In order to conserve power after the Fukushima nuclear plant disasters, the Japanese have resorted to everything from air-conditioned clothing to allowing businessmen to wear Hawaiian shirts to work in order to stay cool in the summer heat. On a recent trip to southern Japan, we saw the energy saving measures in action firsthand at Canal City, an eye-popping shopping mall in Hakata. Filled with hanging gardens and pools of cooling water, the mall's outdoor canyons manage to keep the temperature down with minimal air conditioning. Click through our gallery to see our exclusive photos of this fantastical space (though we apologize in advance for not snapping any of the Ramen Stadium on the mall's top floor).
Canal City, so named because of its unique design centered around a narrow ribbon of blue water, is a premiere shopping, entertainment and relaxation destination in southern Japan. The complex offers visitors a chance to peruse in 250 stores and also houses a movie theater, amusement facilities, two hotels, and showrooms and corporate offices. There is also live entertainment on the floating platform in the middle of the canal, which can be enjoyed while noshing on some of the mall’s many delicacies which range from Korean kalbi to ramen noodles.
Despite the many delights and conveniences available to mall-goers, there was one creature comfort that was noticeably minimized – the air conditioning (though personally, I actually preferred the moderate temperatures inside the shops to the artic winter-like chill of many American malls). And even though the mall interior was observing energy saving measures, as soon as we stepped into the outdoor area, there was an instant breeze and drop in temperature due to the canal and the canyon-like shape of the buildings. In addition to the water features and wind-spurring design, a series of gardens hanging from every level of the mall produces a heat-absorbing effect.
It’s important to point out that while the canal helps cool the mall, reducing the need for AC, it does require power to keep it running, particularly the fountain show, which we didn’t see even once the whole time we were there (it is supposed to be hourly). Hopefully that means that the show has been put on hold in the interest of conserving energy, at least during the hot summer months. If so, it’s just another small sacrifice that the Japanese people are currently making for the greater good of their country. We commend them for being able to maintain a feeling of hospitality and plenty, as evidenced by this spectacular mall, even during the difficult times they face now.
Photos by Yuka Yoneda for Inhabitat