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2013-14 Edited by Jonathan Crisman FACULTY

Jonathan Crisman, Dana Cuff, Timothy Unverzagt Goddard, Yoh Kawano, William Marotti, and Todd Presner STUDENTS

Catherine Tsukasa Bender, Ruby Bolaria, Aaron Cayer, Brady Collins, Morgan Currie, Jia Gu, Deonte Harris, Matthew Knauff, John Leisure, Lyo Heng Liu, Kelly McCormick, Kara Moore, Arfakhashad Munaim, Stephanie Odenheimer, Jamie Poster, Jeff Rauch, Mark Simpson, Darci Sprengel, Sarah Walsh, Jadie Wasilco, Elliot Yamamoto, and Yang Yang

Second draft edition, published by the UCLA URBAN HUMANITIES INITIATIVE

1317 Perloff Hall, Room B215 Los Angeles, CA 90095–1467 Copyright Š 2014 by the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative. All rights reserved. The individual contributions are copyright their respective authors. Figures and images are copyright their respective creators, as individually noted. Title page maps were produced by Yoh Kawano using Google Earth imagery. Designed by Jonathan Crisman.





Thinking Through Cities: Prospects for an Urban Humanities Dana Cuff The Right to Shinjuku William Marotti


30 34

48 52

64 68

82 86

96 100

114 118



Radiant Nishi-Shinjuku Jonathan Crisman Underutilized Overbuilt: Skyscrapers and Subterranean Spaces in Nishi-Shinjuku John Leisure, Kara Moore, and Arfakhashad Munaim II.

Mapping the Station Timothy Unverzagt Goddard Sounds of Shinjuku Jeff Rauch, Darci Sprengel, and Elliot Yamamoto III.

Right to the Name Dana Cuff Akichi Undercommons Catherine Tsukasa Bender and Aaron Cayer IV.

The Spaces of Kabukichō Todd Presner Ecologies, Uncertainties, Futures: Sex and Intimacy in Tokyo’s Red-light District Ruby Bolaria, Deonte Harris, Jamie Poster, Matthew Knauff, and Mark Simpson V.

Golden Gai: Shinjuku’s Intimate Public Yoh Kawano A Manual for Intimate Publics Brady Collins, Morgan Currie, and Stephanie Odenheimer VI.

Here and Now William Marotti Urban Nostalgia Jadie Wasilco, Lyo Heng Liu, and Sarah Walsh VII.


Variations on a Future Jonathan Crisman Shinjuku Misguidance, or: How to Identify Specific Geographic Locations for Examination within a 1.5 km Radius of the Shinjuku Station Jia Gu, Kelly McCormick, and Yang Yang




This catalog comprises the work of nearly three dozen scholars, and we are indebted to numerous individuals and institutions for their generous support. In Tokyo, we would like to thank Professors Naomichi Kurata and Arata Endo at Kōgakuin University for their generous hospitality and invaluable expertise. Thanks also to everyone at Atelier Bow-Wow for their warm welcome during our visit. Finally, our sincere thanks to the staff members at the Shinjuku Historical Museum and the Edo-Tokyo Museum for their kind assistance. In Los Angeles, Deans Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., David Schaberg, and Christopher Waterman have been unwavering in their support of the Urban Humanities Initiative. Special thanks to Hitoshi Abe, whose consistent encouragement and guidance has been essential to the success of this year’s endeavors. Architect Kevin Daly’s research studio has coordinated with our initiative over the year, and the work of his students will be exhibited alongside our Shinjuku projects at UCLA’s year-end reviews. Visiting scholars Eric Cazdyn, Momoyo Kaijima, Chris Nelson, Yasuaki Onoda, André Sorensen, and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto provided significant contributions from a variety of different intellectual and methodological perspectives, and their insights greatly informed the development of these projects. Our fellow principal investigators, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Diane Favro, lent insight all along the way not only to the teaching faculty this year, but to the students at multiple reviews. Lastly, our Steering Committee and Affiliated Faculty have contributed both directly and indirectly to bring humanities, urban studies, and design to the forefront at UCLA. In New York, a generous award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation enabled the establishment of Urban Humanities Initiative at UCLA, and the foundation’s commitment to the “Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities” program has been vital to the successful launch of our multi-year undertaking. Mariët Westermann, Vice President at the Mellon, has been both intellectual guide and champion of our work. The continued engagement of Dr. Westermann as well as her excellent staff has had a strong, positive impact throughout the year.We continue to expand our thinking at UCLA through conversation and collaboration with other Mellon-funded teams, particularly our colleagues at Harvard. Our initiative at UCLA is structured as a collaboration with our colleagues at Berkeley, and we benefit from the ongoing dialogue across the two campuses. Particularly meaningful have been an early mapping symposium at Cal and the substantive contributions of Deans Jennifer Wolch and Anthony Cascardi. This volume represents an evolving body of thought, research, pedagogy, and scholarship by faculty and graduate students from across the UCLA campus. We offer it to our colleagues and our wider audience, as we consider the potentials of the field we call urban humanities.





“The hope is that this might be seen as a book of techniques— techniques for composing with creative practice, for composing emergent collectivities, for composing thought in the multiplicitous act.” —Manning and Massumi, ix In the preface to the book Thought in the Act, the authors describe their exploration of art and philosophy as a making together—of writing or painting or building—out of which shared concepts and shared understandings might “breach.” At another point, the notion of writing about dance is turned into dancing around a thought. The agency of the experience mobilizes the agency of emergent constructs, like a whale’s fantastic surfacing. In this manner, Manning and Massumi explore the intermingled nature of creativity and philosophical thought and writing. For us, the teachers and students who created this volume, our dance around history, space, and culture became the project. To focus our efforts, our experiences were imperfectly scripted in order to catalyze those same emergent creativities and collectivities. With an incomplete script that is our program for thinking together, we shared notions of possibility. In fact, we set our experiment in a terrain where no one knew enough to escape unscathed: the city. Two cities, in fact. Starting with Los Angeles, the city we all call home at least for the moment, we then traveled to Tokyo through films, visiting scholars, novels, theory, and fieldwork (we even took an olfactory route, thanks to a performance at the Hammer Museum). Our ship of fools carried urbanists, designers, and humanists, all mapping and filming together. A year of travels is difficult to recount. Our techniques to spark an emergent creativity were called projects and methods—a constant stream of set-ups for which there was intentionally never enough time or information to perform confidently. Instead, we hoped that inspiration and imagination might breach. Beyond this lay an even more audacious hope: that we could guide our informed, creative making toward things that mattered. Could we in fact, undertake projects in the city—in Tokyo in particular—that interpret a past, engage a contemporary social dynamic, and imagine a fragment of some future? The evidence upon which to base an answer to that question lies in the chapters that follow, containing projects, commentary, maps, and a range of illustrative materials. The results emerged from collaborations among groups of individuals who collectively constructed their shared “objects.” It was our conceit that starting with a material place might jumpstart those constructions. Tokyo was far too abstract and far too large, so we landed upon the area around Shinjuku Station. Among the various districts in Tokyo, Shinjuku defies easy understanding. It is an urban cornucopia of difference, including a train station that handles four million passengers daily, an intact postwar black market district at Golden Gai, a large unofficial red light district at Kabukichō, and the modernist, highrise government zone at Nishi-Shinjuku. We dove into this urban melee with multiple techniques of creative practice. Some familiar scholarly methods were deployed, including archival studies, interviews, photo documentation, and mapping. But at least as important was the ongoing sense-making that might have comprised participant



observation in a more traditional context, or in terms from cultural studies: a kind of spatial ethnography. At the best of moments, something more profound took hold, like a collective, cultivated, and notable sense of wonder. Glimmers of this attitude are visible in what follows. LESSONS FROM THE FIELD: ACADEMIA AND THE CITY


Alex Coles and Alexia Defert, The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity (London, UK: BACKless Books in association with Black Dog, 1998).


This catalog marks the completion of the inaugural year of UCLA’s Urban Humanities Initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Mellon initiative’s ambitions guide this year’s efforts, led by Dr. Dana Cuff from Architecture and Urban Design and fellow principal investigators Todd Presner (Germanic Languages, Digital Humanities, and Jewish Studies), Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris (Urban Planning), and Diane Favro (Architecture and Urban Design), along with project director Jonathan Crisman, and historian of modern Japan, William Marotti. The intersection of two contemporary institutions, the university and the city, define the territory for our research while design constitutes our approach. Consider the university first. Within academia, the pressure to undertake collaborative research across departments has increased while the intellectual and structural circumstances have not changed much since 1998, when Cole and Defert’s The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity appeared. In separate interviews, both Julia Kristeva and Hal Foster argued that pedagogy that crosses disciplines either falls prey to jealous maintenance of disciplinary boundaries or the opposite: disregard for the expertise of contributing disciplines. Foster offered what has become a cliche about such collaborations: “To be interdisciplinary you need to be disciplinary first—to be grounded in one discipline, preferably two, to know the historicity of these discourses before you test them against each other.”1 The Urban Humanities at UCLA is an extreme version of crossdisciplinarity, since the initiative spans three distinct divisions within our university: humanities, urban planning, and arts and architecture. Setting aside the logistical hurdles of this structure, the intellectual challenges materialized early on, when graduate students from more than a dozen different departments questioned the pedagogy at every stage. Their questioning over the past year shaped our own thinking as well as our didactic approach, which might be summarized as the elevation of “productive friction,” as a means to avoid Foster’s concern about the undermining of expertise. For example, when the clamoring for fundamentals grew loud (What is the city? How do humanists define narrative?) we resisted offering a single definitive response, since no scholar or expert could possibly offer a simple response to the very questions that generate meaningful debate in the field. Instead, we proposed two or three critical essays to initiate a dialogue. When the limits of some set of methods raised the hackles of skeptics (digital mapping’s emphasis on space or the blindness of fieldwork to history), together we stretched the method to what might be viewed as its breaking point (Could a digital map include ethnographic interviews? Situated fictions?) As the chapter by Gu, Yang, and McCormick demonstrates, scrutiny of our own techniques offered new perspectives on the work. If the university is home to interdisciplinary experimentation, not all experiments are equally compelling. So why focus on the city?


Collaborating across disciplines is only meaningful, we suggest, in the context of questions and problems that single disciplines are inadequate to address. There is no need to engage an anthropologist in the design of a new school if there is wide agreement that the old schools are just fine. No urban historian is needed to grasp the percussive styles emerging from the Caribbean if music theorists already understand its diasporic cosmopolitan roots. The premise that interdisciplinary efforts should focus on unresolved issues led us to megacities, the largest of urban agglomerations over which no single discipline would dare claim command. Neither architects, nor planners, nor historians, nor literary theorists, nor sociologists could either comprehend ongoing transformations of the contemporary city or solve its complex problems. Moreover, the issues confronting megacities are dire, whether we consider social justice, immigration, or environmental degradation. Even those problems that might be considered technological (the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions) are also fundamentally humanistic. Without recognition of collective norms, values, and quality of life, eco-tech innovations remain laboratory solutions at best. Finally, for our initiative in the university context, the many forms of urban scholarship are brought together by design. In other words, historical, interpretive, cultural, and spatial perspectives are woven together by the charge to speculate about the future. At the heart of our version of urban humanities is the colloquial question, “What do you make of that?” To take the knowledge constructed within constituent fields of scholarship to an imaginative level is a sure way to make something out of what we know. This fundamentally requires architects and planners, most of whom speculate for a living, to integrate historical and cultural scholarship more rigorously. Simultaneously, it creates or at least underscores the expectation for humanists to move beyond interpretation to project forward into the future. The pedagogical cocktail of historical understanding, cultural interpretation, and design speculation is undertaken in a studiolike setting, where project-based work is typically housed. Since “design” is both process and outcome, and the term is disciplinarily guarded by architecture, we have chosen to aim for “futurity.” While speculation holds epistemological implications for the evolution of urban humanities, more profound is the directive to create knowledge that will transform cities for the better. This is surely the most difficult mandate for urban humanities, as pedagogy and as practice. The thinking above represents goals shared at UCLA with the Mellon Foundation’s initiative, “Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities.” In 2012, the Mellon selected four research universities including UCLA, along with another group of schools in 2013, to instigate new alliances between design and the humanities around urban concerns. The initiative focuses on the city as it is being transformed during the current era of global urban expansion and aims to explore the forms of collaborative and interdisciplinary knowledge of the urban environment that the urbanized planet will require by midcentury, when 70 percent of the earth’s population will inhabit cities. These grants aim to forge relations between schools of architecture and programs in the humanities, to experiment with the architecture studio as a pedagogic model for the humanities, to



support thought about the large, humanistic questions that arise in dense urban environments, and to promote broadly based research projects in major global cities.2 Our multi-year project, “The Urban Turn: Collective Life in Pacific Rim Megacities,” takes a comparative approach with Los Angeles, our home laboratory, as a constant register for sequential, year-long investigations of risk in Tokyo, identity in Shanghai, and density in Mexico City. At the conclusion of the first year, we reflect upon a number of new questions as well as some conclusions. TOKYO AND RISK


“2012 President’s Report,” The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, accessed May 25, 2014, http:// presidents-reports/2012. See also Marc Parry, “Mellon Puts Humanities in Close Touch with Urban Studies,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 11, 2013, accessed May 25, 2014, 3

“Fukushima Stress Deaths Top 3/11 Toll,” The Japan Times, February 20, 2014, accessed May 27, 2014, http://www.japantimes. post-quake-illnesses-kill-more-infukushima-than-2011-disaster/. 4

Anne Allison, Precarious Japan (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013); Haruki Murakami, After the Quake, trans. Jay Rubin (New York: Knopf, 2002); Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being (New York: Penguin, 2013).


When we wrote our initial Mellon proposal in the summer of 2012, it was just one year after 3/11, when the Great East Japan Earthquake’s triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown devastated the Tōhoku region of Japan. It was impossible to imagine working in Tokyo at that time without acknowledging the overwhelming risk infecting Japanese culture and the environment. Although the greatest damage was wrought some 225 kilometers north of Tokyo, the impacts affected workers marooned in the city by subway stoppage and electrical power outages. And no one with an internet or television connection in Japan or anywhere else escaped the trauma. The pervasiveness of the damage over time and geography was recognized in February of 2014, when deaths from 3/11-related stress topped the deaths directly tied to disaster-caused injury.3 The relevant literature began to pile up: Anne Allison’s Precarious Japan, historical narratives of the Great Kantō Earthquake, novels reflectuing upon the emotional fallout after the 1995 Kobe earthquake by Haruki Murakami or post-Fukushima by Ruth Ozeki.4 The obsession with disaster—in mind and in media, that started our investigations of risk in Tokyo underwent a ten-month transformation, beginning with mapping social media in the Fukushima disaster zone and ending with an exhibition of spatial ethnographies in Shinjuku. By the numbers, it was a busy year, involving two dozen graduate students in the core curriculum and another eight in an affiliated architecture studio, eight faculty, six visiting scholars, numerous films, one symposium, seven public lectures, three open faculty-student seminars, fourteen intensive Summer Institute days, two core courses and one core studio, two intensive workshops with visitors, and eight sponsored seminars. Risk, first formulated in terms of natural and man-made disaster with its partner, resilience, quickly shifted to Paul Virilio’s concept of the accident, then to Ulrich Beck’s ideas about risk and cosmopolitanism, to William Marotti’s postwar political art actions in Tokyo, to Eric Cazdyn’s distinctions between disaster, crisis, and revolution, to even wider and more theoretical ideas of precarity, uncertainty, and futurity. The year’s readings, fieldwork, and projects were captured in shorthand by the paired terms, uncertainty and futurity. Although the anxieties of interdiscipinarity varied by discipline, we shared one dilemma in common: the practical intersection between uncertainty and futurity. Rather than imagine the existential roots of this anxiety, it is worth considering within the particular context of the city, where it raised its head in our studies as evident in the project chapters


that follow, each grapples with this dyad of uncertainty and futurity. If we agree with writers as diverse as Allison, Beck, Virilio, and Murakami, everyday life is characterized by particular forms of uncertainty. The Shinjuku projects uncover some of those particularities. At the same time, we sought to work within that uncertainty to speculate about a future that is neither science fiction nor dystopic. The comparative literature scholar Amir Eshel views the difficulty of speculation as both historically located and existential, when he describes “the predicament of our age: a time overshadowed by a sense that the future, that reliable horizon, might be forever lost.”5

Shin-Shinjuku, New Tokyo, Again. As the title suggests, past, present, and future are woven together and yet we can pull out threads, where the past plays itself again, and the new is again new. In Arata Isozaki’s startling and melancholy collage, “Re-Ruined Hiroshima” (or “Hiroshima Ruined Again in the Future”) (fig. 1) the desolate post-nuclear landscape is inhabited only by the architect’s own younger utopian scheme, now crumpled over in a gesture both wretched and impotent. “Again in the future” is a perilous proposition in modern urban Japan. Between the Great Kantō Earthquake, the Second World War, the burst economic bubble, and 3/11, Japanese cities have endured devastation that seemed beyond disaster and challenged the standard narratives of resilience. Critic, cultural historian, and designer alike stare into the widening jaws of risk with an inversely related sense of agency. What can we “make” of disasters of such immense proportions? How can we “respond?” Responses to disaster, as Eric Cazdyn and Naomi Klein argue from their different perspectives, inevitably embed an acceptance of present conditions. The cascade of forces of disaster and repair require years of effort, political leadership, visionary imagination, and vast expertise. Even still, there are years where nothing happens, and expedience rules. Disaster draws attention, so much so that it is difficult not to look. But risk, like uncertainty and precarity, is in the atmosphere. You can’t find it and yet it seems to be everywhere. As sociologist Ulrich Beck puts it, unlike catastrophe, “Risks exist in a permanent state of virtuality, and become ‘topical’ only to the extent they are anticipated. Risks are not ‘real.’ They are ‘becoming real.’”6 Beck goes on to argue that it is shared and inescapable risk that binds us in our current cosmopolitan moment. Perhaps this is most apparent in megacities like Los Angeles and Tokyo. Each has seen enough


FIG. 1

Arata Isozaki, Hiroshima Ruined Again in the Future, 1968.


Amir Eshel, Futurity: Contemporary Literature and the Quest for the Past (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 1. 6

See Ulrich Beck, “Risk Society’s Cosmopolitan Moment,” in New Geographies 1, ed. Stephen Ramos and Neyran Turan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 2009), 25.


catastrophes to anticipate and try to manage the risk of future disaster. The risk management arena of actuarial charts and securitization leaves humanist concerns out of the equation. But these cities are also the sites of illuminating, imaginative production in the form of film, fiction, art, and popular culture. This wealth of resources have given insight to the Shinjuku projects herein. Thus, if Shinjuku is the new place to stay, the projects in this text make new new places out of Shinjuku. Absolved, or perhaps desiccated, of utopian aspiration the conditions of Tokyo’s present are located in spatial and cultural histories, and inspected for instabilities symptomatic of uncertainty. If all the women who tend bar are aged, who will take over when they are gone? When the next Olympics comes to cleanse the city, how will deviant practices resist? Since spaces of nostalgia appeal to a clientele in Tokyo, what would it mean to take this to the extreme? If immigrant space overlaps to a great extent with the hostess bar district, what would happen if sex worker’s rights took priority? The projects make no claims to solving the problems of Tokyo or managing the risks involved— neither of which is plausible. The projects are techniques, in Massumi and Manning’s sense, “for composing with creative practice, for composing emergent collectivities, for composing thought in the multiplicitous act.” They seek to engage the reader and viewer in thoughtful collaboration that might open the way to imagining new futures for Tokyo, Los Angeles, and beyond. DESIGNING KNOWLEDGE: PRELIMINARY NOTES ON AN URBAN HUMANITIES

University-based study of cities takes many forms, from the design studio common to departments of architecture and urban design, to the traditional research investigation common to seminars. In order to engage the widest range of humanities, design, and urban studies, we created a series of pedagogical alternatives with indicative titles: the Summer Institute, often called a boot camp; short-term workshops with visiting scholars; the Design Seminar, where more traditional academic work of reading and writing was augmented with various types of visualizations and speculative outcomes; and culminating these experiences, a Humanities Studio that reversed the balance of the Design Seminar to emphasize the integrative, speculative project. The past year, consumed by investigations of Tokyo and Los Angeles, has supplied bountiful reflections on “learning through speculative making in the city.” As a preliminary brief on urban humanities, through the year’s work we have come to see the shape of this discourse and protodiscipline in terms of the following issues, some of which characterize interdisciplinary work in general; others are particular to urban humanities. EPISTEMOLOGY

Our original thinking laid out a rather abstract idea about crossing disciplines through the examination of a common object of research, and this idea has been greatly refined over a year of discussion and experimentation. Underlying epistemological grounds can be traced to pragmatists like John Dewey, Richard Rorty, and William James. Following Manning and Massumi’s notion that the agency of experience mobilizes



the agency of creative, conceptual thinking, we can describe a few ways in which “designing knowledge” or “working knowledge” crystallizes. Specifically, these conclusions pertain to knowledge about cities that engages the humanities, architecture, and urban studies. Within the field of education, project-based learning has a long discursive and practical history, and a veritable industry has arisen to feed teachers’ enthusiasm for what are variously called hands-on, real world, problem-driven methods. The work undertaken here may overlap to some extent with that pedagogy, which is generally discussed at elementary and high school levels. In higher education, greater rigor in terms of substantive knowledge and expertise can be expected. Our own efforts are distinguished by a very specific goal: to generate new knowledge by working between the humanities and design disciplines to speculate about the future of cities. To that end, the following preliminary conclusions are offered. Project-based work can produce a catalytic effect among multiple disciplines when undertaken by cross-disciplinary teams. Rather than operational specifics about which we have anecdotal information at best (e.g., the ideal number of members in a group), certain conceptual and substantive implications have emerged. • There are no clear boundaries between methodology, epistemology, and communication or representation. • This notion may seem obvious: to arrive at conclusions that benefit from a range of disciplinary perspectives, the work must be undertaken by individuals trained in different, relevant fields. • The work is best organized as projects with material consequences centered on space, so that teams share focus and end goals. Temporal engagements may emerge from those sites, whether contemporary or historical. • Since urban projects could literally be endless in nature,7 the intensity of a workshop or boot camp format of pedagogy usefully provides “no escape.” When interdisciplinary frustration might drive collaborators to revert to home disciplines, the arbitrary deadline is productive of desired interchange. • Lastly, a “public” audience for the work, as with an exhibition, reinforces the construction of shared knowledge. DISCIPLINARITY

Disciplinarity includes not only the scholarship accumulated within a field, but its discursive practices, its methods, its media, and its terminology. Operating like a subculture within the university, disciplines weave webs of significance that are meant to organize the world for their members but serve also to entangle outsiders.8 When weaving together the contributions of various expertises from the humanities, urban studies, and architecture, particular opportunities and problematics arise. • If cliched expectations—for example, that designers disregard history; that philosophers cannot operationalize knowledge—are not undermined, they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. The right project or object of investigation assists in defying simple distinctions between design and humanities, between projection and criticism, and between scholarship and practice.



Horst Rittel’s seminal characterization of design includes the notion that design problems, unlike those in the sciences, have “no stopping rule.” H. Rittel and M. Webber, “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning,” Policy Sciences, no. 4 (1973): 155-169. 8

The notion of culture as webs of significance comes from Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973).


The contributions of different disciplines in the best of urban humanities work are invisible. That is, the expressions and products differ from and go beyond those of the contributing fields. If the outcome “looks like architecture” or “reads like history” in a conventional sense, then in a strict sense, the project has failed. A corollary to the preceding statement: In the best work, each discipline finds its contribution to the urban humanities approach both essential and inadequate. Among disciplines in the humanities, history and literature figure most prominently and are part of every urban humanities undertaking. Urban humanities realizes the potentials for interdisciplinary knowledge production sited in universities, potentials often difficult to actualize in the absence of such combinatory projects that draw from existing strengths. SPATIAL LOGICS


See Beck, “Risk Society’s Cosmopolitan Moment,” 24-35. 10

Such formations find an odd parallel in the dystopian image of Neo-Tokyo in Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s Akira (1988), where post-apocalypse Tokyo’s built environment achieves truly “mega” dimensions, yet within an oddly hermetic space devoid of the normal human and material relations.


The role of urban, material space within the urban humanities is of particular interest. When the “spatial turn” was acknowledged within the humanities in the 1970s, it emanated primarily from French theory in the work of Foucault, de Certeau, Lefebvre, and Virilio. More recently, space and spatial logics have surfaced in many disciplines due to the potentials envisioned within mapping and critical cartography, and through the promise of Geographic Information Systems particularly within historical research. We contend that this promise has not been fully realized, and that urban humanities can bring new understanding to space as a cultural, historical, material, and critical entity. This is what is referred to here as the “urban turn.” • It takes urban space as a starting point that can reveal complex narratives. This is because urban space itself is the most complex and growing form of contemporary social life.9 • Collective work on megacities is too broad ranging without a spatial focus and a thematic focus, hence the project formation in Tokyo as uncertainty/risk in the Shinjuku Station area.10 • Urban space and spatial representation transcend the constituent disciplines to provide “common ground” for collective thinking. THE “HUMANITIES” IN URBAN HUMANITIES

Fundamental to this collaborative, cross-disciplinary experiment is the construction of an intellectual bridge between architecture, urban studies, and the humanities. We might ask: What does a humanist perspective and its methods bring to the quasi-discipline called urban humanities? At base, it brings an attention to: • Media-specificity and representations. Whether a film, a musical score, a performance, a book, a digital artifact, or something else, the humanities focuses on the importance of the medium and materiality in which the work was produced, encountered, and disseminated. Attention to media specificity also denaturalizes print culture by showing how the history of the book is a part of media history. Media specificity draws on approaches from history


and art history, musicology, literary studies, performance studies, film, critical theory/philosophy, design, and information studies. Narrativity and history. The humanities works with a range of source materials, archives, documents, and diverse artifacts reflecting the complexity of the cultural record. The humanities interprets those artifacts in ways that contextualizes them, draws attention to their historicity and authorship, and places them in comparative perspectives. Narratives employ stories and create histories. These stories/histories are never finished and enter into and out of legibility at different times, for various communities, and in the service of specific ends. Multilingualism. The humanities focuses on language and meaning of the spoken and written word. Linguistic specificity and use matters, as concepts are deeply connected to culture, social situations, communities of use, and place. Language is always embodied and emplaced. Embodiment and identity. The humanities focus on the complex, oftentimes stratificatory aspects of our human identities through attention to race, gender, class, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, age, language, and other optics. We are embodied creatures enmeshed in social dynamics and power structures that privilege certain kinds of speech and bodies, while marginalizing or erasing others. METHODS

Methodology as a topic of debate waxes and wanes within humanist disciplines as well as within architectural scholarship, but has maintained a healthy presence throughout the history of planning. Methods within the humanities have traditionally centered on reading and archival work, though digital humanities have added new dimensions, in particular to methods of history and literature.11 In architecture, the studio operates as an almostmethod, or a protocol for design studies; in urban planning the laboratory or workshop plays a similar function. In particular, the studio is regarded as a collaborative milieu in which problems are addressed through creative, project-based explorations. Mappings, studios, and narrative analysis constitute widely varying approaches to an object of study, yet regardless of the status of method, intellectual rigor remains an unchallenged academic virtue. This itself is difficult to judge in an exploratory enterprise like urban humanities. To maintain a level of intellectual rigor, certain methodological frameworks from various disciplines have been brought to bear, and have simultaneously been forced to collide. By deploying not just multiple methods, but combined methods and perverted methods, the urban humanities is testing various ways of knowing. • Fieldwork, the active investigation into the daily life of cities, is fundamental to urban humanities. It is particularly tuned to cities through the ongoing processes of mapping, photography, film, drawing, and audio-recording. • Fieldwork’s focus here is aimed at everyday life, which as an analytical category necessarily calls for investigation beyond institutional, disciplinary borders. • “Thick mapping” is a primary methodology and form of



See Anne Burdick et al., Digital Humanities (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012).


