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    postcard from around Japan…

    By John Tubles
    Jan 20, '10 11:33 PM EST

    Hi guys… saying I’ve been away is an understatement….. so once again I’m sorry… so this past holiday I went on a little trip with my friends to Osaka, Tokyo and Nagano… and ill share you some of the photos…

    GLUTTONY is the only word to describe the 3 days of food bliss that I spent in Osaka. To be quite honest, I even uttered the words “I wish I’m not full right now…” which I think sums up my love for good food that Osaka has abundance off. Osaka is crowded and almost every store in the Shinsaibashi is clad with neon lights. So basically it was a sensory overload with the dense amount of people that is trying to get pass the slow-walking tourists, high-pitched sales ladies yelling “Irashaimasen” and the smell of “takoyaki” and “okonomiyaki” among many other things that permeates through the air.

    Shisaibashi distict in Osaka

    ...In between the food comas, Osaka is the hometown of Tadao Ando so I also went to see one of his works… funny story about this was a friend of mine told me that he designed a church really close to Osaka. So I immediately thought it was the Church on Water. So I just hurried to Google the address of this church. Then my friend and I just went… so we took the train then the bus then were dropped off in a random bus station next to a park. According to the site where I got the address that bus stop is within the vicinity of the church. So we started walking around looking for a large and lush park with an enormous body of water. We couldn’t find it until we asked for directions… so we followed that man’s direction with on the back of my mind still looking for a big park with a lake… then we saw a Tadao Ando-esque church… so we concluded that it was this… it has this trademark concrete finish, playing with lights which makes the heavy concrete walls seem light… so we concluded that this was the church that he designed in this area… and to make this long story short we saw the Tadao Ando’s less internationally known “Church of Light” while looking for the famous “Church on Water”. To be honest it was slightly disappointing because it was not the Church on Water with the nice procession then you go down into this dark tunnel then the view of the lake with a cross in the middle… it also did not help that the church was closed… so anyways the “Church of Light” for me will be forever know as the “Not-Church on Water”… NO OFFENSE…

    Church of Light by Tadao Ando... a.k.a. "Not-Church on Water"

    Then I rode the “Shinkansen” (bullet train) for the first time from Osaka to Tokyo… Of course I was equipped with a bento and a can… a tall can or maybe two… of beer to complete the experience.

    I also made sure to sit on the left the train to see this…

    View of Mt. Fuji from Shikansen

    Funny story… since it’s my first time riding the “Shinkansen”… my friend and I just went on a random cart but not knowing that those are for reserved seats… This cart was cart 11 and the unreserved seats are carts 1-3, so while the Shinkansen is moving really fast we were walking through the aisles of 8 carts and find the only left hand seat empty in the smoking cart… so after the train ride I smell like I just went to a Vegas casino…

    Tokyo was crowded because it’s the holidays… Christmas is not big in the Japanese Culture; it is basically only a magical day for kids for obvious reasons and lovers to be romantic. Since I anticipated this very dense city, I planned to stay longer in Tokyo and see it in a slower pace and not get exhausted… I went around the city visited all the major neighborhoods, partied, sadly not ate as much because it is much more expensive and less tasty than Osaka or home…which is currently Fukuoka.

    Roppongi Hills... really crowded for holiday shopping

    Here is my personal take on Tokyo… and please don’t take any of these into offense… I’m just a student blogger sharing my thoughts… Anyways is just like New York filled but with “Nihonjin” (Japanese People) and a good amount of “Gaijin” (Foreign People)... People are not as friendly, everybody seems to be in a rush all the time and English seems to be widely spoken. It does not smell like piss though so that’s a one up to New York. But seriously, what makes this city different is the density and how the Nihonjins dealt with this problem. There are this crazy, intense and seemingly random building typologies that layered together to create this vast maze-way like city. Trains stations that are both ground level and about two stories up, pedestrian walkways that branches directly inside buildings and the street, subways are at most 4 levels underground, and then random recently built or renovated pristine glass high rise shopping towers adjacent to an flyover constructed about 40-some-what years with dingy looking stores beneath it… its crazy but not for Tokyo Obviously.

