Photograph: © Akio Kawasumi In Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Marco Polo tells an aging Kublai Khan about the many fantastic places he claims to have visited. One is the metropolis of Thekla, a massive collection of “cranes pulling up other cranes, scaffoldings that embrace other scaffoldings, beams that prop up other beams.” When asked why Thekla’s construction is taking so long, the inhabitants respond, “So that its destruction cannot begin.” Polo might well have been describing the capital of Japan, which Calvino visited in 1976, instead of an imaginary city. Tokyo is a city of a thousand building sites, a vast patchwork of plots on which structures are built, used for a few decades, and then razed. It’s an endless cycle of construction and destruction fueled by social mores, regulations and taxes, although a small but growing segment of Japanese architects are trying to challenge the existing framework. This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty-Two Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 43 Stone Cold A history of spite architecture. Arts & Culture Issue 40 Olalekan Jeyifous On fantastical architecture and sci-fi Brooklyn. Arts & Culture Design Issue 39 What the Duck An introduction to duck architecture. Arts & Culture Issue 37 Beneath the Rubble On the appeal of ancient ruins. Arts & Culture Issue 32 Seven Cuts An umbrella. An octopus. A mask. Tokyo seen through still life portraits. Arts & Culture City Guide Issue 32 Hoshinoya Tokyo A modern ryokan.