• •

representation, building upon the Hypercities Project by Todd Presner and Yoh Kawano who are part of the core faculty of the Urban Humanities Initiative.12 Thickness here refers not only to layered information, but to the kind of “thick description” defined by anthropologist Clifford Geertz.13 (Because mapping is so central to our project, it is called out for further discussion in the next section.) The narrative, temporal, shared access, and visual qualities of film make it a particularly relevant medium, as document or source material, method, and representation. Traditional and emergent ethnographic methods can be infused with urban geographies to create spatial ethnography. Our forms of documentation (books, films, websites, exhibition installations, maps) are disciplinarily biased and insufficiently integrated. Moreover, digital media built upon web-based platforms are evanescent. MAPPING AND ITS THICKNESS14


Todd Presner et al., Hypercities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014). 13

Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures. 14

This section was written in collaboration with Todd Presner and brings to bear his expertise on mapping to our construction of urban humanities. 15

James Corner, “The Agency of Mapping,” in Mappings, ed. Denis Cosgrove (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), 213-252.


Mapping is not a one-time thing, and maps are not stable objects that simply reference, reflect, or correspond to an external reality. Landscape urbanist James Corner argues that mappings have agency via their double-sidedness as analogues, that is in their correspondences, and as abstractions.15 Mapping is a verb and bespeaks an ongoing process of picturing, narrating, symbolizing, contesting, re-picturing, re-narrating, re-symbolizing, erasing, and re-inscribing a set of relations. On its most fundamental level, a map is a graphical representation of a set of relations. Maps are visual arguments and stories; they make claims and harbor ideals, hopes, desires, biases, prejudices, and violences. They are always relational, in dialogue or in contact with someone or something. They may or may not attempt to reference, reflect, or represent an “external reality” (however one defines that), but they are fundamentally propositions, suffused with world-views, structuring epistemologies, and ways of seeing. Maps are representations of a world, which reference other such representations. Thickness means multiplicity, extensibility, and polyvocality. Thickness connotes not just “depth” or “layers” but also temporality and polyvalent ways of authoring, knowing, and making meaning. Not unlike Geertz’s notion of “thick description,” thickness is a kind of cultural analysis trained on the political, economic, linguistic, social, and other stratificatory and contextual realities in which human beings act and create. By eschewing any kind of universalism, it is a kind of analysis that is intrinsically incomplete, always under contestation, and never reaching any kind of final, underlying truth. Thick mappings, like thick descriptions, emphasize context and meaning-making through a combination of micro and macro analyses that foster a multiplicity of interpretations rather than just reporting facts or considering maps as somehow given, objective, or complete. Thick maps are conjoined with stories, and stories are conjoined with maps, such that ever more complex contexts for meaning are created. As such, thick maps are never finished and meanings are never definitive. They are infinitely extensible and participatory, open to the unknown and to futures that have not yet come. And perhaps most importantly, thick maps


betray their conditions of possibility, their authorship and contingency, without naturalizing or imposing a singular world-view. In essence, thick maps give rise to forms of counter-mapping, alternative maps, multiple voices, and ongoing contestations. Thick maps are not simply “more data” on maps, but interrogations of the very possibility of data, mapping, and cartographic representational practices. In this sense, “thickness” arises from the never-ending friction between maps and counter-maps, constructions and deconstructions, mappings and counter-mappings. FUTURITY

As discussed above, there is a burden as well as an opportunity built into academic investigations intended to yield speculative implications for the future. If the urban humanities are to have an impact upon our increasingly urban world, whether that be in megacities or small towns, it compels us to reform academic practices not only through the collaboration across the many relevant fields that have something to offer urban study, but also to critique the academic reticence to leave neutral territories of objective research and enter polemics of advocacy. While this might be stating the case in the extreme, at the very least, urban humanities research and speculation requires a conclusion that is positional: the outcomes embody positions about how things should change, how the world ought to be, and what direction the present should take toward the future. Concepts including the next, the future, utopia, and anti-anti utopia were unpacked, some with visiting scholar Eric Cazdyn,16 leading to the following, most tentative of conclusions. This is perhaps the terrain where the praxis of urban humanities work will build both new theory and innovative practices. • The most challenging facet of urban humanities work is speculation, or the projection of scholarship and experience into ideas about the future or at least the next. It relies on something akin to a creative leap, or Popperian conjecture.17 • Speculation is grounded upon the critical understanding of the present. The fundamental struggle is to overcome limitations by present formulations of possibilities, particularly within the abundant imaginative constraints brought about in an era of neoliberal capital. • Scenario or narrative mapping applied to urban life is capable of integrating cultural and spatial observation, traditional research, and futurity through forms of storytelling. • Urban humanities knowledge can be “applied” speculatively. The above are reflections-in-progress about the intersection of architecture, urbanism, and the humanities. The Shinjuku projects by a talented group of graduate students, along with the introductory essays by the contributing UCLA faculty, comprise a demonstration of the reflections —of thought in the act.



Some of these notions are discussed within a medical framework in Eric Cazdyn, The Already Dead (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013). Anti-anti-utopia was developed out of the anti-utopia discussed in Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (New York: Verso, 2005). 17

See Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (New York: Basic Books, 1962).



Cafe La Scala


Transit Corridor

Citizen’s Plaza

Metropolitan Bldg



Yoyogi Park 20 20


.DEXNLFKǀ Golden Gai

Golden Gai

Hanazono Shrine Cafe L’Ambre ECOLOGIES, UNCERTAINTIES, Resilient Kabukicho FUTURES

Shinjuku Station Shinjuku Station







The choice of Shinjuku for our inaugural Urban Humanities Initiative investigation recognizes the area’s signal importance both to contemporary socio-historical and planning perspectives and to the politics and history of Tokyo’s development as an imperial and national capital—and even to its prehistory, when the city was named Edo, and demarcated the Tokugawa Shogunate’s seat of power, a metropolis with a population of a million in the 18th century (metonymically providing the alternative name to the period of the Tokugawa Shogunate, 1603-1868, “Edo”). Shinjuku both figuratively and literally embodies the expansion of the city from shogunal times to the present. During the Edo period, Naitō Shinjuku was situated just outside of Edo at the first post station to the west (its name literally marking it as the new, “shin” station, or “juku”), where the Oume branches off from the Kōshū road. The post station was surrounded with inns and restaurants, but its reputation grew from another kind of entertainment industry. As Amy Stanley has documented, in the eighteenth century Naitō Shinjuku became known as one of the “hill places” (okabasho) for a technically clandestine but thriving sex trade, one whose revenues actually supported the post station itself, and thus the Shogunate’s transportation network. Close connections with proprietors from Edo’s legal Yoshiwara prostitution district increased both after a reopening of the post in 1771 after a decade of closure, and in the wake of reform decrees in 1842.1 In the Meiji era (1868-1912), as train lines connected the domestic spaces of the new nation, a wooden Naitō Shinjuku station rose in 1885, redirecting the gateway status of the area into new modes of technological connection, and framing the station space as its center.2 The station was rebuilt in 1924 after the Great Kantō Earthquake and its fires devastated the city and burned the old structure. Even before the new station arose, the new character of the area was shaped by the opening of the Mitsukoshi Market, opening its Shinjuku branch to service (and profit from) the needs of the disaster’s victims. Multiple competitors soon followed in the newly designated mode of the “department store,” including the first station-based department store in 1927, “Keiō Paradise.”3 The station-centric district also hosted connections of other sorts: literature celebrated it for its borderland identity against the nascent suburbs to the west, as an area of conspicuous metropolitan expansion and linkage. The Dada-influenced writer, Yoshiyuki Eisuke, described its identity in 1930 as neither part of the old Yoshiwara prostitution district nor of the workers of the new era of industry: it resembled Broadway in New York City in its built environment, an “internationalism of ferro-concrete.”4 His 1930 phantasmatic montage still sounds contemporary, but for a few details: Behold the hour when the Devas Who Guard the Twelve Directions of Buddha’s Law report to work. Construction complete: a Bathhouse That Accommodates a Thousand. Undulating Neon. The Olympian Tournament of the Department Stores. Subway under Construction. Radio Loudspeakers Blaring from the Top of Tall Buildings. Fantastic Nights in the Back Alleys of Shinjuku. Skyscrapers like Sculptures Cut from the Sky. Dancers in a Chorus Line. Mannequins Spotlighted in Colored Lights in Show Windows.



Amy Stanley, Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 61, 64. 2

The station sited the Shinagawa line, which was “Japan’s first privately owned railroad and predecessor of the Yamanote line” (the oval line ringing the center of Tokyo). Some fifty people came per day, barring rain. By 1932, this had risen to some 250,000, and 780,000 on Sundays. Alisa Freedman, Tokyo in Transit: Japanese Culture on the Rails and Road (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), 136, 143. 3

Freedman, 144-5. Freedman notes that beyond fine clothes, Shinjuku was also simultaneously associated with the stink of the night soil carriers that traversed its roads. Its imagination remained both urbane and rural for some time. Freedman, Tokyo in Transit, 137. 4

Yoshiyuki Eisuke, “Colorful Shinjuku,” trans. William J. Tyler, in Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913-1938, ed. William J. Tyler (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008), 447.


Swindlers Setting up Shop on the Next Street Corner. A Musical Score for Trombone and Banjo.5 It also became a space on the frontlines of changing customs as well, where the district’s reputation grew for a daily life centered on play, encounter, and desire, all celebrated by writers eager to represent a sellable vision of the modern. As Funabashi Seiichi described it in “Shinjuku Station” (1931), “in addition to being a station, Shinjuku Station is a place for love, play, social interactions, business affairs, and just passing the time.” Yoshiyuki similarly presented a kaleidoscopic vision of speed, Marx, motorcycles, and assignations in his “Colorful Shinjuku” (1930). Internationalism went well beyond cosmopolitan trends, ferro-concrete structures, and steam-powered transportation. Internationalized food and imperial and anti-colonial ambitions featured at the restaurant and bakery, Nakamuraya, whose curry offerings attended owner Aizo Soma’s hosting of the revolutionary and Pan-Asianist, Rashbehari Bose. The curry remains, with but a distant aroma of the radical politics of a hoped-for revolutionary empire. INVESTIGATING THE PRESENT


Eisuke, “Colorful Shinjuku,” 452. 6

Funabashi, quoted in Freedman, Tokyo in Transit, 162.


Now over three million people move through Shinjuku Station’s connections to the (semi-privatized) Japan Railways lines, three private railways (Seibu, Keiō, Odakyū), and four subways on any given day—a flow in, out, and through the transportation arteries and hubs of the area hard even to conceive, and physically demanding to experience at peak times. But more than a transition point, Shinjuku has remained a destination, too, though its area is marked by a highly uneven distribution of visitors from hour to hour, and place to place. Near to the focal point of Shinjuku’s huge station, waves of planning and surges of commercial development have left but a few remnants of earlier periods in alleys and small streets. The clustered high rise offices of Nishi (West) Shinjuku fill during business hours with some 178,000 workers, streaming to and from the station at peak times, but emptying at night to but 5% of the daytime population (many of whom would be temporary residents of the several tall hotels). The thriving commercial areas and nightlife east of the station provides a stark contrast to the rationalized inhumanity to the west. But this is merely to begin to describe, in broad strokes, the thriving chaos and variegation of structure and lived experience of Shinjuku, and its relation to distant and recent history, struggles, and planning. Its very compact complexity made it an ideal location to test the capacities of our inaugural experiment in urban humanities—a hub for all of Tokyo, overwritten with long usage and serial development, iconic for both Tokyo and for present trends in massively complex urban development. The students gradually built their collective understanding of urban humanities in tandem with their knowledge of Tokyo, through months of study and group work with the supervising faculty. Once we had set Shinjuku as the object of study, the students began planning for their intensive investigations, forming some seven groups focused on disparate aspects of the area. Within some basic requirements, and with faculty support and advice, each group framed their specific research topic and planned for their intensive investigations. Each of the following units


thus reflect a distinctive synthesis of topic and method, but together present a mutually informing constellation of investigations highlighting the key aspects of life in Shinjuku, captured in their distinctiveness and interrelation. It is a testimony to the merits of the UCLA approach to urban humanities, considering the newness of the encounter with Tokyo for many, and of the particular interdisciplinary approach for virtually all participants—as well as the briefness of the site investigations. The seven student projects each engage with but a small portion of the daily life of Shinjuku, necessarily. In testament to the strength of the students’ interdisciplinary analysis, however, the projects mutually inform and reinforce one another as complementary perspectives on a necessarily fragmentary, yet deeply interrelated whole. Taken in total, they demonstrate the promise of the urban humanities—as a university-based form of rigorous, structured, collective knowledge—to unfold the complexities of its urban object in ways that exceed the analytical capacity of any one of its disciplinary components. As recalled in our final presentation in this catalog by the group, Shinjuku Misguidance (Gu, McCormick, Yang), MoMA’s 1975 exhibition similarly sought to address the overlaid planning and commercial orientations of the district. Reflecting upon this and similar enterprises, Shinjuku Misguidance foregrounds the reflexive problem of representing such urban complexity and specificity, finding pervasive problems of “oversimplification and over-categorization” and overstated claims of comprehensive and authoritative knowledge, authorizing a too-confident account of the lives and experience of Shinjuku’s inhabitants. In place of this staging of “native” knowledge, and reflecting our own evolving methods of urban humanities, the group shifts their attention to the expert gaze itself. They examine the very conception of travel research and the site, and its relation to tourism and commodification. Taking up three landmarks (Takashimaya, the station, Golden Gai, Citizens Plaza), the group engages an often hyperbolic and parodic series of modes of analysis modeled on the avant-garde display practices of the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City. Having set aside the overconfident voice of authoritative knowledge, the group’s cross-grained explorations of the space demonstrates a playful openness, to which all viewers are invited. And with such an invitation, we ask our viewers to join our reflections upon more than this experiment in cross-disciplinary analysis: it is an acknowledgement of all of our capacities to reflect upon the process of “writing the city” through daily experience and engagement. You may join the strolling outliers amid the channels of striding commuters; you may equally and simultaneously join the numbers of those who have sought, through a multitude of ways, to catalog and measure and thus grasp the city. And finally, you may recognize your own archetypal experience of knowledge, discovery, and navigation in the city in the partial outcomes and unexpected trajectories hinted at here. And you may in turn grasp your own role in writing its content, as is your right. The Sounds of Shinjuku investigation (Rauch, Sprengel, Yamamoto) recalls the historical centrality of the station itself as unprogrammed meeting space that brings people “together” while posing formidable physical challenges to their actual mutual encounters (prewar, the station




William Marotti, “Japan 1968: The Performance of Violence and the Theater of Protest,” American Historical Review (February 2009): 97-135.


often figured in stories as a rendezvous point for assignations, a space for staging the drama of made or missed personal connections, thanks to the ease of mistaking gates or locations). In a broader sense, its new vast scales exacerbate such problems, as millions pump through the station each day, its modernist hyper-functionality threatening to transform the textures of urban life into a streamlined blur of non-interaction. In this space, the Sounds group pauses to consider one dimension of these flows: the interactions of the scripted and unscripted in the sonic landscapes of the station. The group’s investigation hearkens to the cacophonies and rhythms created by the streaming throngs within the built environment. In mood and in body, these already-mobile visitors to the station are pulled mid-course by the sounds of commerce, unconsciously navigating—and being steered—by the daily hum of passersby and the canned music which colors the blank spaces of the arteries and capillaries of circulation. In investigating the intentionally (though often competing) overlaid and variegated sonic textures marking the station’s space with the sounds of money (to paraphrase Attali), the Sounds group lends an ear to the possible unprogrammed rhythms arising within such fabricated moods and cajolements. Counterpoint and occasional discord might mark the workings of a human space of possibility beyond mere mechanism, and (per Attali, as quoted in the Station piece), perhaps heralding times to come. If Shinjuku Station has a history other than that of sheer functionality, its western precinct of Nishi-Shinjuku appears like a fever dream of modernists, where human space has been segregated into planning ideals and antiseptic spaces. “Underutilized-Overbuilt,” the key phrase of the group investigating this space (Leisure, Moore, Munaim) identifies the very paradox of this space, and its generation of high density without recognizable human inhabitation. Here the group identifies the aftermath of a conjuncture between dominant planning visions in general and a specific history of contestation centered on Shinjuku itself. In 1968, activists occupied barricaded university campuses while protests coursed through the streets. Mass politics had followed in the wake of a discrediting of government force following notorious riot police brutality in January, facilitating attention to activist concerns about Japan’s involvement in America’s Vietnam War. It was in Shinjuku that the government regained its initiative. Protests against daily transshipments of jet fuel (destined for attacks on Vietnam) through this busy commuting rail nexus were met by a riot police responses carefully choreographed to demonstrate “restraint.” Their invocation of the anti-riot law (for the first time in 16 years) traded on the stereotypical unsavoriness of the district itself to mold press and public opinion against the protesters, and back on the side of the government.7 Yet other forms of activism focused on the possibilities of urban space itself as a site of resistance to a fatal planning—and Shinjuku’s actuality as a mecca for counterculture. Continuing months after many of the university occupations had been broken, the underground plaza of the west gate of Shinjuku was regularly colonized by a singing, convivial “folk guerrilla” gathering, dissenters who met on Saturdays to raise their voices in alternatively joyous and satirical song—marking the space with their own practice, while revealing its usual impoverishment of experience. After a series of riot police attacks, the tuneful protesters were finally evicted in


a combined act of policing and redesignation. As Yuriko Furuhata notes, the final assault of 2,500 riot police on July 20 was preceded by the Keiō and Odakyū Railway companies quietly changing the plaza signs from “West Exit Underground Square” (hiroba) to “West Exit Underground Passageway” (tsūro).8 This maneuver allowed the imposition of regulations criminalizing assembly and mandating mere passing through (thus trumping a constitutional right with a municipal regulation). In contrast to this vibrant, countercultural space, the empty plazas that would later grow about the towers rising to the west of the station came instead from regulatory incentives: building permits delivered a height bonus to planners who included a plaza at the base. Like bare areas under trees, the resultant underutilized overbuilt condition would destroy the contiguity of the streetscape. Our hosts, the Kōgakuin faculty and students, have been studying the resultant problems for years. But as theorist Maeda Ai reflected in 1984, the hyper-planning and resultant, unpleasant spaces demonstrated the unity of functionalist planning with social control, and with this particular history of dissent.9 If post-1960s Nishi-Shinjuku realizes a mega-city vision of vertical order and flows, its sterility testifies to the anti-human, anti-urban nature of that vision, which loses the very essence of the urban in its relentless drive for order and function. An excluded, abject supplement to this vision returns to make use of these areas at night. The Akichi Undercommons group (Bender, Cayer) examines the lives and practices of the homeless who make impromptu use of these underutilized spaces. Various encampments have been serially targeted for removal by the state, including the cardboard box village of the 1990s by the West Exit, an abject inheritor, perhaps, of the folk guerrilla movement, after the bursting of the economic bubble at the end of 1989. The often stunning art adorning their cardboard dwellings failed to deter the authorities from removing them entirely in 1998.10 Considering this population as an “undercommons” in contrast to the designees of the “Citizens Plaza,” we hear the abusive terms directed at them by celebrants of the successful Olympics bid, identifying them as outside of the human community of the nation: as “hikokumin,” traitors whose presence detracted from the nation Olympically imagined. The group asks us to consider the exclusionary logic of both “public” and “public space” from the perspective of this remaindered group, questioning the radically uneven partition of inhabitants, land, and state services, and challenging us to imagine something better. Two projects investigate spaces which evidence a paradoxical marginality and centrality to the identity of Shinjuku. The first (Bolaria, Harris, Knauff, Poster, and Simpson) shines a light on the thriving fūzoku sex industry of Kabukichō, whose centrality to the district’s identity takes on the form of a disavowable supplement: constitutive, yet both disavowable and (as in the case of the 1968 riot police action) available to characterize the area as a whole.11 Ironically, the fūzoku colloquialism adopts the very term used in Edo by regulators to describe proper “manners and customs . . . the orderly behaviors that the ruling class thought appropriate for commoners: diligence, thrift, sobriety, and humility” that were allegedly endangered by the sex trade.12 And indeed, in a sense the daily life of the area has taken on the meaning of this disavowed, central



Yuriko Furuhata, Cinema of Actuality: Japanese Avant-Garde FIlmmaking in the Season of Image Politics (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013), 193-5. 9

Maeda Ai, “Urban Theory Today,” Current Anthropology 28, no. 4 (1987): 101-104. 10

Photos commemorating these lived-in artworks can be found online at php. 11

The use pattern between daytime and night in Kabukichō rather duplicates that of Nishi-Shinjuku, in reverse. 12

Stanley, Selling Women, 121.



Eisuke, “Colorful Shinjuku,” 446. 14

Which join a long-standing pattern hardly unique to Japan, in which problems of capitalist modernity are projected as problems about women and desire. See Miriam Silverberg, Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006). Araki’s further references to a “lucky hole” (ambiguously a “peep show” or “glory hole,” cited by Presner herein, alongside parallel considerations of the ambiguities of the “radically unspecified vagina”) might somewhat queer the identification of Kabukichō with the female sex organ. 15

Timothy Yun Hui Tsu, “Black Market, Chinatown, and Kabukichō: Postwar Japanese Constructs of ‘Overseas Chinese,’” positions: east asia cultures critique 19, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 145. 16

Ibid., 148. 17

Technically referring only to the two streets of the Golden Gai Merchants Promotional Association, the name commonly describes this entire, small area of some 250 establishments.


trade in the eyes of many of its describers. If photographer Araki Nobuyoshi describes Kabukichō directly as Tokyo’s vagina in 1990 (cited in the text by Bolaria, Harris, Knauff, Poster, and Simpson), writer Yoshiyuki Eisuke’s 1930 description of Shinjuku at large as a woman’s foot tightly shod in a slipper might too be read as a slightly displaced bodily reference.13 Or perhaps better, such references14 might be taken as (misogynist) generalizations about abjection, leaving open a reconsideration of the interweavings of Kabukichō with other spaces such as the Koreatown of Shin Okubō to the north, and the gay nightlife and fūzoku of Ni-chōme. Of course, as Timothy Yun Hui Tsu notes, negative versions of this abound, with the recent popular presentations of “Kabukichō as an entity marked by Chinese-ness, criminality, and non-Japanese-ness.”15 Once again, the image of the national finds an other: the involvement of Chinese gangs in this underworld, together with foreign sex workers, allow municipal and national politicians to speak of Kabukichō “as a symbol of the internal ‘Chinese threat.’”16 The group catalogs the current regulatory web and distribution of associated enterprises comprising contemporary fūzoku in Kabukichō, and consider the implications of its future through media apart from our typical scholarly fare. Bolaria, Harris, and Poster produce an imagined regulatory framework for a Kabukichō some years into the future. Simpson and Knauff note the recent, ominous intrusion of a 50-plus story skyscraper, part of the plans for the Olympics, via a series of postcard vignettes. Both imagine possibilities for the area in which its identity is embraced, whether by a return to pre-1957 legalization (prior to its criminalization, Ni-chōme had hosted an officially licensed, red-light district, or akasen, since 1932) or through affirmative campaigns of art or Olympic sexuality. The difficulties in conceptualizing these outcomes index the character of Kabukichō within Shinjuku itself; indeed, the projects challenge us to do more than this, and ask us to imagine the manifold consequences of the possible return of this repressed, yet massively present, other. The Intimate Publics group (Collins, Currie, Odenheimer) investigated the similarly marginal and indexical area of Golden Gai. A former seedy area of “catch-bars” and illegal (aosen, blue-lantern) fūzoku (set up after a series of cart vendors had been evicted from an area near the station during the early postwar, reinforced by the closures of the previously legal Nichōme brothels in 1957), the area has subsequently acquired an exclusive and even international reputation for its tiny bar spaces.17 With each space acquiring a character set by the proprietor and clients alike (frequently, writers, poets, actors, manga cartoonists, comedians), many persisted over successive closures and iterations (see Kawano’s introductory remarks on Kawatarō, which inherited a stream of members from the defunct Sakaba Gakkō, or Boozer’s School). But as famous proprietors retire or pass on, and patron groups drift away, the area’s status has remained in question. The area’s reputation for extreme exclusivity (and an earlier reputation for roughness) have given way to a different kind of scene, as new proprietors have reached out to new groups, and especially an international community of travelers, to secure new business for the area. Such efforts have engineered a recovery: where empty rental spaces seemed to herald the


beginning of the end, now would-be proprietors must bide their time on the realtor’s waiting list until an open property becomes available. Ōtsuka Takashi (aka Taq-san, a longtime proprietor and media figure) has discussed the microecology of Ni-chōme, “the world’s number one gay town,” and the fragile dependency of its heterogeneity upon multi-bar migrations across nondescript and seemingly unimportant spaces. With knowledge gained over decades, he cautions that a small disturbance in prices, customers, and/or rents could effect a catastrophic collapse of the area and a loss of its distinctiveness.18 Golden Gai’s small establishments similarly manifest a microecology, and the Intimate Publics group challenges us to recognize its dimensions with the thought experiment of their “manual” for its reproduction. In turn, their reflections on the conversations that are fostered within such intimate spaces challenges us to reevaluate their comparative worth against the huge yet anti-dialogic spaces elsewhere in Shinjuku. We could make no more fundamental error than to view Shinjuku and the urban experience solely in terms of scale and populations—there would be no surer way to disregard the human dimensions of its inhabitation. The Urban Nostalgia group (Liu, Walsh, Wasilco) considers the tensions between the memorialization of an earlier Shinjuku and the experience of the present in their explorations of practices of memoration and consumption. The (apparently) red velvet interior of theme cafes and the roped-off displays of museum spaces both summon an image of a past way of life tempting in its power to present, through the haze of nostalgia, an intimation of a contradiction-free time of compelling wholeness.19 The pervasive referentiality to such pasts can displace the possibility of actual engagement within the present, a false reconnaissance that stands in the way of the thing itself. As the group points out, the spaces nonetheless cater to real needs, and give rise to intimate interactions and communication. The challenge is to somehow imagine an active process of engaging with memoration, or of reading the possibility of different, recalled temporalities. Their “bubbles” provide a fittingly evanescent image for the quest for such human commitments within the urban space.



