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Japanese commenters aren’t so impressed with modern cityscapes, but are they just being nitpicky?

We all know that cities’ appearances change with time, but sometimes it’s easy to forget just how much things have changed. In general, we like to think things are improving, but sometimes you have to wonder if everything is, in fact, getting better as time goes on.

One thread on the anonymous Japanese social network site 2Channel recently compared photos of locations in Japanese cities from about 100 years ago with their corresponding contemporary views and asked: “Can Japan no longer afford to consider its scenery?”

Before we take a look at the photos themselves, we feel that it’s only fair to provide some context: For one thing, we have to consider the devastation wrought by both the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and World War II. If a building was destroyed or rebuilt later in the 20th century, it only makes sense that the newer versions or replacements wouldn’t have the same look at those of old.

On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that, at least in these photos, some of the scenery of Japanese cities used to be a lot prettier.

▼ Maru no Uchi

▼ Yoshiwara (in modern-day Taito-ku)

So, what do Japanese commenters think? Well, quite a few of them agreed with the general thesis, many responding to the original question with a simple, “Nope,” meaning that Japan no longer cared (or at least could no longer afford to care) about its scenery when building.

▼ Nihon-bashi

▼ Imperial Theater

Others took a slightly more conservative approach. One commenter wrote, “100 years ago was the Meiji Period. I know the scenery was more beautiful then, but there’s nothing to be done about it.” Another pointed out that rebuilding after the war was done as quickly as possible, which would inevitably lead to aestheticism being somewhat overlooked, though the original poster replied that while it made sense right after the end of the conflict, “even after 70 years have passed, we’re still putting up nothing but buildings that look like squares of tofu.”

▼ Imperial Theater interior

▼ Asakusa and the Cloud-Surpassing Tower

▼ Yokohama Station

One argument proposed in defense of modern architecture had more to do with safety than beauty. “Didn’t older buildings have issues with durability?” asked one commenter. “If we’d stuck with the old style, we wouldn’t be able to produce buildings with excellent durability.” While this is a fair point, others responded by pointing out that the Imperial Hotel withstood the Great Kanto Earthquake, suggesting that it’s possible to strike an even balance.

▼ Shijodori in Kyoto

▼ Sarusawa Pond in Nara

▼ Sarusawa Pond from another angle

In the end, most the Japanese commenters agreed that they don’t necessarily want to see a bunch of old European-style buildings across the country, just a bit more consideration given to how the scenery actually looks.

▼ Osaka City Hall

▼ Imperial Palace

We can certainly see where these commenters are coming from — there are a lot of “tofu-esque” buildings out there! And looking at these photos, it’s easy to agree that in the past, some of the buildings were a lot prettier, though we’re also not sure how much of this is just selection bias.

But what do you guys think? Should Japanese architects put more effort into creating pretty scenery? Or is Japan doing a good enough job as it is?

Sources: Hamusoku
Featured image: Imgur (1, 2, 3, 4)