Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Japanese Architecture

Kumamoto Castle

I absolutely love Japan's architecture. It ranges from ancient to modern, and all of it has a very traditional Japanese feel to it. From ancient Castles of Japan's rich history to the most highly advanced Hospital facilities on the face of the planet, Japan has it all. It's one of the things which makes Japan so appealing, both on a historical level and also an aesthetic level.


Japanese Buddhist temples are very aethetically pleasing. But the one thing that may be more shocking is the elaborate gates and entrances. The Kengun-Jinja has the most beautiful wood tooled gateway I have ever seen leading into the temple area.

Kengun Temple Entrance

Right across the street from Kumamoto castle sits a clunky building which looks like it came right out of the seventies business boom of Japan. City Hall isn't beautiful, but it's architecture is bold, and you notice it.

Kumamoto City Hall

Slightly more modern, maybe late 90's, is the culture center. As Japan is unique in its sponsorship of its country, every city has a culture center which is the main hub for foreigners in the local area. You can use the culture center to network, find work, make friends, or learn about Japan and the locals. It's a great idea which sponsors cultural growth and friendship.

Culture center

Big apartments which can hold up to over a thousand tenants are called "mansions." This particular apartment is smaller than most mansions, especially the ones seen in Tokyo, but in a smaller town like Kumamoto I heard several locals call it such.

Japanese Mansion (large apartment)

Believe it or not, this is not rush hour traffic, but rather a calm afternoon flow of buses, motorcycles, trains, trollies, cars, and every other imaginable vehicle you could put on the road. I thought the guys purple bike matched the flowers quite nicely.

Rush hour or normal traffic?

One of the more overbearing aspects of Japan's aesthetics is the visual overload of all the power lines. No matter where you are in the city, you can't escape them, and it boggles the mind why the Japanese just don't plant the powerlines underground? Yet this distinct visual flavor gives Japan that unique quality not seen anywhere esle. You may notice this in Japanese Anime (animation) which often depicts Japan extremely accurately with the elaborate background paintings of real city scapes. Any anime fan worth their salt will instantly recognize this aspect of Japan.

Japan is wired!

If you ever go to Japan you run into either a Daiei or a YouMe Town. Both these stores are huge multi-level shopping plazas. In comparisson they are like nine Super Wal*Marts all stacked on top of each other, or minirature Mall of Americas. Either way you look at it, every town has several of these massive shopping areas, and they have decent prices on food, books, clothes, and anything else you could imagine.

Daiei is the Super Walmart of Japan

One sure way to ensure business is to paint your store in bright colors. In Japan, where everything blends into one urban concrete jungle stores like Best Denki, Yamada Denki, Tsutaiya, among others advertise by being bright and colorful.

Best Denki is like Radio Shack on steroids.

In older areas of town the houses are extremely closely packed, and there is hardly no space. This street shows how close everyone is to each other, often times only being separated from their neighbors by an arms length. Living in Japan is cozy! Why aren't there any cars on this street? I have no idea --I must have been in the right place at the right time, because normally I'm dogging traffic left and right.

Narrow Japanese street with houses

Older Japanese homes have very elaborate roof lines. It's artistically beautiful, and architects may enjoy designing it, but it's every contractors nightmare. I really enjoy how Japan is a blending of mixed and matched architecture stemming from the countries rich history and enjoyment of modern as well as classical elements.

Old style Japanese home

The most modern building I've ever been in is this Hospital. It was its own self-contained city. Their were resturants, convenient stores, gift shops, along with your regular care taking facilities. The neatest thing was its automated check in. Instead of talking to a receptionist you slid your Health Insurance card through an ATM looking machine, and the machine would tell you your appointment schedule, alert the doctor, and charge you for the appoinment when you left. It was very high tech, and not only that, made the visit to the doctor effortless and expedient.


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