Before moving to Japan I had the impression that historical objects and goods are highly valued by Japanese and taken very good care of over time. My viewpoint was partially correct, but I have noticed that at the same time a trend of replacing “old junk” with new concrete blobs is popular too.
According to The Yomiuri Shimbun over the last 30 years, 75 percent of the modern buildings constructed in Tokyo from the Meiji period (1868-1912) through the prewar period have vanished. Although the most recent survey shows a slower rate of destruction since the 2000 results, still many buildings put up during the early Showa period (1926-1989) were demolished during the last decade. So instead of updating the inside of the buildings to a modern standard, it is more common in Japan to tear down buildings and replace them. The selection of what is worthwhile to save seems to depend on the popularity of the historical period. Thanks to strong interest of the Meiji period, 55.2 percent of such buildings listed in 1980 were found to still exist in the latest survey. However, it seems that for less popular periods like the Taisho period (1912-1926) the survival rate fell to 28.6 percent and those built during the Showa period dropped to 26.6 percent compared to the 1980 figures.
Some argue that the costs are too high for individuals to carry, as these buildings have wooden structures. While this might be true, I am saddened to find no public outcry for the irreparable damage to the country’s historical goods. I believe it is our duty to preserve not only very old aspects of culture (i.e. Kyoto, Kamakura), but as well I am sure our great grand children want to understand the last century. These buildings have survived earthquakes, fires and wars, plus most likely because those building were standing many people were protected and could overcome all those historical disasters. Isn’t it our duty to respect those buildings and keep them alive?
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)