Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Returning to Tokyo, post 3-11, for CNN

Roland Kelts: Tokyo after the quake -- what matters now?

Tokyo has 'had its cells rearranged,' but is it still the same city or something new?

Roland Kelts
I was commissioned late last year to contribute a chapter on Tokyo to a book called "City Branding: Theory and Cases." I have lived in Tokyo for a number of years and often find myself writing about the city, or at least my version of it.

As an expat who travels frequently and spends roughly half of each year living in New York, I am particularly sensitive to how Tokyo is perceived beyond its metropolitan and national borders. The opportunity to write about Tokyo as a “brand,” an image, idea and product, was both disturbing and enticing. What did it mean?

The Tokyo I wrote about was a global city of superlatives -- moneyed, busy, exhausting and eerily childlike, a perverse victim and beneficiary of U.S. occupation.

Vast and largest by population, concrete-floored, steel-and-glass upholstered, one of the world’s most expensive and, according to quasi-mythic reports from outer space, its very brightest urban blot.

Watching in horror

I wasn’t in Tokyo on the afternoon of 3/11, when the city shook, a few of its buildings cracked, phones went down, fires lit up, and a not-so-distant nuclear power plant had a meltdown. I had flown out of Narita airport 48 hours earlier for long-booked speaking engagements on the U.S. West Coast, in New York, Washington and London.

Like millions, I watched with horror and helplessness as the images spooled across computer and TV screens: collapsing shelves in offices, commuters coursing on foot along barren rail lines, and an oozing, cancer-like wave of water that mocked human order, depositing fishing ships atop barns, in a country long-devoted to order. [cont'd @CNNgo]

Read more: Roland Kelts: Tokyo after the quake -- what matters now? | CNNGo.com http://www.cnngo.com/tokyo/life/tell-me-about-it/roland-kelts-tokyo-after-quake-what-matters-now-876963#ixzz1UVK6oqpA

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