Patchwork Yokohama
25. 21st. Century Yokohama
by Pencil Louis
          It was of  little surprise that the only parts of the Minato
          Miura complex which  Vince  approved  of  had been there for
          some time, like  the  Maritime  Museum  and  the Cosmo Clock
          ferris wheel. The  rest  made him shudder. He wasn't exactly
          opposed to town  planning in principle. In fact, whenever he
          raised  his  finger  towards  the  ceiling,  he  was  always
          proposing some planning,  municipal  or  otherwise. But what
          planning?

          It seemed that  Yokohama had always been planned. Tokyo just
          grew and rotted  in  much the same way as a rain forest, but
          Yokohama was a place that had always originated in someone's
          mind. It had  always  been  borne by intellectual necessity.
          Vince could appreciate  this in a totally different way from
          that in which  he  loved  Tokyo's  chaos and life force. The
          houses existed in  Tokyo, because people needed somewhere to
          live. It had  a  ramshackle  effect that always implied that
          its cultural roots  were  with  the  folk who lived in these
          houses. But in  Yokohama,  the  architecture  seemed  to  be
          imposed and nowhere  was  this  more true than in the Minato
          Miura 21 project.

          The most obvious  of these was the Landmark Tower, which had
          gone up and become Japan's tallest building before Vince had
          even realised it  was being constructed. In itself, like the
          Shinjuku skyscrapers, the  Tower  had some aesthetic appeal.
          While others had complained that they were eye sores, he had
          been able to  defend  such  structures  as Shintocho for its
          multi-planar  effect  and  the  Sumitomo  building  for  its
          triangular effect and  the  big  hole  in the middle, like a
          giant block of  Toblerone  on  its end. However, whenever he
          talked to anyone  with engineering background, he was forced
          to admit that  a  triangle  was not the best shape for a sky
          scraper and that  a hollow building or one with 40 foot high
          ceilings on some  floors was hardly very economical in terms
          of space.

          The Landmark Tower  also  had  some  glamour and undoubtedly
          wasted its fair share of space, but, unlike the buildings in
          the Shinjuku sky  scraper  district,  it  stood alone on the
          horizon blocking out  a  fair  slice  of  the  view  of  the
          harbour, relating to  nothing  around  it  and  nothing else
          relating to it.  Similarly,  the only thing attractive about
          the New Grand  Hotel was the ferris wheel almost as high and
          within rock throwing range.

          Vince had mixed  feelings  about  the New Grand and this may
          have led him  to  remark  in mixed company that the building
          looked like a banana.

          "What?" Connie had  given  him  one  of  her vastly superior
          looks. "It's nothing like a banana. It's more like a segment
          of cantaloupe with the seeds left in it."

          The entire group  erupted  into  a discussion about the most
          appropriate metaphor for  the New Grand Hotel. The spinnaker
          of a yacht.  A bottle of shampoo or conditioner. An up-ended
          bamboo shoot. An  apple  corer.  The tip of a sewing machine
          needle. A wet  sumie  paint  brush.  Anything  but a banana,
          although one very  kind Japanese woman admitted that she had
          seen chocolate coated  bananas that looked similar, but they
          were brown not  white.  Vince  was receiving telephone calls
          for months afterwards about the New Grand.

          "It's a pen  nib," a husky, muffled voice would state baldly
          at 2 o'clock  in  the morning as if daring him to contradict
          it.

          "What?"

          "A pen nib!"

          "A pen nib?"

          "That's right!"

          "What's this about a pen nib?"

          "The New Grand Hotel! What else?"

          "It looks nothing like a pen nib!"

          "Well, have you seen the new range of Sheaffers?"

          "No, but ..."

          "Well, it looks more like a Sheaffer nib than a banana, I'll
          tell you that."

          The calls were  always  anonymous  and  Vince  couldn't help
          wondering what sort  of  pervert  would  call in the wee wee
          hours of the  morning  to  tell him that the New Grand Hotel
          looked like a  pen  nib.  It  was  far easier, he sighed, to
          understand the guys who rang up and wanted to have telephone
          sex  with  Connie,  although  neither  he  nor  Connie  ever
          actually knew how  to have sex on the telephone. He supposed
          it would have  to  be  oral  sex  unless  you  vaselined the
          receiver.

          As for the  Pacifico  International  complex,  he discovered
          that it was  nothing  but  a  huge  warehouse that exhibited
          anything that someone  would  pay  to  have exhibited. Vince
          didn't have anything  to exhibit, but he went along once and
          after some haggling they gave him a special green tag, which
          meant that he  had  educational  interest in the exhibition.
          There were other  colours  for  professionals,  businessmen,
          students, tradespeople and  sight  seers. In his entire time
          in the complex,  looking  at  makeshift water sculptures, he
          didn't see anyone else with a green tag or, for that matter,
          anything that looked at all educational. There was, however,
          a lot of it.

          Vince visited the  Yokohama  Metropolitan Museum of Art just
          once too, and  there was a lot of that as well. The occasion
          was the Joan  Miro exhibition and Vince had already seen one
          Miro exhibition in  Tokyo,  not  to  mention a wealth of his
          work at the  Hakone Open Air Art Museum. He actually liked a
          lot of Miro's work, but had discovered that, as with so many
          of these exhibitions,  there  was an overkill of hundreds of
          works and it  was  just  too  much  culture to digest in one
          sitting.

          Vince didn't know how the average Japanese art lover did it.
          They would peer at the title of the painting and its date on
          a little plaque  to  the  side,  then  step  back  so  as to
          appreciate the canvas  more  fully.  They would then gaze at
          the painting for  as  long  as  it  took  a  look of sublime
          appreciation and understanding to envelope their face, as if
          they had suddenly become as one with the picture. They would
          then sigh silently,  obviously  reluctant to tear their eyes
          away and repeat  the same process for the next canvas. Vince
          began to wonder  if this were art appreciation or just sheer
          boredom after he  noticed  that  a number of art lovers with
          the same range  of  expressions  at the original canvases of
          Norman Rockwell's Saturday  Evening  Post  covers and Haddon
          Sunblum's Coca Cola Santa Claus exhibition.

          Vince was all  too  aware  that  they  found his kind of art
          appreciation a damned  nuisance. He liked to get close up to
          the canvas so  that he could see each and every brush stroke
          and smell the  paint.  If  he  had  been less scrupulous, he
          would have run his fingers over the canvas, poked his tongue
          out and tasted it, and no doubt would have been evicted from
          the gallery for doing so. But imagine what Giotto or Raphael
          would taste like,  he  thought.  Stale, perhaps. At Japanese
          exhibitions, he would  start  with  the  subject matter, but
          after  the fiftieth  canvas  he  was  looking  only  at  the
          materials. With Miro,  after  the 30th. Oisseau, he couldn't
          see how any  of  the Japanese art lovers, or for that matter
          Miro himself, could be looking at the subject matter.


          The Yokohama Museum  of  Art had an observation tower with a
          window  as  two   dimensional   as   any  of  the  paintings
          downstairs. It gave  a  perfect  180 degree view of Yokohama
          and its port. It had to. After all, the rest of the view was
          blocked out by the Landmark Tower across the road.