For the last three months my apartment building had been encased in an exoskeleton of a gauzy white screen covering scaffolding. Just weeks after we moved in, we were informed that the building would undergo renovations. The building really needed it. There was chipping paint covered in a fine layer of city grime. The concrete balcony floor was exposed. But it was a bummer to have our 8th floor view obstructed so soon after we moved in, especially during the balmy autumn season.
It wasn’t so bad. We were lucky it wasn’t one of the green screens that are most popular around Tokyo. Ours was like a mosquito net and it added a dreamy quality to our view. The most invasive thing about the process was when they came around to do work on the balcony. On those days we had to remove everything out of the balcony. But we were given plenty of warning and the workers were quick and respectful.
All of Tokyo seemed to be covered in these screened scaffoldings. It makes sense since the summer is too hot, humid and rainy. What struck me most about Tokyo construction is that the whole worksite is strictly controlled. In the U.S. most construction sites wouldn’t have the screen. In Japan, it’s a necessity because the buildings are so close together, keeping all the activity, most of the dust and noise to a minimum. There are traffic guards outside the worksite at all times directing pedestrians and construction workers alike. And on some sites I even see large instruments that measure the decibels of noise that the worksite produces.
In contrast, in the U.K. I would see construction sites exposed to passers-by and sprawling out into the sidewalk or street. Often these sites would be unattended for long stretches of time and they’d drag on for months.
Last week the screen finally came down from our building and a few days ago the scaffolding was taken down in two days. All the while, there were clean up crews that swept up the detritus after any recent jobs. And now the view is clear again, just in time for the last leaf on my persimmon to fall.