Ōtsuka Takashi, “True Tales from Ni-chōme,” in Queer Voices from Japan: First-Person Narratives from Japan’s Sexual Minorities, ed. Mark J. McLelland, Katsuhiko Suganuma, and James Walker (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007), 256-7. 19

Pleasantville (Dir. Gary Ross, 1998) provides one of the clearest thematizations of the violence of nostalgia’s false memory in its dramatizations of the exclusions structuring the tv-land of 1950s America.





An image of the Yodobashi Water Purification Plant is strange, difficult to place. It seems innocuous at first, something like a photograph of a computer chip (fig. 1). Then you see roads and buildings and you realize its sheer scale. And it is made only more striking upon a visit to present-day Nishi-Shinjuku, a mostly sterile but intriguing collection of skyscrapers, comprising one of the tallest neighborhoods in Tokyo. At what point did we become unable to develop urban fabric at a scale commensurate with the extent of available land? Upon further inspection, the image of the site under construction in 1971 with the in situ Keio Plaza Hotel half-finished bears a familiar resemblance to other images that have no relation to the photographed world (fig. 3). The super-wide roads woven over each other with the super-tall slab buildings hint toward Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Hochhausstadt, an unbuilt plan for a high-rise city designed in 1927. And the surrounding urban fabric, of such a comparatively minute scale, hint toward a more vexing unbuilt precedent: Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin, a violent proposal for the center of Paris which destroyed much of the existing urban fabric to build a grid of super-high-rise buildings and ultraefficient roadways (fig. 2). While Nishi-Shinjuku required no significant demolition, its development in the ‘60s ensured that its construction was beholden to the internationally accepted ideologies of modern architecture. Speed, efficiency, maximum capacity, the primacy of the automobile, and the urban ideals of CIAM were the watchwords by which Nishi-Shinjuku was designed and developed. This is a familiar tale, woven in city after city around the world. The following chapter by Leisure, Moore, and Munaim provides a rebuke of such dehumanizing urban development. It is a familiar critique: from Jane Jacobs’s championing of the messy, unplanned Greenwich Village to the whole of the postmodern project in architecture (beginning, as Charles Jencks has argued,1 with the demolition of the modernist housing project Pruitt-Igoe in 1972), we have become inoculated, numb to critique of modernist architecture and urban design. The following chapter, however, does something more than lament the loss of the home we remember from our youth, or attempt to recreate some kind of nostalgic urban past as so many critiques of modernism do.2 Instead, it weaves in the very contemporary discussion on risk and resilience, bridging to a speculative proposal that is more about a future than a past. In a way, it is the ideal chapter to begin our book because it takes the issues of risk and resilience— which were starting points for us all—and kept with it, dealing with the issues head on. It also demonstrates an ability to shift the conversation around risk from so many numerical measurements of potential disaster, from the actuarial reality that scholarly writing cannot seem to escape, to the substance of everyday life in unexpected circumstances, of the unexpected, unusual, and not-so-every-everyday. In order to understand their subtle maneuver, however, we need to first understand modernism on its own terms. Modernism is a complex mesh of many threads identified variously, depending on who is doing the talking. Its origins may trace from the technical capabilities that emerged during the Industrial Revolution, allowing for building in iron and glass, or perhaps even as far back as from the self-aware structural acrobatics performed in Gothic cathedrals.


FIGS. 1 & 2

Yodobashi Water Purification Plant (top) and Plan Voisin, Le Corbusier, 1925 (bottom).


See Charles Jencks, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 1984). 2

See, for example, the various publications by the Congress for the New Urbanism.


FIGS. 3 & 4

Hochhausstadt (Highrise City), Ludwig Hilberseimer,1924 (right) and construction of Keio Plaza Hotel,1970 (left).


See the more recent edition, Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (New York: Penguin Books, 1985). 4

Congress internationaux d’architecture modern (CIAM), La Charte d’Athenes, trans. J. Tyrwhitt. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 1946). 5

Ibid. 6



Whatever the case, the most dominant ideology of modern architecture found its way around the world via CIAM, the Congrès internationaux d’architecture moderne, an organization of architects and urbanists that lasted from 1928 to 1959. Members included figures such as Le Corbusier, Richard Neutra, perhaps the most influential figure in the creation of California Modernism, and Walter Gropius, whose tenure at the Harvard Graduate School of Design was influential in spreading modernism across the United States. At a point when cities were bastions of disease, filth, and poverty—captured in the popular imagination by Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel qua exposé The Jungle—and as two world wars decimated cities around the globe, this group of designers championed a movement to dramatically transform cities so that they were healthier, more equitable, and cleaner places to live.3 Hardly an agenda that seems deserving of the vitriol their built work has since received. Their ideas were perhaps best demonstrated in Le Corbusier’s Charte d’Athènes (1933) pulled from CIAM’s conclusions after their fourth congress.4 The book included studies of several cities and pulled from these a set of guidelines for how urban development should occur, divided (like the urban separation of uses it demanded) into the titles living, working, recreation, and circulation. It espoused the density and open space provided by towers among parks: “Highrise apartments placed at wide distances apart liberate ground for large open spaces.”5 In familiar fashion, it called for an efficiency of movement: “Heavily used traffic junctions should be designed for continuous passage of vehicles, using different levels.”6 And to complete the circle, this document was the basis for Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse, and later, his Plan Voisin. The issue with modern architecture and urban planning—and, by proxy, Nishi-Shinjuku—was that they were too successful. So complete was the separation of uses, so efficient were the means of circulation, and so great was the ratio of tower height to park space on the ground that it became the victim of its own success. The wide and multi-layered streets in NishiShinjuku are a joy to drive on, spacious and affording quick, straight routes through the neighborhood. If only they didn’t fragment the pedestrian life so ingrained into Tokyo’s urban life. The connectivity from transit, to open space, to office is so efficient, allowing easy entry and exit from the neighborhood as the salaryman’s daily commute demands. If only it didn’t facilitate such dramatic and complete evacuation during non-business hours. In a strange twist, Leisure, Moore, and Munaim demonstrate that in


contrast to our otherwise accepted notion of uncertainty as a negative, for Nishi-Shinjuku, it is precisely the over-determined certainty that creates a deadening environment devoid of urban life. In the example of development air rights which typify this trend, so precise and successful was the tradeoff between FAR and “public” plaza7 that the super-highrise and the spacious plaza only exacerbated this lifeless condition: as they call it, “underutilizedoverbuilt.” The certainty of Nishi-Shinjuku echoes the certainty of crisis described by Eric Cazdyn: “that this preemptive desire functions to produce disaster and crisis.”8 Just as the opportunity for a new city opened up upon the destruction of the Yodobashi Water Purification Plant, so too did preemptive tendencies ensure that Nishi-Shinjuku would be total in its management of flows: flows of people, of vehicles, of capital. And as Cazdyn warns, that desire for the thing abhorred produces an inevitable surprise when its success implicates our own hand in its demise. In the case of NishiShinjuku, its demise comes not from its assured material condition— resilient to the end of a great earthquake as the only “stay put” evacuation zone in Tokyo—but rather through its never-ending, undead life, crusading on in utmost certainty despite all of the signs that point to its unloved condition. In the end, Leisure, Moore, and Munaim propose an alternative future based not on changing structures within Nishi-Shinjuku but by interfacing with what one could call its actor-network.9 Their “Nishi-Shinjuku mesh network” provides an open-ended, tactical means for its denizens to move laterally across its heavily defined paths in the same way that Michel de Certeau identifies the possibilities that manifest as people individualize, alter, and coopt imposed structures in the practice of everyday life.10 As their personable comic character becomes ingrained in everyday culture, and as their network becomes modified, hacked, and embraced throughout Nishi-Shinjuku, one can easily imagine a resilience based not on the soft and hard systems of insurance and rebar, but on human interaction and spatial appropriation. In contrast to the rationalizing, unyielding forms of modern urbanism, one can introduce the playful irrationality of human nature and the potential for queer, alternative, other spaces. The following chapter establishes that perhaps there is an uncertainty apart from the one we fear, one which can transform the city of our darkest desires into an urbanism of possibility.



Leisure, Moore, and Munaim here refer to the standard highrise development practice of trading open space on the ground for a greater allowable building height, popularized in New York City after the 1961 introduction of FAR, or Floor Area Ratio, zoning. This practice, which gave up many zoning controls in favor of a simplified ratio between lot size and total building floor area, was adopted in Japan in the 1970s. 8

Eric Cazdyn, “Disaster, Crisis, Revolution,” The South Atlantic Quarterly 106, no. 4 (Fall 2007): 658. 9

Actor-network theory seems to be a meaningful framework to complement issues around the everyday for this chapter as the authors propose their game-like system for human, environmental, and technological interaction. See Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to ActorNetwork-Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). 10

See Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984).









(1) FIG. 1

Diagram of vertical levels in NishiShinjuku: (1) underground transit corridor, (2) grade level street network including building footprints, (3) extruded high-rise structures. By the authors.

Nishi-Shinjuku is a subsection of Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo, Japan. It holds some of Japan’s tallest buildings, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (242m) and the Shinjuku Park Tower (235m). The daytime population of Nishi-Shinjuku is 178,000, while Shinjuku Station services 3.3 million people daily.1 The interaction of this massive daily migration of people to and from Nishi-Shinjuku with the vertical built environment represents our object of study. Central to this investigation is a subterranean transportation corridor that extends 800 meters from Shinjuku Station’s West Exit to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Built solely for pedestrian traffic, this corridor is the primary pathway by which people move from the station to their destinations in high-rise buildings. The transit corridor and its programmed space (retail shops and restaurants) is highly determined and designed to accommodate surge traffic (morning commuters and lunchtime patrons). Outside peak commuting times, the transit corridor and programmed space are sparsely used or entirely vacant. The discrepancy between the availability of space, designed for maximum capacities, and its frequency of use (or, more often, lack of use) results in what we term an “underutilized overbuilt” urban condition. The modern planning of Nishi-Shinjuku, which valorizes rationally organized space and a separation of use, produces a condition in which the urban environment is unable to respond resiliently to disruptive events or be easily reconfigured for other uses. Future planning methods must take into account its underutilized everyday space and build in site-specific resilience within the context of its larger urban ecosystem.


Naomichi Kurata, “Shinjuku” (lecture, Kogakuin University, Tokyo, March 24, 2014).

FIG. 2

Map of Nishi-Shinjuku highlighting route of underground transit corridor. By the authors.




Shinjuku’s early development as a post town around the turn of the 18th century occured along the Kōshū Kaidō—a route that extended from Nihonbashi in Tokyo to Shimosuwa-shuku in Nagano Prefecture. The built environment was characterized by low-rise wooden structures, primarily inns, abutting the main road. Until 1963, when building heights in Tokyo were no longer limited to 31 meters, skyscrapers like the ones found in contemporary Nishi-Shinjuku were non-existent.2 Beginning in 1968, reclamation of land from the Yodobashi Water Purification Plant created a tabula rasa within Nishi-Shinjuku that allowed for centralized planning and the construction of skyscrapers. A building incentive scheme operating in the planned area (56 hectares) provided for more vertical floor area with the creation of publicly accessible space or plazas within the site.3 The Mitsui and Sumitomo buildings are products of this scheme, although the use of their public space is radically different. Mitsui’s plaza has outdoor seating and is programmed with restaurants that are activated by an influx of patrons during lunchtime (fig. 6), while


In Japan, the 1919 Urban Building Law limited building height to 31 meters, which allowed for low and mid-rise buildings. In 1963, revisions to the Building Standard Law (1950) eliminated the 31 meter height requirement. 3

“Urban Development in Tokyo,” Asian Human Network Databank, accessed May 29, 2014, db/datas/9_transport/udt_reference2_en.pdf.

FIG. 3

Yodobashi Water Purification Plant. Source: Centenary of Modern City Planning and Its Perspective City (Tokyo: City Planning Institute of Japan, 1988).

FIG. 4

Construction of Nishi-Shinjuku subcenter and Keio Plaza Hotel on land formerly used by the Yodobashi Water Purification Plant, July 23, 1970. Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Government, 2007-2014.



Sumitomo’s plaza (fig. 5) is unprogrammed and does not allow for a variety of uses. Mitsui’s plaza is seen as more successful because it engages pedestrians. However, it is activated primarily by office workers and remains underutilized in the morning and at night. The plaza incentive scheme, in conjunction with other technical factors such as the need to compensate for shadows cast by skyscrapers, recessed the skyscrapers from the sidewalk and creating a discontinuous urban experience. Pedestrians walking at street level often experience empty space between the sidewalk and buildings as they proceed in between or along the superblocks. In contrast, buildings situated north and east of Shinjuku Station abut one another, creating a continuous urban experience and increasing the number of pedestrian touch-points along the sidewalk. Retail and restaurant space that would normally take advantage of a continuous skyline must be sited elsewhere in Nishi-Shinjuku. Except for a small area southwest of Shinjuku Station, space programmed for restaurants and retail existed either within the skyscrapers themselves or in underground arcades serviced by the subterranean pedestrian transit corridor. The basement levels of skyscrapers, including Mode Gakuen and Kōgakuin University, are directly accessible via this corridor. We identified several exit typologies in the subterranean corridor that led to various programmed outcomes (fig. 7). For instance, the exit to Mode Gakuen led to a multi-level bookstore (single-programmed space). Other exits led to passageways that connected buildings further afield and contained numerous retail shops and restaurants (multi-programmed space) or led directly into building lobbies (unprogrammed space). In the morning, the programmed space was unused as people were concerned with arriving at work. Sporadic usage occurred throughout the day, with the bulk of patrons appearing briefly at lunchtime. The interaction between the subterranean transportation corridor and programmed underground space in conjunction with human actors who

FIGS. 5, 6, & 7

Comparison of two public plazas at lunch hour: Sumitomo Building plaza (top) and Mitsui Building plaza (middle). These plazas are connected by the underground pedestrian corridor (below). By the authors.

Mitsui Building


cra ys sk to ram t i g ex pro no

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1 to xit te m ec rogra r i d p no

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/b1 ll es by e e ma ac lob ac ac nd sp sp er d sp ou med op p r ra me sh med rg am c l i e s nd gr ky ram eta ram o r og o u pro o s og it t pr it t le it t pr ex ngle ex ultip ex gle n i i 4 5 s m s



JR Underground Passage

EXIT TYPE 1 Skyscraper Lobby

EXIT TYPE 3 Underground Mall

EXIT TYPE 4 Single Programmed Space

EXIT TYPE 2 Direct Exit to Street



EXIT TYPE 5 Retail Shop

generally only exhibit two behaviors—commuting and eating—contributes to the area’s underutilized-overbuilt condition. Space, regardless of whether it is at street level or underground, experiences only a fraction of its potential use, is only activated at certain times of day, or remains entirely vacant, a surprising thing given the area’s massive daytime population. UNCERTAINTY IN THE PRODUCTION OF SPACE

Modern planning regimes that emphasize rationally organized space and a separation of use with rectilinear superblocks produce a spatial condition that becomes monomodal and inelastic over time. As a result of redevelopment planning, pedestrian traffic in Nishi-Shinjuku has been pushed below ground and into subterranean transit corridors, while attempts to use space in ways other than intended have been suppressed. Ensuring the free flow of people moving from their primary means of transit—subway and rail—to commercial office towers has erased them from the street. To say that modern planning theory alone is responsible for the production of space and certain human behaviors in Nishi-Shinjuku would ignore the ways in which political and social agendas have shaped space and created a sense of place. The preference for “flow” over any other type of activity can be traced to the late 1960s. As described by Jordan Sand in Tokyo Vernacular, the West Exit of Shinjuku Station was originally named FIG. 7

Cross-section of Nishi-Shinjuku showing vertical separation of pedestrian traffic. By the authors.

a hiroba or plaza. The folk guerrilla movement interpreted the hiroba as an area having the potential to form “‘a community of encounter’ rather than merely an open space or the space of transit it was clearly designed to be.”4 Subsequent clashes between protesters occupying the plaza and municipal police resulted in a victory for the police. The referendum on unintended action inspired by the name hiroba was clear: “civic gatherings would not be allowed to impede the smooth flow of office workers that sustained Japanese corporate capitalism.”5 It is ironic that high-rise office buildings incorporate plazas through the incentive scheme, while attempts to spontaneously use any space as a plaza have been suppressed. The underutilized-overbuilt urban condition is therefore symptomatic of a dual tendency—the rationalization of the built environment and the rationalization of human activity. Space is not inherently monomodal or inelastic, despite design or intent, but becomes so when experimental activities or attempts to incorporate alternative behaviors are systematically discouraged. Nishi-Shinjuku is officially designated as a “stay put” area for disaster planning purposes, but how people will actually utilize that space during a disaster or how well staying put will contribute to survivability during a disaster of extended duration remains unexplored and unaccounted for in disaster planning.


FIG. 8

“Western Exit of Shinjuku Station,” Tokyo, 1969. Source: Yamada Shuji, from the series “Nihon mura” (Japan Village), 1969. 4

Jordan Sand. Tokyo Vernacular: Common Spaces, Local Histories, Found Objects (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 41. 5

Ibid., 44.


FIG 9.

Uncertainty, composite map. By the authors. This page, clockwise starting from top right: Section of NishiShinjuku’s underground transit corridor exit, in relation to a photo of commuters in the corridor, and instances of underutilized-overbuilt space in corridors, stairwells, and above ground. Opposite page: Plan of the West Exit and underground transit corridor, in relation to the nine superblocks of Nishi-Shinjuku and the Keiō Plaza Hotel (not at the same scale).






Naomichi Kurata, “Shinjuku” (lecture, Kōgakuin University, Tokyo, March 24, 2014).

Conversations with faculty at Kōgakuin University who attempted systematic disaster planning exercises in Nishi-Shinjuku and sheltered victims of the March 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake revealed that only a few thousand out of the approximately 200,000 people in the area knew how they were supposed behave or were systematically accounted for during a stay put scenario. Despite the availability of on-site power generation facilities or places of temporary shelter in high-rise buildings or underground, there is no direct line of action between availability of space and alternative use. The homeless community in Shinjuku, also explored in another project within this book, provides a concrete example of people who attempt to reconfigure the rationalized space of Nishi-Shinjuku for uses other than intended—namely, habitation. While the daytime population of NishiShinjuku is 178,000, the nighttime population is only 5,000.6 It is not a space intended for domestic life, but anticipates the daily migration of commuters from places of residence outside of the area to places of work within the area. Despite this, there are hundreds of homeless people who daily construct and deconstruct temporary shelters in plazas, parks, or underground spaces and survive in Nishi-Shinjuku despite its design. Survival is possible, but not inevitable. Rethinking the interaction of rationalized space and human social networks is the first step in contributing to site-specific resilience within Nishi-Shinjuku.

FIG. 10

“Carton as an overnight bedroom in Shinjuku station.” Source: Karl Johaentges.




Taking Nishi-Shinjuku as a test case for such a site-specific resilience, we propose an animated character, tentatively called “Hi-Nichijō Boy” (literally, Non-Everyday Boy) who serves to highlight the underutilizedoverbuilt urban condition and represents a framework for exploring alternative spatial configurations and behaviors. Hi-Nichijō Boy is composed of two elements: (1) anamorphic narratives projected onto existing spaces, and (2) embedded images that serve as systematic prompts for conversation. Hi-Nichijō Boy engages commuter denizens through verbal and pictorial narratives that attempt to capture attention without significantly disrupting their pre-existing routines and would be located at various points of engagement—a light pole, a transportation card, or on a milk carton. New behaviors and possibilities form by calling the everyday into question rather than demolishing it outright. The idea for such a device stems from the use of media as heuristics for alternative uses of space, while also providing a visual and rhetorical frame for information generated through dialogue. In Japan, manga and anime lack the childish associate of animation in the United States and are often used for official purposes apart from entertainment. For instance, informational signage in Japan is often conveyed through what Western audiences might consider cute, illustrated characters. Similarly, Hi-Nichijō Boy would serve as a visio-rhetorical prompt for engaging the built environment in Nishi-Shinjuku in a way that is playful but not frivolous.

㠀 ᪥ ᖖ

FIG. 11

“Hi-Nichijō Boy” graphic. By the authors.


Hi-Nichijō Boy works in tandem with a mesh network that would provide an adaptable information infrastructure and a digital space for dialogue. A mesh network is a type of wireless network that relies on peerto-peer communication of particpants without the need for any external or overarching infrastructure.7 Mesh networks provide an effective and seamless connection that relies on a number of access points or wireless hotspots. These access points are overlapping and redundant, while also serving to extend the network over a wide area. As such, they provide for both expandability and resilience under normal use or during a disaster. A report produced by Jo da Silva for the Institution of Civil Engineers addresses the idea of resilience in disaster recovery. Da Silva notes that the complexity of urban ecologies “and the implications of cascading failure due to the interrelationships between infrastructure, institutions, and ecosystems” demands our attention.8 Our proposal for a mesh network is as symbolic as it is literal: the peer-to-peer communication provoked by the device of Hi-Nichijō Boy is mirrored in digital space to create mechanisms of communication which liberate Nishi-Shinjuku’s denizens from failures of infrastructure, institution, or ecosystem. The mesh network is about a robust and multiplicitous discourse from person-to-person as it is about the digital



Eduard Glatz, “Wireless Mesh Networks: Introduction,” accessed May 29, 2014, http://www. ATCN/ws06_07/doc/WMN-BasicsWS0607-print.pdf. 8

See Jo da Silva, Shifting Agendas: Response and Resilience (London: Institution of Civil Engineers, 2012), 5.


FIG. 13

Futurity, composite map. By the authors. This page: (top left) Mesh network digital interface. (bottom left) Site specific operation of mesh network including user, node, and interface. Opposite page: (top right) HiNichijō Boy embedded on an everyday object. (bottom right) Using Hi-Nichijō Boy to activate mesh network.


#underutilizedoverbuilt 㠀᪥ᖖ


The underutilized-overbuilt urban condition is therefore symptomatic of a dual tendency—the rationalization of the built environment and the rationalization of human activity.

Space is not inherently monomodal or inelastic, despite design or intent, but becomes so when experimental activities or attempts to incorporate alternative behaviors are systematically discouraged.

Nishi-Shinjuku is officially designated as a “stay put” area for disaster planning purposes, but how people will actually utilize that space during a disaster or how well staying put will contribute to survivability during a disaster of extended duration remains unexplored and unaccounted for in disaster planning.

LOCATIONS _Sumitomo Building _Mitsui Building _Underground Transit Corridor _FamilyMart


Walking through the pedestrian passage...

The digital thick map consists of three seminal layers providing a framework for an implied artistic action.







protocols which enable this discourse to transcent space and, in particular, space which is disrupted within a catastrophic event. In the end, our goal with Hi-Nichijō Boy and the mesh network is to buck the histories of hard surfaces and modern effciency with a soft system which, in contradistinction to the actuarial systems of capital mentioned elsewhere in this book, is based on human interaction, narrative, and everyday life—especially in the context of non-everyday situations.

㠀 ᪥ ᖖ








On July 1, 1931, the urban ethnographer Iwata Yoshiyuki documented all of the advertisements inside of Shinjuku Station. He counted a total of one hundred and ten signs, posters, and neon signs adorning the walls of the station, which he divided into the following thirty-one categories: 1. railway companies 2. tourist bureaus 3. recreational travel 4. hot springs 5. doctors/hospitals 6. cafes 7. inns 8. land for sale 9. magazines 10. medicine

11. soap 12. soy sauce 13. horse racing 14. restaurants 15. sweets 16. rhododendron guides 17. face powder 18. department stores 19. movies 20. milk

21. tooth cleaning 22. beer 23. mahjong 24. typewriters 25. safety weekly 26. children’s clothes 27. cacti 28. lottery 29. barber shops 30. furniture 31. advertising companies


Kon Wajirō and Yoshida Kenkichi, eds., Kōgengaku saishū (Modernologio) (Tokyo: Gakuyō shobō, 1931), 145. 2


This taxonomy of station advertisements makes possible a reading of Shinjuku Station that transcends its purely functional role as a place of transit, describing instead a “sphere of culture and customs” (bunka fūzoku ken), to borrow the words of Iwata and his collaborator, Yoshida Kenkichi.1 Ten days after cataloging the advertisements in Shinjuku Station, Iwata did the same thing in Tokyo Station, creating a cultural juxtaposition between Shinjuku Station, the “emergent station” (shinkō eki) of the Yamanote, and Tokyo Station, the “central station” (chūō eki) of Marunouchi.2 The



Miriam Silverberg, “Constructing the Japanese Ethnography of Modernity,” Journal of Asian Studies 51, no.1 (1992): 36.



