Saturday, 31 October 2015

A stark contrast between city and country

Japan appears to be its own small world, with dense housing, agricultural farming in backyards, and a completely different lifestyle to anywhere else. At first sight, Japan’s use of space appears to be efficient, however, once out of the city, there are many areas of Japan that have no infrastructure, are not used for farming; are not used for anything. 

‘Rurality’ is not perceived the same way in Japan as it is in Australia. Japan depicted no middle ground between urban and ‘rural’, only a stark contrast between city and country. Due to the apparent urban sprawl ‘outbreaks’, it was gathered that their perception on rurality meant living in an outer city suburb, as opposed to the Australian ‘middle of no where’.

Kit’s tour on Tokyo’s economic and business district was very eye opening. Kit spoke to the group about land use percentages (e.g. 20:100); he stated that although the base of the building may only be on 20% of the land, however, it will use 100% of the sky space. He also talked about the lifespan of buildings; between 40-80 years before they are out dated/are not functional, and need to be rebuilt. He also described the train system in Japan; two privately owned companies and one public. There are many investors within these private companies.

After seeing the temporary housing and reconstruction of the tsunami-affected areas outside of Sendai, it was hard to believe that the buildings in Tokyo could be refurbished/rebuilt so efficiently when they became unusable. The government largely funds the reconstruction of the tsunami-affected areas. Although the residents of the temporary housing have been there already for 4 years, the government has constructed public housing in a new estate, incorporated with private housing (10-minute neighbourhood).

After seeing and hearing what was being done in preparation for another tsunami, it was evident that this is being done purely as a response to the disaster, denoting that there were no measurements or restrictions in place before the March 2011 disaster struck. Since this day, many strategies have been implemented to prevent another happening. Barricades put in front of the ocean shore, ‘Millennium Hill’ constructed as a place of refuge in case of disaster, and ground level raised by minimum 15cm in reconstructed areas.

The physical structure of the city is very diverse, with new and old buildings scattered around the cities. However, the ‘old’ buildings were typically new remodelled buildings. Infrastructure in the rural areas we did visit was rebuilt after the tsunami hit. Thus, indicating new constructions in most areas.

‘Forward thinking’ is actively carried out in Japan; facilities or infrastructure built as a need, rather than a response. For example, a train station will be constructed in an area before it is seen as a problem. Whereas in Australia, areas are built first, then questions are asked later.Japan has everything built at a convenience; vending machines and 7-eleven’s on every block, a toilet around every corner, food stores on every street. Japan was a very ‘easy’ country in terms of finding what you sought after.

Bella Morton-Pedersen