Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007
EDITORIAL , Japan Times,
Beautifying Kyoto, at last
This article almost qualify for the James Cagney Graduate School. The topic however is so interesting that it deserves a closer analysis. The editorial starts with stating that In early September, the Kyoto city government began enforcing regulations against ugliness in the city. Yes, ugliness. The mayor of Kyoto, Yorikane Masumoto, and his municipal government found the political will to think beyond the immediate concerns of day-to-day business demands, and to consider how Kyoto, once one of the world's most beautiful cities, could look a lot better. Hopefully, the rest of Japan's cities will follow suit.
The half-century of post-war building frenzy, where practicality, price and size seemed the only aesthetic values, may finally be coming to an end. And none too soon inasmuch as Japan's modern cities have failed to build on their tasteful, well planned past. It is not that all cities are completely horrible, but that they have fallen into a jumble of unattractive elements that neither match the past nor fit Japan's economic level. Improving the quality of Japanese cities is urgent and essential and still very possible. If someone who never has been to Kyoto reads the above, he/she will automatically conclude that Kyoto is ugly as well as other Japanese cities are.
This editorial reveals that either the writer is american or australian or... japanese who has never been outside Japan as well as it ignores the fact that beauty and ugly are relative terms, depending on present company as we know from Maupassant 's novels. What good is a beauty contest with only one participant?
Kyoto indeed is a special place so it is not easy to select rivals for a fair line-up. Let's try.
Rome, Athens, Venezia, Paris, Wien, Bern, Istanbul and Barcelona are obvious choices since other cites in Europe either are too young or lack significant existing or living cultural heritage. The Americas are out of the competition simply because all the cities are new or just some long ago deserted stone ruins or very sad reminders of the Spanish -Christian onslaught. Most Asian cities are handicapped and their beauty spoiled by poor infrastructure, lack of decent public facilities, poor health condition , polluted environment, civil wars, religious/ethnic conflicts , decades of Communism, and overall general poverty.
Qualifications categories in the beauty contest are:
a. Public transportation.
Here Kyoto is better , more economic and reliable, cleaner and more secure than Rome, Paris, Wien, Barcelona and Istanbul (there is no need for transportation's to see and enjoy Bern and Venice). Both the busses, subways, trains are much better, more frequent, and cheeper in Kyoto just as the one-day bus-card (and JR-pass) is excellent service for tourists and visitors. Nothing compares to it in other cities.
b. Information and international communication.
In Kyoto everything, everywhere is in English, Korean and Chinese, from printed guides, locations , programs, signs, bank-services, hotel-info, subway- bus- train schedules, car-rentals, as well as announcements on trains, subways, busses, are in four languages. In Paris and France( 77 million tourist/year) or in Rome and Italy ( 40 million visitors/year) as in Barcelona and Spain ( 52 m./year) almost nothing is in english or any other language. Even in an international city like Copenhagen there was only danish on the banking ATM"s till last year. So in this category too Kyoto (and Japan in general) is by far number one, with Bern and Switzerland no. two since they have three official languages plus english everywhere.
c. Security and safety.
Anybody who has been in Rome, Paris, London, Milan, etc. etc. can confirm that when it comes to almost any activity, taking a taxi, bus, subway, going to restaurants, cafe's, shopping, eating, drinking, sleeping Kyoto (and Japanese cities in general) is far safer, cleaner, trustworthy and reassuring in every aspect.
d. People and living culture.
The people is needless to say essential to any city's beauty. Beggars, homeless, drunkards, drug-adicts, street-prostitutes, rip-off artists, graffiti gangs, muggers, pickpockets are all a normal and almost natural part of daily life in almost all European big cities. I never saw that in Kyoto (or in Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Sendai,Takamatsu, Kanazawa, Shimonoseki) as well as no dog... on the streets, no fist-fights in the bars, no diarrhoea from the food, no outrageous bills, no tempering with credit-cards, no-broken car windows, no obnoxious waiters/waitresses, no drunk skinheads, no cold water coming from the hot-water tab. (I have travelled 350.000 Km by car in Europe and have been all over Japan from Shiretoko to Sakurajima so except for Albania I have been around.)
The ugliest I have seen in Japan was in Aomori during Nebuta matsuri. People were sitting along the main-street , families, children young and old in yukata’s, waiting for the beautiful processions when this bearded gaijin with and idiotic japanese assistant, loudspeaker on his back, walked along the street screaming about Jesus and threatening with “minna Jigokuni ochiru”!!!!!!!
Imagine this bearded barbarian doing the same thing during ramadan in Mecca, Medina, Istanbul, Casablanca,Jakarta or at Tienmian Square during the P.L.A. parade or in Moscow at the orthodox easter celebrations.
He would be stoned to death.
In Aomori people simply ignored him. Except for me nobody reacted to or took notice of the senseless disgusting provocation.
Zen.........is alive, well and beautiful.
By Gabor Fabricius
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