Rebecca Solnit, “Introduction: On the Inexhaustibility of a City,” in Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 1. 5

Julie A. Buckler, Mapping St. Petersburg: Imperial Text and Cityshape (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 9. 6

Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982), 38.


results of Iwata and Yoshida’s research appeared in the November 1931 issue of Advertising World (Kōkokukai), and included two intricate, handdrawn maps of the stations. The precise location of each advertisement is indicated by a square, with a line snaking out to a description of the advertisement scrawled in miniscule writing. While Iwata’s maps include exits, ticket gates, and waiting rooms, these points in the stations are most significant for their relation to the placement, number, and type of advertisements. In the case of Shinjuku Station, for instance, the reader’s eye is immediately drawn to the top of the map, where a profusion of lines emanates from the two rows of advertisements that line the walls between the ticket gate (on the left) and the stairs leading down to the underground passageway. Shifting the focus to the ethnographic dimensions of the station, this cartographic method exemplifies the emergent discipline of urban investigation that its founder, Kon Wajirō, dubbed “modernology” (kōgengaku) in the late 1920s.3 Like these scholars before them, Jeff Rauch, Darci Sprengel, and Elliot Yamamoto consider Shinjuku Station as an object of cultural investigation, but their research probes the auditory cues of transit and consumption rather than the visual language of advertising. Rauch, Sprengel, and Yamamoto began their five-day documentation of the station by mapping the interstices between its commuter and consumer spaces. In sonic terms, these in-between zones are marked by cacophonous collisions of competing imperatives. Catch the train (and don’t be late)! Linger in the store (and buy something)! These claims discipline users in their navigation of the station, while overpowering other voices that struggle to be heard above the fray. Between the train jingles and the muzak, though, Shinjuku Station remains a place where huge crowds of people converge. To map Shinjuku Station by its sounds is to recognize the subjectivity of the individual in the crowd, to move beyond the imposed order and consider how else the station might be conceived and experienced. In both the advertising map and the sound map, the subjectivity of the cartographer is paramount, determining the framework of the station’s representation. “A map is in its essence and intent an arbitrary selection of information,” writes Rebecca Solnit, and her words hint at once at the limitations and possibilities of mapping as method.4 In her atlases of San Francisco and New Orleans, Solnit looks attentively and empathetically at urban space while acknowledging that something will always elude the cartographer’s gaze. Solnit’s work alters the reader’s conception of the city through provocative juxtapositions and narratives, revealing that which is obscured in other representations of the same place. The Shinjuku Station literary sketches of the late 1920s and early 1930s, an inspiration for Rauch, Sprengel, and Yamamoto, are perhaps too fleeting to be termed narratives. They do, however, evince an intense engagement with the station as the locus of modern life. Examining the station through this lens, authors such as Ryūtanji Yū and Funabashi Seiichi transform urban space through literary representation. The footsteps of passersby establish a natural tempo that is unique to the district. The station becomes a convenient spot for a business meeting, an amorous rendezvous, or mere idling. To diverge from the received logic of Shinjuku Station is to contest the power structures that produce its space. Cartography is intimately bound up


with these contestations. As Julie Buckler argues, “maps are disingenuous about their own rhetorical nature, professing scientific disinterestedness, but they nevertheless reflect choices about inclusion and exclusion and, therefore, represent a set of interests or power relations.”5 The complexity of Shinjuku Station prompts a desire to reduce it to its essence, but what is that essence? Must futurity be limited to a vision of harmonious commuting and consuming, devoid of the messiness of human interaction? Or might a map of the station disclose new and unforeseen possibilities? Coming from the disciplines of ethnomusicology (Sprengel) and architecture (Rauch and Yamamoto), the three group members respond to these questions with an enduring concern for the subjective experience of the individual. How do people make sense of their surroundings? How do they make their way through the station? Sound can confound and overwhelm, but so too can it comfort and excite. In prompting a reconceptualization of the station, sound challenges cartography’s preoccupation with the visual. Mapping the station also holds consequences for how the district of Shinjuku, the site of investigation for all of the projects in this catalog, is conceived. Shinjuku Station is the physical center of Shinjuku, exerting a gravitational pull on the surrounding area. People arrive at the station, wait in and around the station, and pass through the station to arrive at different areas in Shinjuku. In the words of Roland Barthes, “the station gives the district the landmark which, according to certain urbanists, permits the city to signify, to be read.”6 Conversely, the administrative district of Shinjuku Ward resists such conceptualization. It encompasses 18.23 square kilometers, reaching out to Yotsuya on its eastern limits, but it extends south only to the Kōshū Kaidō (the east-west road dating to the Edo period that runs through the station) before giving way to Shibuya Ward. Shinjuku Station is necessary, first, for the legibility of Shinjuku. Yet as Rauch, Sprengel, and Yamamoto argue, Shinjuku Station also embodies the tensions and possibilities of the district. All one has to do is listen.







For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the center of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world . . . —Charles Baudelaire FIG. 1

Shinjuku Station West Exit Underground Gate. Photo by authors.


Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, trans. Jonathan Mayne (London: Phaidon, 1964). 2

Alisa Freedman, Tokyo in Transit: Japanese Culture on the Rails and Road (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), 136. See also John Brannigan, New Historicism and Cultural Materialism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 189. 3

Ibid. 4

Ibid., 138. 5

Ibid., 140. 6

“Thus, the double character of the Japanese modernization process can be detected in the dynamics of the station areas: productivity, control and efficiency as authorized by the state’s ideals, on one side; informality, escape, opportunism, initiated by private enterprises, or even by unauthorized endeavors, on the other.” See Jilly Traganou, “The Transit-Destination of Japan Public Space: The Case of Nagoya Station,” in Suburbanizing the Masses: Public Transport and Urban Development in Historical Perspective, ed. Colin Divall and Winstan Bond (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003), 293.



The conventional narrative of Tokyo’s modernization, like so many such narratives, involves many catalysts beginning at the end of the 19th century and continuing through the 20th to see the rise of a middle class, commercial and consumer markets, and an integrated physical infrastructure. Yet between the lines of this narrative is embedded a host of micronarratives, stories revolving around individuals’ changing and often uncritically ignored subjectivity. Perhaps captured best by the example of Baudelaire’s flâneur, describing and constructing the subjective experience of modern urban life was itself crucial for the stabilization of the individual in the crowd and the individual in the increasingly complex matrix of physical and social urban modalities.1 For Shinjuku, that things like mass-produced goods, concepts such as the urban living room, and arrangements like a department store would connect (for convenience!) to a train station, seems inevitable, but such technological determinism ignores not only the systems of polirical and capital power at play, but also the role of the individual’s subjectivity in shaping common, or shared cultural narratives. Japanese authors from the 1920s and 1930s disseminated narratives that embodied the structure of the subjective experience through magazines and outlets that were increasingly focused on writing on topics that were close to the emergent middle class. Stories about urban modes of living, of the value of industrial products and consumption, of the changing currencies of gender and class such as shopping in the new stores of the station, dating, and socializing informed and not only the readers but, in turn, the very urban structures that they were inscribing. As literary scholar John Brannigan has written, “A literary text is not a passive vehicle of ideological meaning. It generates and multiples meaning and therefore must be accounted for as an active participant in the process of fashioning and interpreting society, culture, and history.”2 It is this structure of modern urban experience, of the confluence of ann idealized stable subjectivity amidst the increasing complexity and uncertainty of modern life, in which our study is situated. SHINJUKU STATION

The advent of mass transportation catalyzed momentous change in the social, cultural, and physical fabrics of Tokyo.3 Not only was rail a form of infrastructure that supplemented pedestrian commuting, it also made for opportunities for novel forms of hybridized urbanity and “public” space. Shinjuku Station’s modern history and physical construction is the confluence of various interests, including the property and spaces for transportation and commuting and for recreation and consumption. At even its earliest formation, as mentioned earlier in this book, Shinjuku was associated with the combination of trade and transportation:


in 1698, the Tokugawa government designated Naitō Shinjuku as the first post town along the Kōshū Kaidō, one of the five official highways accessing Edo. “Naitō” refers to the propertied clan that ruled the territory and shin-juku literally means “new lodging.” It became known as a popular post town for lodging, eateries and the various peoples traveling through (samurai, townspeople, monks, nuns, entertainers, beggars, prostitutes). By 1885, a little more than a decade after Japan’s first rail line was made, Naitō Shinjuku Station was opened as a stop along Japan Railway’s Shinagawa line, the predecessor to the present day Yamanote line. Into the early 20th century the station was renamed Shinjuku Station and rail lines were added to service the emerging suburbs west of Tokyo. Thus, in their early forms, Japanese train stations were “manifestations of the informal areas of commerce and play found in Edo-period cities and symbols of Meiji-era modernization projects promoting new urban behaviors.”4 After the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923, the station’s foundations were destroyed and the town lost nearly 4,000 homes.5 In 1925 the station was rebuilt as a two-story reinforced concrete terminal as part of a largescale reconstruction plan, which focused not only on repairs but also on the creation of new roads and the unification of Tokyo’s train stations. Within the next ten years Tokyo would also incorporate five suburban districts, and four different large-scale shopping vendors would open in Shinjuku, near or in the station. First was the Hoteiya Department Store which opened east of the new concrete station; second, Matsuzaka opened the first “terminal department store” on the upper level of the Keiō train station in Shinjuku; third, Matsuzaka staffed the first station shops in Shinjuku Station; and finally, the Mitsukoshi Department Store opened an eight-story building with three basement levels in front of the station in 1934. These developments, spurred by the opportunity for rebuilding in the wake of the earthquake, reflected many important trends, including the growth of suburban and middle class populations, the need to expand and organize a greater rail network, and the densification of train stations and their immediate surroundings so as to contain commerce and retail for the new crowds. These developments, focused largely through official Tokyo reconstruction plans, further concretized the development patterns that would continue after World War II and through the postwar era. After the destruction of WWII, in Tokyo’s next cycle of economic and physical rebuilding, Shinjuku Station went through its most recent phases of construction which largely took place in the 1960s. This decade signaled the rise of Japan’s corporate economy, which is reflected in the developments of the station. In 1962 and 1964, respectively, the Odakyū and Keiō department stores opened on the west side of the station. In 1966, the West Exit of the station, which contains the entrance to an underground concourse, a below-grade entrance into the station, and an above-grade entrance into the two department stores, was completed. Later, in 1976, 1987, and 2006, three more department shopping centers opened around the station, the three Lumine branches. The replacement of most rail systems with subway systems during this time corroborated the station’s physical development. Entrances to spaces for retail and spaces for commuting became shared and inextricable. Within these spaces currents of people going to and from department stores, station shops, and platforms produce


FIG. 2

Representative timeline of developments in the history of Shinjuku Station. Produced by authors. 1680 1689 Tokugawa government designated Naitō Shinjuku as the first post town for travelers leaving Edo along one of the five official highways accessing Edo.

1857 Naitō Shinjuku, Yotsuya Gate, Western Entrance to Edo by Utagawa Hiroshige. Woodblock print. 1872 The first railway in Japan opened, operating from Shinagawa to Yokohama. 1885 Naitō Shinjuku Station opened along the Shinagawa Line.

1906 Second Shinjuku Station built out of wood, top left. Postcard. From Alisa Freedman, Tokyo in Transit: Japanese Culture on the Rails and Road, Stanford University Press, 2011.

1910 Keio Electric Tramway established

1913 Keio Line connects Chofu, a Western suburb, to Shinjuku Station

1923 Great Kantō Earthquake destroyed the foundation of the Station. Image taken from the top of the Tokyo Imperial Hotel. From George A. Lange Collection.


1925 Shinjuku Station rebuilt as a two-storey, reinforced concrete terminal. From Station Shinjuku, Shinjuku Historical Museum, 1993.



Selective timeline of developments in history and in narratives of media. 1923 1923 Mitsukoshi Market opened in Shinjuku to assist and profit from earthquake victums in the area


1927 Matsuzaka department store opended a branch on the upper levels of the Keio train station in Shinjuku. It was the first “terminal department store”.

1929 Ryūtanji Yū’s “Shinjuku Sketch” is published in Kaizō. Photograph of the station’s message board. From Tokyo Asahi Newspaper.

1931 Funabashi Seiichi’s “Shinjuku Station” is published in Bungaku jidai. Cover of the issue published. From Alisa Freedman, Tokyo in Transit: Japanese Culture on the Rails and Road, Stanford University Press, 2011.

1932 First state shops in Shinjuku Station began service. They were staffed by Matsuzaka department store employees. Interior photograph of station, 1928. From Station Shinjuku, Shinjuku Historical Museum, 1993. 1934 Mitsukoshi department store opened eight-story, threebasement building in front of the station.

1935 Ogawa Takeshi’s guide and tips for dating in the Station. Published by Marunouchi Publishers. From Freedman, Tokyo in Transit, Stanford University Press, 2011.



hotspots of activity. If not a fundamentally new form of urbanism, this was certainly an extreme extension of an urbanism marked by the hybridity of efficiency and leisure, of transportation needs with the opportunities of retail and entertainment.6 It is this state of complex physical space and design from which narratives and stories about Shinjuku Station centered their expression on the subjective experience. As a setting of Japan’s early efforts of modernization and of early modern literature, train stations like Shinjuku’s were often depicted as “ordinary spaces that [became] the haunts of authors and journalists who sought to depict, even exoticize, the sensations of living in the crowded city. In words based on personal observation, they emphasized that Tokyo’s rapid spatial, social, and cultural transformations were apparent in Shinjuku Station, and that there was something especially modern about the commuters and couples seen there.”7 As mentioned before, the device that signaled modern literary technique in both fiction and non-fiction was the descriptive mode of narration associated with the flâneur. Participating in this global literary trend, which included authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf, Walter Benjamin, and Alfred Doblin, short format pieces called urban sketches became a popular form of publication. Short, plotless, and descriptive, the first-person narrator shows and tells readers what is and can be seen in the everyday of urban settings. Of particular significance to this form is the simulation of subjective experience as its mode of expression. Three sketches in particular center on Shinjuku Station and display such a structure. Funabashi Seiichi’s “Shinjuku Station” (Shinjuku eki), illustrated the many functions beyond transportation that the station served. Funabashi gives an account of the waiting rooms as well as the second floor eateries and station platforms. As Funabashi’s piece makes the station an icon of Tokyo daily life, it “epitomizes the way urban sketches published in commercial magazines used details from daily life to shape readers’ emotional and intellectual reactions to the city.”8 Hayashi Fusao’s “One Hour in a Train Station” (Teishaba no ichijikan), narrated by a young investigative reporter, documents the activities of the waiting rooms on a Sunday afternoon between 1 and 2 p.m. Most of the sketch is devoted to observations of men and women who represent different sectors of Tokyo’s population (blue-collar laborers, middle class businessmen, working women, students). Also, instead of relying on factual sources to describe the station, Hayashi actually cites other writers and their accounts of Shinjuku. Interestingly, he makes it very explicit the role that writers have in producing the city to an audience of readers. And lastly, Ryūtanji Yū’s “Shinjuku Sketch” (Shinjuku sukechi) rehearses the most explicit examples of simulating subjective experience. The first-person narrator calls himself the “author,” speaks directly to readers, sometimes addresses them as different groups based upon specified interests, and stops at particular moments along his verbal tour in order to point out particular sights and sounds of Shinjuku Station. Furthermore, Ryūtanji is noted for his unusual linking of descriptive noun phrases. Listing numerous images of things, like worn-out shoes, wooden billboards, mosaic glass, and fruit mirrored in shop


windows, Ryūtanji’s phrasing heightens the sense of immediacy. Compared to montage and avant-garde filmic techniques, Ryūtanji’s phrasing puts images together “in a way that condenses the narrative and emphasizes the symbolic meaning of individual sights and sounds.”9 We argue that such seemingly innocuous inscriptions of first-hand experience are, in fact, datapoints in a landscape of information about the emergence of cultural conditions—in this case, of modernity in Shinjuku. We propose to build upon this historically rich dataset of narratives with a key input to the human sensorium which is often overlooked: sound. SOUNDS OF THE STATION

For twenty-five centuries, Western knowledge has tried to look upon the world. It has failed to understand that the world is not for the beholding. It is for hearing. It is not legible, but audible. Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise. —Jacques Attali Life is full of noise and it is only death that remains silent.10 For centuries, however, the study of sound was frequently limited to the analysis of music in isolation, or sound as text. Little attention was paid to the complex and dynamic relationship of sound as it occurs, interacts, and even constitutes physical space. The last twenty years, however, have witnessed an increased interest in the complex interplays between sound, geography, and architecture. Gallagher and Prior have argued that the practices of listening, playback, performance, and distribution deserve much fuller use within geography.11 The study of sound produces distinctive data and modes of engaging with spaces, places, and environments that can be used in different (and complementary) ways to more commonly used media such as written text, numbers, and images.12 In his study of music at the Mall of America, Jonathan Sterne observes that music becomes a physical presence and fundamental part of the mall’s infrastructure, akin to electricity and plumbing. This music fosters the creation of a particular kind of experience. Rather than simply filling up an empty space, music becomes part of the consistency of that space: “The sound becomes a presence, and as that presence it becomes an essential part of the building’s infrastructure.”13 A closer look at sound and its relationship to space can allow us to identify influences of particular social, cultural, and historical contexts in which the production and consumption of sound take place. Thus, looking at the sonic environment allows us to see (hear) different, alternative narratives of a given space. Sound is especially useful for revealing hidden or marginal aspects of places and the people who use them.14 A look at sound as constitutive of space can help us account for what Lorimer describes as “our self-evidently more-than-human, more-than-textual, multisensual worlds,” in ways that add considerably to the scope of questions researchers can ask, leading to new possibilities for understanding the world we live in in more nuanced ways.15 In a place as complex as Shinjuku Station, sound is a fundamental factor, structuring user experience and use of the station. Announcements detailing train arrivals and departures blare on loudspeakers in the ceilings, computerized bird chirps indicate the presence of stairs, and short jingles signal the impending departure of a train. Many of these sounds go




1962 Odakyu Department Store opened. 1964 Keio Department Store opened. 1966 Odakyu Department Store expanded. Construction photograph. From Station Shinjuku, Shinjuku Historical Museum, 1993.

1964 West exit of Shinjuku Station square completed. Construction photograph. From Station Shinjuku, Shinjuku Historical Museum, 1993. 1968 Screenprint piece on Ōshima Nagisa’s film Diary of a Shinjuku Thief. A product of countercultural ambitions, handheld and blurred camera work represented the visual patterns of dynamic urban experiences. From artist Tadanori Yokō and MoMA.

1969 Still from Funeral Parade of Roses. A frank depiction of sex and Japan’s gay subculture, this film’s experimental structure mixes narrative sequences with documentary footage, and affects film’s eradication of the boundaries between fiction and reality.

1972 Shinjuku Lumine department store opened.

1987 Shinjuku Lumine 2 department store opened.

2006 Shinjuku Lumine Est department store opened.





FIG. 3

Axonometric model of the whole station. The floor plans of department stores and train platforms are shown with their physical connections and graphically coded by propertied associations. Drawing by authors.


FIG. 4

Top, turnstiles; middle, ticket machines; bottom, ceiling speakers for train anouncements. Images produced by authors.


Freedman, Tokyo in Transit, 117. 8

Freedman, Tokyo in Transit, 163. 9

Freedman, Tokyo in Transit, 170. 10

Jacques Attali, “Noise: The Political Economy of Music,” in The Sound Studies Reader, ed. Jonathan Sterne (New York: Routledge, 2012), 30 11

Michael Gallagher and Jonathan Prior, “Sonic Geographies: Exploring Sonographic Methods,” Progress in Human Geography 38 (2014): 268


unnoticed, or are drowned out by the shuffling of feet and din of chatter that compete for sonic space and audibility in such a confined aural environment. In the station, there are three broad sound types: 1) commuter sounds, 2) commercial sounds, and 3) ambient sounds. Commuter sounds include train announcements, the beeps from machines, and train jingles (among others). These sounds are intentional, directed, and amplified. They are mostly synthetic, computer-generated sounds. Computer-generated sound is more easily audible above the din of other noises present in the station because, due to a lack of overtones, it contrasts sharply with manmade sounds, such as talking and shuffling feet. The lack of overtones makes each pitch more piercing and clear in contrast to other sounds in the station. Furthermore, the amplification of announcements, which are recordings of speech, deny visual representation of the speaker and give announcements an aura of authority. These sounds direct user movement and manage flows throughout the station. They are associated with increasing the efficiency of the station, which may move thousands of bodies through a small space at any given time. For example, a commuter flashes her rail pass at the gate sensor and knows to continue moving forward at the sound of the beep, which indicates that the pass has been read and accepted. This beep facilitates her unimpeded and quick movement through the threshold. From the beeps of ticket machines and gates to the jingles of trains as they are about to depart the station, these computergenerated, synthetic sounds are codes that mark, restrain, repress, and channel the movement of bodies and machines through the station. They are the official soundtrack of the flows moving throughout the station. They are the sounds of authority and control. The second broad category, commercial sounds, includes the sounds associated with consumerism. Here we move from short, synthetic, computer-generated codes to music. The notion that “wherever there is music, there is money” seems to hold especially true in Shinjuku Station, where music is used by department stores and advertisers to influence people’s moods and create specific consumer experiences.16 For some, the presence of background music in consumer spaces could represent the height of banality—the gentle presence of music in an elevator is something we often take for granted. However, music’s presence in these spaces is highly functional. Sterne notes that programmed music regulates consumer moods by being unlocalizable—the sound seems to come from everywhere, seeping from the architecture of the building itself. Many consumers do not even realize they are listening to music, but the mood created by this background serenade encourages the comfort of costumers and creates an environment of pleasure and lingering.17 For example, stores that cater to the clothing desires of young women in Shinjuku station often play highenergy dance music. As women shop, the atmosphere is transformed from a dull train station to the fun social environment of a dance club. This is part of the fabricated environment that stores produce to alter shoppers’ moods and encourage costumers to stay longer. Studies show that the longer a customer stays in a store, the more likely they are to make a purchase.18 Elevators, escalators, and sliding glass doors represent important threshold points that separate the commuter space of the station from the consumer space of the department stores. As one approaches the


department stores from inside the station, music begins to seep into the aural environment through ceiling speakers; as potential consumers wait at elevators to get to department stores, music gently serenades them, not only making their wait more pleasant, but also beginning the alteration of moods from the clamor associated with the synthetic station sounds to the pleasure of consumption. Where department store entrances are not on a different floor from the station proper, sliding glass doors are used at entrances to keep the beeps and jingles out of the sonic environment produced for consumers. Thus, in contrast to the synthetic coded sounds of authority associated with the objective crowd experience, music is used strategically to create an individual consumer experience. Complicating this neat equation of music and capital are, however, the small street bands that play outside of the entrances of the station. They sell (or even, in some instances, give away) their locally recorded albums. Just as they exist on the peripheries of capitalist profits, they exist on the peripheries of the station. They are never in the station itself, but perform just outside its thresholds. The sounds of their raw live music mix with the synthetic beeps of the station and stands in stark contrast to the light music played by department stores. Lastly, ambient sounds are made “unintentionally.” They are simply the messy product of accumulating, non-coordinated sources, which include the sounds of bodies and steps, chatter, and train movements (among others). They constitute the “unofficial” soundscape of the station that competes with the “official” sounds of department stores and commuter signals. Synthetic commuter sounds are designed to pierce through ambient noise, but the music played by department stores at elevators and other threshold points is often overwhelmed by its density and volume. If commuter and commercial sounds represent authority and control, ambient sounds serve as their opposites—they are that which is beyond control, and thus beyond the individual. It is here that unofficial transcripts and narratives thrive. Ambient sound is the resulting phenomenon that signals how individuals may lose their modern subjective experience. The structures


Gallagher and Prior, “Sonic Geographies,” 268. 13

Jonathan Sterne, “Sounds Like the Mall of America: Programmed Music and the Architectonics of Commercial Space,” Ethnomusicology 41 (1997): 23. 14

Gallagher and Prior, “Sonic Geographies,” 269. 15

H. Lormier, “Cultural Geography: The Busyness of Being ‘More-Than-Representational,’” Progress in Human Geography 29 (2005): 83. 16

Attali, “Noise,” 29. 17

Sterne, “Sounds Like the Mall of America.” 18

Sterne, “Sounds Like the Mall of America.”

FIG. 5

Axonometric Model of Keio and JR Central Gate. Physical features of the Keio department store, the two gates, and the street are noticeable. Drawings produced by authors.



of pure, singular experience cannot survive such exposure. The sounds of commercial influence cannot stand up to such overwhelming ambience. The station’s soundscape registers as a complex din, as the objective condition of experience. Thus, the truly modern experience, the one that is shored up by capital-infused aesthetics and provides stably individual moments of unfolding life must also concern itself with isolating specified soundtracks in the station. FUTURITY

FIG. 6

Top, Department store entrance designed with double-glassed entry; middle, wall/ pillar advertising; bottom, street performer. Images produced by authors.


Music is prophecy. Its styles and economic organization are ahead of the rest of society because it explores, much faster than material reality can, the entire range of possibilities in a given code. It makes audible the new world that will gradually become visible, that will impose itself and regulate the order of things. —Jacques Attali Given the way sound is used strategically in Shinjuku Station to maintain, direct, and constitute flows, we propose a future wherein the station’s stakeholders will utilize sound even further to apotheosize individual narratives of space. We propose a future experience of the station where the cacophony of ambient sounds will be clarified through individual soundtracks catered to individuals’ agendas. The regime of capital, consumption, and experience will be continued in such a way that sound will be coopted to perpetuate stable individual subjectivity. Each station user will isolate their sonic experience to produce the ideal soundscape for their desired experience. We propose a new technology, a new interface for the station. Through a series of questions, individual users will tailor their own aural experience of the station. With this new technology, a personalized headset will supply individual sounds as well as harmonize the aural experiences of like individuals. Sounds will guide individuals to where they would like to shop and eat. Sounds will guide and stimulate lovers, potentially making any space in the station the most romantic despite the crowd. Commuters with time to spare will be guided through entertainment and consumption and then to their departures. Everything will be smoothly coordinated, and they will never feel the anxiety of choice or rushing. Being in shared spaces, where ambient noises, cacophony, and physical constraints would otherwise dominate, one will receive absolutely clarified sound; their experience will remain uninterrupted and personal. We pose a future wherein the station’s stakeholders will offer the possibility of eliminating sonic uncertainty with the promise of a complete individual experience, one that gets as comprehensive and as close as possible to the narrative structure of subjectivity, like the ones with which we are so familar, the lives we see cast in the mass media of literature and film.







