Finally got around to replacing my laptop from 2011 and successfully (fingers crossed) transferred all of my photos to the new computer. This naturally led to taking-stock of the thousands of images I’ve accumulated. One folder that I’ve long neglected is a small collection of pictures from my first trip to Japan in 2010.
At the time of the trip I recall making a strange pronouncement to a coworker that I vowed not to take any pictures in Japan because I didn’t want picture-taking to overshadow the experience of being in Japan. Other than my Blackberry, I had no other means of taking photographs, and I generally followed the spirit of the vow. Over the course of two weeks I took no more than a few dozen pictures.
One photo I regret not taking was of a row of tired looking apartment buildings next to my hotel east of Ueno Station. (Why regret? It has something to do with the fact that I subsequently became obsessed with danchi, and the history of public housing in Japan.)
I knew nothing about Tokyo at the time, and certainly wouldn’t have known that this building, Ueno-shita Dojunkai 上野下アパートメント (map), was the last remaining Donjunkai 同潤会 in Tokyo. Overall, sixteen Dōjunkai housing projects were built between 1926 to 1934 by a government-managed corporation 財団法人同潤会 in response to housing shortages resulting from the great 1923 earthquake.
Tokyo in the wake of the 1923 earthquake:
Ueno-shita Dojunkai in 2010 (originally built in 1929, it was demolished in 2013):
Aerial photo from 1936 (source):
What was I doing when NOT photographing the Uenoshita Dojunkai? Well, instead of pointing my camera out my hotel window, I pointed it at the television and took this, my first photograph on Japanese soil…
Domo-kun どーも くん and friends
- Looking back on the final days of the Dojunkai apartments (Japan Times, 2017)
- Last of the Dojunkai – Ben Beech Photography
- Ueno Dojunkai 大正・昭和の歴史と街を見つめてきたアパートがありました。 (Taito Culture)
- Urban struggle: Tokyo’s tussle with preservation of architecture (Tokyo Reporter, 2009)
- Tokyo (1923- 1930) Changes in communal housing after the Great Kanto Earthquake (University of Hong Kong)