Down by the river

Feeling blue

In summer there are fireworks festivals everywhere throughout Japan. One of the most popular is the one over the Sumida River in Tokyo. Every year about 1 million people show up.  This year it’s taking place on July 31st.  During the second week of July the authorities start to install fences along the river banks.  The fences are to protect the spectators and prevent water accidents. In order to install the fences the people who erect blue tents (homeless poeple) on the terraces or along the paths have to leave and remove their tents. That means that during the festival the homeless people who live in these tents have to move somewhere else temporarily. In March 2010, the authorities said that there are 13,000 homeless people in Japan. That’s a decrease of 12,000 since 2003, when they counted the homeless for the first time. Both Sumida and Taito Wards counted 720 homeless people in their jurisdictions, and about 70 percent of them live along the Sumida River. They have nowhere else to go, but people who live nearby tend to complain.

Cookie cutter architecture 1

Due to zoning rules and the general cost of land, there are some oddly shaped buildings in Tokyo and other major Japanese cities. Triangular plots yield wedge-forms (cutely referred to as tongari, or “pointed”). The taper on this four-story residence in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward is too gentle to qualify as a wedge, but at its widest it’s only about two meters.