That's it then. It's coming down.
I assume nobody's really sad – not even the remaining 65 residents who will be accommodated elsewhere – and I know that relentless renewal is a Tokyo characteristic, and I wouldn't want to live here, but still, drat!, that's another bit of history that's fallen prey to this thing we call progress.
That was a rambling way of saying the last remaining dōjunkai (同潤会) apartment complex in Tokyo will be demolished this year.
Dōjunkai was a corporation that was set up to provide public housing after the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. Their apartment buildings, the first in Japan to be constructed of reinforced concrete, were both fire- and earthquake-resistant. They were the height of sophistication: each unit had proper electricity, plumbing, gas, a telephone and a flush toilet.
The best-known buildings were in Daikanyama and on Omotesandō in Aoyama. The Mori Building Company demolished the latter in 2003 to make way for their Omotesandō Hills shopping complex.
Today the only remaining one is Ueno-Shita (上野下アパート) in Taitō, but despite resistance from historians who regard it as a cultural asset, it's just been confirmed that it will be replaced by a 14-story building with 128 apartments. The developer is Mitsubishi Estate Company, and completion is projected for 2015 (Japanese link, English link).
Ueno-Shita is cheap – you can rent an apartment of 10 to 40 square meters for ¥25 000 to ¥65 000 – but it's also old, ugly and decrepit. It's in the heart of Taitō, just off Asakusa-dori near Inarichō Station, but it's an open question whether it's necessarily better than a blue tent under a bridge.
|There's a beautiful old sento (public bath) just up the road from Ueno-Shita.|
|ゆ (yu) means "hot water".|
Its fate has been in the balance for many years and is probably unrelated to the development boom that the shitamachi is currently experiencing, but it's noticeable how many "mansions" are mushrooming all over. Every month another old house – wood or corrugated iron – is flattened and little matchboxes are piled on top of each other.
A few years ago nearby Metro stations were so quiet that I could easily get a seat on the train every morning at 7:30. Nowadays they're so busy that I have to leave at 7 if I want to sit down. (They connect to the Tsukuba Express, which could exacerbate the situation.)
Our postboxes are stuffed by countless glossy brochures advertising new developments, and each one has the exact same message: "Wheee! View of Sky Tree! Wheee!"
I'm Sky Tree's ichiban fan, and I know that old wooden houses are a fire risk, but I wonder if Sky Tree's effect on my beloved shitamachi is always benevolent. Sometimes I want to save time in a bottle, and lock the shitamachi in a box and throw away the key.