Public space today is vexed on two fundamental counts since both its constituents, the public and its space, are problematic. Urban public space today is a shadow of the ideal that Habermas laid out and that Lefebvre theorized. For Habermas, the public sphere was more discursive than material; rational-critical political debate was key. While the public in post-feudal society arose in the early eighteenth century, critical and literary debate declined with the modern state when, for example, the press shifted to shape rather than communicate public views as it simultaneously grew beholden to advertising.1 Habermas could hardly have imagined the extent to which these same processes would come to subsume the material space of the city, from Nike Park in Tokyo to Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California. If Habermas’s rational debate occurred in cafes as well as plazas so long as private people came together to form a public, the commercially branded “park” and “downtown” can require an actual or virtual admission fee for those wishing to do more than pass through. Disney recommends its district, a redevelopment of old Anaheim just outside the theme park’s gates, for shopping, dining, and entertainment that together “kick up the energy to give the Downtown Disney District a party-like atmosphere.”2 Only a killjoy debates politics at a party. As if writing a retort to those who would purchase the public sphere and repackage it as a simulacrum of public space, Henri Lefebvre argued, “The right to the city cannot be conceived of as a simple visiting right or as a return to traditional cities. It can only be formulated as a transformed and renewed right to urban life.” By this he means a place that prioritizes encounter and is materially shaped by the agency of the people: “it gathers the interests (overcoming the immediate and the superficial) of the whole society and firstly of all those who inhabit.”3 Those who inhabit or occupy outdoor, apparently public space in the city of Tokyo are the subjects of Cayer and Bender’s “Akichi Undercommons” essay that follows. What is undeniable in Tokyo, as well as other cities across the globe, is that the right to the city is extended to some but not others, for some actions and not others, at some times and not others. Those qualifications were certainly at play during the Occupy Movement’s protests in public spaces worldwide, and particularly in Wall Street’s privately owned public space, Zuccotti Park. Urban sociologist Richard Sennett claimed that although the movement’s rhetoric centered on anti-capitalist politics on behalf of the 99%, its actions challenged access to the city itself. His primary conclusion is that loosening up tightly programmed urban space would yield significant political ground. From the study of Tokyo, that would mean creating unscripted gaps—akichi, in metropolitan space. In September of 2012 in The Nation, Sennett wrote “the lesson of Zuccotti Park for me was that ambiguous public/private space… creates an opportunity for unscripted participation.”4 The importance of unscripted space, ambiguous space, or terrain vague is corroborated by the following spatial ethnography of homelessness in Tokyo. Two pairs of Japanese words bracket the issues raised in this study of homelessness and public space in Tokyo: hikokumin and tomin, akichi and hiroba. Citizens Plaza, Tomin Hiroba (tomin: citizen of Tokyo; hiroba: plaza), was the starting point for authors Cayer and Bender, students of architecture and geography respectively, whose work demonstrates that



Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trans. T. Burger with F. Lawrence (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989). 2

“Downtown Disney District,” Disney, accessed May 25, 2014, au/downtown-disney/. 3

Henri Lefebvre, “The Right to the City,” in Writings on Cities, trans. E. Kofman and E. Lebas (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996), 147159. For both quotes, italics in the original. 4

Zuccotti Park is the result of a zoning ordinance in New York that offers building owners a density bonus if they provide and maintain public space that is open 24/7. See Richard Sennett, “New Ways of Thinking About Space,” The Nation, September 5, 2012.



Hoyt Long, On Uneven Ground: Miyazawa Kenji and the Making of Place in Modern Japan (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011). 6

Tokyo’s metropolitan area remains the most populous urban agglomeration in the world, at almost 37 million in 2012. See “Population of Three Major Metropolitan Areas,” Statistical Handbook of Japan 2013 (Tokyo: Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications), 23. 7

Sennett, “New Ways of Thinking About Space.”


what’s in a name, and what’s in a form, goes beyond what the eye can see. The radially symmetrical modernist space of Citizens Plaza might symbolize a government open and welcoming to the broadest public, but it is in fact the opposite of akichi, that is, the unscripted, ambiguous, terrain vague. As the authors explain, the space embraces nationalist activities that define a political other, the hikokumin, or person without a nation, and this label is applied to homeless residents of Tokyo. The idea that homelessness produces stateless individuals or non-citizens, who have no right to the city, is explored in the pages that follow. If akichi refers to space that is untamed by the city, then hikokumin is its subjective equivalent. The importance of akichi, sometimes translated as “vacant land,“ is recognized here as the unscripted gaps in the city. A population in Tokyo that would typically be called “homeless” resides in those gaps, but this study assumes a critical position on the term homelessness itself, since some of its subjects live on the streets while others live in semi-sanctioned tents in a public park. Whether in relatively permanent tents in Yoyogi Park, or under the overpass in Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo public spaces are occupied by a range of residents and activists. To understand the city and its paradoxical homeless-residents more fully is a primary goal of the essay that follows. Homelessness is not a condition we associate with Tokyo. Los Angeles, New York, Chicago—all these cities have homeless populations. But in Tokyo, the particularities of homelessness are tied to historical circumstance as well as to the political economy. According to urban historian and geographer of Japan, André Sorensen, Tokyo is characterized by a dearth of public open space, or hiroba. Open space was primarily associated with temples until the late Meiji period when large metropolitan parks and train station plazas arose.5 With the City Planning Law of 1919, open spaces became part of the formal planning agenda. The legacy of limited public space in Japanese cities creates a problem that most directly affects their homeless populations. For people who live in public rather than private, there has to be space, and space that is not primarily viewed as “owned” by some entity other than the public itself. In Tokyo, such space is at a premium. Yoyogi Park (at 134 acres) and its adjacent Meiji Shrine (175 acres) comprise the largest open space in this city of more than 13 million (compare to Central Park’s 840 acres; population of New York City, 8.3 million, 2012).6 The experimental illustrations of Tokyo’s open spaces, with narrative text and portraiture intermingled, visually demonstrate the richly textured human and spatial stories that the authors gathered during their fieldwork. Returning to Sennett’s lessons from the Occupy Movement, the question that drives his inquiry is the following: “The Occupy movements dramatized questions about public space—who owns it? who can use it?— and provided some surprising answers.”7 Strangely, Sennett sublimates a fundamental irony in the notion that ownership is the key to public space. Rather than “owning,” public space instead “belongs” to the people and is defined by open access rather than property claims. The very discussion of public space in terms of ownership is the result of a neoliberal transformation in which, as Bender and Cayer note, Tokyo can accept Nike’s offer to pay for the renovation of the public Miyashita Park ($5M US) and another $1.7M annually through 2020 for naming rights, turning


it into Nike Park. The irony extends further: public officials thought they might lure one group of problematic public space actors—other hikokumin, skateboarders who were troubling train stations and public plazas with their tricks, to displace another—the homeless residents at Miyashita.8 Property ownership and all its complex claims have become the naturalized rationale to explain who can participate in the city’s public sphere. The essay that follows illuminates the relationships in Tokyo between its residents, their homes, public spaces, and activist strategies to give not only voice but ground to their urban dwelling.



Kenji Hall, “How the Homeless are Fighting Nike in Shibuya’s Miyashita Park,” CNN Travel, May 12, 2010, accessed May 24, 2014, play/brawl-over-miyashita-parkshibuya-snares-nike-565070.







“The hiroba (plaza), in Japan, makes me think of a square that someone owns. Someone has the deed to the land and holds the rights to that place. In Japanese there is another term, “akichi.” In akichi, there are of course ones with owners, but they are often places where the ownership is unclear, such as in a boundary zone. These would tend to be places where where the ownership was ambiguous and homeless people are able to live, like the riverbed and parks that long ago were the grounds of shrines or temples.” —Ogawa Tetsuo, homeless art activist

FIG. 1

Homeless activists surrounding Citizens Plaza have been agitating against the huge expense of Tokyo’s Olympics bid during a time of increased fiscal austerity and ongoing crisis at Fukushima. Photo by authors.


Citizenship is a legal status that authorizes access to public spaces and services, and it affirms an ability to dwell, work, govern, and ultimately exist in a city and nation. The term “public” implies a condition of group membership that purportedly refers to all; it promotes an image of community that speaks for an ordinary, average, or general population. However, such imaginaries of being public and scripting public space often elide the issues that underlie the tenuous and even violent management necessary to hold them together. Certain groups of people are included while others are often excluded and marginalized, suggesting that some people are more “public” than others. In such fabrications of peoples and spaces as public, there emerges a gap that exposes a terrain of contestation between those who are considered “public” and those who are not. To uphold such definitions of democratic urban publicness, the built environment is often scripted by regulatory practices, political propaganda, and commercial agendas as a means to specify certain kinds of authorized access to space. Public spaces in Tokyo exemplify the power of architecture to authorize certain publics. Regulation of public space demonstrates how the right to the city is afforded to some citizens while denied to others, such as the poor. By juxtaposing the architecture of these public spaces with those of marginalized groups in the same space, the gaps between such ideological divisions of urban entitlement are made visible. The unscripted gaps or akichi of the city, spaces that are superfluous to any classification of public or nonpublic, national or non-national, citizen or noncitizen, may present some of the most potent and creative possibilities for rethinking the ways in which resources are shared and how certain groups are able to learn from others. The highly commercialized wards of Shinjuku and Shibuya in Tokyo represent different approaches to public space that pose divergent political possibilities. Citizens Plaza, Miyashita Park, and Yoyogi Park and their environs not only depict a conflation of citizenship and publicness, but also illuminate new possibilities for activating the akichi as sites for new forms of knowledge production, and to ascribe these unactivated or “undercommon” physical and ideological voids in Tokyo with new urban identities. Each of the three sites projects a particular delineation of publicness wherein certain populations and action are often visibly regulated by the government, assigned by private capital, or designed by public officials. While Tange Kenzō’s Citizens Plaza presents a state-sponsored attempt to bridge the gap between the everyday citizen and the government through a symbolic representation of public space and governmental transparency,


Miyashita Park as a public sports park does so by using architecture to unite corporate and state visions. However, these designs reinforce sharp divides—both discursive and material—between citizen and noncitizen, resident and nonresident, and national and non-national. These divides are challenged by the presence of homeless people in public space and their activist interventions. By directly examining the relationships that both accommodate and reject their presence, homeless people and their material belongings problematize the top-down structures implied by citizenry and make available new forms of knowledge with which to re-define what it means to dwell in or occupy public space. DEFINING THE UNDERCOMMONS

The latent possibility of akichi as an alternative space for independence and autonomy runs counter to the political or social definitions of citizenship and public that depend on a sense of wholeness. Conceptualizing these gaps as generative spaces instead of spaces that should be filled and repurposed for the public allows for new conceptions of “home” or “dwelling” to take hold, challenges our understandings of how precarity and risk in the city is produced and subverted, and what alternatives might look like. For Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, authors of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, the concept of an “undercommons” presents an opportunity for social, political, and material critiques to activate such gaps, or “alternative spaces” through an attention to autonomous politics and revolutions of everyday life. For Moten, the home represents the object most saturated by an imposed sense of civility that completely absorbs the individual, suggesting that: “civilization, or more precisely civil society, with all its transformative hostility, was mobilized in the service of extinction, of disappearance. The shit is genocidal. Fuck a home in this world, if you think you have one.” 1 Here, the possibility of a form of radical, non-locatability and deconstructed “home” rejects the distinction between public space and nonpublic space altogether.


Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, (New York: Minor Compositions, 2013), 140.

FIG. 2

“Citizens” celebrate the Tokyo Olympics in Citizens Plaza in 2013. Source: www.japanfocus. org.




Activists in Japan use the term hōmuresu, or “homeless,” because it is commonly used equivalent to the Japanese term nojukusha, or “outdoor/rough sleeper.” Activists in anglophone contexts sometimes reject the term “homeless” in favor of the label “homefree” as a discursive move to remove pejorative connotations of a lack of a home. 3

Jürgen Habermas, in Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” Social Text, no. 25/26 (January 1, 1990): 56-80. 4

Ibid., 60. 5

Ibid., 68. 6

Jacques Rancière, The Philosopher and His Poor (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 226.

Homeless activists in Tokyo have activated space as the undercommons.2 By rejecting the “home” or ie, which in Japanese signifies both the structures of the house itself as well as the patriarchal family structure, their very existence in public spaces serves as a political act. They circulate these politics by hosting a weekly barter-only cafe, organizing protests, and producing art, zines, videos, and other writings about their way of living. Their autonomously run spaces build translocal networks of mutual support and spaces for dialogue in a society where freedom of expression is limited by laws that throttle protest through bureaucracy and policing and by a public rewriting of past social movements as singularly violent. Rather than subsuming “the homeless” as a status to be dealt with within a singular polity called Tokyo, the framework of the undercommons rethinks the Habermasian notion of the liberal bourgeois public sphere.3 Habermas’s “public sphere” is a realm of discursive relations, conceptually distinct from state apparatuses and the private sphere of economic markets, but is limited in its assumption of the inclusive bounds of the public. Nancy Fraser’s call for “counterpublics” extends Habermas’s “public sphere,” arguing that it fails to acknowledge non-liberal, non-bourgeois realms such as peasant, women’s, and working class politics and publics.4 Instead, she recognizes these realms as subaltern counterpublics, alternative but legitimate political arenas that have a twofold function: 1) “as spaces of withdrawal and regroupment,” and 2) “as bases and training grounds for agitational activities directed toward wider publics.”5 Both functions are played out at the three sites, which serve as places of refuge and contestations of “the public” in the city. Homeless activists in Tokyo disturb official definitions of “the public” and provide insight into the political and socio-economic forces at work in public space. By rejecting the “home” and the statist definition of citizenship and rights, they align with what Rancière calls politics or dissensus, “the production, within a determined, sensible world, of a given that is heterogeneous to it.”6 Scholars such as Jane Bennett suggest that the centering of disruption and dissensus as the realm of the properly


The vast open space of Kenzo Tange’s Citizens Plaza affirm its symbolic nature. Photo by authors.



political includes the micropolitics of the body and desire. She asks why Rancière’s intervention should not also push the anthropocentric boundaries of politics.7 Bennett argues that the nonhuman world plays an important role in the landscape of affect, which in turn materially shapes power relations.8 In addition to living in spite of the policing of their existence in the city and the exposure to the elements, these homeless activists produce knowledge and politics through dissensus. The undercommons is a concept that works against the establishment of official knowledge with the university at its the center. It offers a provocation to think through the ways that politics beyond the public relies on a mobilization of resources and knowledge flows. In the context of the urban humanities project, it challenges us to think about the purpose of such work and the variegated forms of knowledge we can learn from. How does a serious consideration of homeless living and activism decenter our practices as researchers and change our modes, forms, and aims of knowledge production and circulation? CITIZENS PLAZA: AN EXCLUSIVE IDEOLOGY IN ACTION

The first site of investigation refers to the area of the Tokyo government region of Shinjuku and the adjacent Shinjuku Central Park—an area emblematic of a highly symbolic claim of citizenship in public space. Citizens Plaza (Tomin Hiroba) was designed by Tange Kenzō as a component of the new Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in 1991, and clearly reflects the anonymous and universalized “citizen” of the State. Citizens Plaza, located between the Assembly Building and Government Building No. 1, was designed to create a symbolic space to serve as a visual reference to the future, and to “bridge” between the everyday citizen and the metropolitan administration, exemplifying Lefebvre’s notion of “ideology in action.”9 The architectural details of the new government complex were intended to boost a sense of civic consciousness of the public by conveying a strong sense of transparency. Specifically, the design of the plaza was intended to offer people a space from which to view officials working inside the city hall in an effort to boost civic consciousness.10 The “transparent”


Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009). 8

Ibid., p. xii. 9

Tokyo Metropolitan Govt., LongTerm Plan for Tokyo Metropolis: “My Town Tokyo” Heading into the 21st Century, report released in 1984. 10

Tsung-yi Michelle Huang, “Between Global Flows and Carnal Flows: Walking in Tokyo,” in Walking Between Slums and Skyscrapers: Illusions of Open Space in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shanghai. (Hong Kong: Hong Kong UP, 2004).





glass windows surrounding the massive Citizens Plaza outside of the city government buildings are highly reflective, and the numerous surveillance cameras all around reproduce the panoptic effect. The vast emptiness of the plaza and high degree of regulation extends to Shinjuku Central Park’s limitations of allowed behaviors. There are explicit rules disallowing drinking in this park, for example, while drinking in public is a common and culturally entrenched practice. Moreover, if a homeless person were to enter the plaza with their belongings, they would be followed; if they sat down, they would be asked if they need medical assistance. Park infrastructure is limiting as well, scripting a tacit rejection of uses based on an exclusion of homeless residents, such as armrests dividing the benches to prevent lying down. The park also does not allow skateboarding, deterred also by the built infrastructure such as the notched staircase railings. Around Citizens Plaza, homeless people and their belongings are mainly visible at night, because during the day they pack up their belongings neatly, usually on wheels so they can be made invisible, tucked away in a spot under a nearby bridge (see fig. 4). This clean packaging of belongings signifies ownership, that these items are not trash to be cleared away, but someone’s things to be respected. While the regulation of public activities and state control is apparent in the organization of the material belongings of homeless people, some of the most blatant rejections of homeless people as “citizens” occur during national and city events. During the recent Olympic celebrations, the term “citizen” was confronted, challenged, and problematized by the active presence of homeless people. The celebrations took place in Citizens Plaza, where people waving Japanese flags publicly discredited homeless people, yelling “Get out! You’re hikokumin (a non-national citizen)!”11 The activists were to the side of the Plaza, but did not seek to enter, rejecting both their claim to status as citizens and also rejecting their delegitimation as noncitizens. Homeless art activist Ichimura Misako maintains this ideological positioning in their everyday actions, because in her view, “those in-between spaces, the gaps between the road and ‘the plaza’ . . . these are the spaces from which new possibilities will be born.”12 MIYASHITA PARK: A SCRIPTED DIVIDE

While Miyashita Park’s mid-century image was as one of the few green spaces within the business neighborhood of the Shibuya Ward, it is now most famous for its redevelopment into a highly regulated space for sports and daytime leisure through a controversial public-private partnership with Nike. This was not the first time it had been overhauled. In preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the city converted the open reserve of land into a parking lot and concealed the adjacent Shibuya River into a drainage conduit. The “park” was elevated and redeveloped atop the parking structure, where, over the next fifty years, homeless people gathered and established residences. Although Shibuya Ward attempted to aid homeless people by offering subsidized housing support, in 2004 approximately 105 people lived in the park.13 However, the image of homelessness signaled to the Nike corporation and the city that this park was underutilized and therefore insufficiently “public.” During subsequent planning stages, homeless art activists established tents there, referring to


FIGS. 4 & 5

Regulations extend to Shinjuku Central Park, evident in the signs and designed benches, and the compact organization of belongings. Photos by authors.

FIG. 6

Analysis of ideologies in action at Citizens Plaza and surrounding area. By authors. (opposite)


Misako Ichimura, interview by authors, March 23, 2014. 12

Ibid. 13

“Refurbishing of Miyashita Park at Shibuya City,” Shibuya City Office, accessed May 20, 2014, http:// miyashita_park.html.




themselves as “Artists in Residence,” or A.I.R. They stayed for a total of six months, creating sculptures and other artwork and simply living in the park. They literally took up residence, cooking food, holding concerts, parties, and playing soccer as a way to activate the space according to their own desires and whims, and challenging passersby to rethink what it means to play. One of the art activists, Ogawa Tetsuo, has argued for the interpretation of akichi as a “wasteland”—that Miyashita Park was then considered more of a “wasteland” in the sense that people could perpetually invent new ways of enjoying the space without the consent of authority, whether for playing or residing. For Ogawa, the concept of living and playing in the unregulated “wasteland” of Miyashita, supported the idea that “culture and art are born out of wastelands” and are valuable specifically for their open program.14 After three years of negotiations, the park underwent a ¥465.5 million renovation in 2011 paid for by Nike. The architectural firm Atelier BowWow was selected to negotiate the process between the Nike and the city and to reimagine the park as a new form of public space. Their final design, attempting to programmatically “activate” the space with defined, collective activity includes structures such as a pay-to-play skateboarding park, futsal courts, rock-climbing facilities, a dance stage. Construction of these structures required a complete destruction of existing homeless structures. The new form of scripted activity contradicts the spontaneity, individuality, and total openness celebrated by the homeless Artists in Residence. The quality of public space conceived of by Atelier Bow-Wow’s own Tsukamoto Yoshiharu depends on “the peoples’ participation. If all the

FIG. 7

Atelier Bow-Wow’s redesign features sport facilities as a strategy to activate public space. Here, skateboarers skate during the day, while the park is closed at night. Photo by authors.

FIG. 8

Interstitial alleyway of huts where the government relocated homeless people at Miyashita Park. Photo by authors. FIG. 9

Analysis of scripted divide at Miyashita Park, where sport activities take place above, and people dwell below. (opposite)


Tetsuo Ogawa, “Motto akichi o! Miyashita kôen ga naiki kôen ni” (More empty land! Miyashita Park will become Niki Park), Impaction 170 (August 2009).



FIG. 10

Shinbo, a homeless man at Miyashita Park, describes his relocation from the park above to the alleyway below when the park was redesigned. Photo by authors. (above)

participants are just a customer it is not a real public space. . . They don’t have any responsibilities to maintain the space.”15 However, as the Artists in Residence highlight, Tsukamoto’s redesign of the park is contradicts this goal. Certain activities are prioritized over others and living is rejected entirely, forbidding autonomous use and unmediated responsibilities to the space. Miyashita Park remains a symbolic claim to an innovative development of public space, but the park now closes at night, and fees are charged to participate in certain parts of the park. Interestingly, thirty homeless people remain residents of the park after the re-design, but now live below in an assemblage of structures cobbled together by the city government. Wood frames and thin plywood walls provide some shelter, but homeless park residents are now restricted from the quieter park and must reside adjacent to a small parking lot, where exhaust fumes and high temperatures create dangerous living conditions.16 Nonetheless, the structures themselves demonstrate the government’s acknowledgement of the homeless residents’ right to dwell in akichi. The current state of the park presents a spatially scripted divide between a sport park giving priority to paid daytime leisure and the

FIG. 11

Park residents and protesters were forcibly removed from Miyashita Park in order to begin the $5 million construction project for new Miyashita-Nike Park sporting facilities. Source: (right)


Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, in Mason White, “Atelier Bow-Wow: Tokyo Anatomy,” Archinect, accessed May 29, 2014, http://archinect. com/features/article/56468. 16

The re-design of the park and creation of shelters for homeless people came during the same year that the government moved 3/11 disaster refugees into temporary shelters in Tokyo parks. The temporary disaster refugee shelters were pre-fabricated with more permanent and expensive materials than the permanent homeless shelters in Miyashita. 17

Shinbo, interview by authors, March 22, 2014.


interstitial space that abuts the park, tolerating the more permanent users of the space in its margins. Like Citizens Plaza, this distinction is understood in terms of citizens and noncitizen. Shinbo, a homeless resident of Miyashita Park explained to us, “Those kinds of people over there [across the street], they are the ones who are called ‘citizens.’ In our case, we can’t be called ‘citizens’ because we are called ‘homeless.’”17 Shinbo is of course in fact a legal Japanese citizen, but he sees how he is treated as an outsider to the citizen public. The redesign of the park that forced him to relocate reifies this divide and continues to sidestep the political and economic conditions of increasingly entrenched inequality. The new akichi where he now lives in the government-built structure, whimsically decorated with found items illuminates the lingering potential for the “undercommons” that is being mobilized to directly confront the political and social challenges at hand.



In the third site, a tent village in Yoyogi Park, homeless people live with the least visible intrusion of the state and of private capital. Yoyogi Park is one of Tokyo’s largest city parks, boasting vast lawns, ponds, and forested areas that offer a sense of peaceful seclusion from the highly commercialized zones of the city that surrounds it. Due to its size and quality, the park is home to the largest homeless population of the three sites, with mainly living in blue tarp tents off of a quiet path toward the back of the park. The vernacular of the homeless structures here still reflect governmental regulations requiring them to fold up their abodes once a month to maintain their “temporary” status. The government successfully moved out about two hundred residents from this tent city through a program which incentivized people living in parks to move into low-income housing.18 The government has additionally established its presence by roping off the many slivers of space where people used to live and monitoring the site to prevent others from establishing tents there. Predictably, many former park residents in the housing program became unable to afford the rent or otherwise comply with regulations and became homeless again after the introductory rate period. FIG. 12

A crowd gathers at the weekly Enoare Cafe, where people barter instead of pay for drinks and snacks. Source: misako-ichimura.html.

This time, they were homeless without a tent site that had allowed them to escape one of the biggest challenges facing homeless people in Tokyo, the increasing difficulty to find safe spaces to store their belongings. When these former park residents are forced to move back onto the street, they must be almost constantly on the move. Homeless artists and activists Ichimura Misako and Ogawa Tetsuo have lived in Yoyogi Park in purposeful rejection of official ways of living for over a decade. They both individually abandoned their previous lives and jobs to establish homes in the park and push what they see as the limits of the home, or ie. They now work together to host a free cafe in the park, open to any and all passers-by, which serves as a hub for informationsharing and political organizing. Ichimura also runs a separate cafe just for homeless women, who make up a small fraction of the homeless population in Japan.



Aya Kubota, “Towards Introduction of Housing First Approach into the Support Policy for the Homeless and Housing Policy: Case Study on the Program from the Street to Community Life by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government,” Journal of the City Planning Institute of Japan 44, no. 3 (October 2009): 715-720.


FIG. 13

In 2006, Misako Ichimura published an illustrated book reflecting on the condition of homeless women in Tokyo, titled Chocolate in a Blue-Tent Village: Letters to Kikuchi from the Park.

Ogawa has argued that the freedoms and sense of community made possible by areas such as Yoyogi Park represent the positive values of urban living, claiming that: “When people live in a house, that is an apartment or mansion, they generally live isolated from each other, not knowing their neighbors. Compared to that, the folks who sleep outdoors tend to have a real community in the sense that they have these interactions with those around them, they help each other out. This positive quality arises precisely because these are people who do aren’t living in apartments. . . because they don’t (want to) spend their lives on wage labor. . .” 19 The alternative mode of living and understanding the world through the undercommons, a space of refusal, activates the akichi and gaps in the city without repurposing it for public consumption. When Atelier BowWow worked with Nike to redesign Miyashita Park, they acknowledged that homeless living is not something they could include in their design because homelessness exists in a social and political paradigm that was incompatible with their exclusive definition of publics. The activists used the critiques honed in their lives in Yoyogi Park and the community of support that they built to spread information from the parks to gather international press attention, force Nike to cancel the renaming of the park, and push back the time of nightly park closures. Ultimately, they provoked many to see the homelessness that had been cleared away from so much of the city not as something to pity and save, but as a position to take seriously and push us to critically evaluate our own direct and indirect ways of controlling and limiting the political possibilities of the spaces left undeveloped and the work refused. AKICHI UNDERCOMMONS AS SITES OF KNOWLEDGE


Ogawa Tetsuo, interview by authors, March 23, 2014.


