Tetsuo Kobori



Addis Ababa

The experience of leaving my body and dancing until midnight at Azmari Bet, a bard’s pub was an intense sensation that made me forget everything. The sound of the masenqo, a single-stringed bowed lute of Ethiopia, the unique dance rhythms like jellyfish that continuously rocked my body and joints, and the resonance of physical dancing in the dimly lit, crowded, thin air gradually put me in a trance. Just when I thought it was almost over, the rhythm picked up again, and for two hours straight, I drank a distilled spirit called Arak. Addis Ababa is located at an altitude of over 2300 meters above sea level, so it was hard to breathe. It is Azmari Bet that pushes me over the limit.

At noon, we had a meal at Tafari’s house, and at the end of the meal, we had coffee, which is the same as the Japanese tea ceremony culture. At first, we were served with injera, a crepe-like dough made from fermented rice flour, in which beans, meat, and vegetables are stewed and wrapped. The coffee we were served after the meal began with a charcoal fire, followed by roasting the green beans in a clay frying pan, grinding them in a small mortar called a mukeccha with a stick through the beans, and pouring it into a round-bottomed pot with hot water. Bathed in frankincense smoke, I drink a small cup of  Tena Adam, an herb with a strong aroma, steeped in coffee. The taste is a refreshing yet clean blend of coffee and fresh herb, with no bitterness at all.

Yesterday, at the Little Ethiopia, a restaurant in Yotsugi, Tokyo, cultural anthropologist Itsushi Kawase told me about the ritual of inviting spirits into a space through that suffocating, frankincense smoke that I felt in Ethiopia.

Let’s return to the story of Addis Ababa. At noon, Sachiko Nakajima and I went to Fendika, a very pleasant place with a series of irregularly sized spaces that looked like an extension of a barracks (crowded at night with Azmari Bet and live music venues, but a place for children by day), where there were many children and we measured and sketched together. The kids insisted on drawing with the mysterious orientalists, and they were very creative, trading pens and paintbrushes, and the sketches were finished in no time at all. Melaku Belay, the owner of Fendika, was a street child but was saved by growing up in a place like Azmari Bet. He told me with passion that this is why he keeps this place going. He also said that he is an Architect. It was a survey that made me feel with my body that Africa has an origin of life beyond my imagination.






The fear of eternity

I look up at the giant statue of Ramses II from below. The muscular arm and the powerful calf, the gaze watching far of the statue are intriguing. The Temple of Abu Simbel was built by Ramses II and is a rock cave temple made of hollowed out sandstone, also known as “Nubian Ruins”. On the almost square facade, there is a statue of a giant god sitting on four chairs, one of which is Ramses II. Since I came to Egypt, my image of the Egyptian gods changed little by little, and I began to think that architecture began with the fear of human eternity.

Once inside the temple that is dyed in golden and pink, probably because of the color of sandstone, the space is designed to force visitors to pass by the statue of Ramses II, pass through three spaces, and reach the final space. I guess that the composition that converges into a small space as I go deep is because I think that a small place is suitable as a place to protect the king from fear.



Architecture eternity

Along the desert of the city of Meidum, which is located downstream of the Nile, a square Mastaba (a rectangular tomb in ancient Egypt) appeared in one corner. The stereotyped idea that the pyramid is a triangle was broken. It is said that the triangular pyramid collapsed into this shape, but it is more powerful than the triangular pyramid. Looking at the crumbling Meidum’s Mastaba and the steps of Jewel’s Pyramid, I felt that the admiration and cravenness for challenging the architecture limits must have driven the people who built it. How to express eternity in architecture? It is an eternal yearning for those involved in architecture.


In search of the beginning of architecture

I traveled to Egypt!
The reason I go on a journey is because I want to immerse myself in the essential joy of architecture and feel the beginning of architecture in that place. I believe that it will lead to understanding the true meaning of architecture, and the true relationship between humans and architecture, and nature and architecture.




My Spot

My Spot, Winter Kitakama Ridge

“Harmonization of Spirit, Mind and Body is what a human being should be” said mountaineer Reinhold Messner.
“Survival is adventure” said Tsuneo Hasegawa.

On the following day of when Hasegawa got lost in UltarⅡ and came to know Messner’s words, I headed to Northern Alps.I directed myself from Kamikochi to Mount Yarigatake, then arrived at Karasawa in the night.
After getting some water from mountain guards, I pitched a tent in scree, then I saw countless stars made up milky ways and shooting stars in the heavens. Wind was blowing harshly, I went in my tent, lighted a lantern, then relief and warmth had me fall asleep instantly.

In the next morning I went to Northern Hodaka, and it was after two days that I arrived at Mount Yarigatake with going through the deadly Daikiretto Ridge in the midst of Typhoon. Overwhelmed by the view of sky and transformation of the beam of clouds, I felt a lump in my throat and just sank down. By that climbing I certainly became a part of nature and was bitten by the bug of experience of space filled with beam, wind and rocks. As my soul, intelligence and body were exposed to bare natural environment, I came to know clearly what survival means, the weakness of body as well as the sensation of inner calmness.

Later, I met a genius mountaineer D, he taught me the stance of examining things deeply, and steep winter Kitakama Ridge route. Loved Kitakama to the end, D is still sleeping somewhere in Kitakama which he loved the most saying “leave me alone”.

This photograph was taken from a spot height when I climbed Kitakama, I took a lot of photographs aiming to capture the space of complete silence caused by tensed white snow, where the beam was varying constantly.

Now I am estranged from winter mountains, but suddenly the memory with mountaineer D and the atmosphere I felt in Kitakama in that winter crowded in on me when I was privileged to write this essay.

The daybreak from ebony to dark blue, my heart was leaping up “Oh, this could be so called space, thank you D”

1 2 3 4 5