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Friday, September 15, 2006

Did their Imperial Highnesses see red?

東京都の色彩基準

Italian Cultural Center, Tokyo.Tokyo's metropolitan government plans to change the city's bylaws to allow it to dictate color changes to any buildings considered ‘oddly colored’. From next April developers of large-scale construction projects will be obliged to consult with the city government from the planning stage regarding appropriateness of colors for the surrounding landscape.

What triggered this were complaints by ‘residents' who live in the area of the Italian Cultural Center (see right), completed last October, that the red exterior of the building was ‘out of keeping’ with the local landscape. The metropolitan government duly put the case to the Italian Embassy, but, with the lack of any relevant bylaws, it is completely up to the Italian Embassy to comply or not. With the planned change of regulations, those who do not comply with such requests will be liable to a fine of up to 500,000 yen (c.USD4,260) - not exactly 'teeth'.

Italian Cultural Center, Tokyo, and the apartment building next door.As for the local ‘residents’ who complained, the Center is, indeed, flanked by a luxurious apartment building (just visible at left of photo at left), no doubt many of whose inhabitants wield considerable influence in high places. But being right next door to the building, the Center hardly forms part of the broader 'landscape' out over which the residents gaze. However, the Italian Cultural Center is a mere stone's throw from the banks of the Chidorigafuchi moat that runs around Koukyo, or Imperial Palace, so it is much more interesting to speculate that the most illustrious of the surrounding ‘residents', the Imperial Family itself, may have ‘seen red'.

Considering that vermillion is the traditional color of things religious in Japan, it is a little surprising that while temple towers and certain painted shrine torii gates are allowed to ‘clash’ as much as they like with the surrounding green of the parks and woods they often nestle in, much the same hue is shouted down in the Italian Cultural Center, which, moreover, is a decidedly more muted shade of red than vermillion. The Center certainly adds what I think is a much needed splash of color to what is an extremely drab neighborhood. (The photo below is of the drear buildings across from it.)

Across the road from the Italian Cultural Center, Tokyo.On the other hand, a close Japanese friend of mine treats what I consider to be the main refreshing highlight of my blandly wallpapered rented room, a large, red bookcase, as an aesthetic anathema. Thank god, perhaps, he isn’t the Emperor! (or was it the Empress?)



Buy vividly colored traditional Japanese masks online.

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