16 March 2009

The Japanese Face of Abandonment

It took me quite a while to tune into it, but there are a lot of abandoned building in Tokyo.

The Japanese abandoned building movement was pioneered by the irregularly-published magazine Land's End, which I was lucky enough to meet the publishers of at Design Festa. But, once I started watching closely, there are abandoned buildings all over Tokyo. There's a huge former corporate reasearch center sitting empty right near Hiro-o station, and closer to home, there's an abandoned junior high school just down the street from my house:

It's very Japanese and all: the place isn't overflowing with garbage or anything. In fact, that's what makes abandoned buildings relatively hard to spot in Tokyo: they look a lot like any other building, except no one goes in or out.

The sign says, basically, "Keep Out."

It's not hard to figure out what's going on with this particular building: the Japanese birthrate is incredibly low (only Italy is lower among developed countries), and so there's just no need for a lot of former schools. And this is in suburban Tokyo, which is doing relatively well in terms of number of children: smaller and more rural areas are really lacking in kids. So, at some point, they just decided to lock the place up and hope more kids show up someday. It'll probably be this way for 20+ years.

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