TATSUMI APARTMENTS

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 In August 1968, people started to move into Tatsumi Apartment Complex, and as a result, it is currently facing an aging society. According to a member of the residents’ association, there are about 2,700 households in the area, and about 50% of these tenants are over 70 years old. This is not a story about a place in the countryside of Japan, but a building only a 10-minute subway ride away from Ginza, a district with the highest land prices in the country.

 

 The Apartment Complex is named Tatsumi, taken from the area’s direction from the Imperial Palace. It is situated between a newly constructed venue for the Tokyo Olympics and the Shinonome high-rise condominiums, and is in the midst of a refurbishment that has taken more than 10 years. The apartments, surrounded by many large manufacturing plants, were termed “pollution-certified apartments” as it was recommended that windows remain closed due to the ashes from Yumenoshima (“dream island”) - an artificial island in Tokyo bay utilized for garbage disposal. Despite this, when the apartment complex opened, there were plenty of vital young couples and children who luckily drew a winning ticket to settle down here. It has been over 50 years since then, and the majority of tenants have become elderly residents, potentially with children who have already left home. “By the time this remodeling is finished, I’m sure we will have passed away,” a laughing resident admits.

 The residents of this complex come from all over the country, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. This unique range of people includes but is not limited to a steelworks worker, a Self-Defense Forces member, an employee of a trading company stationed overseas, someone who married a Tokyo local, an actor, a chef for celebrities, a Shinjuku bar manager, an individual who worked in Sanya (a region with overcrowded cheap housing for day laborers), etc. To passersby, the people living in these apartments may all seem as if they have led a similar life. Perhaps the uniformity of living space - established to combat housing shortage during a high economic growth period – has built up a homogenous approach. Takeshi Hara, an award-winning political scientist, explains in his book “Spatial politics of apartment complexes” (2012) : NHK Publishing, Inc. that apartment complexes built all over the country since the 1950s have played an important role in shaping the Japanese character and political views of today. From this point of view, I continue to create works of photography, feeling that shooting Tatsumi Apartments could be synonymous with shooting Japan itself from the past to the present, and even the future. New applications to live in Tatsumi Apartments have been suspended due to the remodeling, and vacant houses are becoming more conspicuous year by year. In this rapidly changing part of Tokyo, a symbol of high economic growth, built by national policy is about to be demolished; and that may be yet more evidence that Japan's future is at a crossroads.

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