    Oh then I spent my new years in Tokyo as well and I experienced the polar opposite… Tokyo seemed like a ghost town in comparison for what it is usually during the rest of the year… well it starts around the 29th of December and it last till the 2nd of January. The streets are eerily calmer than usual. And since most business are closed, the regular subway scene of salary men in their fancy suits and briefcases running to catch the next train took a break and was replaced by loud, obnoxious and drunk foreign tourist that is getting reprimanded by a Japanese Police Officer.

    Tokyo... Empty?!?

    Oh I went to Museum of Contemporary Arts Tokyo… this is a really, really cool museum. The building is by a Japanese architect named Takahiko Yanasigawa. It is right next to Kiba Park so I has this cavernous public spaces then the interior is this crazy multiple stories high voids that are surrounded by multiple levels of circulation… If this building talked, MaT (that’s the abbreviation of the museum) would say without any pretentions … “Yeah, I know I’m a cool building but I don’t like to show it off”.

    MaT's cavernous outdoor space...

    The exhibits were amazing too… currently there is a Grace Horn Exhibit, she is an experimental visual artist from Germany, a Fashion exhibit which includes Kazuyo Seijima’s spatial design for Comme des Garcons. To be honest… at first I thought that the wavy glass thing is a bit absurd in the sense it’s really hard and expensive to do/build then, quite frankly I thought it also has that “there is a surplus of glass from my last project so why don’t I use it…” feel… But guess who ate his words… it is actually great to see 3 dimensional artworks showcased in this system… it makes it interactive, playful and there is this questioning of what are you really looking at: the object displayed, the object that is reflected but slightly skewed because of the curves or these somewhat blurred movement of people that are going through the exhibit with you… plus it’s just fun to watch and observe people and see whether they are going to run into the glass or not…

    Kazuyo Seijima's Spatial Design for Comme des Garcons

    Nagano and specifically Yudanaka, was a major part of my Japan bucket list… this picturesque town is famous for these…

    what a life!!!

    Snow Macaques that likes to go on onsens… and speaking of onsens, I went to an outdoor one here which was on a hill top so you can view the entire Town… then snow started falling as well… so it was just simply amazing…

    So that was my winter trip which lasted around 2 weeks then right after that school went back in session again and now its finals week… at least for one of my studio class… then I will blog about that project soon.. And I mean over the weekend… I swear…

    ...but to leave you… here’s a photo from my balcony


    ...last week it was snowing in Fukuoka for a good amount of time… it was cold and I was working on computer stuff for my project... but I couldn’t resist the watching snow so I sat on my balcony all bundled up with my electric blanket, courtesy of my family, watching the snow and listening and partly watching Ice Cube’s Friday…. Freezing my @ss off and shivering of course…


    • let me know next time you make it to tokyo. happy to show you round if interested.

      that building by ando is more famous than the church on the water, sorry to say. it is in fact a real church with a rel congregation and a real pastor (who is very nice). The one you were thinking of is in Hokkaido and is i believe attached to a hotel for fake wedding ceremonies (the christian church has no power to marry here, and few are christian anyway, so it is just a place to have a ceremony and take pictures for the photo album).

      It is also one of his better buildings, so even if not open you were lucky to find the place.

      your description of tokyo sounds about right. it is a strange town indeed. but hey, where else do you get to see the mature work of herzog and demeuron, sejima, ando, mvrdv, zaha hadid, kurokawa, maki and tange all on a single street?

      Jan 21, 10 12:07 am  · 
      John Tubles

      yes im definitely interested... as you can see that my trip to tokyo was more a time off from school and spend time with a friend from back home... so definitely an architecture trip to tokyo is definitely a must do for me while im still in japan...

      as for the Not Church on Water bit.. i agree it was a good project even if it was close... the light ... well thats why it is called church of light... is amazing... it is the first time i have heard of this project but the church on water project seems more familiar to me... thats unfortunate that church on water is not a real church... oh well, but church on water is the first ando project that i saw/read in magazine... so i guess theres a certain sense of nostalgia that is attached to that project...

      but yes definitely interested in japan arch tour... especially since ive been reading and slightly obsessing the "made in tokyo" book... well its one of the english arch books that my school library has that caught my attention...

      oh by the way... any reading materials that you could suggest???

      arigato gozaimasu!

      Jan 21, 10 10:23 pm  · 

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