seaside
Converting values of public space from negative to positive







I have visited the Okinawa islands, Zamamijima, where the U.S. military first landed in Japan, and Iejima, where gruesome battles took place, in almost the same season as the landing.

In glorious spring days, it was hard to believe that such peaceful islands could be turned into battlefields overnight.

The only traces indicating the facts were relatively inconspicuous monuments, such as a stone ledger quietly standing by a gloomy road on Zamamijima which read "A site of mass suicide by 59 people including a village master, an assistant village master and a chamberlain" and a cenotaph on Iejima which did not mention any facts at all.

In contrast, on Iejima there was a verdant monument standing in the brilliant rays of the sun a detailed description of the facts surrounding on one person, Ernie Pyle, a war correspondent with the U.S. troops who died on the second day after the landing.

I felt a similar contrast when I visited the Philippines.

A colored map indicating "how we fought in and protected Asia" was largely displayed on a monumental tower at a memorial cemetery for U.S. servicemen. In comparison, the Japanese cemetery in Muntinlupa seemed too lonesome. What you see there is only a self-appointed security guard seeking tips.

If you describe it as the contrast between a conquering nation and a conquered nation, that would be it. However, it seems to me that the United States has the ability to appropriately convert values from what Mr. Tokutaro Sakurai would call "space of 'imi' (taboos) and 'kegare' (impurity)" into unconcerned "space of 'hare' (extraordinariness, i.e. ceremonial, formal or gala occasions) or space of 'ke' (ordinariness, i.e. everyday occasions)".


A breakaway from space impelling anxiousness


Not only old battlefields, but any space related with the termination of anything, people or things, has a negative atmosphere.

Space related with death: old battlefield, cemetery, crematorium, etc.
Space related with contamination and unhealthiness: garbage incinerator, waste disposal site, radioactive waste disposal facility, etc.
Space related with danger: disaster area, military base, nuclear power plant, prison, etc.

A great challenge is how to convert the value of these public spaces from negative aspects into positive aspects.

Especially with recent expansion of the so-called NIMBY or Not-In-My-Back-Yard syndrome, what is needed is to accumulate know-how on converting such public spaces with negative connotations into those with positive connotations.
As to spaces related with death, there have been various measures so far targeted to refreshing the image of spaces which impel anxiety.

For example, a cemetery in the U.K. (the East London Cemetery) turned a corner into a garden and leases spaces for visitors to graves for planting flowers under terms of a seven-year lease.

Meanwhile, in the United States, surrounding areas of airports are revalued as land suitable for cemeteries. The idea is to set a buffer zone, i.e. cemetery, between the airport, where extreme noise pollution is inevitable, and surrounding residential areas.

In Japan also, there are cases where negative spaces have been converted into positive spaces with the use of Japanese gardens, lawn plazas and multipurpose squares, such as Mikatahara Boen cemetery in Hamamatsu-shi, Shizuoka prefecture.

In the case of Fureai Park in Fuchu-shi, Tokyo, the cemetery puts importance on landscape as a garden cemetery.

Furthermore, in the center of Tokyo, underground cemetery projects for ingenious isolation and saving space are progressing.

As to crematoriums, there is a movement to review that concept, as well.

The movement, which has been aggressively pursued by people concerned with Mr. Soichi Yagisawa, a professor at Tokyo Denki University and an architect, aims to produce comprehensive and quality architecture functioning as a space of importance for ending one's life, for healing and where one can feel a solid sense of sublime valediction.

According to Mr. Yagisawa, typical cemeteries designed under the concept of space for ending life and nearing nature are "Skogskyrokogarden" (registered as a World Heritage site in 1994) in Stockholm, Sweden, the modern and yet solemn "Memorial Tone" in Kazo-shi, Saitama prefecture, "Hirosaki Saijo" funeral hall, designed by Mr. Kunio Maekawa and located in the woods, lawny "Isesaki Seien" cemetery, which is equipped with a gateball field and tennis courts and "Shimizu Saien" in Kitakami-shi, Iwate prefecture surrounded by Japanese oak woods and a natural spring.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare set up a panel of intellectuals in 1997 (Heisei 9) to discuss this issue and recommendation was submitted in June 1998 (Heisei 10).

In terms of space related to contamination and unhealthiness, they are recognized everywhere as troublesome sites.


Looking at the troublesome sites as necessary sites

tulip Many areas are attempting to proactively convert such troublesome sites into positive sites with the viewpoint that these troublesome sites are necessary and can be converted into facilities contributing to local communities depending on the design of the system.

In Masutsubo town, Kofu-shi, Yamanashi prefecture, around where various kinds of troublesome sites are concentrated, residents confronted with the existence of those facilities aimed for coexistence and coprosperity.

The residents spontaneously formulated a vision for the future called "Healthy and Beautiful Masutsubo" and realized the vision by asking the local government to modernize the troublesome facilities and utilize the open spaces around those facilities as parks.

While making use of the remaining heat generated from garbage incinerators had already become a standard practice, contradictory points, including worsening of dioxin issues as well as reducing the amount of garbage and the consequential shrinkage of the project to use the remaining heat, are newly emerged.

As to how the remaining heat should be used, there are movements in Hokkaido hoping to supply heat in a variety of ways, not only for conventional usages, such as for swimming pools, cogeneration, thermal baths and greenhouses, but also for road heating and local area air conditioning/heating. (Please refer to "Forms of usage of the remaining heat and heat recovery".)

Typical spaces related with danger are sites which caused lethal disasters.

Most disasters are based on geographical and climatic traits inherent to the local area.

Therefore, as a sign for future residents, the history of disasters should be recorded in one way or another.

When visiting towns and villages in Sanriku region stricken by tsunami in the past, I saw so many tombstones with the same date engraved, which gave me a shiver. This can be one of the signs.

Also, it is necessary to convey the message to future generations in forms such as "disaster memorial parks" combining with other public spaces, although this could generate opposition because of declining land prices and so forth.

In this connection, after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake the following two memorial parks were created:

1. Kobe port Earthquake Memorial Park
2. Hokutan town Earthquake Memorial Park (Phoenix Park)

As to the military base issue, what is sought after is realistic countermeasures for converting negative factors into positive factors by thinking that the military base, in a broad sense, is also a kind of disposal site for slow termination of international crisis.


The biggest condition for creating a matured society

As I mentioned above, the government needs to further strengthen its orientation of "more glory and praise for the finale of everything regardless of human or things" at the verge of the new century.

That will be the biggest condition for making a start toward creating a matured society.

For that, development of measures for the fusion of public spaces of both positive space and negative space, ingenious and natural isolation from negative spaces and other public spaces and the coexistence and coprosperity with troublesome facilities will be needed.

The NIMBY (Not In My Back-Yard) is supposed to be NOPE (Not On Planet Earth) and should not be OIYBY (Ok In Your Back-Yard).

In order to avoid that, what we should do now is strive for developing policy making methods and technology.




Back to the top