Friday, November 26, 2010

Commentary: Fukuoka's Religious Cults and Their Appalling Architectural Tastes

For a few months this summer I watched as week by week construction progressed on a new building on a busy street in Tenjin. It wasn't until the scaffolding came down a couple months ago that I realized what they were building: A temple for one of Fukuoka's most financially prosperous Religious Cults.
This is an odd group, founded in the 80s by a guy claiming he could speak to the dead and had conversations with Mozart, Jesus, Buddha, Confuscious and Muhammed who all told him one thing: "Japan is the world's greatest power and should ditch its Constitution, rearm and lead the world." (quoted from article by David McNeill).

Anyway, ignoring for the moment the bone-chilling political rhetoric and the fact that the organization may be nothing more than a giant money vacuum being used to drain its followers dry, what I really want to talk about is this bloody awful building they've inflicted on us.
This thing is almost too ugly to be worth mocking. Combining classical features done in cheap plastic siding with windows and interior decor a-la dentist office waiting room:
What kind of megalomaniac do you have to be to put "Mr. Burns - ian" stuff like this on the exterior of a building in a non-ironic way:
What is it with these bloody cult leaders? Do none of them have any taste at all? Gold-colored religious statuary is SO 1974.

I mean, c'mon, guys. Where is your sense of decency? The rest of us have to look at this ugly crap you build every day as we pass it by. Do you never stop to consider us little guys when you are"encouraging" your followers into spending thousands of dollars on gold-framed portraits of yourselves?

No, obviously you do not. Otherwise you wouldn't have put this:
On the facade of a building that I have to look at with my bare eyes every Saturday afternoon.


The ugly. It hurts. Make it stop.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hakozaki Campus's Wall of Mystery

I was riding my bike across campus a few weeks ago when the above sight caught my eye.

Yup, two ugly, ugly buildings and a parking lot. Not much of a sight. What caught my eye was the wall on the larger building on the right. There is a lot of graffiti on the top two sections of it:
You'll note that someone has expended a lot of effort defacing the graffiti. What I find quite funny is that they obviously had two different people cleaning each section, and each of the cleaners used a different strategy to remove it. These different strategies reflect completely different philosophies about the underlying purpose of graffiti removal.

On the top section, the person basically contented him/herself by defacing the graffiti enough to make it completely illegible. The black ink remains, but so long as you can't actually read what was written, that is good enough.

On the lower section, the person made some effort to cover up the graffiti by using paint that almost matched the color of the wall. Restoring the aesthetic appearance of the wall (such as it is) was the over-riding concern.

What I really like about the person who cleaned up the lower section is that they adopted an extreme minimalist approach. They exactingly painted over only the graffiti and did not get paint onto any part of the wall that wasn't defaced. Basically, they just traced over the graffiti in a different color of paint.

This was very useful because thanks to the fact that the paint they used isn't quite the same as that on the underlying wall, it is still possible to read what was written on the lower section. It says this:


Which crudely translates into "Free the structure of education". Or something like that.

I pointed this out to my colleague Fabio one day and we stood in front of the wall for a few minutes pondering the meaning of it. A professor that we knew happened to pass by and we asked if she knew what it was about. She said that during the 1960s there had been a number of student protests during which activists had occupied some of the buildings and this was likely something they had written during that time. Like us she couldn't read the graffiti on the top section, so its meaning has been lost to the ages.

Fabio pointed out that the graffiti isn't the only whimsical thing about this wall. It has these two rusted out signs posted prominently on the section below the lower graffiti one:
It says "Please do not throw balls against this wall." Of course if you look at the location of the wall, it is in a narrow alley wholly un-conducive to the throwing of balls:
The obvious explanation is that the building on the right in the above photo was built sometime after the one on the left and that during the period before its construction this must have been a popular place for students to play some sort of ball game that must have seriously annoyed the professor who occupied the office adjacent to that external wall. I love the fact that those signs are still up there so long after they stopped serving any practical purpose.

The whimsy doesn't quite end there though. This is also the sight of one of those "staircases to nowhere" that so fascinate me:
Unlike the "don't throw balls" sign, the existence of this stairway defies easy explanation. To be fair, there is a door on the left just out of sight of this shot, but it has its own section of dedicated stairway. Why did they build these steps leading straight into a concrete wall? Was it part of some government building program designed to soak up a glut of metal staircases on the market at the time? Was it some comical mis-reading of the blue prints that resulted in one side of the building getting too much staircase and another not enough?

I suppose I could ask around and find out, but I rather like not knowing. It adds to the mystery and appeal of this wall. The explanation would only end up being mundane and boring. Sometimes too much knowledge ruins things. Ignorance can be bliss.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Embarassing Google Searches and My Little Blog

Today's post is about my favorite feature of Google Blogger: the "Search Keywords" function.

Every day Google, on my blog's control panel, tells me what search terms people have entered into Google to find my blog. It is far and away the most amusing part of Google Blogger.

Up until a few months ago my blog was obscure enough that it only came up in very specific and seldom used searches. Like if you put in "Kyushu University Hakozaki Campus" in a Google search my blog would pop up and some people would click on it. Nothing too exciting about that.
Now though my blog has apparently been around long enough to have advanced up Google's page rankings so that it shows up on a wider range of search terms than it used to. This is where the amusement sets in.

I believe the main cause of this was this post a couple months ago that had the word "Sex" in the title. It is far and away the most viewed post on this blog and it has completely skewered the search terms that people use to reach my blog. For example, looking at the past month people have arrived here via searches for:

"Fukuoka prostitute"
"Fukuoka sex
"Sex in Fukuoka
"Fukuoka brothel
"Nakasu red light district
"Nakasu Prostitution

These seem to obviously have been entered by people trying to find information on prostitutes in Fukuoka. One enterprising visitor confirms this with the most specific search:

"How to Find Prostitutes in Fukuoka"

Oh, my beautiful blog: who will weep for thee?

Another type of search that led someone to that same post was this one:

"Fuzoku on working visa"

Fuzoku you will recall is sex industry work. That exact search term was used 4 times to reach my blog, I guess by someone looking for information on whether such work would violate the terms of their visa. If that person is reading this: I think it probably would, but check with immigration.

The most disturbing search has been this one:

"seansex 9 com"

I don't know or want to know what the hell that person was looking for, but the fact that they used it to reach this blog 3 times makes me somewhat uncomfortable.
Far and away the most amusing was this one that someone used in the last 24 hours:

"Hidden camera: Kansai women's bath"

Oh my god, I fell off my chair laughing when I saw that one. The person used it to reach this rather mundane post here. If you read it you'll notice that it has nothing to do with hidden cameras or women's baths but by some coincidence it happens to contain each of those words, scattered throughout the post.

Its entirely possible the person was doing research on something like the criminal invasion of the privacy rights of women in the Kansai area. Though that would be a generous interpretation of course.

I suppose that by putting all these search terms into a single post I am really inviting a wave of clicks. This will probably become my newest number one post in no time.