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Tokyo Reborn

Today is the day of the spectator-free opening ceremony for 2020 Tokyo Olympic. Even as of the day before the opening, Creative Director and Music Composer were terminated because of past discriminatory behavior, and the Director of WHO made some awkward Olympic speech about "There is no zero risk in life" and how courageous Japan is. How much more "unprecedented" can this be?


I turned on the TV this morning and all local channels are boosting a festive mood, getting people hyped up for the opening ceremony tonight. The tone of normalcy feels awkward. Flipped to NHK, they were broadcasting a series named TOKYO REBORN, which documented Japan's effort in transforming urban Tokyo's infrastructure in preparation for the Olympic. Oh yea, finally something worth paying attention to and worth blogging, amidst all chaos and forced normalcy.

tokyo reborn
"Precision Team" Koyama was saying this stadium will "stand for a 100 years, and will still be here even after I die. " (from NHK Tokyo Reborn)

This particular episode documented the completion of the construction of the National Stadium designed by Kengo Kuma. I recalled the days when Japan went for "Brand-name" "foreigner" architect Zaha Hadid's design and eventually re-commissioned the project to Kengo Kuma for lower cost and his expertise in designing with wood. Looking at Kuma's built stadium, it is grand, elegant and humble. Good architecture design does not need to scream its presence, no unnecessary and egoistic strokes.Everything is JUST RIGHT. As always, Japan tends to forget the best resources it possesses.


The construction mobilized foresters 林業士 from all prefectures in Japan. Foresters prayed and thanked the forest, cut down hinoki (cypress) trees and admired the beauty of the tree rings, process and sent their material to the construction site. The timber installed on the facade were carefully documented on its origin, and one of the forrester visited the completed stadium searching for the wood that he supplied (they all look uniform and identical) and feeling proud of it. Took photos and determined to tell his children and future grandchildren about his proud work.


Engineers, "Precision Managers", crane operators diligently installed and inspected all modular structure down to the millimeter and completed the construction of the stadium to perfection. Diligence and professionalism. This is the normalcy of Japan, overshadowed by the chaos from COVID for the past 2 years.


It's been awhile since I have some positive emotion about this event. Whether the Olympic should be held this year will remain debatable. But the built infrastructure, the artisans' spirit will continue to stand proud and tall, with or without COVID or Olympic. Kudos to the 1.5 million diligent workers involved in the building projects. I guess that's why architecture and craftsmanship are the few things that are coined "timeless".


Seeing all the foresters reminds me of my visit to Aso, meeting with Forester Yamabe, learning about his passion and respect to the forest. And Builder-carpenter Kai's knowledge about wood and his obsession about detailing down to a fraction of a millimeter. Is that why I always tell him his wood joinery is "too perfect" that I have a hard time opening wood boxes he made? LOL.

Probably next time I use his hinoki wood chopsticks will remind me of the foresters thanking the trees in the forest.


Too bad the NHK documentary may not be available for overseas viewers. But the trailer is super cool, in collaboration with anime Director Katsuhiro Otomo.


Now, I'll go watch AKIRA.



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