Urban Kyoto

Accompanied by Fosco Maraini’s words, the photographs by Roberto Saba recount the transformation during the past few decades of a city that at first glance appears to be a “mediocre, pseudo-modern city like many others”.

Roberto Saba, <i>Kyoto Urbana</i>. Edifici residenziali nel tratto moderno di Hanamikoji Dori a Gion, ancora oggi "quartiere delle geishe"
While being urbanistically less striking than Tokyo, and despite preserving “unimaginable refinements amongst its secluded gardens and temples” (from Fosco Maraini, Ore giapponesi, new edition, Milano, Dall’Oglio, 1988), Kyoto shares with all other Japanese cities the characteristic of being “mere instruments of life and work, temporary entities which serve their solidly practical purposes”.

To the visitor who does not cross that threshold, who does not enter the temples, the gardens and the few areas which remained unchanged during the feverish economic growth of the post-war era, the ancient capital would appear as a “mediocre, pseudo-modern city like many others”, only moderately benefiting from the impressive but sporadic intervention of architects such as Arata Isozaki and Tadao Ando.

This urban exploration shows a side of Kyoto which results from the city’s transformation during the past few decades and stops on the threshold of a different Japan, where “beauty is an initiatory path, needs to be deserved, is the prize for a long, sometimes painful research, the final intuition, a jealously guarded possession”.

Born and based in Genova, Italy Roberto Saba (1973) is mainly active in architectural and urban landscape photography.

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