Hiromi in Japan - Week 1
Hiromi Tabei, our San Francisco-based coordinator of the Tohoku Rebuilding Program* with Architecture for Humanity, returned to Japan April 4th for a four-week tour of the rebuilding work there. This series captures the sights and sounds of her trip.
Japan's weather forecast on April 3rd had predicted a big storm hitting the North. While the overnight flight was not too rough, what Hiromi found at Tokyo Station was a nightmare.
Tokyo Station is about 90 minutes west of the Narita International Airport by express train. The station building is almost 100 years old and currently under an extensive renovation**. When she transferred to get on the north-bound Shinkansen (bullet train), Hiromi found that hundreds of people were just standing in front of the turnstiles. Something was wrong. Japanese people are very efficient so that they usually take their tickets out well in advance to go through the turnstile without much hesitation.
A station manager explained that all bullet trains heading to north were delayed at least two hours because of the huge storm with extremely high wind went through the Tohoku region. As Hiromi looked up, the timetable in front of her told the next train was leaving at 6:00 PM. Then she looked her watch, and it was actually almost 8:00 PM! She decided to catch the next train that she could get to Sendai that night, though she had a reserved seat on a bullet train.
Twenty-five hours after leaving her house in the Bay Area, Hiromi finally arrived in Sendai.
Shinkansen (Bullet Train): The first bullet train opened its door in 1964. Currently there are six routes throughout Japan running about 2,620km. They operate the average speed of 200km/h.
The next day, Hiromi reunited with the design fellows in Sendai. All you Students Rebuild fans will get to know one of them very well in the next a few months. Aki Yoshikawa is going to be working on the Kitakami “We Are One” project funded with the Paper Crane for Japan initiative.
The Kitakami “We Are One” Market and Youth Center project team had a kick-off meeting at the Ishinomaki City Hall Kitakami Branch. The team members are:
- Naomi Sato, Client. Naomi is a mother of two boys. She plays the leader role of the “We Are One” collaborative.
- Mayumi Takeyama, Client. Mayumi is also a mother, and one of the members of the “We Are One” collaborative.
- Teruo Konno, Community representative from Ishinomaki City Hall Kitakami Branch. Mr. Konno has known Naomi for years because they have been working together as the town planning committee. He is supportive of the “We Are One” collaborative and this project. It is our great fortune to have such a supportive city official on our side.
- Fumihiko Sasaki, Architect on Record. Mr. Sasaki is well-known for his design work that combines the traditional Japanese style with splashes of the contemporary using local lumber. We look forward to his expertise on our project. His website: www.sasakisekkei.co.jp
Example of Mr. Sasaki's work: Ecolab building at Tohoku University
Aki meeting with Mr. Sasaki in March
At the kick-off meeting, the team discussed the overall project schedule, and reviewed the preliminary design to see if Naomi and Mayumi would like to improve. The “We Are One” would like to celebrate the opening of this new youth center and market on the annual Harvest Festival that is scheduled in October. Everybody at the table agreed that would be the best scenario for the community. Mr. Sasaki then estimated that we need to apply for the building permit in mid-June to start the construction by mid-July. This is quite aggressive schedule, but we can do it!
During the design review, we started to talk about how the youth center should be fun. Aki quickly fired up his laptop to show the team the enclosed play space that he saw recently. Everybody loved it. I hope that we can incorporate something like this into our design.
The members of the Kitakami “We Are One” Collaborative and Mr. Konno from Ishinomaki City Hall Kitakami Branch
See the Open Architecture Network for the copies of drawings and schedule.
Stay tuned for the next episode of “Hiromi in Japan!” This is one of four weekly series of her reports on the projects and her findings during her one month visit in Japan.
* “Tohoku（東北）” means “north（北）east（東）” in Japanese.
**Tokyo Station was constructed in 1914. The building suffered damage from the firebombings at the end of the Second World War, but the government repaired it for two years as the central train terminal in the capital.