An amazing act of vandalism is happening this week in Japan: 400-year-old garden in Okayama to be replaced with condominium complex ‹ Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion
Japan loves to devise top three lists, and Okayama City’s Korakuen is held to be one of the country’s three best gardens. Anyone who’s visited will tell you that it’s indeed beautiful, but Korakuen isn’t the city’s only garden, or even its oldest…The garden’s layout is thought to be the work of noted landscaper Kobori Enshu, who designed Tokoen in the kaiyu style, in which visitors are led on a course that winds around the grounds and past a spring-fed pond and tea house. As with many Japanese gardens, it was created with sight lines that ”borrow” aspects from the surrounding scenery, which in Tokoen’s case means affording visitors views of nearby Mt. Misaoyama.
Here is a street screen shot a few blocks away from this beautiful park:
I looked at several streets near the park and they are all the exact same vistas: wild architectural clutter, big and small. All of Japan looks like this. This isn’t the only treasure being converted into trash by Japanese land developers who are all LDP lobbyists, here is a primary example: 6 destroyed Frank Lloyd Wright buildings: The Imperial Hotel:
It isn’t just Japan: We are destroying what is uniquely Singaporean as five historic buildings were destroyed there in 2007 to build hideous mega structures. The US did this for many years. Beautiful, historic structures were ripped down in order to build hideous megastructures particularly in New York City. I remember fighting these forces of change because I restore old houses and fix old neighborhoods.
I did this because my godmother’s home in Pasadena was, along with my grandfather’s house, illegally torn down by the city and replaced with a parking lot for a hospital. Mrs. Mitchner’s house (yes, she was connected with the famous author) was one of the oldest mansions in the city. She died at 105 years in the early 1960’s and one of her neighbors called my parents to tell them to rush over to California to see the mess. We still owned grandpa’s house.
Well, the city’s manager was bribed to do this illegally and we went to court and won and the money helped me go to college. The manager was put in prison. But it was too late. All of Pasadena looks alien to me today because I roamed the Victorian era neighborhoods in my childhood and virtually nothing stands from back then. It looks hideous to me. In NYC, Jackie Onassis fought long and hard and funded the preservation group that tries to stop this demolition after Penn Station was destroyed and an anonymous box erected on the ruins of one of the finest examples of 19th century rail stations.
The destruction of green breathing spaces is criminal in cities. Worry about CO2? Well, worry about oxygen! Much of Japan’s cities are paved over and seldom do we see any trees on streets. One of the first things the Park Slope Preservation Committee did was to plant trees. I had this big iron pry bar six feet long which I lugged about every spring, opening up the sidewalk for trees and now Park Slope is famous for its quiet, green, cool in summer streets lined with trees!
One thing that strikes me is how Japan has lost its aesthetics. It has become a cluttered mess, the polar opposite. Everything is being cluttered. In anime, for example, the clutter is rapidly becoming impossible to look at. Visual junk everywhere. After WWII, the US had this housing revolution from Japan that got rid of clutter. The Victorians loved clutter. But now we have severe modernity with no clutter in the middle of a muddled mess.
At least Victorians knew you had to have wide streets, landscaped yards, sidewalks, and some uniformity with enough variation to make the street view look interesting yet unified. Brownstone neighborhoods have this a great deal and suburban Victorian communities like my old neighborhood, South Orange, NJ, one of the older examples of this, is a pleasure to roam around thanks to fine Victorian homes well spaced and surrounded by 100 year old trees.
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