Occasionally we need to venture out into the world to look for new ideas to revitalize the mind. It is only when we experience new adventures that we can motivate our minds to think of new ideas and concepts in our lives. And what better place than to start with than the bustling city of Tokyo – a city that never sleeps, in a country filled with tranquility and Zen!
Finding A Space to Breathe In
Where do we begin? First, we need to understand that in Tokyo, space is a valuable asset, and so every little bit of space has a monetary value. As such, one’s first experience of the city is of being overwhelmed with lights, signs and advertising. The initial shock will cause confusion and disarray to a point of getting lost in this metropolis, but what I started to understand is that the chaos serves as a cry to attract one’s attention. What intrigues me is that through all the commotion, you always find a spot of peace and serenity, which acts as a counterbalance to this chaos, and thereby works better as a tool to attract your attention.
What this reminds me is that you don’t need all the signs in the world to tell you where you are. We are now living in the digital world, where one’s location is literally shown in the palm of one’s hand. So as posters and advertising are symbols of the past, cities need to relook at how to attract people, with a need to address public spaces as welcoming rather than as an advertising billboard. As you experience the urban life, you start to notice that people tend to collect in open spaces rather than spaces filled with signages.
The next time you visit a metropolis, look at how urban planning affects the way buildings are located and how people move and interact. It is intriguing when trying to understand how the city works to find that through all the chaos, we can find space.
Balance of Energy and Tranquility
The next observation is how a person can find balance in their lives. From the bustling city life where energy is felt in everything from travel to work and play, how can one balance this active lifestyle with inner peace? In the city’s urban planning, the key is to create pockets of green zones such as forest parks, which allow one to come back to nature. By doing so, this allows the population to live within a stone’s throw from various green belts to allow one to balance this high energy lifestyle with the inner peace and tranquility you can only find with nature.
And to really feel the transition of environment, there was no better place to best demonstrate this than the pathway to the Meiji Shrine, right in the heart of Shibuya. As you cross the busy roadways, you are instantly greeted by a towering Torii gate, a symbol of a gateway to demarcate a spiritual zone. But what makes it feel spiritual isn’t so much the shrine at the end of the pathway, but more the travel towards the shrine, as you can feel the transition of energy to a feeling of peace and serenity.
Unlike the other shrines such as the Asakusa Shrine, the experience of both spiritual centers is completely different. Take away the fact that both locations are spiritual in nature but experience the space by understanding how energy works and how our bodies react to the space. With the Asakusa Shrine, the experience reminds one of still being in the bustling city, while the experience of moving into the Meiji Shrine revolves around a very personal experience with nature.
The next time you visit one of the city attractions, try to experience the space by understanding how your body feels as you move from one zone to another.
No trip is ever complete without experiencing the beauty of Japan’s nature, and with a bit of luck, there is no view better than that of Mount Fuji. After a few days in the concrete jungle, claustrophobia may start to set in and you will be screaming to escape the brick and mortar surroundings to open pastures. But to experience this adventure, you need to understand the concept of distance and space.
Personally, the closer the view to Mount Fuji, the smaller the mountain feels, as we are drawn to the proximity of the surrounding hillside and vegetation thereby minimizing the overwhelming effect. But as you move further away, the relationship of the Mountain starts to dominate the surrounding landscape to create this overpowering effect. And to fully appreciate the nature of this stunning landscape, there is no view better than taking in the adjacent hill in Mount Hakone, where you can experience the panoramic view of Mount Fuji with Lake Ashi and the Suruga Bay.
In one panoramic view, we start to grasp our relationship with nature, and understand that we are but a small speck in the wider spectrum of the world. It is truly a humbling experience, which reminds us that nature, as simple as it is, can make us appreciate so much more the wondrous world that we live in.
The lesson I learnt from this whole experience is that when we start to think of how we live and of our lifestyles in the urban environment, architecture plays no small part in how we shape the world. More often than not, we tend to forget the major role Nature plays in our lives. So the next time we start to Design and Build, it is good to remind oneself to look at nature and how it can be integrated into our lives. Believe me, it will make you a happier person.