Can Factories and Smokestacks Be Beautiful? Japan's 'Kojo Moe' Tourists Think So
Photo: jmurawski, CC
Factory Love Subculture
Factories and power plants are not bad in themselves. Most produce useful things, and provide jobs and financial security to the people who work there and to shareholders (which are often large institutional investors like pension funds). But there are also big problems that need to be solved, like the negative side effects of the processes used to make stuff or energy. Factories and power plants are also considered to be visual pollution by most people, which is why they are usually hidden from view in isolated industrial parks. But not everybody agrees about this last point: In Japan, there is a growing group of people who are willing to pay to get guided tours (and even cruises) of industrial sights.This movement is called 'Kojo moe', which translates to something like 'factory love'. The WSJ has a little video feature about it (warning: pre-roll ad):
The cruises (known as "factory night view jungle cruises") are particularly popular, with boats full even in the winter. Kawasaki and Yokohama, Chiba and the Hanshin area all have cruise services leaving just as the sun goes down, costing around 4,500 JPY ($50) per person for ninety minute tours.
What kind of people are these factory freaks? Photography enthusiasts, of course, and older husbands and wives. However, surprisingly, also groups of females and young couples. Although bay cruises have always been a good place for a date, factory-spotting doesn't on paper sound like the kind of weekend activity likely to attract that demographic. Many of the boat trips include drinks, though, and on-board guidance, which would make it more of an "experience" and enjoyable for all. (source)
I'm a bit skeptical that such a movement will ever be mainstream, but I can understand the appeal. It's a bit like how I feel when I look at a space shuttle launch; I'm impressed by the scale, the engineering, etc. The same can be true of extremely complex industrial facilities, and what's produced there (good or bad) is only secondary to the aesthetic appeal. Either way, I find it pretty interesting.
Here's some more Kojo Moe set to music, straight from Japan:
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