The akichi undercommons show the generative possibilities exposed by the presence of an excluded other in an imagined inclusive whole. These moments of disruption illustrate that the hegemonic framework is tenuous and could be abandoned. Activating the undercommons means to think beyond the dominant paradigm and to act upon it. It does not necessitate an engagement with the public or speaking back to the framework, but leaves that option open, suggesting that building new networks and community ties can help us learn, think, and feel more broadly and deeply. These ties are the building blocks of a community not based on any static status, but on an ongoing, active organizing that shares information and resources and is well positioned to take a unified stand when necessary. These are the ties that create the conditions for alternative imaginaries to be realized. Leaving the home for a radically different way of living is a politically purposeful act that resonates with the project of urban humanities. The


positionalities are clearly distinct and the stakes are similarly divergent, but the push for alternative understandings of publics in urban space and questioning the production of knowledge is a point of convergence in the undercommons between these two worlds. In the context of homeless activism and living in Tokyo, this convergence is situated in the gaps in urban space where ownership was unclear, but served as sites of knowledge production and circulation through informal papers, blogs, videos, and most importantly, interpersonal interactions. In the context of the university, interdisciplinary projects such as ours can disrupt established norms and exclusions, pushing for more collaborative knowledge production that reaches beyond the bounded disciplines and academic hierarchies we inhabit.

FIG. 14

Homeless activists in Yoyogi Park reject traditional forms of “housing” and “work.” Photo by authors.






Drawing on Henri Lefebrve’s seminal work on the social production of space,1 Edward Soja introduced the concept of “thirdspace” to describe the imbrication of socially constructed spaces, infused not only with structures of power but also fissures for resistance, with physical and represented spaces. First space connoted the real, built spaces of the city; second space connoted the representations of spaces, specifically how they are conceptualized, perceived, imagined, and symbolized; and third space combined both of the foregoing into “a fully lived space, a simultaneously real-and-imagined, actual-and-virtual locus of structured individuality and collective experience and agency.”2 First Space: Kabukichō is a dense region of Shinjuku measuring 0.36 square kilometers, east of JR Shinjuku Station. Developed after World War II, it was the site of Japan’s first strip show, frequented by American GIs stationed in Japan. Today, the neighborhood it is comprised of more than 600 densely packed multi-story, neon-covered buildings that are home to the expansive and ever-changing commercial sex industry (fūzoku). According to recent statistics, these include about five thousand sex shops, host and hostess clubs, massage parlors, bars, hotels, as well as restaurants, karaoke bars, and cafes. Second Space: Kabukichō is a space of representation, a neighborhood that is perceived and presented as a “red light district” in the complex realm of the symbolic. It includes Araki Nobuyoshi’s thousands of photos of nude women in Kabukichō, the flyers and magazines at the sex club information centers, the billboards and erotic advertisements that create the visual and linguistic surfaces of the buildings. And beyond the neighborhood, it includes the broad history of shunga (erotic art) in the Japanese imaginary, stretching from the mass circulation of woodblock printing in the Edo period to the rise of erotic books (kōshokubon), erotic photography, and mass-produced and mass-circulated sexual imagery through anime and manga. Third Space: Kabuckichō is a space of agency, understanding, and acting that elicits a critical, transformative awareness of social space, unmasking its illusions of both opacity and transparency, in the service of imagining other worlds and other possibilities, perhaps ones that are even liberating. “Thirdspace” combines first and second space together in a kind of trialectics, drawing on the material and mental notions of space in a way that extends possibilities for agency at the intersection of the real and imagined. The following project, “Ecologies, Uncertainties, Futures: Sex and Intimacy in Tokyo’s Red-light District” by Bolaria, Harris, Knauff, Poster, and Simpson, moves elegantly between what we can call, following Soja, as the “first space” of the neighborhood and its possibilities as an emergent “thirdspace” precisely because of their unconventional approach to the scholarly medium. But before turning to the project, I would like to dwell on the notion of second space, prompted by a quote from the Japanese artist-photographer Araki Nobuyoshi used in the project’s introduction. Second space considers Kabukichō as a representational space, a kind of sign system that populates the imaginary, the symbols of desire, and the images that overlay physical spaces.



Cf. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991). 2

Edward Soja, Postmetropolis (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 11. 3

Qtd in: Moriyama Daidō and Araki Nobuyoshi, Moriyama – Shinjuku – Araki (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2005), 120.


“Kabukichō is the vagina of Tokyo, a lucky hole. I hope it doesn’t disappear. The city and human life need obscenity.”3 Araki concludes Tokyo Lucky Hole (1983-85), a photobook of female genitalia and (largely erased or obscured) male gazes, with these reflections. In the book, the photographer tells us that the “lucky hole” to which he is referring is quite literally a hole in a piece of plywood, found in a private room of a sex shop. It is a hole into which one can gaze, a peep hole, but also perhaps a glory hole, a hole for anonymous pleasure. Of course, Araki means much more than this singular peep hole, as he proclaims that all of Kabukichō is a lucky hole, a vagina that is available for the penetrating gaze, the fixed camera, the penis of Araki himself, or maybe men in general who have the privilege and pleasure of inserting their gaze and their phallus into this hole. The feminine “hole” seems to serve the whole (masculinized) city of Tokyo in a way that severs and reduces the female body to an essential anatomical feature: It is a vagina without a body, a person, a name, or an identity. The vagina is radically unspecified. It has become a space that can be penetrated by men and which simultaneously occludes the very differential and radically stratified dynamics of power that sustain it. And yet, on the level of the law, vaginal intercourse with an “unspecified party” is precisely what is enjoined, based on the 1957 AntiProstitution Law. On a juridical level of attempting to police and protect public decency, sexual morality, and social customs, the unspecified vagina is off limits, and for this reason, elaborate alternatives to vaginal intercourse have flourished in Kabukichō, from “image clubs” (specializing in sexual fetishes, like groping on a train) to “soaplands” (massage and bathing parlors) and hostess bars, where patrons can “get to know” the names of the women they are hiring. If, in Araki’s world, the vagina provides the obscenity that both the city and human life need, it may function as a means to offend public decency or to unhinge a strict morality. And yet it does nothing to upset the explicit power relations suffused with and sustained by patriarchy; it does nothing to unhinge the economies of sex trafficking; and it does nothing to confront the long history of racialized sex work, which—in one of its worst incarnations—includes the Japanese enslavement of Korean, Filipino, and Chinese comfort women in the early and mid-20th century. So, one may wonder: Is it possible to have a feminist reading of Araki’s statement, or is it irrevocably symptomatic of a culture of entrenched patriarchy in a late-capitalist moment? Might the vagina be reclaimed not as the site of indecency or transactional sexual pleasure but the locus of the womb, the reproductive capacity of human beings, and the nurturing possibilities embodied in female anatomy? Might the vagina be a site for natality, rebirth, and resistance, a kind of “thirdspace” for upending certain social and cultural norms that have become reified not just in the sex industry but in the idea of the “vagina” in the service of heteronormative, male pleasure? Is it possible to consider Kabukichō—as the vagina of Tokyo—in a way that exposes power dynamics, brooks resistance, and offers alternatives sites for political and social action that are liberating and



humane? What might such a future look like when we consider Kabukichō as a thirdspace for critical agency and transformative potential? The project that follows approaches this question through the double lens of uncertainty and futurity, two terms that connote possibilities to come without being prescriptive solutions. Kabukichō as a thirdspace of possibility is seen in their attempt to imagine multiple futures for the neighborhood. For example, they wonder: if prostitution was legalized, how would the spatial and social environment of Kabukichō be transformed? What would it mean to license, tax, and rigorously track workers, establishments, and patrons? Through their collection of imagined postcards, they wonder how changes to the neighborhood affect the micronarratives of daily life, for residents, tourists, and workers. What if there was a new “image” of the neighborhood, which celebrated and promoted human sexuality more openly while simultaneously opening up the neighborhood for a wider audience, including families, women, and children? The “uncertain shadow” of the 2020 Olympic Tower built in the center of Kabukichō figures prominently in their speculations about the neighborhood’s future. How will the tower transform the physical, imagined, and lived spaces of the neighborhood, particularly as it is thrust on the global stage and mediated in innumerable ways that produce new configurations of social spaces? Indeed, these are not questions that can be definitively answered, but they do provide a lens for remediating and reimagining Kabukichō across a multiplicity of embodied spaces. It might be possible for the vagina of Tokyo to become a thirdspace of critical praxis, agency, and renewal. After all, the vagina is the physical, embodied site for Hannah Arendt’s concept of natality—what she considers to be the supreme human potentiality for renewal and possibility. In this sense, the vagina of Tokyo might be the site for any reflection on futurity.

FIGS. 1-7

Images from Araki and Moriyama, Shinjuku, 1970-2004.








In 1990, photographer and contemporary artist Nobuyoshi Araki stated that “Kabukichō is the vagina of Tokyo.”1 Kabukichō is the biggest amusement area in Japan, approximately 100 square blocks, and one of the most famous entertainment districts in the world. Visitors are welcomed by bright lights and neon signs that pervade the area, advertising a variety of shops, bars, restaurants, and social entertainment like karaoke. However, Kabukichō is perhaps most well known for its unique commercialization of sex, as Araki’s quote and photographs suggest, consisting of several business types, a complex layer of workers, managers, owners, and other participation mediators, in addition to specific venues licensed to facilitate sex-related activities. ECOLOGIES OF SEX

FIG. 1

Main entry gate into Kabukichō today. Photo by authors.


Araki Nobuyoshi, Tokyo Lucky Hole (Tokyo: Ōta Shuppan, 1990), 269. Quoted in Moriyama Daido and Araki Nobuyoshi, Moriyama – Shinjuku – Araki (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2005), 116. 2

Prostitution Prevention Law, 1957. See full text, opposite page.


The origins of contemporary Kabukichō date to 1957, when the first anti-prostitution law was implemented in Japan after centuries of its legal practice. Some supporters of the law, namely female advocacy groups, praised it for marking the hopeful end of women denigration and sexual exploitation in the country, and ultimately restoring dignity to Japan. Additionally, the anti-prostitution law was partly spurred by international pressure, and therefore, the intentions of the government in disrupting the climate of prostitution in the country stems from the desire to present Japan to the world as a respectable nation following WWII. As a result, prostitution was condemned because, according to the new law, “it harms human dignity, is against sexual morality, and disturbs virtuous social manners and customs.”2 The implementation of the anti-prostitution law demonstrates the inherent gender biases and the rigid system of patriarchy embedded in the legal and cultural norms of Japanese society. This can be seen, for example, in the fact that heterosexual women were the primary targets of the new law, and the objectives and language of the law, as well as its enforcement, pins prostitution in Japan as strictly compensated female-male sexual relations with women being overwhelmingly criminalized, despite the abundance of hetero and homosexual male prostitutes. The objective of the law, as stated in Article 1, is to “prevent prostitution by punishing acts that foster prostitution” which are done “by providing protection and safety to women who are in danger of engaging in prostitution, as indicated by their conduct or environment.” The law prohibits certain actions, including soliciting for purposes of prostitution, procuring a person for prostitution, coercing a person into prostitution, and receiving compensation from prostitution or prostitution of others; prostitution is defined by law as “sexual intercourse with an unspecified party for compensation or with an agreement of compensation.” However, it should be stated that sexual intercourse in this sense refers specifically to coitus or vaginal intercourse. Therefore, the sale of numerous acts such as oral sex, anal sex, and other non-coital sex acts were legal, and this left a great opening for a new sex entertainment industry to arise, which became known as fūzoku ⾵俗. Beginning in the late 1970s, Kabukichō transformed into a major hub for the fūzoku industries. The surge in new industries caused the government to create the Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation and Law (later changed to Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement Business) also known as


Fūzoku Eigyō Torishimari Hō, or Fūeihō, to catalog the entertainment and nightlife activities. The law created five categories: fashion health, strip club or adult movie theater, motels and love hotel, adult goods shop, soapland, and the recently created members-only bar for meeting persons of the opposite sex. Hostess bars, as mizu-shōbai ⽔商売, meaning “water trade,” is technically categorized under entertainment classification but is often lumped into the fūzoku industry. These categories exploit the vagueness of the anti-prostitution law in innovative ways that are paradoxically subtle and obvious. Fashion health establishments are massage parlors that often offer oral sex. Love hotels offer a discreet place for sexual rendezvous. There is a wide range of love hotels with varying levels of luxury and privacy, including a vending machine with keys to avoid any human interaction. Love hotels are popular for non-sex workers too, especially for couples who may still live with their parents. Identifying a love hotel versus an inn (ryokan), motel or other sleeping establishment is difficult for foreigners and Japanese alike; therefore, the Entertainment Law of 1985 sought to define love hotels as a way of dealing with this issue. This might prove useful from a regulatory perspective, but still shrouds love hotels, especially those without signage, in a level of uncertainty and ambiguity from other hotels. Some love hotels that did not fit the specific requirements evaded any regulation and continued to operate, which reinforces the ambiguity of this space in terms of clouding what is visibly legal or illegal. The unintended consequence of the law created an amorphous layered hotel service industry that included legal and illegal love hotels, ordinary inns and large western style hotels. Soaplands are bathhouses that sometimes offer sex. “Actual sexual intercourse” (honban) is illegal, but soaplands circumvent this prohibition by having customers pay upfront for bath services and later pay the woman directly for any intercourse, absolving legal liability for the soapland, which is not facilitating prostitution as the woman is not soliciting publicly. Hostess bars are common especially in Kabukichō, which has photos of hostesses plastered alongside most buildings. Hostess clubs employ females to entertain and cater to mostly male clients by selling their company. Clients pay upfront by the hour to enter a hostess bar and chat with various women who light cigarettes, pour drinks, flirt, sing karaoke and can touch clients. The customer eventually chooses his favorite and can talk with her as long as he continues to buy her drinks within his paid time. Hostess bars are not a place for any sexual activity; however it is not uncommon for a hostess to make an arrangement with a regular client. Sometimes hostesses even marry a client, which is often how women leave the industry. Host bars catering to women are growing in popularity and are also a prominent feature in Kabukichō, although located in visibly separate areas. In 2011, it is estimated 300,000 people a day visited Kabukichō. The current mix of restaurants, cinemas, bars, and shopping malls, in conjunction with sex-related establishments such as host clubs, fashion health businesses, and love hotels located in Kabukichō, attracts a variety of patrons from families and tourists to herds of after-work suited salarymen. Data regarding the number of bars and fūzoku industries in Kabukichō vary, but according to the National Police Agency, there were 5,425 fashion health parlors that were publicly registered in 2000. Host Clubs go through


第⼀章 総則 (⽬的) 第⼀条  この法律は、売春が⼈ としての尊厳を害し、性道徳に反し社 会の善良の⾵俗をみだすものであるこ とにかんがみ、売春を助⻑する⾏為等 を処罰するとともに、性⾏⼜は環境に 照して売春を⾏うおそれのある⼥⼦に 対する補導処分及び保護更⽣の措置を 講ずることによつて、売春の防⽌を図 ることを⽬的とする。(定義) 第⼆条  この法律で「売春」と は、対償を受け、⼜は受ける約束で、 不特定の相⼿⽅と性交することをい う。(売春の禁⽌) 第三条  何⼈も、売春をし、⼜ はその相⼿⽅となつてはならない。 (適⽤上の注意) 第四条  この法律の適⽤にあた つては、国⺠の権利を不当に侵害しな いように留意しなければならない。 FIG. 2

Prostitution Prevention Law, known in Japanese as the Baishun bōshi hō (売春防⽌法)”: Article 1 (Objectives) Prostitution harms human dignity, runs contrary to sexual morality, and throws into disarray virtuous social customs. In light of these facts, this law aims to prevent prostitution by punishing acts that foster prostitution and by providing protection and safety to women who are in danger of engaging in prostitution, as indicated by their conduct or environment. Previous Law: Article 2 This law defines “prostitution” as sexual intercourse with an unspecified party for compensation or with an agreement of compensation. Previous Law: Article 3 No one may engage in or be party to prostitution.


cycles depending on how strict government can enforce regulations. In 2012, it is estimated there were at least 190 host clubs with around 3,000 employees in Kabukichō.6 Because many establishments are unlicensed and their employees paid informally, the Tokyo Regional Taxation Board claims between 20112013, host clubs alone accumulated 200 million yen of unpaid taxes. Since host clubs are only one of the several varieties of establishments related to the industry of sex, officials have a hard time estimating how much loss accumulated over the years. Because most establishments secure discretion by using cash only, officials also do not know the number of clients frequenting Kabukichō nor whether patrons are locals or tourists. The illegal nature of the industry attracted many yakuza, a transnational organized crime syndicate who are said to own or control many of the fūzoku establishment. “It’s one of Japan’s most dangerous neighborhoods.”7 But, much like the number of sex-related establishments and the number of patrons, the number of yakuza controlled businesses is also unknown. The range of services provided by all these industries plus the non-sex industries that occupy the space seems impossible to distinguish. The pencil buildings that line the streets with different businesses on each floor help mask the sexual activities that take place behind closed doors. The built environment of Kabukichō caters to clients and workers wishing to remain somewhat anonymous and hiding their activity. One can possibly enter a building with a fashion health, soapland, karaoke, and yakitori restaurant inside the same building complex. As a result, the mixed-used buildings can hide the intentions of patrons. IN THE UNCERTAIN SHADOW OF A MONOLITH


Luigi Fiasco Girard, Sustainable City and Creativity: Promoting Creative Urban Initiatives (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2012). 7



Some Japanese consider Kabukichō a disgrace and international shame that should be controlled or reduced before the 2020 Olympics. Various cycles of enforcement and legal changes to control activities in Kabukichō have only made the area more resilient and adaptive. The adaptability exhibits a raw capitalism that advances profits despite challenges and is even somewhat aided by the antagonist role of the governments. A tower rises in the heart of Kabukichō, one that threatens the entire neighborhood’s ecology. Construction of this fifty-plus story skyscraper, designed to house and serve the guests and dignitaries of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics, is well underway. The literal and figurative shadow cast by this monolithic tower dwarfs the seven- to ten-story buildings that make up present-day Kabukichō. Questions about what impact this structure and its attendant influx of visitors will have on the vibrant, nuanced, illicit ecology of sex and intimacy in Kabukichō remain unanswered. Kabukichō has long been a destination for tourists, revelers, businessmen, mobsters, and immigrants, all looking either to spend money or to make it. As noted in the previous section, Kabukichō’s small, informal businesses have for decades been able to service clients’ needs with ease, even under the ire of government regulation and public revulsion. But in virtue of its magnitude and novelty, the globalized Olympic spectacle, whose arrival is imminent, presents a challenge that is unfamiliar to the scrappy red-light district. Kabukichō has proven itself adept at skirting government regulations and at deflecting


challenges from the public, but whether it can withstand the pressures of international capital is uncertain. Some have already predicted the impending death or demolition of a neighborhood that has participated in the fūzoku and seifūzoku trades since Shinjuku was a remote postal outpost at the beginning of the Meji Era. Certainly, there are some groups, like the above-mentioned Renaissance Kabukichō, that seek to “clean up” the area so as to broaden its appeal to groups besides the salarymen and tourists who at present make up the lion’s share of the neighborhood’s client base. While such groups seek to “tame” Kabukichō while leaving it intact, there are, more drastically, civic and business leaders who would be happy to drive out or eliminate Kabukichō’s sex trade altogether. The anti-prostitution law allowed for a new sex industry to flourish that used creative strategies to provide sexual services to clients, which evade the law. This has consequently given Kabukichō its unique flair, distinction, and salient notoriety. What would happen to Kabukichō if prostitution were made completely legal and regulated? A NEW LAW

The legalization of prostitution within a specific area is not new to Japan—historically, red light districts allowed for these activities before the introduction of the 1957 law. This exploration is not to outline the how or the why behind legalizing Kabukichō as a “red light district,” but rather to explore the social and spatial consequences of this policy decision. The spatial consequences of political decisions are often understood in terms of design intentions, dominant ideologies, and the like. Public policy decisions, however, are most often reactive. Though the benefits are intended for future generations, these benefits often address how we live, not where we live. The following is an exploration of changes in the spatial and social environment of Kabukichō if it were legally crowned Japan’s official Red Light District.


FIG. 3

Girls Bar advertisement in Kabukichō.



Article 1 (Objectives) Prostitution threatens the health and safety of the public, runs contrary to the formal marketplace, and is often intertwined with organized crime. In light of these facts, this law aims to regulate prostitution by consolidating it into the Kabukichō neighborhood of Shinjuku in the Tokyo Prefecture and implementing stricter enforcement of illegal establishments Article 2 (Definition) This law defines “prostitution” as sexual intercourse with an unspecified party for compensation or with an agreement of compensation. New Law: Article 3 (Allowance of Prostitution) Only those working within the boundaries of Kabukichō, who explicitly follow the rules outlined bellowed, are allowed to engage in or be party to prostitution.

A future sex worker official badge and license. (next page) A series of 8 postcards from tourists, proprietors, residents, and workers in the future Kabukichō.


An imagined future in which Kabukichō’s sex and intimacy industry hides in plain sight by intermingling with Murakami Takashi’s sexualized pop-art sculptures.

The Olympic Village has a well publicized hook-up culture. Athletes in peak physical condition enjoy semi-anonymous sex between competitions. Kabukichō could capitalize on this phenomenon by bringing it out into the open.


(opposite page) Towering over a neighborhood of 8-10 story buildings, the new Olympic hotel casts a literal and figurative shadow over Kabukichō.










At eighty years of age, Yoshiko communicates with few words, yet her radiance warms the insides of her tiny bar, barely large enough to fit seven or eight patrons sitting shoulder to shoulder. The interior space, seemingly frozen in time, insists on those who venture in to forget, if for a brief evening, all the unpleasantries of life by offering alcoholic beverages that encourage storytelling among those unexpectedly encountered. Her patrons include artists and journalists who have frequented her bar for decades. In a nearby establishment, Doll Captain, donned in her provocative cheerleader outfit, flirts with her patrons and craftily manages a lively, unabashed discourse on women’s right to erotic thought in modern day Japan. Her patrons narrate their most intimate fantasies in vivid detail, an open dialogue that otherwise betrays social norms in Japan. Some of these stories can be retold, others are too private, fetishistic, or distasteful to be shared in an open public space. Despite being almost fifty years apart in age, Yoshiko and Doll embody the kind of motherly presence that characterizes the predominantly female-run bars of Golden Gai. Together, they are a portrayal of the past and the present, the public and private discourses, the resilience and the perseverance that has helped to maintain the structural and cultural identity of this clustered city block since postwar Japan. Their lilliputian spaces are not unlike the other 250 or so bars that adorn the narrow streets of Golden Gai, each boasting vibrant exteriors that belie the trail of ramshackle, two to three-story structures that measure a few meters in width and stand literally within touching distance of each other. The splendor of the interior spaces are further revealed through an understanding of their past which itself is unravelled by the cast of characters and dialogues that make these places come to life at night, embracing whatever political and ideological content happens to fill its confines. In Digital Humanities by Burdick et al., a “counterpublic” is defined as a space that is “constituted by intellectuals, some of them outstanding women authors who organized salons in their homes––in tension with, often against, but still connected to, public discourse.”1 The social fabrics and intellectual discourses that are manifested within



See Anne Burdick et al., Digital Humanities (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012).



“Shinjuku Golden Gai,” accessed May 28, 2014, 3

“The Golden Gai,” accessed May 28, 2014, http://the-goldengai. com/others/about/. 4

See Anne Burdick et al., Digital Humanities (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012).


the confines of Golden Gai create a similar “counterpublic”: Mama-sanoperated bars with patrons consisting of diverse intellectuals, amongst them poets, journalists, cartoonists, artists, musicians and celebrities2— congregating within the different establishments and building social networks that are as tightly fit and intricate as the interior spaces of the individual establishments themselves. Private discourse revolves and speaks against larger societal opinions, discussions and debates that often span beyond the life of a single night. The exclusivity of this dialogue is over time admitting to other members of like-minded intellectuals, forming a generational makeup that characterizes each establishment. It is the emergence of these intimate public spaces that earned the “Golden” moniker in the 1960s, from then on known as a town of bunkajin, or cultured citizens.3 In the chapter on “The Social Life of the Digital Humanities,” Burdick et al. argue that the digital humanities “engages a world of linked and lived experiences.4 Golden Gai, while devoid of such digitalities, is equally engaging in providing accessible urban spaces for captivating such linked and lived experiences. Rather than digital, we find ourselves immersed in the urban humanities. As absurd as it may sound, how then, can such a unique urban space be reconstructed? What are the ingredients that compile to produce such a provocative, “intimate public” in the heart of a megalopolis? Currie, Collins, and Odenheimer’s “A Manual for Intimate Publics” interrogates this seemingly preposterous notion, exploring the idea that a place like Golden Gai could possibly be reconstructed in a different urban setting. The essay that follows in itself represents a fascinating indulgence and careful retrospective on Golden Gai’s intimate public from three converging


perspectives: resistance, which speaks about spatial resistance amidst a perpetual state of uncertainty; maintenance, which addresses the communal aspect through social and spatial networks; and intimacy, which talks about the negotiation of space and how it encourages social intimacy. The authors are guided by three inspirations: Kon Wajirō’s writings on modernology, Ed Ruscha’s photo essay “Every Building on Sunset,” and Christopher Alexander et al.’s abstractions on spatial complexities in A Pattern Language.5 Using a combination of historical analysis, photographic documentation and ethnographic research, the following essay gives us a rare perspective into what they refer to as the “social and spatial intricacies” found in the heart of Tokyo.



Christopher Alexander, et al. A Pattern Language; Towns, Buildings, Construction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.







