Skip to main content

Kinne Trip: Part 3

This is part 3 of a multi-part description of my trip to Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan, as part of my Kinne Traveling Fellowship grant through my studio at GSAPP.  You can read the first post here and second post here.  To see all my photos from Tokyo, visit my Google+ album here.  A map of our destinations can be viewed here.

March 15th

Our final day in Kyoto, we got up early to take a tour of the Imperial Palace grounds.  The palaces in Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as several important imperial villas, are run by the Imperial Household Agency and require special registration in order to take a tour; the Kyoto palace is the easiest to access without advance reservations.  We arrived shortly before the tour began, registered at the office on the grounds, and headed into the palace for the tour.  The palace is kept immaculately clean and well-preserved.  One highlight is that we were able to see the groundskeepers disassembling the winter greenhouse that is built annually around the special orange tree in the main palace yard to protect it from freezing.  Visitors may not enter any of the buildings, but some have the sliding exterior doors opened to provide you with a glimpse inside.  The gardens on the grounds are also very nice.





After our tour, we checked out of our hotel and boarded the shinkansen for Tokyo!  For the first two nights, before we met up with the rest of my studio group for the official studio week, we stayed at the Andon Ryokan in the Minowa neighborhood.  This cozy, contemporary-style ryokan has tiny rooms but very friendly English-speaking staff.  It seemed to be all international guests, mostly from Northern Europe and the US.  It was inexpensive and had a tasty breakfast option, so despite the very small room we were quite satisfied.  A traditional ryokan experience this is not, but it's an interesting place to stay anyway!  We had dinner nearby the first night, and spent time having snacks and talking with the other guests.

March 16th

Our first full day in Tokyo we took a very long walk around the city and tried to hit all the highlights that we wouldn't have time to see during the week.  We started at Omotesando, strolling past the famous designer stores and architectural jewel boxes.  We saw Herzog & de Meuron's Prada Store, MVRDV's Gyre Shopping Center, Ando's Omotesando Hills, and more.  Then we checked out Yoyogi Park and, in an attempt to find the Meiji Shrine, walked all the way around the park to the back entrance (not recommended!).  On the way we passed bizarre things like a children's bicycle training area and an equestrian center in the middle of downtown Tokyo.  Finally at the Meiji Shrine, we saw at least three weddings in progress, but weren't very impressed by the architecture - the other shrines we'd already seen were much more impressive.  The giant torii are neat, though, and if you aren't visiting Kyoto, then the Meiji Shrine is worth a visit.




After that we headed over toward Shinbashi to see the famous Nakagin Capsule Tower by Kisho Kurokawa.  It's been slated for demolition for quite a long time now, and the entire thing is covered in netting to prevent pieces from hitting pedestrians.  It's a famous example of Metabolist architecture and still pretty stunning despite its derelict appearance.  After the capsule tower we headed toward Ginza on foot, stopping for a sushi lunch, and ending up on Chuo Dori where we wandered down the middle of the street thanks to the weekend pedestrian-friendly road closures.  Getting to see the buildings from mid-street is quite a nice experience!  We passed the major department stores and more flagship retail buildings, finally reaching the Tokyo International Forum by Vinoly as the sun began to set.  We spent some time exploring the Forum building and its many catwalks, amused by the kids running up and down and the flag-wielding tour groups trudging up the side of the building.




Finally, we arrived at the studio site, took some pictures, and then headed back toward the shopping district for a smoothie at Matsuya and then dinner at an Indian restaurant nearby.  Unfortunately, dinner was laughably terrible, more like Indian-Japanese "fusion" than real Indian food.  The "naan" was fluffy dinner rolls, the rice was sticky sushi-style rice, and the curry was oily and not very good.  Alas.


On the way back, we noticed the Louis Vuitton Ginza Namiki building by Jun Aoki, lit up at night - I think this was my favorite building in Ginza.  I didn't get a photo, so you'll have to see images on the architect's website.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: "Theory and Design in the First Machine Age"

Reyner Banham's Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960) is an engaging overview of the important theoretical developments of the early 20th century leading up to the "International Style" of the 1930s-40s.  Banham does a fairly good job, in my opinion, of avoiding excessive editorializing, although he has a clear viewpoint on the Modern Movement and finishes with a strong conclusion.  In opposition to his teacher, Nikolaus Pevsner, whose own history of modernism came out in 1936, Banham dismantled the "form follows function" credo that became the stereotype of modernism, arguing instead that formalism (a preoccupation with style and aesthetics) was an important, if not overriding, concern of Modern architects.  Two sections of the book struck me in particular: his analysis of Le Corbusier's famous book Vers une architecture (Toward a [new] architecture) from 1923, and his Conclusion (chapter 22), where he breaks the link between functionalism and …

Vertical Bike Rack

The work of our hands!


A little backstory:  We bought two bikes as soon as we could after moving here, so we could both bike to work.  After a few uneventful months of chaining up our bikes next to our car in the carport of our apartment building, Justin's bike was stolen.  (Mine was mysteriously left behind, together with Justin's pannier, which the thieves helpfully folded up and placed on top of my bike.  My only guess is that the chain holding my bike was harder to cut than the chain on Justin's.)  Since then, we've kept our bikes inside, hauling them up and down two flights of stairs to our third-floor apartment every time we take them out, which is usually a few times a week.  Ugh.  Better than buying a new bike every few months, though.

We needed a rack that would keep the bikes off the floor, off the walls, and in as small a footprint as possible, without requiring us to drill into or otherwise damage the walls (or floor or ceiling).  This proved a challenge t…

LEED Green Associate

Today I am pleased to report that I have passed the LEED® Green Associate exam, so I am now officially a LEED-accredited professional.  I have a few thoughts on this process that might be helpful for others looking into getting their own LEED Green Associate credential.  While I'm certainly in support of sustainable building practices, which is why I went to the trouble to get the credential in the first place, I don't think it's inappropriate to take a critical stance toward the whole enterprise in order to challenge the profession (and the industry) to be more self-aware.

The preparation: I passed the exam by using only resources that were freely available to me through my school library, including an e-book version of the LEED Green Associate study guide by Michelle Cottrell and the USGBC LEED Core Concepts Guide.  (Although I asked the library to obtain a new copy of the official USGBC LEED Green Associate Study Guide since the one they had was lost, they still haven&…