Affirmative action アファーマティブアクション

We are on the east coast of Shikoku Island a few kilometers from the  coast along a river the zigzags up from the shore. It extends into the mountains starting from the route of the Buddhist pilgrimage called ‘henro’. As the river goes deeper into this small valley, the roads along the river get narrower. The road we are traveling on is the only one and will eventually stop when the valley becomes too narrow and too steep. The road will be a dead-end and is always tranquil and safe. It is if you have traveled back in time and left the current age behind. When we asked the way we were given a dubious look “where are you going? There will be nothing there” .

四国の東岸、ぎざぎざの海岸から川の支流にそって数キロ、四国遍路のオリジナルのルートから1キロほど伸びた谷にいる。谷の枝から枝分かれした子谷、さらにその枝の孫谷に入るにそって、道路の幅が次第に細くなる。行き止まりになる道路はいつも気持ちがいい。静かで、安全。時代の流れにとり残されているようなところがあって、秘境の趣さえある。道を聞い ても、この先へ一体何をしに行くのかという、遠慮のない怪訝な表情が返ってくる。

Suddenly, a two lane road appeared opening up from a narrow one lane road further up the valley. Nothing was on the road all the way to the end except us-then suddenly a dead-end. Probably this 2 lane road was part of an upgrading project but it ended when an economic crisis hit here a couple of decades ago. Although where would we go even if this project was completed? Nowhere!! It means that only 20 houses along this one mile of road would  have the benefit of this wide road! The old road is just beside this new wide road. This means this wide road was totally new, in such a small narrow valley. Hundreds of farmers lower in the valley are not having any benefit from this winding new road?!?.

ところが突然、二車線の立派な道路が目の前に現れた。ずっと先まで私達のほか誰もいない。何も走ってない。変だなと思いつつ先へ進むと、山に当たって忽然とその道路が行き どまりになった。高度経済成長期に、新しい道路の計画があったものの、一部だけ工事をして辞めになったのだろうか?それにしてもこの先、道路を延長して、 一体どこに出るのか?いや、どこにも行き着かないじゃないか!! だとしたら、この拡幅で利益を受けているのは1.5キロの谷に建つ20軒ほどの農家だけ?この細い谷には古い街道が別にあるから、この二車線の道路は特にわざわざ作られたたものだ。この村の手前にあった何100軒もの民家にはまったくご利益が ない。

At the end of the day, we solved the riddle. This village is a so called “ buraku”. The old road was too narrow for two cars, but wide enough for one way. Why didn’t they organize the traffic system? Possibly the old road could go west and the new one to the east and save some money and use the money to widen the road to access the whole village? It would be enough to circulate inside for the people of the buraku, and more beneficial to go out to the bigger cities for everyone. The partial widening of the road seems like an excuse/gesture that affirmative action was done by spending some money anyway. Is this too deep a reading? is it “ you have enough convenience inside, but do not come out from there” I wonder if we now understood the dubious reaction to our question about the route. There is a warm custom along so simple – a warm heart and discrimination can co-exist.

Anyway  a TV program made by the BBC about this pilgrimage was broadcasted in NY though PBS several weeks ago. Probably this program inspired the New York Times to include SHIKOKU as  one of 52 places to visit in the world this year. Is there anyone who could use this chance to activate these local towns and villages?





Teshima museum will be at the right edge 豊島美術館が右手に…

This September we had the opportunity to attend a symposium in New York and heard a report by a British sociology scholar about an art project on these islands, that is revitalizing the population of these islands in the Seto Inland sea. Also one of our friends strongly recommended that we go and see the art work there. So today we are here to see how the art program is increasing activity on the island, but we were not convinced …. the island is very remote from the main island cities of Osaka or Kobe and Shikoku island ( the 4th largest island in Japan). There are several ferry services to access these islands but there are not so many trips each day. If you miss one you have to wait another 2 hours. We got up 5:00 and got a car ride from our friends in Shikoku and a rapid boat to arrive at Teshima at 10:00.

