Where Does All the Concrete Come From?

Hi blog.

This just arrived in my mail box –  a post from fellow blogger, sometime hiking partner, former workmate and general nice-guy, I.G. “Goat” Fraser.  It’s a good read, so I’ll re-blog it here.

http://iangfraser.com/2016/11/29/where-does-all-the-concrete-come-from/

Do yourself a favour and follow the link.

 

Where Does All the Concrete Come From?

“Where does all the concrete come from?”That was my first thought, back in 2000, as I gazed, dumbstruck, through the (hopefully extremely thick) glass of the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, 45 floors and 202m above the streets of the western side of Shinjuku station.

View of the twin towers of the Tochō from the courtyard.

View of the twin towers of the Tochō from the courtyard.

I don’t remember which deck it was, North or South — the building, 48 storeys tall, splits into identical twins from the 33rd, with a viewing deck (the whole floor) at the same height in each. Both are free to visit.

There’s not much that will take me to the western side of the tracks in Shinjuku. It’s mostly offices, government departments, and what the tourist guides like to call “skyscrapers”, really quite tame in size when compared to, say, New York. Oh, and a couple of camera-gear megastores which are quite irresistible to geeks of a certain style and undeniable handsomeness.

The Tochō from one of the alleys at its feet.

The Tochō from one of the alleys at its feet.

It’s the eastern side that has the crowds, youth, restaurants, bars, sleaze (again, tame by world standards; this is a polite society) and, if you’re not in the mood and just want to grab that last train home at midnight to your futon on the tatami mats, annoyance. Because every other drunk bastard in Shinjuku wants to share that last train with you…

But let’s stay on the far more sedate west side for now — and resume pondering all that concrete. You remind yourself that this city, the world’s largest conurbation, with more people than my entire country, was all but obliterated in WWII.

At any point on the perimeter of the deck, you’re afforded a similarly limitless (haze permitting; cooler months are best) vista:

Fellow spectator on the observation deck. A special prize (enduring fame) awaits those who can translate the German on her bag.

Fellow spectator on the observation deck. A special prize (enduring fame) awaits those who can translate the German on her bag.

On the extreme right, you can see fellow Tochō spectators in the next tower.

On the extreme right, you can see fellow Tochō spectators in the next tower.

Suitable for framing.

Suitable for framing.

The mountains ringing the city, many of which you might have hiked, are there beyond the rooftops. Outside Summer, you may well enjoy the privilege of a view of snow-capped Fuji-San herself, startlingly close to all this humanity (just 60m south-west), especially when you ask yourself if and when she’ll blow her top again.

mmm

“Hey, that’s a coincidence. I think I went to school with that guy down there.”

The building, known colloquially as the Tochō, opened in 1991. It was designed by Kenzo Tange, apparently to approximate the look of a computer chip, and as that description would imply, it doesn’t exactly radiate warmth and welcome. It also feels, whenever I return there, remarkably quiet and uncrowded for a structure presumably jammed tight with bureaucrats.

As for all that concrete: numerous walks through rural and off-the-beaten-tarmac Japan have provided at least part of the answer. Little concrete plants (is that the term?) on some backwater road, standing silent amid mountainous piles of gravel. Fleets of trucks waiting politely for their next load. The monster must be fed.

Another monster, Godzilla herself, trashed the building soon after its opening in a 1991 movie, which seems rude and petulant even by Godzilla’s standards. Fortunately the Japanese exhibited their standard genius in the art of reconstruction, and nowadays you’d never even notice any signs of his/her handiwork.

The views come free.

The views come free.

~ 山羊 ~

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