Topic: Architecture / Travel
TAKOTRON SPECIAL REPORT
We have returned from a month-long residence/experiment at our satellite base in Totsuka (Yokohama, 30min to Tokyo). We have collected an overabundance of information and ideas, and now must begin filtering our data in order to transmit it to our beloved audience.
Topic 1: Antonin Raymond/Fujiya/The Family Restaurant
Antonin Raymond was a Czech-born American architect who brought the International Style to Japan first with his own reinforced concrete house in Tokyo, completed in 1923. He arrived there in 1919, when he oversaw the construction of his mentor Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel. Wright's hotel remarkably withstood the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, which helped fuel the growing interest in Modern design.
Raymond was instrumental in helping the region rebuild after the destruction, and continued to work in Japan from 1923 until 1937, the year the FUJIYA FAMILY RESTAURANT building in the Isezaki-cho district of Yokohama was completed!!! Notice the International Style glass brick and reinforced-concrete facade.
Inside is FUJIYA, famous for PEKO-chan, the Milky candies campaign girl (left, with Takotron campaign girl Kei-chan), and their delicious desserts. The stairwell is bathed in light from the glass bricks, which you can see amid all the manga promo from the internet/manga cafe on the second floor (right).
All throughout Japan exist family restaurants like Fujiya. Though none of the others make good candy, they're all pretty similar--SkyLark, Sunday's Sun, Jonathan's, and of course DENNY'S--that very same Denny's you find in little Midwestern towns, where teenagers hang out and smoke cigarettes. And yet it's quite different. All the Japanese family restaurants serve standard Japanese interpretations of American food. These always include such favorites as Hanba-gu (Hamburg Steak--a tender, bunless burger with a ketchup-based meat sauce, served with rice) and Guratan (Gratin, usually seafood with macaroni in a white sauce, baked as a casserole), plus you can get beer and good desserts. But in only one location can you enjoy such things in an elegant, historically significant landmark of Modern architecture.
But here our story takes a troubling twist. Deep in the Utah desert the wartime Allied forces built the Dugway Proving Ground, a test site for new weaponry. Because of his experience with and knowledge of Japanese architecture, Raymond was commissioned to design a small replica Japanese village on which the military could test incendiary bombing techniques (they found that tatami, both imported and recreated from local grasses, and shoji burn real well). Similarly, nearby was a replica German urban working -class block designed by the Jewish-German architect Erich Mendelsohn. It is difficult to understand the position he must have found himself in, engineering the destruction of a place he seems to have loved.
After the war Raymond returned to Japan where he reestablished his office and would ultimately design more than 250 Modern homes and buildings in Japan, including such notable projects as the Fukui house in Atami (1933-5), the Rising Sun Petroleum Company's Yokohama offices (1926), The Reader's Digest Building in Tokyo (1947-9), and the Catholic Church in Shibata (1965).