9月にニューヨークであったシンポジウムでイギリスの社会学研究者が新しいアートのあり方として瀬戸内海の島々での町おこしをレポートをしていた。そのうえ、 アート好きの友人達から、たいそう良いからぜひ行けと薦められていた。それで今日、豊島と直島を訪れている。アートで町おこしというのが信じられなくて、それを確かめに来た。ここへは本州や四国からでさえ、気軽にはこられない。島へは幾つか航路があるが、いずれも一日に数本しかない。5時起きをして、友人の出してくれた車と高速艇を乗り継ぎ、最初の豊島にたどり着いたのは10時だった。

It seems very difficult to visit one of the another islands today, although we had wanted to visit all three “art” islands including Naoshima and Inushima. At Teshima there was a bus waiting for us at the pier when we arrived but the return bus service is only every 2 hours.  Even so there are many young people waiting at the museum and the pier. They use an electrical bicycle system that is run by the town, it is a great way to get around- the island is hilly and everyone was commenting on how easy it was to use the bicycles, also the art installations are located over the entire island. We soon gave up on the idea of having a sit down lunch and had sandwiches + wine on the foot path of a rice field looking down on the Teshima Art Museum, a picnic with a wonderful view.

This project has been well published overseas so that even at the end of November there were several Europeans there. Another friend who came to the last  summer art festival in Naoshima (held every 3 years) said that the streets were packed by visitors. Every three years is a small point in time for the life of the islands, we wonder how the festival can change the social, cultural and economic lives of the residents, we wanted to see the impact in reality of this program to raise those activities.


アートプロジェクトのことは海外でも報じられているらしく、外国人、特に、ヨーロッパから来た人がちらほら見えた。別 の友人の話によると、前回の芸術祭(3年ごと)の時は道を歩けないほど人で一杯だったそうだ。でも、3年というピンポイントのイベントが、この地域に住む人々の生活に文化的、社会的、経済的な影響をするものだろうかと思う。実際にどのようにして?

Today, at the end of the day of a beautiful long ているweekend autumn holiday we still cannot believe that this small number of visitors will work to enhance the life on the islands. Next week one ferry service will stop connecting with the mainland. Naoshima started this art program a decade ago and Teshima is just getting established, so hopefully their promotion will gradually bring more people. We got on board the 5:00 ferry to return to Shikoku. If you miss this ferry you have to stay on the island, not sure a bad idea….

秋晴れの下、今日は連休最後日。来週からアクセスする航路の一便が減る のだそう。直島がアートで知られるようになったのは10年前、豊島では今始まったばかりだから、まだまだこれからなのだろう。帰りは直島5時発の最終便に間に合った。これを逃すと、その日のうちに家にはたどり着けない。それも悪くないか?




Traditional Landscape 里山-秋

We are in a small valley on the east coast of Shikoku Island a few kilometers from the coast. We came here a few years ago in the spring. The road in the valley ends in a path that winds it’s way up to the steeper part of the mountain. There was no passing traffic. It seems especially quiet for an outsider. I guess similar places exist everywhere in Japan, particularly in Boso, Izu and Kii peninshlas which project into Pacific Ocean and  have a similar landscape ”satoyama” as they share the same climate and geography. Satoyama is believed to be beautiful because of the combination of the cultivated landscape and buildings.

四国の東岸から、川に沿って二三キロほど中に入った谷から伸びる小さい谷に来ている。ここには一年前の春にも来ていた。この谷の先、道路が山に当たったところで 途切れて行き止まる。だから通過交通がなくて、他から来た者には異常に静かに写る。こういった場所は日本国中にいくらでもあるだろう。房総や伊豆、紀伊などの太平洋に延びる半島は 気候や植生、地勢が似ていて、そのためか良く似た美しい景色がある。もっとも、その美しさは、原始の生の自然ではなくて、人々の手が入った自然と建物の取り合わせからくるのだという。


I recalled our trip to Como in Italy and Switzerland in March where I was shocked by how beautiful the villages were. Compared with those villages, there is no fancy urban influence or sophistication. It does not create any fantasy. Of course climate, geography, area and population density are all incomparable. I know it does not have the same condition to compare but I think this landscape is as beautiful as the ones in Como or Switzerland.

