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Government Buildings

It was a beautiful day yesterday. As winter creeps in on Tokyo I thought it was an obligation of mine to do something with it. Newton, the bicycle, and I took a tour of the governmental heart of Tokyo. I occured to me that I couldn’t live in Japan’s capital for four months and not see its political home. I rode an hour or so to the Chiyoda city of Tokyo, not far from the Imperial palace, and found myself where Japanese diplomacy is done.

Chiefly, Chiyoda is home to the National Diet Building: the country’s legislative arm, Japan’s Congress.
Japan’s bicameral legislature is not only responsible for day to day policy, but also for electing the country’s prime minister, currently Shinzo Abe (Think the in-power Congressional party electing the American President).

The two segments of the Diet are the House of Representatives, currently with 480 members elected every four years, and the House of Councillors, currently with 242 members who serve six year terms. It should be noted that the Japanese Constitution doesn’t dictate exact numbers for congressional representation.

Completed in 1936, the National Diet Building is an impressive structure. Upon further inspection though, its architecture does appear muddled. Hundreds of entries were reviewed and the final plans became a mishmash of many of those entries. It morphed into a modern slice of Italian Renaissance style, East Asian design and Egyptian geometry.

Still, it is worth a photograph and a moment’s delay. The bottom portion of its main hall is fronted by four sturdy columns, of the yellowish stone color of the entire building by which they are surrounded. Above is another layer, similarly designed but narrower in girth, its columns far smaller and six in number. The building is crowned with a pyramid and then a tiny hat that resembles the entire structure in much smaller reproduction. The entire compound is surrounded by a moat of asphalt and a humorless, black wrought iron fence, interrupted by guard stations of similarly yellowish stone.

The National Diet building isn’t far from the home of Japan’s 14-member Supreme Court, which is, beyond membership, similar enough to its American counterpart in responsibility and power. For its own, the Supreme Court building appears from the outside to be an island of boring cement walls, a collection of mismatched, textured expanses of hard rock, like an unimpressively colorless paperweight.

On my way home, I stopped in Minato-ku, which houses a great many important foreign embasses. I found the American Consulate, which I had been eager to do as I felt it was compulsory of me, as a U.S. citizen living in Tokyo. I snapped a photograph of the plainly colored and narrow building, noting that the only clue it wasn’t another Japanese office was the Stars and Stripes hiding limp in the grayish sky. It suddenly felt odd to see the flag in public.

Having become tired of bicycling and been scolded by an Embassy guard for running a red light, I decided to head back home, a few more photographs in my camera.

Jaa ne,

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