Deep into the Roji (narrow alleys) of Tokyo: Exploring two historic and human-scaled districts through Jane Jacobs’ eyes -- Part 2

Shunji Suzuki, March 16, 2017

By Shunji Suzuki

We conducted two Jane’s Walks in Tokyo on May 8, 2016: in the Kagurazaka district in the morning, and in Mukojima in the afternoon. Both of these are historic and human-scaled neighborhoods. About 80 participants enjoyed the day. The walks were coordinated by Shunji Suzuki, with help by Prof. Toshiya Yamamoto, Yamamoto Lab members of Meiji University, The Ikimachi Club of Kagurazaka and The Mukojima-Gakkai Association. These reports from the walks were submitted by participants.

Part 2: Mukojima Walk

We walked through residential, shopping, and industrial areas, and along a riverside, focusing on plants. There are various kinds of plants along the streets and alleys, cared for by the residents. Some are even grown on paved streets. Walking through these areas, we noticed various smells, such as flowers, and a factory that makes leather. It would be interesting to make a “smell map”. (Report by Mukoyama)

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There are a lot of small green areas in the community, taken care of by the residents.

The theme of our walk was unusual architecture. The buildings we saw showed a variety of features, which reflected the lifestyle and technology of the times when they were built. In a district densely populated with wooden houses, we could get a sense of the relationships among the people who live there. It is a unique feature of this area that despite the closeness of the houses, there is a good sense of distance, physically and mentally.  We could see other traces of urban development projects that were carried out in the area.  (Report by Furukawa)

What we found:

1) The Mokubo temple has been moved by truck to a new location. The body of the main Buddha statue of the temple is a snake.

2) Mukoujima Hyakkaen Garden has water lilies, like those painted by Monet.

3) Sumidagawa and Mukoujima are well known as places to enjoy fireflies.


(Report by Kashiwagi)

Small art spots are scattered through Mukojima. These are not only galleries; events happen in different places, such as a tailor’s house, etc. Mukojima has become an attractive district to those saying, "Let's do something fun!" They do fun things like Nagashi Somen, a summer tradition where cooked noodles in water are sent flowing down a bamboo pole split in half, and people catch them with chopsticks and dip them in soup to eat. In Mukojima a long Nagashi Somen flume was constructed, with the bamboo descending from a second-storey window. (Report by Shigeno)

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Traditional style bakery and castella-sponge cake- shop in local shopping street.

Our team walked around the residential area of Kyojima, which has seen big changes before and after a land readjustment project. Over a short period of time, a lot of community housing was built for residents who had to evacuate their properties for road widening. There is a traditional Kirakira shopping district, where a lot of the stores work together to make a lively street. “Reptile House” is a renovated old house used as a café! (Report by Sato)

Our team learned about disaster prevention (mainly fire safety) by walking Hatonomachi shopping street in Mukoijima. There are “Rojison” (“alley shrines”), rainwater collection tanks, an example of preparation for disaster. There also is a rainwater café that prepares for emergencies by saving rainwater.  Then we visited the southernmost tip of the Shirahige Apartment Buildings, built in the 1970s as walls to stop fire. We found a high level of disaster preparedness in the Mukojima community. (Report by Kobayashi)

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