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Construction next door – Aha!

New neighbor

Suppose you are returning home, shopping, slurping, seeing friends. Whistling that tune somewhat absent mindedly. As you step out of the elevator, you see a notice pasted on the hallway. Someone moving in to an apartment next to yours. So, why the notice?

Apologies for possible disturbance
Apologies for possible disturbance

Well in Japan the custom is that all neighbors are politely informed in advance that there will be some noise when a new neighbor moves in. Plentiful apologies are followed by box of chocolates to atone for any disturbance caused. That is for one neighbor moving in. So what happens when an entire apartment building is being built next door?

Whole new building in neighborhood

It is a common scene everywhere that old buildings are being demolished replaced by new ones. Population increase being one reason, economic growth being another reason, and regulations being one more reason that buildings older than so many years must be torn down for safety of residents and neighbors. So be it, but imagine the kind of noise and debris caused when a building is taken down. Imagine how ugly a sight it is when your neighboring building is torn down brick by brick, mortars bared, dust flying, debris lying everywhere. Huge cranes and excavators tearing away the innards of what was once a living entity, if not alive on its own.

Well whatever is unavoidable can not be helped, but surely it can be made little less unbearable, right? This is the thought evident in all demolitions and reconstructions happening around towns in Japan. Firstly the ungainly sight. The entire periphery is covered with high wall like white boards so that what is happening inside is not visible to people outside. Then, nice pictures come up on the whiteboards, some being imprints of famous paintings, some depicting favorite scenery. The neighborhood actually turns into a lively art gallery.

Paintings on construction site in Ginza, Tokyo
Paintings on construction site in Ginza, Tokyo
Appreciating art - Ginza construction site
Appreciating art – Ginza construction site

Next is the matter of construction vehicles coming and going, causing obstruction. Well that is handled by doing most of the transportation in off hours. Still for the unavoidable times, elaborate arrangements are made to cause minimal inconvenience. A part of the road is barricaded out to let the pedestrians pass by around the entrance area of the construction site. Two employees of the construction farm stand at the two ends of the temporary path to warn / inform oncoming pedestrians about the potential inconvenience and apologize in advance. It is not left to just human employees only, who being human are prone to digressions like hunger / sleep / need to visit the rest room etc. So additionally an electrical simple robot like contraption or at the least an electrical bill board showing graphics of men at work sorry for inconvenience is set up.

Electronic sign board urging caution construction going on
Electronic sign board urging caution construction going on
Robot assisted apology
Robot assisted apology

Still feel it’s not enough? Ok how about adding a little cuteness “Kawaii” in the whole arrangement. Say by means of making the road barriers look like little cartoon figures? Yep that also is not unusual. If things can be made better, why not make better, simple!

Cute barricade
Cute barricade

But for the really finicky out there, a nuisance still remains unaddressed. That is the possibility of noise due to the construction work. Guess what, a real sound meter is often set up on the outside wall that continuously measure and display the decibel sound being produced in the location. Seeing is believing. And so long as the noise is within the permissible limits, you see you are not being disturbed. Convinced?

Noise what noise see it yourself
Noise what noise see it yourself

Well so far we only talked about how any neighborhood construction manages to avoid being inconvenient to the locals. But does it bring any benefit to the locals? Any freebies? I know you are saying that is too much to ask for. But wait, how about a spanking new footpath, a relaid out part of the road in front of the project; not bad isn’t it? Well that is part of the “process” and taken for granted. So ya apart from the possibility of economic regeneration due to new construction of larger dwellings in the area, and possibility of new people setting up home, the renewal all around is more often than not a welcome experience for the neighborhood. So when I said Construction next door – aha, you know now what it is like here in Japan!


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