Saturday, October 01, 2005


We all know how insensitive big business can be, especially when it comes to beauty in public. That seems to be particularly true in Japan, where the taste of bureaucrats and executives who can't even choose their own neckties determines how whole cities look. Take for example what they're doing to once elegant Kyoto, whose new train station has acquired the nickname “Stalin’s Headquarters.” Beautiful.

Speaking of beauty, Osaka had a lot less going for it in the looks department than Kyoto, having been almost completely destroyed in the war, and postwar cram-rebuilt by businessmen and bureaucrats into the ugly duckling of Japan's large cities, so you'd think they'd be sensitive about that at every turn, and do something in keeping with all their PR-brochure-chatter about “advancing into the future” and “making the city more attractive to tourists and residents.”

Now word comes that one of the few last bits of architectural splendor to survive the war, the Hankyu Concourse, a long high-ceilinged (in Japan!) arcade built in 1929, with chandeliers, mosaics, stained glass windows (all rarities in Japan, especially from nearly a century ago), the only oasis of genuine ambient beauty amid all the warrens of Osaka's Umeda station (the hub station of the city), is to be destroyed by Hankyu Department Store and Densha businessmen, and replaced with an inexpensive imitation of what profiteers think is beauty, perhaps a la Disney, maybe a double-layered mall of minishops selling Hello Kitty and lesser items behind plasterboard facades with a little recycling fountain that plays relentless songs about the magic of new possessions...

As to the public who in that high, cool, elegant concourse can yet find some aesthetic relief from the general tawdry scrunch, who cares what you want?

(Website dedicated to saving the Hankyu Umeda concourse)(Japanese)
With thanks to Ron Andrews


Anonymous said...

Can something be done to save this treasure?

Robert Brady said...

Here's hoping, but in the big cities profit is king...