Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Won't Miss #7 - urban ugliness (reflection)

When I originally posted about how ugly Tokyo generally is, someone asked where I took the picture used in that original post. They could not believe that was a typical part of the city and thought that neighborhood had to reflect some sort of older, more impoverished time period in Tokyo's history. The truth is that much of the city areas are not pretty. My picture was not a misrepresentation. All of the lovely ones showing the best parts only were the skewed view. It's as if someone made a huge bunch of cookies, decorated them all badly but one and took a picture only of the one that looked good. Sure, there are gorgeous parts of Japan, but they are eclipsed in number by the range of ugly to blah areas if you are looking at the frequency.

That being said, now that I'm back home, I'm mainly struck by the suburban and rural ugliness of where I am/have been. Things look and feel very bland to me, even when they are relatively "nice" objectively speaking. Driving along in a car, it tends to just feel like things are tedious or rundown. Even when it was ugly in Tokyo, it wasn't boring. 

It turns out that the ugliness, which was very real, is something I could forgive in exchange for the fact that there was so much of interest contained behind those grey, boxy facades. The surface now seems far less important than the substance beneath it. 


  1. "Even when it was ugly in Tokyo, it wasn't boring." Nail on head!

    Tokyo needs to use less concrete, less aluminum siding and roofing, and grow more tree cover. Toronto, where I'm from, needs to get any character at all...

  2. There is an interesting juxtaposition of cultural norms here, I think. In Japan, from what I've seen, business owners expect their customers to research what they want and where to go to get it, and not pay much attention to the external facade except to confirm where they are going is correct. In other words, modern Japan is (mostly) utilitarian on the outside, focusing on the substance, with exception of some government buildings / projects. On the other hand, at least in America, many businesses rely on outward appearance and "street pull", especially in urban environments. Suburbs are a bit different - strip malls and bland blah are the norm. Rural, from what I've seen, are even more restricted due to the expectations of their consumer base (whatcha want a fancy city-slicker like buildin' like thawt?) and therefore less interesting. In other words, the facade is important and they also lose the substance.

    Personally I think some cities (like my home of Seattle and my hometown of Chicago) are interesting enough both outward and inward, so I've been blessed. But there are other cities which are depressing (like St. Louis and Cincinnati) for their lack of originality. That's not to say there aren't examples of it (e.g. the City Museum in St. Louis, run by a bunch of mad artists and the botanical gardens), but by and large they are excessively, crushingly, vanilla bland in substance (said examples of interesting features are dwarfed in consumption by the football and baseball watching, suburb-living, swill beer drinking populace).


Comments are moderated and will not show up immediately. If you want to make sure that your comment survives moderation, be respectful. Pretend you're giving feedback to your boss and would like a raise when you're speaking. Comments that reflect anger or a bad attitude on the part of the poster will not be posted. I strongly recommend reading the posts "What This Blog Is and Is Not" and "Why There Were No Comments" (in the sidebar under "FYI") before commenting.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.