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Last 'dojunkai' apartments to be demolished in June

28 Comments

The two last "dojunkai" apartment complexes, built after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, will be demolished in June.

When they were built, the dojunkai were considered state-of-the-art accommodation. Sixteen such apartment blocks were constructed in Tokyo and Yokohama. The most recent one to be demolished was the complex that made way for Omotesando Hills.

The last ones, known as Ueno Shita Apartment, are situated in Taito Ward and still have 65 residents. They were built in 1929 and will make way for a 14-story building with 128 apartments, said builder Mitsubishi Estate Co. It will be completed in 2015.

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28 Comments
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That is quite a long life-span for a Japanese building. Hope the occupants are fairly relocated/accommodated.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How about keeping 1 for history's sake and for architectural students to study? No, of course, this is Japan. Knock it all down.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Ueno Shita Apartment

I know exactly where that is. It's a block north of Asakusa-dori, east of the Taito ward office, and about a minute from Inaricho station. I was walking past and I took a picture of it, as I had never seen such a shabby, worn-down apartment building in my life. No wonder, it's almost 100 years old.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Ah_so at May. 09, 2013 - 04:12PM JST How about keeping 1 for history's sake and for architectural students to study? No, of course, this is Japan. Knock it all down. You should go and see the historic architectural display where some significant buildings have been relocated. Not much but better than many countries.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I miss those ivy-covered Doujunkai apartments that lined Omotesando.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

It was such a shame when they knocked down the dojunkai on Omote-Sando Dori, which'd helped to create its unique character. The street used to be closed off to traffic on Sundays and people would set up small stands to sell clothes and jewelery, hang out, and just enjoy the good vibes and leafy comfort of one of Tokyo's cooler streets. That is, until they gentrified it by removing the dojunkai; replacing them with the soulless and ostentatious shops that make up Omote-Sando Hills. One of the best streets in Tokyo was turned into a cultural wasteland.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

I bought a few antiques at a shop on the 1st floor of that ivy covered Omotesando dojunkai years ago.

I wanted to live in that building, but I would have needed to quadruple my income for that, lol

5 ( +5 / -0 )

So much natural and architectural heritage has been destroyed in Japan for the sake of pouring new concrete that you'd have to call it pathological. Now, if only they could have been put up for world heritage listing then there would have been great crowing about these historic apartments.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

>So much natural and architectural heritage has been destroyed in Japan for the sake of pouring new concrete that you'd have to call it pathological. Now, if only they could have been put up for world heritage listing then there would have been great crowing about these historic apartments.

Would you live in one, knowing the level of sanitation is poor, and the chances of surviving a reasonable earthquake could be difficult? Is history a byword for living with unacceptable risks?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Thanks Kickboard for point out the location. Have to head up that way next week, so think I will take a few photo's before it is gone.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Buildings that old are massive energy wasters. Electrical, plumbing, telecommunications, heating and a/c are all patched together and piecemeal. No Miso makes an excellent point about earthquake safety too. In an in an earthquake they could become death traps.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I loved the Dojunkai Apartments in Omotesando and wanted to live in them so badly before they tore them down! Ended up moving to another historical building up the street in Harajuku but moved after the 3/11 earthquake. There were so many cracks that appeared inside and outside the building after the earthquake and all the aftershocks it was quite unsettling. The building was built in the early sixties so I can only imagine what kind of damage has been done to the remaining Dojunkai apartments! Still I think they should stop building soulless concrete buildings like Omotesando Hills and at least preserve a small part of the building for history's sake.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

everyone moans about losing those apartments in omotesando, but they could not make enough money to pay the tax on the street, so do we use tax money to keep them open? then the little shop owners get free rent, I would open a shop in omotesando with free rent, where do I apply

1 ( +2 / -1 )

OMG, I walked in front of these Ueno apartments more than hundred time and there is even a Times car parking which I have used couple of times but I never realized this old shaggy building was of such importance. But if it is so important then why demolish?? I can understand nobody wants to live in a 100 year old building but it can be used for other purpose. Perhaps land of high value and greedy real estate companies just look for profit.......so sad!! Will get few shots before the last Ueno dojunkai is gone!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Well, if they can be such "death traps" they have lasted a long time so far. As for energy wasters, possibly, but that does not mean you have to demolish every energy waster ...might want to look at the minka and get rid of them too, eh?

Gotta love the disposable society..in other places these type of buildings would be refurbished and improved not ripped down for the next urban mess of a building.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

So much natural and architectural heritage has been destroyed in Japan for the sake of pouring new concrete that you'd have to call it pathological. Now, if only they could have been put up for world heritage listing then there would have been great crowing about these historic apartments.

