Building things in Japan

Last time I was in Japan, I thought that buildings were never under construction. They just suddenly appeared one day, and they magically fixed themselves.

Which is kind of stupid.

But let me explain. I mean of course, I saw large buildings under construction. For instance, last summer I went to Sanda (near Osaka). In fact, actually, one of the first pictures I took in Japan was this one: A shot of a building being built (before you judge, when you’re a tourist, everything seems interesting – even buildings – and you take an absurd amount of pictures. I just happen to still think buildings are interesting)

Just for fun, I went back to Osaka a year later to visit friends and saw the buildings, fully build, and in use.

But it’s been a year – so of course the building was finished.

Large buildings are impossible to hide. But smaller buildings? You have to actually look for those. Or, sometimes you can hear the banging that starts just after 8 every morning and runs until around 6 in the evening (that is, of course, assuming every building group runs on the same time-table as the house under construction down the street from my apartment).

Funny story, though. Last month, I went over to Ryosuke’s parents house for a joint birthday party (his brother turned 30 the same day I turned 20). Before I went to sleep, they warned me that a nearby house was under construction. At 8AM, Ryosuke’s mother told me, they would start working again. I assured her I was fine, after all my last dorm at Ursinus wasn’t exactly the epitome of quiet.

But, come next 8AM, it sounded like someone was decapitating cats with a chainsaw. Whole families of cats. It was awful. At around 8:30, I gave up and went downstairs to find all of Ryosuke’s family chipper and energetic- even Ryosuke’s brother’s three kids.

Ryosuke’s dad tried to explain to me that in Japan, houses go under construction all the time. You stop noticing it after a while.

And I did stop noticing it… that is until, one day when I was biking home from classes, I saw that they had poured concrete at a lot near my house and divided it up into tiny little compartments. They were building a new apartment complex.

I couldn’t believe how fast the structure went up. Within a week, they had the skeleton built. But even more surprising was the fact that as soon as they got the basic structure up, they covered the entire building with a large, blue, sheet of mesh.

And that, folks, is how you tell if a building is under construction. Look for the blue sheet.

I didn’t understand the point of the sheet until one day I was out biking with Ryosuke (looking for the swan boats – remember when I wrote about that?), and we squeezed past a construction truck parked alongside a building covered by a mesh sheet. When we were next to the door of the driver’s side, there was a huge implosion, and a section of the house collapsed, sending dust everywhere. I freaked out and ducked for cover, throwing Ryosuke off balance (I was riding on the back of the bike). He just kind of laughed at me and pointed out that the sheet was there so that things couldn’t accidentally fall on pedestrians or cars.

What a nice idea.

Houses in Japan are a lot like babies.

When I was growing up, people used to always joke that as soon as one woman got pregnant, all her friends followed suit. It ran especially true in church. There were little pockets of children of similar age. Houses in Japan are the same, because not a week after that house donned the blue sheet, I saw another house on my street take the blue sheet.

(see, now there’s TWO of them!)

A couple days later they poured the concrete for yet another house.

And lately I haven’t been waking up to my alarm (perpetually set to 8:28AM) because a house right across from my apartment donned a green sheet. The pounding starts at 8AM every morning (though it’s usually not that bad).

(A milk truck trying to get past the construction vehicle to the side of the building under construction. Can you see the green sheet? My apartment is right behind the truck… Streets are really small in Japan)

So if you live in a residential neighborhood in Japan and suddenly see a sheet covering a nearby house, I’ve made a guide of what you should expect (depending on the color of the sheet). I could be wrong, so if you have more information, please leave a comment below.

How to tell what they are doing to the building by the color of the sheet:

Blue: This means the building has been built from scratch. They pour the concrete, make a wooden frame, bring in a crane to take up a section of the street for about a week and a half, and then fill in the rest of the frame using construction workers. It’s not particularly loud for the first month– unless you are right across the street.

(If you look carefully, you can tell that this house already has walls up. They are just working on the interior)

I don’t know what happens after they finish the wooden frame, but they will keep the blue sheet on even when they have the whole house built and are just installing appliances.

Green: This is a house/small building being renovated. Take, for instance, the house across from my apartment. For the first month, it seemed just like a normal house. Then, one day, a green sheet appeared – accompanied by construction workers and a large truck that blocks the street.

(A normal day in front of my apartment)

Grey: This is a large industrial building built from scratch. I don’t know the whole process, but for the last month, a building near the train station has been under construction.

It’s funny, because I didn’t actually notice that they were building until one day I was passing it on my bike and some loose dust got in my eye. When I looked up, I saw the sheet and the cranes.

White fence: I only see these around train stations when they are renovating the landscape or adding a new bike parking lot underneath the train line. This is Musashi Sakai, my main train station, and the renovations have been going on for at least the past month.

But now that I think about it, I don’t really know anything about construction in America… I wonder if it’s similar. I can’t remember ever seeing the iconic Japanese, blue mesh sheets, though.

Thanks for reading! If you have any information, questions, or thoughts, please leave a comment bellow. Sorry I switched from Blogger to WordPress, but this is much easier to post on!

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele

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