Today's schedule just wasn't full enough for Martin-san, so our first stop this morning was an addition to our itinerary - Ikebukuro, a large commercial district and one of the more diverse neighborhoods in Tokyo. Just around the corner from the train station, we walked around the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater, currently undergoing renovation.
From there, we turned off the main avenue and very quickly found ourselves on narrow, curving streets. These tiny streets are common in Tokyo but it surprises me every time when we find them - very rarely would you find anything like this in the US. The only thing I can begin to compare them to is Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan - a small cobblestone street hidden in the middle of the Financial District.
Our purpose for the detour was to visit the House of Tomorrow. Can you guess the architect?
That's right - leave it to a bunch of Americans to go find the only Frank Lloyd Wright building in Tokyo. Myonichikan, as it is called in Japanese, was actually a rather progressive girls' school when it was first built, and is currently used for alumni activities. Wright designed the main building, which was built in 1921. The east and west wings and the auditorium were designed and completed by Wright's assistant, Arata Endo.
After Tomorrow, we took the train to Shinjuku station to walk through Tokyo's skyscraper district. Specifically, we went to see Kenzo Tange's Tokyo Metropolitan Building, the central office building for the Tokyo municipal government. The design of the building was apparently a competition between Tange and one of his students, Erata Isazaki. Tange proposed the current design - massive, imposing, forceful, symmetrical. Isazaki, on the other hand, felt that the building should reflect Japan's populist nature and proposed a design that was horizontal and had no center. Personally, I think I would have preferred Isazaki's design.
Our group disbursed after a quick walk around Shinjuku station, at which point I joined Martin-san, Alexa and Will on a visit with the Japan Foundation. Our trip is sponsored by a grant from the Japan Foundation - we quite literally would not be here without their support. The four of us had a brief interview with Takashi Imai, the chief officer of the Center for Global Partnership at the Foundation. Imai-san asked us about our trip so far: highlights, whether we had met with any local universities or had any lectures. He was very impressed to learn that we have scheduled 6 lectures for the trip, instead of the requisite 2 (thanks, Jonathan) and that we've spent quite a lot of time with our counterparts from Waseda University, the University of Tsukuba and the Tokyo Institute of Technology. He told us a little bit about the Japan Foundation and some of the other international exchange programs that they run - hopefully we'll be able to partner with them again in the future!
PS - For all you astronomy fans, even though Japan was due to view the entire transit of Venus, we didn't see a thing because of the clouds. Bummer.