この3月にイタリアのコモスイスへ行って、 その美しさにたまげたのを思い出した。かの地に比べてここには都市的な雰囲気や文化的な洗練はないし、あこがれる気持ちも浮かんでこない。気候も地勢も 違うし、広さも密度もぜんぜん違う。ぜんぜん違う性質のもの、元々比べられないものを無理やり比べていることを承知の上で、この景色の美しさは彼の地に勝るとも劣らない、と思う。

Actually, there is a significant difference in Switzerland and Como, we saw many buildings which are added with careful scrutiny into the existing landscape and surrounding buildings. That scrutiny does not mean simply repeating the traditional style, instead even new styles for new ways of living are added with careful consideration. Definitely these new styles give an impact to the townscape but they soon become a harmonious part of the existing context. Now when you look around this valley you find many of the flat roofed houses which were very popular in Japan in the 60s and 70s. Were they developed taking into consideration the traditional landscape? Well for local people the landscape of their village is not special, it has always been there and probably think it dull; in Japan new is always better. In Como or Switzerland they do not seem to think that way.

もっとも、コモやスイスにあって、ここにないものが一つあると思う。彼の地では新しい建物を建てるときにそのデザ インが吟味して加えられる。それは単に、調和するように作るという単純な言葉では表現できない。伝統的なスタイルを踏襲するのではなくて、新しい時代の生活様式に合わせて、新しいスタイルで建てつつも、それが注意深く、それまでのスタイルの町に加えられる。多少の違和感はあるはずだけれど、すぐに落ち着 く。今、周りを見回してみると、60年、70年代に流行った白いコンクリートや新建材で出来た建物がたくさん見える。良い写真を撮ろうと、これらが画面に入ってこないようにするのは大変な仕事。これらは新しい生活に合ったデザインとして建てられたわけだけれど、果たして美しさが吟味されただろうか?日本では「新しいこと」イコール「きれい」なことになるから、里山の景色なんぞありふれた、特に何と言うこともないものなのかもしれない。でも、コモやスイスではそのようには思われてないと思う。

We did find that some of the new buildings are thoughtfully built. For example the finish and color merges into nature; the walls are slightly tinted the color of the soil and the parapet around the roof terrace is bare concrete. The edge of roof terrace is articulated with a line to adjust the proportion and avoid a bulky feeling, a house which is totally nontraditional but settles into the landscape with good proportions. You can feel the builders sense. Or maybe a coincidence? Any way I erased the boxy white houses in my brain and imagined how the landscape would be without them…

と思いつつ、しかし注意 してみると、これらの新しい白い民家の中に混じって、気を使った形跡のある例があるのに気がついた。たとえば、壁は真っ白ではなく、黄土色が若干加わり、二階テラスの周りは生地のままのコンクリートが落ち着いた感じになっている例。あるいは、コンクリートの軒先に一本水平の線を入れて、 何もしないと分厚く、鈍い感じになってしまうのを避けているデザイン。伝統的なプロポーションを真似ず、それでいて、景色の中に溶け込んでいるものなど。 作った人の感性が伺われる。それとも、たまたまだろうか?…。大量生産の製品で出来た家や白いコンクリートの家を頭の中で消して、代わりに古くからあるスタイルの家で置き換えて、景色がどうなるか想像してみた……。

good proportion by accident?  きれいなプロポーションはたまたま?

good proportion by accident? きれいなプロポーションはたまたま?