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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

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In Tokyo, the unfamiliarity of such extreme cultural organization and efficiency allowed me to observe the Japanese from a very removed perspective.  Because of the language barrier, my observations were limited to sights, sounds, and smells.  While this limitation made it difficult to communicate at times, it also provided a more focused lens with which to observe the efficiency of movement, space, and time that the Japanese seemed to have mastered.  The people moved with intention, the streets were immaculately clean despite the peculiar lack of trashcans, and the subway cars were never a second late.

Transitioning from Tokyo to Kyoto, I expected a slower pace, more rural scenery, and a sense of history within the architecture.  That is what I got.

Intrigued by temples I had only studied in school and by a culture so foreign to my Hawaii-born, LA educated eyes, I began to film everything that caught my attention, even if I wasn’t sure quite why.  The clouds billowing behind a stoic roofline, the cicadas relentlessly chirping their songs, a monk chanting words that have been pasted down for generations.  Our Kyoto visit concluded with the Heian Temple, which provided a perfect opportunity to let the mind synthesize, draw conclusions, and absorb the serene surroundings.  Unfortunately, my mind and body were too exhausted and decided to take a nap.

Dropped back into Tokyo for one night, I had the chance to upload all the video clips from Japan.  Flipping from clip to clip, I again expected to see a calm, historic Kyoto.  However, within this temple-filled city, I found hints of the organized and clockwork culture that I thought was native to Tokyo. Just as the red torii gates in Kyoto provided a set path of movement up the mountain, the bright yellow pathways in Tokyo outlined the most efficient line of circulation through the subway station.  Perhaps the repetitive and ritualized culture of ancient Kyoto has translated into the metropolis of Tokyo.  Zen gardens are replaced by pachinko parlors, while the act of beating a gong has become the ritual of swiping a subway pasmo card.  Tokyo is not simply an urban metropolis, just as Kyoto is not simply a historic city of Zen.  Rather, the organized nature Tokyo is a result of the ritual culture that originated in Kyoto.

~Samantha

Filed under: kyoto, Machine, Movement, Ritualization, Subway, Tokyo, Torii Gates, Video

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The views and opinions contained in this blog are solely those of the individual authors and do not represent the views and opinions of the University of Southern California or any of its officers or trustees.

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Students:
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu