Urban Decay in Japan
July 18, 2010 12:18 AM   Subscribe

The next morning I recalled a question the woman had asked me the night before: of the two ingredients of wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic of impermanence, did I prefer wabi, the rusticity, simplicity, and irregularity of things in their created state, or sabi, the patina of age, the wear and tear that comes with constant use, the intimations of transience. I'm in the sabi camp: sabi as a concept is in all probability etymologically related to the verb sabiru, to rust, and for us lusters after rust, Yubari is sacred ground.
Spike Japan is the blog, or ongoing essay, of Richard Hendy, a long-time resident of Japan, about urban decay and population decline in Japan. The writing is digressive, knowledgable, opinionated, witty and engaging. The longest series is a travelogue of Hokkaido, in which the section on Yubari is the most stunning, though I also like the tour of Kuril Islands' dispute tourist attractions. There's much to read on Spike Japan, but let me point you towards the melancholic Requiem for a Railway, about Hendy's trip along an abandoned railway line.
posted by Kattullus (20 comments total) 99 users marked this as a favorite
This is good.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:28 AM on July 18, 2010

I expected the Yubari one was going to have a ton of comments when I saw the size of the scroll bar.

No, the article really is that long. 7,500+ words.
posted by Decimask at 1:10 AM on July 18, 2010

[This is not a bad thing, just a Keanu Reeves Woah moment.]
posted by Decimask at 1:11 AM on July 18, 2010

Its good but depressing. I didn't need to read the Yubari piece before going to sleep but I'll probably read the rest of the blog when I wake up, depending on the length.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 1:29 AM on July 18, 2010

Thank you, this is quite good.
posted by zippy at 1:31 AM on July 18, 2010

Thanks for the nice link
posted by dydecker at 2:28 AM on July 18, 2010

I prefer wasabi.

Cool post.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:34 AM on July 18, 2010

It's nice to see an urban decay thread that isn't about Detroit.
posted by emd3737 at 4:30 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I expected this to be another Whedon comics post and am disappointed. It was interesting though and not the image I have of Japan in my head.
posted by shinybaum at 4:46 AM on July 18, 2010

shinybaum, rarely does Japan conform to the image that most folks have of it in their head. (You can probably say that about any country too.)
posted by snwod at 5:39 AM on July 18, 2010

I like things that challenge stereotypes but it occurred to me just now that Japan is the one country I'm completely ignorant about on a very basic level.

I kind of vaguely thought that everyone was well off and they made weird porn. Anyone know any decent documentaries?
posted by shinybaum at 5:51 AM on July 18, 2010

This is pretty fascinating. Thanks! I was especially taken with this:

Seiyu Koshikai, as far as I can tell, is just one of many hundreds of more or less obscure rightist factions, known as “uyoku dantai”, dedicated more or less to the same causes: ultra-nationalism, rabid anticommunism, and implacable hostility to what was historically the last hotbed of socialism, the Japan Teachers’ Union.

Apparently all Right Wings are happy in the same way....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:15 AM on July 18, 2010

Inside the station building, below the no longer rotating electricity meter, was a teenage girl’s heartfelt graffiti.

“I still love you. But it’s not me in your eyes, is it? Someone else is there. I’ll never get you. I realize that, but I can’t give up on my dream. Mai”

Another hand had corrected her fairly atrocious grammar and orthography. It felt good to realize afresh that it’s not just foreigners that have problems with “wa”, “ga”, and other Japanese particles.

Awesome(ly depressing) blog. Thank you for the link!
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:44 AM on July 18, 2010

A Napalm kitten jigsaw - wow!
posted by Flitcraft at 8:24 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

His writing style reminds me of Alan Booth.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:27 AM on July 18, 2010

Ah, that Yubari story was wonderful. But I don't think I can read much more of this. It reminds me too much of my days living in a tiny town in Hokkaido that was shrinking due to loss of its major mining industry and had just been bypassed by a highway. I can always tell when a story about Japan rings true, because I am assailed by memories of the smell of Japan. I can't quite describe the scent, but it is slightly reminiscent of decaying wood, the scent of sabi.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:00 AM on July 18, 2010

wow, this is fantastic - thanks
posted by iona at 10:02 AM on July 18, 2010

Fascinating article, though I couldn't stop noticing how much the geography and fauna remind me specifically of western North Carolina. It's almost uncanny.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:54 PM on July 18, 2010

The level of detail in these articles are great. Not only does he take you to these locations, he also tells you of the cultural history and the play on words and imagery that are lost in translations that are stuck on the literal level.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:00 PM on July 19, 2010

The level of detail in these articles are great
He really paints a picture, the pictures are almost just the icing on the cake - but how sweet they are also. Anyone else reminded of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? NOT content, but style of writing. It really pulls me in. Great job.
posted by uni verse at 11:02 AM on July 21, 2010

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