by Cameron Hempstead
I had a great time studying at KCP. It was a fine program: I met people that I am still in contact with, and my Japanese skills improved a lot. I liked doing what I wanted on the weekends because it allowed me to study Japanese architecture on my own. (I’m an architecture student.) Here are some of my personal excursions.
I went to the Kabuki Theater in a small town with my friend Savi;d we wandered around afterward. We found this Shinto shrine with a lot of torii gates. It was very cool to walk up through all of them, but I got really bad bug bites up there.
This is 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT museum in Roppongi, building by by Tadao Ando. The gallery space is very open and light with Andoʼs use of concrete and glass. It is actually a two story space. (The other story is underground.) I saw an exhibit on how we respond to our physical identity.
My favorite part was a “pool” of finger prints (Individual Attributes: Our Indifference and the Society’s Fixation, by Masahiko Sato). Touching a fingerprint scanner and puts your fingerprint in the pool swimming with the rest of the fingerprints. If you touch it again, your fingerprint comes swimming back to you.
The Undercover Lab, a house for a fashion designer. It in in Harajuku, but it was very hard to find. (As a building-hunter, I spent a lot of time on the trail of these lesser-known sights.) I finally asked people at a little art gallery if they had heard of it. They very nicely looked it up and printed me out a map. I like the giant piece was cantilevered out. This area is the designers studio, and I wonder if it is unnerving to work in a room sticks out rather far. Maybe they got used to it. I would have liked to see it at night; photos Iʼve seen show the light spilling out of the cantilever and the main body of the house.
The Naked House by Shigeru Ban, also very hard to find–a 30 min. train ride to Kawagoe plus a taxi (the most expensive I’ve ever taken–5,000 yen!) We ended up on tiny roads and it just happened to be at the dead end of one. We had thought we were completely lost, and then it just appeared! The outer material is interesting–some kind of composite. You can’t see through it except for one piece of glass on the other side of the front door.
I took the train out to the Yokohama International Port Terminal by Foreign Office Architects (FOA). I had learned of this building in school. The contours are beautiful; grass is used as a seating and waiting area. As soon as I got to the terminal there was a breeze, a nice break from the heat. These ideas are continued throughout the entire building. Even the parking lot underneath continues the themes and details in the building.
I went with my friend Jenny to an ice bar. We went to the Apple store in Ginza to look up its location. It was very cool (literally)–so nice to step into this room completely made of ice and cool down from the heat outside.
My mom came after I finished KCP, and we travelled to other parts of Japan. We went to Miyajima to see the floating torri. We saw it at both high and low tide, which made for an interesting comparison of what everyone else seeks–how it sits in the ground. It was specatcular, hot, and crowded.
We also went to see the Azuma house by Tadao Ando, one of his first projects. His ideas on how we experience nature are well known. The house has a front and a back half with a courtyard in between. To go from one side to the other, you must go outside and experience the seasons. The courtyard is very private–people cannot see in from any of the surrounding houses or from the
street. It took my mom and me three hours to find this house. We asked an old lady for
directions, but we didn’t find it, so she took us to the police station. All of the policemen joined in to help. Luckily one of them had heard of it, so he made us a photocopy of a map, circled its location, and pointed us in the right direction.
The Too Tall Tea House by Terunobu Fujimori, in Chino, Fujimoriʼs home town. I was lucky–I got to meet him. I was able to listen to him speak (although I couldnʼt understand all of what he said). We couldnʼt go up into the tea house, but it was still amazing to see. I can’t believe that it is structurally stable, but Fujimori uses it every day and it hasnʼt fallen over yet. I hope it never does!
Me and Fujimori-san in Chino.
The tea house that Fujimori designed specifically for the exhibit.
Lots of hunting and some spectacular finds.