Lately, I have been going to town more often than usual because of my new job. It has been raining several times now, so I need to take the bus instead of riding my bike through the back lanes and along the river.
And I noticed to my great dismay, that for some reason or other, lots of beautiful old buildings have been torn down lately. Where before there were lovely old wooden houses with high fences that allowed only a glimpse at the top of a pine tree, or even a kura store house standing at the back of the garden, there is now – nothing. Nothing but a gap in the rows of houses.
Since I have always loved old buildings, the lack of appreciation the Japanese seem to show to those old houses greatly upsets me. Even more so because those buildings are a big part of what “Japan” means to me, and why it is so nice to walk around Kyoto. I’m not interested in going from one temple to the next shrine when in between there is nothing but a random assembly of apartment buildings, parking lots, and convenience stores, with the occasional ugly private home in between.
I want to walk along those little lanes with the old houses where you can see shoji through the wooden windows on the first floor. That’s what Kyoto means to me. I wish I were really, really rich – then I would buy all those old houses and renovate them and make people live in them again. But it seems to me that only foreigners value those houses, the Japanese don’t care. Until they are all gone, I guess?