Tsukuba: Here Be Monsters

Ever since 1973 small tumors have been sprouting at an alarming speed amidst a large patch of untamed green, and every summer an army of vines and bushes fights these lumps to no avail like weakened T-cells at the height of an incurable syndrome. They try in vain to engulf these rotten gray crusts, the external symptom of an inexplicable disease. The origin: a parasite species, Homo sapiens. Diagnosis: progress. Some call it the future.

As seen by the very parasites that inhabit it, Tsukuba—or at least its southern half—is a promise taken from a sci-fi movie. It is here where it becomes apparent that the Triumph of Humankind has reached an apex, and to prove it, rockets and research facilities have been planted here and there, hiding the old rice fields. After all, it was here were the world was supposed to witness how the future would look like—one year before Challenger came down burning like a cautionary tale from the future itself. However, in spite of the shortcomings of evolution, this side of the city decided to remain eternally hopeful. They do not know they are invading this land, for their improvement on the landscape is all they know about the role of humans in time and space. The hordes of children learning to walk across the parks and malls on Sundays are proof of this faith in what has already been accomplished. But of course, they would not venture into the north side of the city.

If Michael Ende’s crumbling Fantasia and the Nothing were to be recreated somewhere in real life, northern Tsukuba would be an ideal candidate. It is home to a university famous for its record amounts of students precipitating from tall buildings every year, as if it were fashionable not only to talk about rain but also to emulate it. A glance into its dorms can make the cheeriest of students forget at once the very purpose of life. Far from every possible source of entertainment, they constitute the last frontier in this territory. The thick forests and mountains of junk surrounding them remind both visitors and residents that Tsukuba is a city on the edge of the world, the last hope if there ever was any. For someone whose home is originally located at the other side of the Pacific or the Eurasian continent, this is the place where old maps should never have removed the “here be monsters” sign. Those who live in this unfortunate zone are reminded every day of their condition of pathogens to nature, having to compete for scraps of space with giant spiders, cockroaches, stray cats and mold. They are the eternal colonizers of a post-apocalyptic backyard where all the unfulfilled dreams of the south were left to rot under the scorching summer sun. There is a particle accelerator somewhere around to remind the miserable dwellers of the north that not all is bad and the future’s still here, but if the south is a tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the north is more of a mixture between Mad Max and Blade Runner. Watch out for the kibble.

This city was supposed to be a perfect plan. Every street, every building, every park, everything was part of an intricate web of urban harmony projected by some of the most skillful architects in the country. Hadn’t Brasilia been built this way too? An oasis of civilization emerging from the savage jungle. And yet people keep hanging themselves in desperation for its deadly lack of chaos. Apparently human beings still need their dose of spontaneity in order to survive. But spontaneity how, if the streets are empty save for the occasional student on a bicycle. Everybody’s locked up, trying to escape from the sight of this wreckage, even if children pop up every weekend as though part of a Huxleyan entertainment program. The future, clean as we may want it to be, degenerates into hopelessness when isolated from real life. Whoever dreamed of this place certainly thought of the future, but probably of a future after the extinction of the human race.

2 replies on “Tsukuba: Here Be Monsters”

The first paragraph made me remember this.wrt the rest of the post… no one has compared you to Rachael, right? I mean, the comparisons with sci-fi characters have to stop at some point.

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