Autumn (Tokyo Studio)

Kanro: Chrysanthemums tinge yellow/ ducks migrate 2 of 5)

October 21st, 2008

Kanro 12 of 15Nihonbashi (literally meaning Japan Bridge) houses the point zero against which all distances in Tokyo are measured. This point was established when roads connecting major Japanese cities to Tokyo were built in the 17th century under the Edo Shogunate of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The current Nihonbashi itself was built in 1911 in a Renaissance style, replacing the wooden bridges that were burnt down on a number of occasions. The Metropolitan expressway, built in 1964, now runs over the top of the grand stone bridge, obscuring its top, giving it a claustophobic and surreal feel.

The Nihonbashi district thrived as a financial and commerical centre during the Edo period and is still home to Japan’s reputedly oldest department store, Mitsukoshi, which can be dated back to the Mitsui family (headed by the former Lord of Echigo) who started trading in 1673. The district as a whole has a subdued traditional air.

Local merchants and community groups are drawing on the district’s history to combine it with an environmental message to promote a local identity. The result is Eco-Edo. Activities organised by this group include recylcing used tempura oil in buses (!), bringing your own chopsticks, greening the subways with oddly placed potplants, and introducing traditional cooling methods that involve wetting down the pavement with buckets of water. No kidding.

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