17 May 2010

past impression

Today we were going to the 1964 Olympic park, in the greater Yoyogi park. It was full of people doing park activities, running, practicing sports, martial arts, hanging out. Getting off at the Harajuku station which full of girls dressed up like farmhouse dolls, we got to the Yoyogi National Gymnasium entry gates. The entire space was deserted. This "public" building was inaccessible, all the doors were locked and no security guards were stationed. The building looked like it hadn't been used in a very, very long time. Rust stains flowed down the wall sheathing, the windows were caked in dirt. Only by navigating through the underground labyrinth of tunnels to talk to the property manager were we allowed access to the gymnasium.

The interior of the main gym space was a reflection of the exterior shape, with the large cables suspended between two large columns on either end of the gym floor. The roof structure was draped from the cables to the perimeter walls. The space was impressive, and as we talked to each other and to our reluctant security guard the echoes sounded small in the massive space. Windows lined the top of the walls, above the rows and rows of stadium seating. All the curtains were drawn, and the only light provided was from the few remaining overhead lights over the wooden gym floor.

We cautiously spread out taking photos. I wandered away from the main floor in an effort to get a glimpse of the seating structure from below. I followed a corridor running parallel to the long edge of the main floor, the old florescent lights reflecting dimly on the painted concrete floor. I moved with the structure for about 5 minutes, then realize that I had gotten myself back into the underground corridor system. Everything was unfamiliar, I could not hear the voices of the rest of the group and I didn't know the way back to the main floor. I continued onward, hoping to find a window or any exit signs to get my barrings back. The halls were lit only with emergency lights, all the windows were blocked and doors shut. Restrooms I passed clearly hadn't been used in some time, with rust and lime stains in the sinks and toilets. From what I remembered of the building plan, I knew that these corridors must connect in some way with the swimming pool and administration offices. But in the dim light I couldn't see what was at the end of the halls, and the signs were all in Kanji. Trying to keep my calm, I just kept walking past the rhythm of doorways and water fountains until finally reaching a glass door that was unlocked. I stepped out into the brightest sun, only to realize that I was in a courtyard, surrounded by azalea bushes. I had no idea where the rest of the group was but could see a footbridge running along one edge of the bushes. I pushed, fought my way through up to the stone path. I couldn't figure out which end of the building we had entered in originally, the structural system looked identical on either end. I just decided to keep walking, over and over again what looked like the same path. Finally, I see Catie waving to me from the other side of the building. I was saved.

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