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Dwelling in Japan’s Cities

My 15-day study tour was undertaken with a class of Architecture students to look at the dwelling in Japan’s cities with a clear binary logic of the public, private and in-between spaces. With total immersion into the experience of the Japanese Urban condition. We studied distinct dwelling conditions and types and the critical micro studies within these spaces.

Straight off the bat and on my first time travelling alone, I was full of mixed emotions. My nervousness and excitement constantly battled each other as so much was happening in the first few days, but looking back at it now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I found my accommodation relatively easy, and I surprised myself with how easy it was to catch the train in Japan, given how many different train lines ran through like a hyper-complex network that seemingly worked perfectly. After settling and dropping off my bags, I took off into the streets of Shinjuku for a bite to eat for dinner and found the most amazing little restaurant that served Takoyaki, Gyoza and a noodle dish. Absolutely delicious, and what surprised me the most was how cheap it was!

And with good and well-deserved sleep, we were straight into the program, where we were introduced to 10 locations across Japan, including; Shinjuku, Koenji, Shibuya, Shimokitazawa, Kanazawa, Koyasan, Kyoto, Shodoshima, Naoshima, Teshima and Fukuoka by our team. We explored the urban characteristics of these areas from the streets, understanding and studying the differences between Western and Japanese cultures.

Throughout each destination, we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to walk through the types of housing within Japan, which included the typical Tokyo apartment, Share houses, Machiya Houses, Special type houses and Externally influenced houses. What struck me the most was how I felt walking through Japan and knowing the importance of culture. Yet I discovered an absence of any heritage laws to prevent the loss of traditional spaces within Machiya houses.

I can’t count how many museums we went through, and looking back if I had more time, I would have loved to have spent hours, such as the 21st Century Museum of Modern Art, Minamidera, Lee Ufan Museum, Teshima Art Museum, TeamLab and any market places within each of the locations.

What was interesting to me going through these spaces and having studied them for quite some time during my 3-year course was the feeling of alienation or surrealness and feeling what it was like to indeed be present in these kinds of spaces after seeing them through a screen. I will not forget how amazing it was to just sit and experience the atmosphere created whilst trying to study and understand how it was choreographed beautifully.

Finalising the tour with an exhibition of our own photographs around Japan highlighted our collected experiences at each destination. I still cannot believe how quickly my time in Japan flew by. If I had another chance, I would take it in a heartbeat. Here’s to one of the most amazing trips!

Mifsud, Monique

Global Short Program Student (Faculty-Led)

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