Accessories do not suit bustling, growing streets although they will appear in mature streets, as if to highlight their history and experiential growth rings. Yet streets in Japan today tend to be cluttered with accessories without any sense of order or propriety. Those making the decisions on new town development projects or station square renewal projects act as if they had a debt to pay. They hesitantly offer accessories of such modest design that they seem to be begging for public approval. But all we can do is just accept them. We don’t necessarily agree with them, but they may be serving as a kind of tonic, giving strength to the cityscape which otherwise might just disintegrate into a fading, pale reality. Depending on your perspective, they can indeed be a blessing.
In the dark of the night there emerges a space illuminated like a stage where some heroine might be standing. Accustomed to various urban happenings, we can keep our outward cool at this encounter, but we still are struck with curiosity and apprehension, like a child in a dream. Actually, it’s a shelter against rain or wind, located above an elevater shaft. Still, the illuminated thing in the darkness gives off an innocent look - like that of an art object - as if oblivious to the function it is performing.
An entrance to Kawaguchi, an old artisans’ town in a Tokyo suburb, this spot has an aura completely different from that of an idyllic suburban station square. Rather it presents a scene more like that in front of a terminal in the urban center. Yet this renewal project follows exactly the same pattern as other typical “new town” station square developments. The usual menu of elevated walkways, bus go-around and large-scale public facilities (a theater and a multipurpose hall) is meticulously laid out. Accessories are naturally included, and this illuminated box is just one of them.
An urban facility like this one, neither repressed nor radical in its function, is supposed to show its own basic value in a manner everyone can understand, harmonizing with environmental sculptures and trees. Such a scene is accepted by all precisely because all its elements are easy to understand. However, this illuminated glass box refuses to be such an element. It remains absolutely silent as regards both its function and the meaning of its form. An object which suddenly takes up a large portion of the view, it seems to have the power to reduce its surroundings to anonymity. Too big for an accessory, the illuminated box is a bit mysterious.
Neither inhabitants nor outsiders seem to be aware of its unnaturalness. Or, are they only pretending to be unaware? Who knows? If this is a society so insensitive as to unconsciously applaud such a thing without entertaining any doubt, who would dare to question it?
Text by Hiroshi Innami 1994/12