【VIEW OSAKA HOUSES】
Walking along a familiar back street,
I come across a vacant lot that wasn’t there before.
What was the old house that used to be here like?
I can’t quite seem to remember…
Everyone can relate to this experience, I think.
What we see, hear, and remember day to day
is transient, melting into mist and sinking into shadows.
That’s just the way it is.
The cramped, low-slung wood-frame apartment buildings and ready-built houses
where so many Japanese people shared joys and sorrows
in the postwar decades are now disappearing, lost to the passage of time without ever getting much acknowledgment in records of architectural history.
I hope that these photographs of dwellings for the common people of Osaka
will evoke in the viewer’s imagination
the many lives and myriad stories that these walls have contained.
In Osaka and the surrounding Kansai region, the phrase bunka jutaku (literally, “cultural housing”) means something very different from its original meaning. “Cultural” here refers to things modern and/or Western, and in the prewar years bunka jutaku were grand, architecturally eclectic detached homes mixing Japanese and imported elements. In the Osaka area, the phrase was later adopted for a type of inexpensive apartment house widely erected nationwide in the 1950s and 1960s. Wood-frame, with pressed mortar siding and kawara roof tiles, they stretch out lengthways, with rows of doors to individual apartments closely spaced along their open-air corridors.
I have been told that this use of bunka jutaku in the Osaka region was a quintessentially Osakan, self-effacing ironic reference to the fact that while still humble (for example, the apartments lacked baths) they now had individual kitchens and toilets, unlike the wooden apartment houses preceding them where kitchens and toilets were shared.
In the decades following World War II, these cramped wood-frame apartment houses were rapidly thrown up across Japan, to meet skyrocketing demand for workers’ housing in its teeming cities. However, with economic progress and social changes, working families began moving out of these apartments and into ready-built single-family homes or so-called “mansions”*. Today the old wood-frame two-story apartment houses are quietly disappearing from the urban landscape.
Formerly home to so many working people and their families, these buildings are witnesses to history, in which we can still catch echoes of how people lived in the lean but dream-filled postwar years. I believe they deserve preservation as a historically important type of urban residential architecture.
The dwellings appearing in Houses, the third part of the View Osaka series, are primarily wood-frame apartment houses (bunka jutaku), high-rise apartment buildings, and ready-built single-family homes, built to house ordinary working people between the end of World War II and the close of the 20th century. Buildings like these are ubiquitous in cities throughout Japan, but the ones shown here were shot in roughly the same area of Osaka as Part 1 (The Dome) and Part 2 (Rivers) of the View Osaka series.
*In Japan, the word “mansion” does not refer to a large, ostentatious home for wealthy people, but rather a reinforced concrete, often high-rise apartment building (also known as “heights,” “corpo,” “maison,” etc.)
Noguchi, Toru, Townhouses of Medieval Kyoto, Kyoto University Press, 1988
Ishida, Junichiro and Nakagawa, Osamu, ed., History of Architecture: Modern Architecture, Kyoto University of Art and Design, 1998
Azuma, Takamitsu, Urban Housing, Kajima Institute Publishing, 1998
Koga, Shusaku and Fujita, Masaya, ed., History of Architecture: Japanese Architecture, Kyoto University of Art and Design, 1999
Ando, Tadao, Houses, ADA Edita Tokyo, 2011
Notes on the Third Installment of the View Osaka Series
Tomatsu Shiro’s View Osaka trilogy is brought to a compelling conclusion with Houses. In this series Tomatsu, a long-time resident of Osaka, has created a vivid portrait of the city for future generations.
The View Osaka series began with The Dome, occasioned by the completion of Osaka Dome (since renamed Kyocera Dome Osaka). In these photos the dome is seen in the distance, descending on the Osaka cityscape like a colossal silver UFO – at the time everyone noted the resemblance. Twenty years later, I wonder if I’m the only one who still thinks the weird structure looks out of place.
The trilogy continued with Rivers, capturing scenes along the many waterways of Osaka, and comes to a close with Houses, which focuses primarily on the bunka jutaku (wood-frame, two-story apartment buildings) that housed so many in the postwar years but today have fallen into decrepitude.
Not an Osaka native himself, Tomatsu has seized on the essence of Osaka in these images of the area he has long called home. These photographs are faithful documents but also richly expressive, poignantly capturing the fading remnants of an era before they inevitably vanish altogether.
As someone who has also lived in Osaka for many years and discovered so much, I profoundly identify with Tomatsu’s vision. Through his photography he contributes, or returns, something to society, and this is surely part of the mission of every photographer.
Now that the View Osaka series is complete, I hope that its images will reach as wide an audience as possible, and will be a treasured archive that only becomes more precious with the passage of time.
Professor, Department of Photography, TOKYO POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY
(formerly head of Photography Course, Faculty of Art and Design Kyoto University of Art and Design）
VIEW OSAKAシリーズ第三部「HOUSES」で取り上げた住宅は、戦後から20世紀末に建てられた勤労者向け住宅で、主に木造アパート（文化住宅）、高層集合住宅そして建売分譲住宅である。これらの住宅は日本の多くの都市部に普遍的に建てられているが、第一部「THE DOME」、第二部「RIVERS」とほぼ同じ地域を撮影地とした。
野口 徹著 「中世京都の町家」東京大学出版会 １９８８年
大阪市都市住宅史編集委員会「まちに住まう -大阪都市住宅史-」平凡社 １９８９年
石田潤一郎・中川理編 「建築史ー近代の建築」 京都造形芸術大学 １９９８年
東 孝光著 「都市・住宅論」 鹿島出版会 １９９８年
古賀秀策・藤田勝也編 「建築史ー日本の建築」 京都造形芸術大学 １９９９年
安藤忠雄著「住宅」 ADAエディタトーキョー ２０１１年