Monthly Archives: April 2009

Public and private mixture in Roppongi

Yesterday I spent a few hours in a park near Tokyo Midtown – a shopping and office complex in Roppongi. Me and my friend noticed that there are guards who sometimes walk around. Otherwise it was like every other park. I had been there before, during the Roppongi Art Night events, when the park was filled with balloons with light.

People are walking their dogs, having lunch or just sitting on the grass. Yet what surprised me is that, while discussing some things about the park, my friend mentioned its “owners”. “What, is it private???” I exclaimed, surprised. Apparently so. Owners of the shopping mall want to offer a nice view for enterprises who rent offices there, so they maintain the park, which is open to the public – fortunately, without any fees. “Local governments could never afford such expensive land in the middle of Tokyo”, my friend explained.

I had to admit that my cultural bias would have otherwise not allowed such a thought to cross my mind. “Park” and “private” simply wouldn’t connect 🙂

Shrine and back sides of buildings (Shinagawa)

The concepts of public and private are different from what I’m used to (in the photo: back sides of buildings facing a shrine in Shinagawa)

In countries I have lived in before Japan, it’s the businesses that would have to buy land from the government – parks are automatically public. So it’s totally different logic. But yeah, makes sense I guess – once upon a time people owned that land, it became expensive, and now in order to own it local governments need to buy it.

Well, as long as it increases the number of parks in Tokyo, I’ll learn the new concept of private park and use it 🙂 I just hope that there will always be enough social pressure for the owners to keep the parks.


Social capital for moving in space

Today I’ve been contemplating two types of social capital I “own”, which I normally don’t reflect upon: white body and EU passport. What is in common between them? They facilitate certain movement in space and produce certain expectations in others. And, of course, I’ve been contemplating this in relation to my research about migration.

Business quarter

Tent village in Yoyogi – another side of Japan

There are 43 people in the village, but some years ago there were as many as 400. Some have been living here for a few months only, but some are true veterans – one has been around for good 20 years, and over there lives ‘ojiisan’ (‘grandpa’), who has been staying in the park for as many as 50 years. Some people have moved out back to ‘happy life’ in the city.

Continue reading