigo factory (Japanese art of Tie-Dying), a Sake distillery and a very old temple are the attractions of this town. After my visiting the town, here are some of my observations:
[deliciousness in a bottle]
45 minutes away from the city. –which seemed like hours away in terms of the stark contrast of this town to the city… It is not dotted with 7-11, there are a lot more single-family houses, the scale and the amount of the buildings here are smaller.
People know each other fairly well. –because when my friend Eddie and I separated from the group of exchange students, we walked in to an indigo factory and the lady made a personal phone call to one of the local residents who knows how to speak in English [Japanese People are so nice!!!].
Most town people have the preference for newer more “westernized” architecture. –I mean the combination of an “American style builder’s Spec House and some Japanese diluted form of traditional Japanese Aesthetic”.
There is a population decrease problem in this town. –this was said in our lecture but it is also visible when you go around town because it is dotted with empty lots which I thought was really surprising especially in a beach town.
Little alleys add a lot of character to this town. –there are plenty of little alleys that are used differently, some serves as an access point from the main streets to the inner streets created by the architecture, some serve as a mechanical core, where all the A/C units are installed and power lines connect to the major post and some serve as their outdoor space where they can create a little shrine dedicated to their ancestors.
…Oh by the way by the beginning of November, we are going to present our proposed project in front of the town folks… this I thought is a little nerve wrecking because not only I can’t speak the language to top it off I will be critiqued by the locals… whew… time to get started.
Lastly a major shout out to this Buddhist monk we met at the temple who was so hospitable that he let us take photos of his temple, play the musical instruments including the massive 300 yr old bell outside the temple and gave us parting presents. Domo Arigato Gozaimasu!