Places are fragmentary and inward-turning histories, pasts that others are not allowed to read, accumulated times that can be unfolded but like stories held in reserve, remaining in an enigmatic state, symbolizations encysted in the pain or pleasure of the body. —Michel de Certeau1

FIG. 1

Photo from the Golden Gai (Above). By the authors.


Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Stephen F. Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011). 2

Jorge Almazán and Nakajima Yoshinori, “Urban Micro-Spatiality in Tokyo: Case Study on Six Yokocho Bar Districts,” in Advances in Spatial Planning, ed. Jaroslav Burian (Rijeka, Croatia, InTech, 2012). 3

O-Young Lee, The Compact Culture: The Japanese Tradition of ‘Smaller is Better,’ (New York: Kondansha U.S.A., 1992).


Golden Gai, a neighborhood whose area comprises less than one city block, hides behind the hypermodern glass towers of Shinjuku, one of Tokyo’s largest business districts. The small buildings in Golden Gai are two to three stories tall, its unique array of narrow passageways and wooden structures house over 250 tiny bars and restaurants. Passing through the narrow alleys between buildings, customers can casually bar hop among the different establishments. Having served in the past as a haven for criminals and illicit activity, yokochō areas such as Golden Gai were traditionally considered old fashioned and unsafe. While there are less people living in the Golden Gai than before, a handful of Mama-san—a word that refers to the elderly women who run the bars—still live in the tight quarters of the second floor. Today, the area is both a specter of another time and a growing tourist attraction. Though Golden Gai is now a recognized cultural hub and low-key drinking spot, the neighborhood is often under threat for redevelopment, with the city citing its structural instability and vulnerability to fire as the key concerns. Recent scholarship has emphasized that the smallness of yokochō drinking and eating establishments foster a kind of informality and diversity of public behavior that give these places their unique character.2 Such research recognizes these spaces as representative of the traditional aesthetics and philosophy of compactness and miniaturization of Japanese culture, from the the bento box to bonsai traditions.3 However, this emphasis on smallness as the redeeming quality of yokochō in Tokyo elides the complex historical, economic, and political dynamics that shape the material and social aspects of these spaces. Such a narrow cultural analysis could also adhere to a particularizing orientalism that reduces certain aspects of Japanese culture to a stereotype. Golden Gai should be examined for how the past, present, and future coalesce in the built environment, and how this complex ecology shapes people’s experiences and perceptions within it. Golden Gai’s scale can be grounded more in an understanding of economic pressures of the postwar period, when it took shape as a series of black market stalls selling foreign goods and food in defiance of the government’s strict rationing system. The dense cluster of establishments also serves to protect the area from pressures of redevelopment, thanks to the complex web of land rights among its many landowners. Golden Gai’s tangle of ownership first protected it from collapse during the 1980s bubble economy, a period when the yakuza threatened to burn it down, and later through successive waves of nearby urban redevelopment. More recently, the area has enjoyed an infusion of a new generation of proprietors who recognize the value of the neighborhood as an important artistic and literary hub, written about and patroned by authors such as Tanaka Komimasa, Saki Ryūzō, and Nakagami Kenji. As many of the small bars cater to the tastes of a political and cultural fringe, the area continues its reputation as a mosaic


of countercultures, where individuals can gather around common interests, from jazz to avant garde film. In the following pages our project proposes a way to theorize our experiences in Golden Gai. We then introduce three interdisciplinary modes of viewing and representing the area as a site of research. Through these analytic lenses, we gathered material that became the foundation for a speculative manual of the Golden Gai. This manual describes specific components of the Golden Gai while also providing a set of instructions for how to imagine and identify similar places. In the following section we lay out our theoretical approach and strategies of representation before describing the structure of the manual.

FIG. 2

Drawing based on section of Sea and Sun Bar in the Golden Gai. (Left). By the authors.


“It’s healthy for society at large to have such spaces. The TV generation has produced people who don’t think, who don’t take in information or question things. There’s stimulation in Golden Gai you don’t find elsewhere. It’s a place to talk, a public space, and an intimate space.” —Local journalist4 With a population hovering around 35 million people and over 400 years of history, Tokyo is a city whose urban landscape has developed in the face of extreme uncertainty. Partially demolished by war and numerous natural disasters over the 20th century, Tokyo has rebuilt itself through rapid urbanization, which has often left little trace of the foundations the city is built upon. Nevertheless, there are remnants of its urban history in the narratives of its inhabitants, embedded in social ties that transcend generational boundaries. In Golden Gai, for instance, the complexity of its social ecology is a result of its long history as a place of political dialogue and cultural critique, which has been encouraged and preserved over generations of proprietors and patrons. Based on the personal narratives we gathered from people in Golden Gai, we make the case that such neighborhoods are a valuable cultural and political asset for contemporary megacities such as Tokyo. Among this crowd there is a collective sense that as the surrounding buildings get taller, the megalopolis tends towards



All uncited quotations in this article are taken from interviews with denizens of Golden Gai, condcted by the authors over a period from March 19-29, 2014.




a physical landscape and cultural climate that is much less provocative, diverse, and intimate. We refer to Golden Gai, and places like it that serve similar functions, as an Intimate Public. The term Intimate Public was first coined by Lauren Berlant, who described a social construct in which certain individuals (in her case, women) feel or perceive a sense of collective intimacy based upon their common consumption of a commodified culture, such as literature, film, and television.5 Just as Berlant’s intimate public challenges prevailing notions of what is private and public, intimate and non-intimate, so too do our Intimate Publics force us to reconsider the relationship between the so-called public realm and different kinds of urban spaces. Intimate Publics can exist in multiple contexts, yet they cannot be designed or planned. By their very nature, they grow out of the social and cultural embeddedness of individuals interacting over time. STRATEGIES OF REPRESENTATION

“Golden Gai has a Japanese heritage that needs to be saved and left as it is. The high-rises look the same; they all have the same function. There’s meaning in a place like this. New people can’t just come in and bring newness with them. It has spirit, feeling, sentiments and attachments by the owners that can’t be replaced.” —Michiko, bartender Fieldwork for this study took as its starting point the dilemma of representing a foreign culture, and in particular one so commonly misunderstood and distorted through a Western lens. Which begs the question: how can we interpret the world, recognizing but not overstating difference? To be sure, even the interviews we conducted only offer insight into the thoughts of the denizens of Golden Gai who would be willing to coverse with a group of foreign students. To address this in part, we adopted Rabinow’s notion of the cosmopolitan intellectual, whereby the ethical is the guiding value.6 As he explains, cosmopolitan intellectuals take an oppositional position against both universalism and relativism. According to Marilyn Strathern, “the effort is to create a relation with the Other—as in the search for a medium of expression which will offer mutual interpretation, perhaps visualized as a common text, or as something more like a discourse.” 7 Approaching the project in this manner allows us to be respectful of difference without essentializing it. In this context, we organized our strategies of representation around three ways of seeing: Kon Wajirō’s writings on modernology, Ed Ruscha’s photo essay Every Building on Sunset, and the widely influential (yet dated) town planning text, A Pattern Language. In our attempts to borrow from—and in some ways duplicate—these three representational strategies, we utilized various methods such as photography, mapping and drawing, unstructured interviews, participant observations, as well as archival research. In doing so we also developed a series of relationships with residents and employees of Golden Gai, who then served as helpful informants for our project. Trained as an architect, Kon’s work combines the craft and attention to detail of a designer with a sociological curiosity.8 His studies of


FIG. 3

Drawing by Kon Wajiro (above) Source: ‘Kon Wajiro Retrospective’ FIG. 4

“Every doorway in Golden Gai,” a collage. By the authors.


Lauren Berlant, The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1997). 6

Paul Rabinow, “Representations Are Social Facts: Modernity and Post-Modernity in Anthropology,” Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, ed. James Clifford and George E. Marcus (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986). 7

Marilyn Strathern, “Dislodging a World View: Challenge and Counter-Challenge in the Relationship Between Feminism and Anthropology,” Australian Feminist Studies 1, (1985): 1-15. 8

Wajiro Kon – Retrospective. Kyoto: Seigensha Art Publishing, 2011.


FIG. 5

Excerpts from an imagined instruction manual for the recreation of Golden Gai (across). By the authors.

modernology consisted of a series of illustrations and writings that explored the social and cultural landscape of Tokyo as it transitioned into a modern metropolis. By focusing on both meta and minute details of the cityscape, he managed to incorporate a vast amount of analysis of both objects and their broader significance into small detailed drawings. Our project adopts Kon’s modernology as a conceptual framework for exploring the built environment of Golden Gai and documenting its visual elements. By seeking to represent quotidien items found in Golden Gai, we turn its everyday and mundane aspects into projective artifacts worth preserving. Consisting of over 250 bars in less than one city block, any topological rendering of Golden Gai in its entirety does not adequately capture its spatial intricacy. Doing so requires a reimagining of the relationship between the part and the whole of the built environment. By collapsing time and space onto one photographic plane, Ed Ruscha’s essay, Every Building on Sunset, allows for such a reimagining. We similarly captured every front door of Golden Gai and organized the photographs in such a way that allows us to create an alternative comprehension of the space. Methodologically, this also allowed us to map the locations of every bar in Golden Gai and analyze how its history is manifested in the built environment. By arranging these in their geographic order, we attempt to unravel the morphology of Golden Gai, and provide the audience with a unique way of seeing Golden Gai that more closely captures the experience of moving through it. Finally, the comprehensive and ambitious A Pattern Language, released in 1977 out of UC Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Structure by Alexander et al., draws from the fields of architecture, design, and planning to construct a new visual language for describing towns and cities.9 The book is highly didactic, as it is meant to empower and instruct people on how design their own houses, streets, and communities. While the language and content of A Pattern Language are dated, it is most useful in its capacity to abstract the logic of the everyday, both in terms of engineering systems as well as individual experiences. The process of abstracting the social and spatial complexities of Golden Gai led to the creation of the concept Intimate Public, and we use visual representations, or a pattern language, to describe how the Intimate Public works. A MANUAL FOR INTIMATE PUBLICS


Christopher Alexander et al., A Pattern Language; Towns, Buildings, Construction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977).


Our collected representations of Golden Gai became the foundation for a set of instructions called A Manual for Intimate Publics. The manual draws from highly specific contextual details about our observations and experiences of Golden Gai in order to provide a set of instructions for constructing an Intimate Public in other urban settings. This preposterousness of this idea is purposeful, in that it also allows us to confront the challenge of scholarly representation, or rather, the dubious relationship between any place and its representation, and between an object and its designed, planned reproduction. The instruction manual also denotes the paradoxical limitation of trying to design or plan for the creation of an Intimate Public, since, by their very nature, they grow out of very particular social and spatial conditions.



At the same time, this demonstrates the importance of Intimate Publics as a space of possibility and of “speculative topography,” one that acknowledges that the experience of a place is always one of invention.10 This analysis is, as such, also an exploration of our urban futurity. This project is not an investment in progress, nor an attempt at defining a solution to the challenges posed by rapid urbanization or the megacity. Ultimately, the purpose of this manual is to instruct how Intimate Publics can be identified and, hopefully, nurtured in contemporary urban spaces. THREE PARTS COMPRISING THE INTIMATE PUBLIC Resistance Intimacy

Maintenance FIG. 6

Diagram of relationship between different aspects of Intimate Publics. By the authors.


Nigel Thrift, Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect (New York: Routledge, 2008), 2.


As a thought excersise, we will imagine an instruction manual that describes how to construct an Intimate Public, divided into three interrelated parts: 1) resistance, 2) maintenance, and 3) intimacy. The following sections describe and analyze these three attributes, utilizing photographs, architectural drawings, as well as quotes from residents. Throughout are also explanations of the historical, political, and social context of Golden Gai, which help to explain its past, present, and future. Each section moves back and forth between specific details of Golden Gai and more generalized instructions for Intimate Publics as an abstract phenomenon. 1. RESISTANCE

“This place is anti-establishment, anti-government, and there’s resistance here. Without this kind of space society can’t thrive. It’s important to have a place to congregate and have intimate conversation.” —Local journalist Resistance is at the core of an Intimate Public’s identity, serving as the foundation from which it evolves and adapts to a perpetual state of uncertainty. The layering over time of different moments of resistance— whether economic, cultural, spatial, or political—helps to establish a local culture, where struggle, protest, and perseverance are the norm. A site of economic resistance, Intimate Publics generally provide spaces for commercial activity that are alternatives to or illicit in the regulated economy. Golden Gai first became known as a place for the placeless, absorbing those marginalized by the state and providing them with the means to participate in social and commercial activities. Having survived the destruction of World War II, Golden Gai emerged in the postwar period as an array of black market stalls, part of a network of exchange and circulation that operated outside legal regulation. There were few bars at this time, and those served mainly returning soldiers from the war, unemployed workers, as well as exiles and displaced peoples from Korea and Taiwan. Following these first years, Golden Gai developed into yokochō and became known as a disreputable, unsafe place. According to Michiko, a current bartender who opened an establishment in the Golden Gai in the 1960s, “the bars would forcibly ask people to come in, make them drinks, then charge them a lot. These were called ‘catch bars.’” Resistance in Intimate Publics may also be political in nature. In 1960, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered outside the National Diet Building in opposition to the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which they believed would allow for the continued control of Japan by the U.S. As the protests continued day after day, the University of Tokyo responded by


suspending student protestors and banning them from University grounds. In this context, a group of activists transformed several stalls in Golden Gai into small bars, creating a space for suspended students and other protesters to meet and further organize their political resistance. The Intimate Public’s resistance can be spatial as well through its opposition to urbanization. In Tokyo, as Shinjuku grew into a business and cultural hub, real estate values for Golden Gai rose quickly. Attempts by the city to repurpose the land were unsuccessful, however, given the highly complex nature of property rights in the neighborhood. According to Michiko, Golden Gai’s resilience owes much to this condition: “Golden Gai won’t disappear easily. In the past there has been pressure, with people trying to force the owners out. The Tokyo government wants this place gone, but there is complexity in the ownership of each building, and it would be hard to track everyone down to get them to leave.” With nearly all stalls in the neighborhood transformed into hundreds of tiny bars, the intricate subdivisions and untraceable building owners of Golden Gai make buying or selling land nearly impossible. Golden Gai’s resistance against destruction continued when the yakuza, the network of organized criminals in Japan, attempted to burn down Golden Gai, thus freeing it up for redevelopment. The fires were quickly put out by the omnipresent bartenders and patrons, who had installed fire alarms in every house. As yakuza members continued to offer bribes for Golden Gai’s residents to give up their property, the area developed a reputation for being dangerous. With the help of the police, bar owners installed “members only” signs on their front doors, allowing them to deny entrance to such unwanted individuals. Finally, resistance is performed through a rejection of cultural homogeneity. One bartender describes her bar, for example, as a safe space for women and those in the sex industry: “A store like this thrives on deep

FIG. 7

Image of the ‘Members Only’ sign. By the authors.

FIG. 8

Photo of the 1960 Protests at the Diet in Tokyo. Source: Untitled from the series “Days of Rage and Grief,” Hiroshi Hamaya, 1960.

relationships. Women and men from the sex industry will come to this bar as a space to congregate—there’s so much pretense that women must be a certain way.” In this way Intimate Publics fosters a seperate space for critical discussions about taboo subjects.



A note must also be made regarding the role that tourism can play as a form of resistance in an Intimate Public. Golden Gai’s first tourist bar strategically opened up at the entrance to draw new customers and improve the image of the neighborhood. As put by a former bartender, during the 1980s locals were too frightened to come due to the presence of the yakuza. By attracting foreigners, the new bar sought to make the place more calm and friendly. As other similar bars appeared in the area, the neighborhood became a safer place. However, many, such as one such person we interviewed, remain ambivalent about this turn: “The older ownership may not be favorable to the foreign face in Golden Gai.” Though there is a disconnect between the vendors and patrons of the older, original bars in the area and those catering to newcomers, the presence of tourists has turned the Golden Gai into a more widely recognized cultural asset. Rather than redevelop the area, as initially planned, the city has decided to preserve and promote it for the upcoming 2020 Olympics. This symbiotic relationship between tourism and the Golden Gai is both a cause célèbre and a concern, in that it must now strike a difficult balance between preventing the area’s destruction while also maintaining its identity. 2. MAINTENANCE

FIG. 9

Landscaping elements of the Golden Gai. By the authors.


“The original bar was at a school in Shinjuku. A famous poet named Kusano Shinpei is the original owner. After he passed away, they moved the shop to Kōenji, then to Golden Gai, and the clientele moved with each relocation. So the bar relocated to Golden Gai 18 years ago, but its history is 53 years old.” —Longtime Golden Gai patron Maintenance dictates the vibrancy, health, and longevity of any Intimate Public. Relying on social and spatial networks, maintenance requires both routine tasks as well as caretaking that transpires over long periods of time. The Golden Gai, for instance, depends upon daily manual tasks of labor and sociality. Plants outside must be watered, trash must be taken out. Ice is delivered to each bar every morning by a single worker, who has a record of how much ice each bar needs. Alcohol can be ordered on the phone by the bartender until late into the night, sometimes until 5 AM, with the delivery person arriving within five minutes. This type of ongoing work can be considered a synchronic form of maintenance, concerned with a specific moment in time, often occurring simultaneously across different bars throughout Golden Gai. The bartender is also responsible for maintaining the social atmosphere of each establishment through the force of their personalities and their particular interests. They keep returning patrons or new customers at ease, while also adopting gatekeeping mechanisms to deny entrance to undesirable types or strangers. According to one bartender, “My job is to maintain relationships with the clients here. If there’s any trouble I mediate conflicts. I’ve learned to manage people.” Whether jazz, punk rock, manga, avant garde film, literature, or sports, often the bar’s particular theme not only dictates the interior decor, but the clientele and topic of conversation as well.


Over long periods of time, the relationships between bartenders and patrons also serves an important maintenance function. As one former bartender describes, her clients were editors, writers, poets, movie directors, and regular businessmen who inspired each other professionally: “There’s a progression of people who came who were involved in the book trades and editing. Some of the people who met poets at the bar later started their own production companies.” The social capital derived from these networks also serves to reinforce the character of the place. The maintenance function of these social networks in an Intimate Public could be described as diachronic, concerned with evolution and change over time. Indeed, owners in the Golden Gai, who are predominantly female, have often owned the space for decades. Bartenders nurture connections to their longtime clientele, and they form relations with the other bartenders in Golden Gai. However, Golden Gai is currently undergoing a transitional period where these older Mama-san are approaching retirement and must now find a new bartender to manage the space. According to a local journalist conducting research on the area, “Often a Mama-san asks a regular patron who comes to drink to work at the bar, then that person becomes the next Mama-san. Patrons who visited a space for years take over, so there’s change but also continuity of clientele. It’s all based on word of mouth.” In many instances, a patron takes over when the previous bartender quits or retires, or else opens another establishment in order to serve the former bar’s regular clientele. Without these entrenched social ties Golden Gai would remain more vulnerable to destructive forces. In this sense, the resistance and maintenance of an Intimate Public are directly interrelated and mutually reinforcing.

FIG. 10

Photo of Ice Buckets. By the authors.

FIG. 11

Photo of ice delivery man and bystanders in the Golden Gai. By the authors.




FIG. 12

Portrait of Michko-San in the bar she currently tends. Source: Yoh Kawano


“I asked these older women who are single and alone who used to run these places if it’s now too loud and rowdy. But that’s what comforts them; they’re not alone. It’s the intrinsic nature of humans to want company. If they can hear the voice around, it gives them comfort. There’s a reason for the compactness here beyond its physical nature.” —Local journalist This combination of resistance and maintenance transforms urban and private commercial space so that individuals can engage one another in a way that is not possible in the public realm. In this sense, the intimacy of an Intimate Public is a product of these two components and its most desired characteristic. The intimacy of an Intimate Public consists of both spatial and social components. Spatially, Intimate Publics can refer both to individual spaces and ecologies of many spaces that are physically proximate in the urban landscape. The intimacy of any individual space thrives when the ecology of spaces at the larger scale is culturally diverse. The intimacy of an individual space in Golden Gai is in part a result of its small scale, which requires that patrons and bartenders negotiate space together. When one enters a bar in Golden Gai, they must adhere to the limitations of space, finding room to sit or stand in a way that everyone else’s comfort is maintained. New patrons must acknowledge and engage those around them in conversation in order to attain respect and service, and at times, admittance into the bar. When


someone decides to exit, everyone must negotiate space together in order to assist his or her passage. The hyper-proximity of bodies also makes it difficult to deviate from the existing social atmosphere. Known for fostering critical discourse of art, film, literature, and politics among patrons, these spaces are thus valued for their ability to encourage a departure from the mass-produced culture of popular media. As one interviewee put it, “The poet bar where my sister worked, it served dry snacks, cheap alcohol, and it was a little dirty. But that’s not what people came for. It’s about company, conversation, and intimacy. Customers are here to see the other customers.” In this sense, the intimacy of an Intimate Public produces a mosaic of countercultures. The norms and values of these countercultures in turn facilitate resistance, and the social networks they produce lend themselves to the Intimate Public’s maintenance, and on and on. RE-CREATING THE INTIMATE PUBLIC

By unpacking the origins of an Intimate Public, how it resists and adapts to change, the social and spatial ties that maintain it, and the intimacy that it produces, one can identify such spaces in other urban contexts. As the world grows increasingly urban, the presence of Intimate Publics will become ever more important as a rare space for diverse and intimate exchange. In other words, the Intimate Public is not just a space but a lens or forum for understanding where we have come from, and in doing so, imagining other possible futures. We acknowledge that just as these spaces have such a special aura, that they are also not unique to Golden Gai. And while they can be found scattered across the globe, planning or designing Intimate Publics is preposterous, if not impossible. Such space must first be cultivated organically, then, once discovered, supported and preserved through the mechanisms of resistance, maintainance, and intimacy.






“The past, if it is anything at all, is a dimension of the present and changes along with it.”1 “It’s not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather, image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation. In other words, image is dialectics at a standstill.”2 The past is here and now, coloring our daily life, forming part of the complex temporality of the present. But the nature of that co-presence gives form to contemporary contradictions and fantasies; it is “telescoped . . . through the present.”3 The representations and expectations of past experience, memory, and history contribute to present orientations and anxieties in ways that go far beyond simple chronology. It is the nature of that relationship and a particular variety of its staging and experience that forms the subject of the Urban Nostalgia group’s investigations. Liu, Walsh, and Wasilco consider the modes of recollection, commemoration, and experience in their exploration of particularly marked spaces of engagement with the past, asking us to think further about the status of these stagings in the here and now. The group robustly theorizes the nature of this engagement, as they describe the prevailing red-velvet, mediatized encounters with a serial something framed by a sense of loss, or absence, from the present. The incompleteness of the present daily life, its losses, uncertainties, inadequacies, find a commercialized salve that promises realness through fetishes. And yet another possible encounter hovers within reach, awaiting a fuller recognition. It is this tension that the group’s research uncovers. Freud speaks of the clinical phenomenon of the “fausse reconnaissance,” in which a patient newly reports a remembered point, but then qualifies it with “but I’ve told you that already.” The information often proves critical to the analytical process, but first appears to the patient in this strange form as something familiar, indeed, something already revealed and processed.4 And in a sense, so it goes with the daily encounters with the past in the nostalgic spaces. The presentness of the space, the encounter with significations of the past, the significance of these spaces within the Shinjuku of the present—all of these aspects are overwritten with the form of an imagined, prior encounter: a false memory of both the positivity of the past, conceived of as a welcoming, better form of life, and of the space of encounter itself. Thus the group speaks of the prioritization of the “site as a source of information, rather than the thing itself, and the experiences it might be possible to have there.” It is not a case of a repressed content being banished from view; it is there, in front of our eyes, but marked by a false familiarity that deflects our actual engagement with it. And so Liu, Walsh, and Wasilco document the similarly prolific presence of a certain performance of memoration, one doubly marked as past (not really here) and as nostalgic: offered for sale, and for emotional investment, as a vehicle for connection to a prior and better existence. In other words, marked as a stand-in for something else, instead of as itself. Shinjuku in many ways is massively overlaid with such gazes, a copresence to the “internationalism of ferro-concrete” remarked on by Yoshiyuki Eisuke as early as 1930 (to which we might add a host of newer building materials). Its cosmopolitanism, its presence on the leading edge of serial and relentless urban development—with all its unevenness and dislocations, its



Constantin Fasolt, The Limits of History, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 16. 2

Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2002), 462. 3

Ibid., 471 4

Sigmund Freud, SC 13, 201-2.



