Photo/Illutration The sun sets on the skyline of the Harumi area, which boasts an attractive waterfront setting and multistory buildings. (Photo by Lisa Vogt)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Ebb and flow--that’s what I see, or rather sense, as I gaze out at the waters of Tokyo Bay from Harumi in Chuo Ward.

Today’s column is not so much about a particular place that “you should visit,” but rather one such place (which could perhaps be just about anywhere) where you can feel the passage of time and be reminded of the transitory nature of all things.

Originally, it was just ocean. And, like all forms of life, out of the sea came Harumi. Well, to be more precise, in 1929, the year the Great Depression started, the government-led reclamation project was completed. As with most such places, it was first used for port facilities and factories.

Tokyo, beating out Helsinki, was selected to be the site for the 1940 Summer Olympics, and Harumi was slated to be the site for the World Fair to be held the same year. With the grand title of "Kigen 2,600-nen no Banpaku," “Japan World Fair Commemorating 2,600 Years of Imperial Reign,” it was probably intended to legitimatize the Empire of Japan.

It was to be quite a year! But war prevented both from materializing.

Thirteen years after the end of the Pacific War, with the population rebounding and an ensuing housing shortage, the Harumi Danchi housing complex was born. It was constructed by Nihon Jutaku Kodan, which before the war was called Dojunkai, and today is known as Toshi Saisei Kikou. Different names, but how different are they really? Quite, I’m sure.

In the late 1950s, Tokyo Kokusai Mihonichi Kaijo (the Tokyo International Fair Grounds) became the venue for the Tokyo Motor Show. Harumi was back on the map again.

Gradually, however, the area became decrepit. The economic bubble burst, and newer, more conveniently located venues, opened elsewhere. The Harumi housing complex was demolished and replaced with an office and residential complex called Triton Square. While it opened with much fanfare, its luster has faded over the years.

The 2020 Olympics will bring the Olympic Village to Harumi and fortune is sure to swing its way again. At least for a while.

Harumi was planned when times were good and completed when the stock market crashed. And ever since, the pendulum has been swinging back and forth.

Oh, the moon has appeared. I wonder if it’s waxing or waning. Just as the Earth rotates and seasons come and go, things are always in flux. I exhale as I look at the glimmering road-like reflection of the moon watching over Harumi.

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This article by Lisa Vogt, a Washington-born and Tokyo-based photographer, originally appeared in the Nov. 4 issue of Asahi Weekly. It is part of the series "Lisa’s In and Around Tokyo," which depicts the capital and its surroundings through the perspective of the author, a professor at Meiji University.