Saturday 31 October 2015

Early glimpses, lasting impressions.

Arriving in Osaka, with much anticipation, we collected our JR Rail Passes and embarked on a 40-minute train ride into Shin Osaka Train station from the airport. Never having travelled to Asia in the past, the highly anticipated train ride to our accommodation gave insight into the urban form and planning of the city. Travelling along, it was observed that the irregular sized homes became more dense and varied in terms of height, style and age as we travelled closer into the city.

After settling into the hotel, we explored both Shin-Osaka and Osaka City within the one-day. As these two places are only a few train stops away from each other, there were many similarities in the way the city had been planned. One particular thing that stood out to me on that first night was just how busy the city was. Despite it being a Sunday night, the trains, streets and public spaces were energetic and buzzing with young adults.

Visiting the ancient city of Kyoto was a highlight of mine on the Japanese segment of the trip. As I am particularly interested in the heritage and preservation of historic buildings across the world, travelling to visit the ancient Kiyomizu Dera Temple was very rewarding. Upon arrival, I immediately noticed the scaffolding all over the exterior façade of the temple as it was under renovation. After exploring the temple a little further it was noted that the secondary balcony, known as Okunion Hall is currently under renovation as well as the structure around the entrance and three-storied pagoda. Although there was construction-taking place, it did not have an overwhelming impact on our visit nor did it hinder other tourists visiting the temple.

Tokyo is a metropolis that is highly complex when considering its urban form and planning. Due to the city being so large and compact, I really appreciated Kit Weddle, a British developer living in Japan, taking time out of his day, to lead us on a fully guided tour of the center of the city. Whilst on the tour, it was interesting to note the different environments. Closer to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the area was highly developed with little greenery however as we progressively made our way closer to the Imperial Palace, there was a lot more greenery and less consolidation of buildings.

The third and final destination we visited in Japan was Sendai as it recently endured a series of traumatic events. The main purpose of travelling to Sendai was to visit the Earthquake and Tsunami devastated areas. For me, listening to the heartbreaking stories of those in temporary housing of how families lost their homes and loved ones was truly devastating. Due to the events of 2011, Sendai is now a city under severe renovation. As it was once primarily farming land, cities within Sendai needed to reevaluate as the salt water from the tsunami ultimately made the soil unusable to grow crops on.

Although Sendai is low density and cannot be held at the same level as the mega, high density cities such as Osaka and Tokyo, buildings are slowly being reconstructed again, and the city is actually becoming a leader in sustainable energy by installing over 100,000 solar panels on land and buildings that were sold back to the Government after the tsunami.

Katherine Petrentsis


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