philip starck and the golden flame
the area of asakusa in tokyo was once a fashionable entertainment and leisure area during the edo period and the modernising meiji era at the end of the nineteenth century. it was one of the first areas in japan to introduce electric lighting, cinemas, and electric street cars. it is also home to the ‘kamiya bar’ and its locally famous cocktail; denki bran or (electric brandy) the area also had and does to this day, something of a reputation for shady goings on with yakuza gangs and ’water business’. asakusa was almost destroyed during the relentless fire‐bombing which tokyo endured in the final stages of WWII. and although the area was re‐built after the war it has never regained its former glamour.
nevertheless, it is still one of the first destinations for tourist visitors to tokyo. most come to see kaminarimon the gateway with its giant red lantern in the entrance to senso‐ji shinto shrine. more recently the building of the nearby tokyo skytree has injected additional life into the area. visitors were given a further incentive to visit the area with the building of what has come to be known variously as ‘the super dry hall’ ‘the asahi flame’ or ‘flamme d’or’ and sometimes less kindly as ‘the golden turd’ or in japanese, 金のうんこ (kin‐no‐unko).
whatever name it’s known by to the visitor, placed on the opposite bank of the sumida river it looks over the river and asakusa in a way that commands immediate attention. commissioned by #asahi breweries# it was completed in 1989. in many ways it is exemplary of the period in recent japanese history now known as the ‘bubble economy time’: there was a lot of silly money flying around being invested in high profile ultra‐expensive building projects. the building was largely met with bafflement and not a little controversy when it was unveiled in 1989. the large golden building to the left of the flame (or turd, whatever…) is said to represent a glass of beer, with the glass floors at the top representing foam.
the pictures here include a few that i took a long time ago now, in the ’nineties, just as the bubble was about to burst. they were taken in my pre‐digital days, before the building of the sky tree and with my olympus XA camera and fuji 35mm film, later scanned from the negatives. the others are a lot more recent, and include sights of the skytree dwarfing what almost seems quaint now, rather than cutting-edge.golden flame or turd, the last words are with m. starck: that …
…the kind of black object like an urn is the mystery. And that the golden flame, above, is passion.