"World Heritage listing"?! They're concrete blocks. What aspect of concrete blocks constitutes a "World Heritage"? The loss of these buildings don't seem worth lamenting. Wiki has the following in its entry for the buildings:

After the war, the government sold the land of most of the complexes to real estate companies, notably Mori Building. Thereafter, the combination of desire for greater profits, lack of advance publicity, and government disinterest in this genre of architecture, in addition to inadequate maintenance and the lack of amenities (notably individual bathing facilities) now taken for granted, have led to the destruction of most of the complexes in the name of "site development". < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dojunkai>

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Buildings that old are massive energy wasters.

My late 1990s concrete Tokyo "mansion" is also a massive energy waster. Single pane glass, thin insulation and a heater mounted near the ceiling and the window, where much of the heat escapes. My electricity and gas bills are exorbitant, despite the fact I freeze in winter and boil in summer.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Yeah, we're all lucky that the biggest Yakuza of them all, a Mr. Mori, is not among us anymore, and not able to cause more damage to culture and history.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Yes, Fadamor, they are only concrete blocks. And rivers are only rivers and unspoiled coastline is only unspoiled coastline and old Kyoto nagaya are just old wooden buildings. See the pattern?

But the wiki entry seems to be subtly making the same point as me. Profit and concrete-pouring will always win out.

But, if there were a potential world heritage listing for anything, even concrete blocks (and there are good reasons why some concrete blocks are worth preserving), then many would surely be shouting loudly about how this was proof of how Japan cared about its heritage and culture and tradition, blah, blah...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I would only consider them for world heritage if they were more than 200 years old, afterall, things of that age are pieces of history before any living person's earliest memories. I wouldn't call anything built or designed within the last 100 years worth of World Heritage status. Perhaps a local heritage site or state/prefectural level of heritage, but definately not World Heritage as it has been suggested above.

As for relocating this monster, perhaps they had already thought of that, but realised to do so would destroy its structural integrity and thus make it very real hazard wherever they relocated it to. Not to mention there is also a phenomenal cost associated with cutting it down to relocatable pieces when dealing with a structure of that size and strength.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I loved the old Omotesando apartments. They gave the place an old-world feel.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

No Miso | Would you live in one, knowing the level of sanitation is poor, and the chances of surviving a reasonable earthquake could be difficult? Is history a byword for living with unacceptable risks?

It's not a given that old means not earthquake safe. Many old temples and other building from the Edo era and before were built with interlocking support beams instead of nails specifically to withstand earthquakes, and they are still standing. I don't know but I would guess these Doujunko were built with an idea that they should withstand earthquakes, considering and earthquake had just happened.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

So Omotesando is the center of the universe for many folk here on JT??

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Tom Thompson

Then give them a tax break, they gave the next generation of designers a place to start, to fail, to start again, to succeed.

The price of everything, the value of nothing.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

These buildings are too new to be relocated to the excellent Meiji Mura building museum (near Nagoya). Perhaps they should start a museum for the Showa period's iconic buildings.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Concrete housing being considered a "Japanese Heritage Structure" is like Americans trying to declare sushi to be an "American Heritage Food". It's ridiculous to the extreme.

Here's what the UN World Heritage Committee defines as a "cultural heritage" with regards to buildings:

groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;

http://whc.unesco.org/en/conventiontext/

I defy anyone here to call these cement boxes something of "outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science." And if you somehow DO manage to do so, you have to be able to say it with a straight face.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The recently deceased Donald Richie maintained that all of Japan would eventually look like Tokyo. (Gag.) We as foreigners have little sway over the tastes and demands of the average Japanese public, who clearly have minimal interest in their former traditional culture and architectural styles such as the dojunkai buildings (or even worse, the original Frank Lloyd Wright Imperial Hotel) and prefer anything o-new and "convenient." They will in fact surely "convenient" themselves into hell if left alone. The government's support of the shamelessly amoral construction industry and its breathtakingly talentless architects is another factor behind the destruction of so many beautiful old builidngs here. The dojunkai in Harajuku were iconic elements in Omotesando - and Ando Whoosits's new building, while ideal for somewhere such as ugly Kawasaki, where it woul be a beautifying element, does absolutely nothing at all for Omotesando other than perhaps attract mindless fashion victims and idiotic shoppers to its gimmicky courtyard ramps and tediously familar brand name shops. One almost wishes the world had a global architectural preservation body with the power to bring the Japanese constuction inustry to a world tribunal and sentence them to decades in one of their very own repulsive tenements in Takashimadaira (where suicide rates are often the highest in Japan!). This is one of Japan's very sickest characteristics.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

David Quintero Navarro

So Omotesando is the center of the universe for many folk here on JT??

Of course not, but it is one of the more storied and cultural iconic areas of Tokyo. It holds special meaning for me because I happen to have grown up there in the Harajuku/Omotesando area and used to see the Doujunkai buildings everyday as a kid. I'm sure there must be some street corner in your hometown that you feel attached to...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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