which means i`m averaging 10 entries a month.
i`m in Tokyo and have temporarily given up the derive; i am too familiar with this city to be easily led by it except in the more microcosmic sense (oooh...what`s that facade/cake shop/teabowl/painting/etc). i have spent my time hunting down AND fortuitously stumbling upon buildings (YPT`s landscaped flows, Omote-sando`s boutique specimens, Ginza`s breathtaking glass convention hall a la Vinoly) and exhibits (Terunobu Fujimori + ROJO`s 2006 Biennale reinstall, my host-sister`s dreamy watercolor abstraction exhibit), and catching up with long-lost friends and family who feed me as if there is no tomorrow, and think that my sojourns in budget lodging warrant a dousing of spare `change.`
at this moment i`m near Waseda University, where i once studied a near decade ago. i have found a disorienting `new york style` cafe that offers free internet, where the americano is strong, the exchange student next to me is wearing some deoderant i haven`t smelled since college, and the environment is miraculously smoke free. for such a hyper-connected city, public internet is hard to find (and why shouldn`t it be? everyone has it on their hand held device) and i have missed writing, if only as a way to process and recall this very tangled expanse of a city.
the train network here is the most extensive in the world, and instead of following the lines, which create a thick meshwork of high-speed squiggles (rarely separated by more than a .75km distance), i have simply been trying to observe the way that trains are inhabited, and the way that they organize the non-railed city and its spaces. the most noticeable effect of the system`s ubiquitousness is that the city is not understood as a system of streets, but as a system of rail lines. three or four systems operate within the metropolitan area, which means that for any one destination there may be two or three access routes, depending on one`s priority (speed? transfers? cost?) it is a multi-noded system, the circumferential JR Yamanote line providing the basis for connecting the dozen or so major nodes which most other lines branch from or intersect at some point. directions are always given in relation to a station, rather than a road or bus stop, and i have yet to see a comprehensive, single-sheet street map of the city (although comprehensive rail maps are ubiquitous). each station boasts a detailed locality map that extends so far as the adjacent station`s environs. what this creates is a leapfrog understanding of the city: oft-subterranean, high speed interludes of reading or napping (for the average commuter) that connect well-articulated, pedestrian-navigated, station-defined localities.
the trains and stations themselves: yin-yang is so over-used in discussing the global city but here it is too flagrant to discount. the deathly silence and efficient, subconscious-radar-driven weavings of the morning commute vs. the sake-pungent clamor of the 12:30am friday night rushhour (this innebriated rushhour just as crowded)...behavioral guards come down and rules are no longer followed so strictly; pull-ups are performed by silly men in suits, vomit is knowingly avoided, and people who can barely stand are held up by the pressures of the surrounding crowd. in general, for a city of such size, the quietude at any other time of the day is shocking, save for the occasional blaring megaphone of a right-wing political party van. that, and the rumble of trains which are never far away, whether below in the network of underground shopping complexes-cum-pedestrian connectors, or above, in the JR system`s elevated landscape, which sometimes weaves, oddly, around and between graveyards (these being the rare pieces of land that remain untouched, resulting in a bizarre adjacency of sacred and profane).
for all of its efficient systemization, however, Tokyo, or the nodes i have occupied, still maintains an organic fabric that feels designed more by necessity than by those who know better. i find this refreshing after Singapore`s tidy blocks and squares and perfect greens. it`s partly a matter age, partly of population and size; Tokyo is so saturated that control can extend only so far and so deep. i wonder too if reverance for the object, as evidenced by the love of Gucci bags and architectural `object` doesn`t allow for a non-judgmental mish-mash of build-as-build can? but this may be surmising too far.