image by J
"The street is not perceived as a complete entity in itself, with a beginning and an end, so it doesn't have a name...Instead, aside from the name of the township, indicated by the suffix 'ku' or 'shi', addresses only have three numbers: the 'chome', a sort of nieighbourhood or small quarter subdivided into different blocks; the block and the building itself, which is often numbered chronologically according to the date it was built, and not gradually, by physical position.
This unusual system did not escape Barthes, who wrote, 'The roads of this city do not have names. Of course, there is a written address, but it only has a postal value...and will make sense to the postman but not to the visitor...This residential annulment seems quite inconveninet to us, as we are used to thinkning that what is most practical is also most rational...Tokyo, instead, tells us to once more that rationality is just one of several systems...This city cannot be known except through some sort of ethnographic activity: you need to find your bearings...by walking its streets, by looking around you, through habit and experience: each discovery is both intense and fragile, it cannot be repeated, and only its trace can be left in our memory: in this sense, visiting a place for the first time is like starting to write about it: as the address has not been written down, it has to found its own writing.' "
- Tokyo: City and Architecture, Livio Sacchi (Skira Editoire, 2004), pp95-96.
In a way, we find our bearings in all cities or neighbourhoods through habit and experience - since habit, experience and memory are all part of how we know. But actually numbering buildings chronologically...only Tokyo! If on our island we numbered buildings Tokyo-style, all the "smaller" numbers would not exist.
Well, it's been 4 years since both J and I were lost wandering those kus and shis and chomes. And it'll be 29 days later when we next do!