Celebrate Japan’s diverse look

Ueda, Nagano

Regarding the Feb. 28, 2008, article “Why’s Japan grown so ugly?“: I was struck by how amazingly naive this article seems; this approach to town planning is part of why I fled Britain.

On paper it is a fine idea — preserving an area’s character and charm by regulating what people do to buildings, ensuring nothing ugly or bothersome is erected, and keeping in check the problems of garish and overlarge signage.

The thing is, it produces more problems than it solves. Anyone who has ever applied for planning permission will tell you his or her own horror story, and will probably elicit another story from someone listening. Decisions are necessarily ultraconservative, and any changes authorized supposedly affect the property prices of surrounding buildings.

That said, planners are essentially unaccountable; you have no recourse to anyone if their decision affects you badly. Britain isn’t very corrupt, but planning is one way in which corruption can rear its head. Advertisers find better and better ways around the planning rules; no one can touch them.

Although most towns and cities in Britain may have unique features, they are shaped at the whim of the town hall. Nowhere do you see the individual touch of the homeowner. Here in Japan, every house is an expression of its owner — if the owner has bad taste, so does the house. Every house is a microcosm.

That’s why I love living here. Japan is home to a huge number of radical, innovative and interesting architects; their designs, winners of global plaudits and prizes, would have never left the drawing board in Britain. Maybe the author loves uniformity in housing. I left a country where serried terraces of ugly brick houses differ only in the color of their doors. Celebrate Japan’s diverse urban look rather than embracing the clone farm.

josh bayes
ueda, nagano

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • 1mpala

    “Nowhere do you see the individual touch of the homeowner”. What about the life size fibreglass shark on top of a house in Oxford, which looks as if it is crashing head-first through the roof? It has become a local tourist attraction.