The Twentieth Century Society

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Reflections on Japan – Part 2

Part 2 of our two part slideshow of Japanese architecture led by Professor Neil Jackson, with photographs by John East based on C20’s 2017 trip to Japan.

Starting with three days in Tokyo, we took the bullet train to Nagoya and thence by coach, via Ichinomiya, Hashima and Gifu, to Kyoto where we stayed three nights. The return trip took us initially west to Hiroshima, before looping back to Tokyo, with visits to nearby Yokohama and Kamakura on the final day. We looked at buildings both old and new­, Japanese as well as Western, from the Taidai’ji at Nara (752) to the Hōō-dō at Uji (1053) and from Sakakura Junzō’s Museum of Modern Art in Kakamura (1951) to Le Corbusier’s National Museum of Western Art (1959) in Ueno, Tokyo. To see how Western architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright or Norman Foster, interpreted Japanese tradition or, as Rafael Viñoly did, ignore it, was fascinating, but perhaps most rewarding was the works of the Metabolists, from Tange Kenzō, in whose ‘lab’ at Tokyo University the group formed, to Maki Fumihiko and Kurakawa Kishō, whose Daikanyama Hillside Terrace (1969-92) and Nakagin Capsule Tower (1972) delved deep into the past for their very Japan-ness. If we came away with no more than a taste of Japanese architecture, we also came away also with a taste for matcha and for sushi.