Timothy Yun Hui Tsu, “Black Market, Chinatown, and Kabukichō: Postwar Japanese Constructs of ‘Overseas Chinese,’” positions: east asia cultures critique 19.1 (Spring 2011): 145. 6

The state identifies as “Resident Koreans” (zainichi Korean) former colonial subjects and citizens of the Japanese empire whose multigenerational presence within Japan provides a living reminder of a fraught history, and an easy target for jingoism. Kabukichō’s sex work, inclusive of both foreign and Japanese sex workers, also connects to a long history. See Mark Driscoll, Absolute Erotic, Absolute Grotesque: The Living, Dead, and Undead in Japan’s Imperialism, 1895-1945 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010). Driscoll recalls the disavowed centrality of sex work, opium, and exploited colonial labor to Japanese empire and metropole alike. He also recalls an earlier moment of critical analysis: Tanaka Kōgai’s 1920s sexological journal identified “sexual perversion” (hentai) as “standard and even banal within the affective conditions established by modern capitalism… it’s plausible to render hentai as simply ‘capitalist modernity’” (153-154). 7

Giorgio Agamben, “From the State of Control to a Praxis of Destituent Power,”, Feb. 2014.


connection to domestic and foreign empire, and its long-standing connection to desire (from consumption to other appetites), all make Shinjuku a lightning rod for imaginations of anxiety, and for reductive solutions. Thus (as documented elsewhere in this catalog), Kabukichō of late has been figured as an abject space of “Chinese-ness, criminality, and non-Japaneseness,”5 while homeless appearing at Citizens Plaza during the celebratory announcement of the winning Olympic bid were derided as “non-national traitors” (hikokumin) for their very existence. Nearby Shin-Ōkubo, host of a thriving Koreatown, has been the scene of ugly, racist demonstrations.6 Meanwhile, the hyper-functionality of Nishi-Shinjuku gives concrete and unlivable form to the rejections of an earlier history of 1960s counterculture and politics, read as a disorder to be resolved away. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings within Nishi-Shinjuku were also the seat of power of former governor (1999-2012) Ishihara Shintarō, whose jingoistic forecasts of likely riots by illegal “Third-Country Nationals” (sangokujin) in the event of disaster managed to combine Occupation-era slanders of former colonial populations together with those circa 1923, when police and military fed rumors of Korean fire-starting in the wake of the Great Kantō Earthquake, prompting massacres. Giorgio Agamben’s identification of a new, normalized state of exception in our moment of relentless security-speak here finds its unsurprising racist supplement. As in both earlier moments, the imagination of possible futures in the wake of crisis was redirected away from structural change, and towards vulnerable targets. Agamben associates intimations of crisis as part and parcel of a political disenfranchisement of the population at large. The state whose norms are founded upon the anticipation of crisis departs from political mechanisms and the reach of any citizenry: “A formal state of exception is not declared and we see instead that vague non-juridical notions––like the security reasons—are used to install a stable state of creeping and fictitious emergency without any clearly identifiable danger. An example of such non-juridical notions which are used as emergency producing factors is the concept of crisis...The crisis, the judgement, is split from its temporal index and coincides now with the chronological course of time, so that — not only in economics and politics—but in every aspect of social life, the crisis coincides with normality and becomes, in this way, just a tool of government. Consequently, the capability to decide once for all disappears and the continuous decision-making process decides nothing. To state it in paradoxical terms, we could say that, having to face a continuous state of exception, the government tends to take the form of a perpetual coup d’état.”7 The Japanese press delivers an unending series of anxieties, from economic malaise to demographic problems of age, sex, and distribution, framing problems of daily life as further forms of crisis, as social and structural analogues to discourses of disaster present and future. Daily life is thus overshadowed by conceptions of crisis and disaster, even as the actuality of one disaster and its aftermath remains frustratingly opaque and incompletely addressed. Prime Minister Abe Shinzō’s assurances to the International Olympic Committee in September of 2013 indeed declared that the situation was under control, and that Tokyo itself was never, and will never be, in danger. As Tokyo projects forward to 2020 as a hoped-for relief to a host of crises, it echoes an earlier moment, the Tokyo Olympiad of 1964, choreographed to


showcase a Japan born anew, a model of American-sponsored modernization in the Cold War.8 The celebrations of a resurgent Japan of peace in 1964 (supported by an American security umbrella and economic largesse from a pegged exchange rate, tech transfers, and direct and indirect profits from America’s Asian hot wars—first Korea, then Vietnam) went hand in hand with a displacement of politics, the mass demands for participation since the time of the Occupation, and which had coalesced in the anti-U.S.-Japan Security Treaty demonstrations of 1960 (Anpo). The displacement came in the form of another, quotidian celebration, also given form by the Olympic triumphalism: a promise of economic well-being, of staggering growth beneficently guaranteed by the government. Some of the nostalgia of the present returns to remember elements of that history positively, minus the conflicts. Thus the Hanazono Shrine priest celebrates the continuing presence of Kara Jūrō’s tent theater, declaring their mission to provide such public space—and conveniently forgetting the expulsion of the troupe from the shrine precincts during the tumult of 1968. That theater had consistently staged productions in which quotidien spaces became the venue for irruptions of a displaced and fantastically figured past, unified in violence with the present. The Urban Nostalgia group’s insistence on the productive nature of the nostalgic form returns us again to Freud’s notion of “fausse reconnaissance.” For what is crucial in such forms is their very disclosure. They bring forward not a prior content, nor a holistic past glimpsed in traces. Rather, we might detect the shape of a present contradiction, a structuring in which something essential is disclosed in the very form of the disclosure. Such ever-present histories and contradictions also make Shinjuku into a place of potential, where past and present may mutually inform our now, where habits of exclusion might be overturned by new visions of urban life. Benjamin’s notion of excluded pasts might apply equally to excluded presents: It is very easy to establish oppositions, according to determinate points of view, within the various “fields” of any epoch, such that on one side lies the “productive,” “forward-looking,” “lively,” “positive” part of the epoch, and on the other side the abortive, retrograde, and obsolescent.The very contours of the positive element will appear distinctly only insofar as this element is set off against the negative…. It is therefore of decisive importance that a new partition be applied to this initially excluded, negative component so that, by a displacement of the angle of vision… a positive element emerges anew in it too—something different from that previously signified.9 Instead of a blind and serially discredited faith in inevitable progress, and the push/pull of identification and exclusion, such conjunctures may lead to what Benjamin hopefully terms an “awakening...the dialectical, Copernican turn of remembrance” against “the darkness of the lived moment.”10 It is a different kind of uncertainty, one in which risk figures as a refusal to engage and experience the city.



This too had its unfortunate historical echo: the plans for the 1940 Tokyo Olympics, celebrating empire and global connections of a different sort. 9

Benjamin, The Arcades Project, 459 10

Ibid., 388-9. “What Proust intends with the experimental rearrangement of furniture in matinal halfslumber, what Bloch recognizes as the darkness of the lived moment, is nothing other than what here is to be secured on the level of the historical, and collectively. There is a not-yet-conscious knowledge of what had been: its advancement has the structure of awakening.” (389)







“Nostalgia is a sentiment of loss and displacement, but it is also a romance with one’s own fantasy.” —Svetlana Boym, “Nostalgia and its Discontents” A rack of newspapers stood just inside the doorway, blocking our view into the smoky café like a wall, neatly punctuating our retreat from Shinjuku’s fast-flowing bustle and eyeball-crowding proliferation of signs, shops, and station. This invitation to indulge in the unabashedly non-technological act of reading a newspaper while enjoying a cup of coffee was the first sign of Café Time’s deliberate time-warp. In the junkissa—the “pure” cafés of the Shōwa era, serving only coffee and a simple side menu—dark wood furniture upholstered in ubiquitous red velvet ranged through the brick-walled space under dim lights, faded paintings of bullfights, and generic pastoral landscapes. Melon soda with a scoop of ice cream provided a bloom of color in the half-light, as striking the glaring whites of dress shirts on bowtie-clad waitstaff. Behind the counter, the gleaming equipment of serious coffee: mills and beakers and scoops; shelves of fine china cups and saucers, sometimes inviting the customer to choose their favorite patterns; or a stack of records, jazz and classical, as if the digital age hadn’t yet arrived. Perhaps for some of the elderly customers, it might as well have not. Yet every so often among the younger clientele, the evidence of mass media was there: images of this café or others like it, in magazines or on miniature screens, in an infinite regress of shadowy, amber-colored light.

FIG. 1

Collage of images from museums, shrines, temples, bars and cafes. By the authors.


We have located our project in the tension between the twinned concepts of history and nostalgia. We set out to examine the cultural memory and historical identity of Shinjuku through the examination of three specific technologies of memory and preservation: museums, shrines and temples, and nostalgic cafes and bars throughout the ward. We sought both memories of Shinjuku itself, and also evidence of the city’s imbrication within and interaction with broader narratives of Tokyo, or of Japan. With this in mind, investigated our sites both individually, and in ways that encompassed their cross-pollinations and the borders where both the concrete sites and their rhetorical, visual and media constructions bleed into and inform one another. Nostalgia has typically operated in tension with, or even in opposition to, the official labor of history: from museums to memorials, objects and sites of memory and documentation have been created under the purview of the nation-state or other such authorities. Over the course of the twentieth century, however, as Andreas Huyssen has observed, the range of materials included under the umbrella of historical memory expanded drastically, with new categories in material culture, aural and spatial ephemera and so on drafted into the service of collective memory––and, moreover, eroding the boundaries between collective memory and official history.1 We follow Svetlana Boym’s argument that nostalgia turns this one simulacrum of memory, “history”––the official, professionally produced versions of both national and “universal” pasts––into “private or collective


memory,” or, more precisely, into an interpenetrating amalgam of the two.2 Like Benedict Anderson’s canonical observation about nations as “imagined communities,” the sites, objects, and processes of nostalgia are characterized by both a “formal universality” and an “irremediable particularity” in their local manifestations, what Boym has called a “grammar” of nostalgia.3 In the context of this personalization and informalization of history as memory, and the explosion of commemorative culture in the realm of the popular, Jordan Sand argues that a concurrent emptying of meaning from official sites of history, such as national monuments, has furthered the drift of history into popular nostalgia.4 Sand blames the effects of mass media and digital globalization, as does Boym when she notes that one effect of the expansion of virtual space has been the simultaneous growth of “yearning for a community with a collective memory,” and for sites of continuity; that is, for “actual” space.5 For our part, we would expand the diagnosis to include mass consumer society as well, perhaps the most important partner in nostalgia’s relentless expansion. Nostalgia’s power, its longing for affective union with the imagined lost, increases when that longing is combined with commercialism and its promise of an inherently fleeting achievement of personal possession, of incorporation of the object of desire into the repertoire of self. The mood in the air seemed to shift as we entered through the red gates. From the outside, the shrine and its entrance looked hemmed, almost crammed into the surrounding office and apartment buildings, yet the protective shade they cast over the long, lantern-lined approach triggered a sense of transition. The ritual of cleansing our hands furthered this passage into a quieted reverence. Around us, non-verbal sounds signaled visitors’ presence to others, to ancestors, and to the gods: ringing gong, running water and clapping hands pierced the muffled quiet. It was difficult to imagine this space as the site of raucous performances and clamorous festivals, announced on self-conscious placards detailing the site’s history––an Edo-era print, an image of a red tent. Yet wide expanses of untended space between the rich ritual buildings signaled a hidden, fluctuating economy of event and repose. Strung in tension between the sacred and the everyday, a single businessman on his phone, lunch in hand, prompted the recognition that this space set apart for reflection and remembrance was, after all, a community facility. In Japan the union of nostalgia and consumerism has been particularly fruitful, especially in the prosperous, later postwar era. The recent history of nostalgia as an industry starts with the furusato boom of the 1970s and 1980s. Furusato, a word that can be roughly translated as “old hometown,” drew on a shared imaginary of Japan’s rural past––“past” in the sense of the former agricultural economy having been soundly eclipsed, and in a more nebulous sense, drawing on the idea that Japan’s urbanites all had some country village in their past, so long as one looked back far enough. The dubiousness of this claim to a universal rural heritage is clear in



Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 1-2. 2

Svetlana Boym, “Nostalgia and its Disconetents,” in The Uses of the Past (Charlottesville: Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia, 2007), 8. 3

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 2006), 5. Boym, “Nostalgia,” 13. 4

Jordan Sand, Tokyo Vernacular: Common Spaces, Local Histories, Found Objects (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 4. 5

Boym, “Nostalgia,” 10.


FIG. 2

Edo-era Naito Shinjuku, from Edo Meisho Zue.

FIG. 3

Cafe scene, Shinjuku, 1957. Tanuma Takeyoshi, photographer.


Jennifer Robertson, “Furusato Japan: The Culture and Politics of Nostalgia,” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 1, no. 4 (1988): 497. 7

The Edo or Tokugawa era, characterized in part by the rise of a vibrant urban culture in the capital of the Tokugawa shogunate, stretched from 1603 to 1868. In the modern period, the progression of imperial era names is as follows: Meiji, 1868-1912; Taisho, 1912-1926; Shōwa, 1926-1989; and the current era, Heisei, 1989-present. It should be noted that the long Shōwa era encompasses Japan’s rise to militarist expansionism, the Pacific War, and the period of postwar recovery and economic boom.


anthropologist Jennifer Robertson’s description of the furusato movement–– which eventually grew into a big-money economy of regional boosterism–– as having turned the idea of the countryside itself into an unspecific nostalgic commodity for urbanites with no rural home to return to, and “no particular place to feel nostalgic toward.”6 Given the success of the furusato boom in creating new categories of consumption based on affect rather than efficiency, luxury, or other standards, by the 1980s urbanites found themselves eager to get in on both the fun and the profits. Tokyo itself underwent a process of re-branding both from above and below, wherein urban “Shōwa” culture, and its older correspondent in early modern Edo, became as generalized and potent a site of nationalized nostalgia as country villages.7 Instead of yearning for a mountain village with water wheels, one could be proud to be an Edokko, a “child of Edo” or native of Tokyo whose roots did not have to stretch back to the city’s premodern incarnation in order to appropriate the term. The trend encompassed both a lucrative official campaign to visit “Ethnic Tokyo,” with its now conceptually indigenized “crowds, its lack of monumentality, and its profusion of irregular and unplanned spaces,” as well as a variety of vernacular practices of urban “archaeology,” seeking the remnants of the city’s early modern past.8 The media of the urban nostalgia boom moreover was and continues to be largely apolitical, posing fond memories as a possible “alternative to the alienation of modernity.”9 This idea, of resisting contemporary urban anomie through the consumption of a nostalgic past, is frequently applied to popular interest in early modern Edo, but could just as easily describe attitudes toward the post-1945 Shōwa period, too. Postwar Tokyo, at least from the time of the preparations for the 1964 Olympics onward, was a city oriented toward the future more than anything else, just as the government’s official policy was oriented toward building the fiscal proof that the past was well and truly past. Yet in the wake of Tokyo’s transformation into the nation-state’s most potent symbolic of its modernity, the relics of the recent past––spatial, material, ephemeral––have in the light of retrospection been invested with an affective charge that has less to do with the march toward economic hyper-prosperity than the community- and individual-level milestones of the long road out of early postwar deprivation. Museum displays focusing on Shōwa exhibit the model of television that was likely to be the first in the neighborhood, purchased to see the wedding of the Crown Prince in 1959, or recreate a typical interior of a café where patrons who didn’t have a record player of their own would gather to listen to jazz or classic music. “Shōwa nostalgia” tends to gloss over the Pacific War and the fascist 1930s, but the early postwar in particular is still easily transformed into a general object of identification. As Sand notes, this narrative is not specific to Tokyo, characterized by the survival of wartime devastation, followed by the communal “struggle up from poverty.”10 This movement toward the general has been furthered by the expansion of consumer media, from guidebooks to television series. Our position on uncertainty in Shinjuku, then, has to do with the inherent precariousness of nostalgia and its objects––subject to the waxing and waning flows of national, local, personal and collective investment alike––as well as with the vicissitudes of historical interpretation. The object of memory is subject to


changes in meaning over time, as perceptions of history as well as of the present themselves change.11 Aside from the anachronisms that frequently creep into consumer encounters with imagined pasts, Huyssen identifies another, ongoing process of detemporalization in the very act of nostalgia consumerism, where the “all-pervasive virtual space of consumer culture” erodes the barrier or “constitutive tension between past and present.”12 In the wake of modernist discourses of history that served to “guarantee the relative stability of the past in its pastness” as much as they did to explain and validate the present, nostalgia consumption creates false continuities by suturing an often fetishized, historically specific interpretation of history and collective memory to the present.13 “Piss Alley,” has already been euphemistically transformed into “Memory Lane” on its inviting signage, and sprigs of silk cherry blossoms tied to hanging ducts and streetlights anticipate the actual blooms. In one bar, faded tourist posters for Hakodate and other far northern cities perform an additional, homewardoriented nostalgia within this dense helix of invitingly tiny bars and restaurants. Inside certain shops, the most basic of maps represents these establishments by name only, listed in their coiled succession on the abstract ground of a cross-hatched blob: the neighborhood as information, relationally isolated from the realworld space where it nestles up the station’s west side. This image of a world unto itself contrasts sharply with a more elaborate object of memorial commemoration, a scroll-style illustration of the streets’ facades from a 2009 project with an emphasis on the social, which preserves an even-now obsolete vision of these tightly packed alleyways in depicted in bright daylight colors with bustling crowds. When we arrive it is as packed with guide-toting tourists as with after-work boozers, and menus in English, Korean and Chinese are on the fingertips of every waiter. These offer oddly sanitized versions of the standard chicken skewer set, a variety of meatballs and breast and thigh meat, with innards left off to spare the wary—you have to know to ask for that. Trawling from shop to shop, we smell fried meat and watery beer and thick, oily broths, but no piss, not even in the darkest of connecting alleyways. Within the Urban Humanities Initiative’s larger, site-specific orientation, our objective was to try to grasp what it could mean for us, as a group, to focus on a “local” site like Shinjuku when the generalizing, nationalizing, and anachronistic processes described above have been humming along in the production of images of urbanism, nostalgic and otherwise, for decades. In order to identify sites where one could find this “past within the present,” we relied first and foremost on the prolific quality of nostalgia business itself. We set out to visit sites identified in nostalgic media––seven cafes, five bars and restaurants, eight shrines and temples, and three museums––to see how nostalgia’s “brand,” constructed with commercially viable imprecision, matched up with reality. Most of our research sites were what Boym has called “off-modern,” relics persisting in “side shadows and back alleys, rather than [on] the straight road of



Sand, Tokyo Vernacular, 12. 9

Ibid., 357. 10

Ibid., 369. 11

Sand’s observation that urban heritage museums present images of pre-modern city life that “agreed well with sensibilities of the conservative elite at the time” of their construction—namely the triumphal 1980s—lends credence to this idea that depictions of the past, like depictions of “the Other,” are often more about the contemporary than about the past itself. Ibid., 369. 12

Huyssen, Present Pasts, 10. 13

Ibid., 1. 14

Boym, “Nostalgia,” 8.

FIG. 4

Patron reading a newspaper at Times Cafe, a Shōwa themed cafe. By the authors.


FIG. 5

An “off-modern” shot of Omoide yokocho. By the authors.


Boym, “Nostalgia,” 10.


progress.”14 In our experience, this “off-modern” orientation is borne out quite literally in the spaces of Japanese urban nostalgia, as well as in Boym’s metaphorical sense. These cafes and bars, and the comparable scenes of everyday life replicated in museum displays, occupy the literal shadows and alleys of Shinjuku and Tokyo, and in many cases are the last vestiges of spaces erased by the onslaught of “progress”—skyscrapers, infrastructure, chains stores, and so on. Such relics of older business models, often artificially preserved, combine their spatially “off-modern” setting with social space-time, allowing customers to remove themselves from the relentless flow of the daily grind. One shop, the Scala-za Café, deliberately refers to itself as an “oasis” in the middle of Shinjuku’s bustle, while Omoide Yokochō, a sliver of land packed with bars, has cleaned up its former name of “Piss Alley” to the current “Memory Lane,” signaling to visitors that they are not simply stepping into a space out of time, but into a social world where personal memories count for something. Thus in our data gathering, we found the “continuity in a fragmentary world” that nostalgia consumers seek inscribed on two, interpenetrating levels. 15 First, at the site-specific level, in both this “off-modern” location and in the physical objects associated with each type of site––the red velvet in every café, or the water carriers at each temple, identical except for the family names written on each. And next, on the “meta” level, in the existence of a known circuit of nostalgic consumption and memory preservation in popular media, where every bar or café that had been featured for its charms on a TV show or in a magazine displayed photocopies or write-ups of the big event in a window or on a stand at the counter. At the outset of our research, we mistakenly took for granted that the mechanisms of inscribing history and affective or nostalgic investment would differ from place to place. What we found, however, was that these media confirmed Sand’s and Boym’s observations about nostalgia’s generalizing tendency: books and magazines tended to represent these disparate sites and sources of memory in strikingly similar ways, and establishments prided themselves on checking all the boxes on the list of nostalgic accouterments and atmosphere. Likewise, before our fieldwork, we wondered whether and how Shinjuku’s disparate histories as a site of protest, as well as of rapid economic development, could both be accommodated by both nostalgia consumerism and popular historical practice. The answer, it turned out, was that each of these conflicting specificities was subsumed under the rubric of homogenizing media tactics, whether magazine or exhibition design. This continuity of design, of the presentation of information about memory, also effects a certain homogenization of ways of thinking about memory and history. The blanket commodification of memory itself in these disparate sites prioritizes the interpretation, the site as a source of information, rather than the thing itself, and the experiences it might be possible to have there. This narrowing of possible thoughts about the nostalgic past was moreover demonstrated quite clearly in the confluence of opinion between individuals we interviewed and commentaries within nostalgiaconsumerism texts. One of our interviewees, a regular customer and longtime friend of the owners at one café directly across from Shinjuku Station’s East Exit––the famously refined Café Bon––set the tone of


FIG. 6

Selection of red velvet furniture in various sites throughout Tokyo. By the authors.

FIG. 7

Selection of matchbook labels found in various sites throughout Tokyo. By the authors.



FIG. 8

Kara Juro’s Red Tent on the grounds of the Hanazono Shrine. Source: Minamikawa Shimon, “Strange and Cosmic Wonder,” post, February 15, 2013, http:// items/29-shimon-minamikawas-tokyo-strange-and-cosmicwonder.


“Japanese cities are often said to be poor in public space like parks, but from the beginning this role has been undertaken by shrines.” Katayama Fumihiko, chief priest of Hanazono Jinja. “Hanazono Jinja Monogatari,” Nagahama Junnosuke. Kafu! Vol. 21 (Tokyo: Nihon Bungeisha, 2006), 19. 17

Yasuoka Shotaro, “Natsukashisa ni tsuite”/”On Nostalgia,” in Tokyu no Sengo:Tanuma Takeyoshi shashinshu (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo, 1993), 200. 18

Yasuoka, “On Nostalgia,” 198.


commentary on Shinjuku’s past when he lamented the effect that the explosion of chain stores and restaurants has had on the area around the station. Seeing this man, Mr. Andō, as someone with concrete roots in the area and a preference for the Shōwa atmosphere that had nothing to do with a guidebook, it was hard not to sympathize with him. Similarly, an employee at Peace Café, in the station’s west exit plaza, gestured not only to the dysfunction of the present, but to a back-projected idyll of the past when he responded to a question about the appeal of his own shop and others in the Shōwa junkissa model with a single word: “furuki-yoki,” a compound adjective that literally conflates the old (furui) with the good (yoi). Furukiyoki, the very concept of the good old days and the imagined model of urban sociality that comes along with it, explains it all, to both embedded locals and eager seekers. Commentators in textual sources agreed. A priest at the Hanazono Shrine of East Shinjuku recalled the days when underground theatre artist Kara Jūrō staged his “Red Tent” performances on the grounds of the shrine, noting that although he didn’t understand the appeal of the work, carrying out an event like that on temple ground spoke to what he believes is the true and traditional function of a shrine: to provide public space, and to act as the “culture centers” of local practice in areas where it is otherwise dramatically absent.16 Likewise, Yasuoka Shōtarō, in a catalogue essay for a collection of the photographs of Tanuma Takeyoshi called “On Nostalgia,” zeroes in on the main tropes of urban nostalgia, when he eulogizes the lifestyle of the backstreets, of children playing at house and at swordfighting. Since the advent of television in nuclear family homes, Yasuoka opines, one no longer sees such scenes of communal sociality.17 Finally, coming full circle, the very streets and scenes recalled so fondly by our informants were persistently the focus of models and full-scale replicas in the museums we visited, including both a miniature café and streetscape diorama at the Shinjuku Historical Museum, and a life-sized replica townscape with communal water pumps and clotheslines at the Shitamachi (or “Downtown”) Museum. Part of this homogeneity of perspectives has to do, again, with the extent of the mediatization of the past that has already been effected. Yasuoka’s personal memories of the area around Shibuya Station’s Hachikō entrance, depicted in Tanuma’s photograph, intersect both with the photo and with novels other creative works that have already entered this space into the record of collective memory.18 On the surface, his essay consists mainly of meandering musings on his own, personal knowledge and memory, followed by the aforementioned lament for the young generation. Intentionally or otherwise, this stream-of-consciousness format positions Yasuoka to simultaneously enact the fragility and contingency of memory that he also describes. Yasuoka specifically contrasts the haziness of personal nostalgia, its aimaisa, with the cutting realism of the photographic image, but also repeatedly brings up the places, things, and scenes Tanuma’s photos did not capture. He dwells on the buildings, spaces, and objects that have not been captured by Tanuma’s photos, yet remain in his own memory, thus using the nostalgic image of one urban space as a mnemonic device for the streets and alleyways that shoot off, outside the frame.


This is the key problem that we see with getting one’s nostalgic kicks from a photobook, a museum exhibition, or a café or bar guide that tells you what to look for when you visit. There is a necessary failure of precision in all technologies of memory, whether by design or due to the limits of human recollection. This in turn creates gaps, not only between memory and reality, but also from medium to medium. The specificities of each do not add up to a complete whole, yet every medium of nostalgic content positions itself as authoritative. In our project, we choose to see this as a strength, rather than a weakness: we see the most potential in acknowledging, and seeking to better understand, the specifics of nostalgia’s inherent inaccuracy. The fact that neither individual nor collective memory are up to the task of preserving the elusive “whole truth”—which doesn’t exist, anyway—is beside the point. Instead, we wish to position the wealth of nostalgic media that already exists not as a guide to how to think about the past, but as a jumping-off point for a return to experience. Of all our journeys into the past, the museum aimed to be the most complete in its immersion, the most encyclopedic in its accessories and fixtures. Guided by a kindly docent into full-scale replicas of candy stores, tradesmen’s workshops and incongruously isolated domestic spaces, we were clearly meant to contemplate the allure of this hodgepodge of good old days. What was life like without paved roads, phones or computers; with laundry on the walls and children in the streets? Grainy photos and personal spaces carefully positioned to overlap with public ones telegraphed an earnest message: here is community. In this space of clocks and candies and board games presented like hallowed relics, a sense of longing for this charming material past was almost inevitable. The miniature shrine in the corner, a small-scale replica of a shrine in perfect stylistic harmony with one we’d visited hours before, offered only good fortunes as take-home tokens of remembrance— another sign that the past was where only good things happened, or that when bad things happened, the goodness of the times itself provided the means to carry on. Only the café was strangely bare. The red velvet seats, the stained glass, and the record player were there, but in the modernist space of the museum, the absence of dim lighting and plumes of cigarette smoke was striking in this model specimen. Could it be that we now found ourselves nostalgic for the real thing? In the design component of our project, we aim to collect, contain, and display the media of nostalgia so that it sparks this return to experience, encouraging nostalgia-seekers at our chosen sites to take their noses out of their guidebooks, so to speak. We wish to deliver the nostalgic contents of a site’s physical and historical context, in both its broadest and narrowest senses, in a single fell swoop, in order to move beyond what Boym has called “restorative nostalgia”—that which “ends up reconstructing emblems and rituals of home and homeland in an attempt to conquer and spatialize time.”19 It is our hope to reclaim nostalgia as a productive process, to escape the churning, mediatized circulation of pre-programmed memory,


FIG. 6

Model of Shinjuku, Tokyo at the Shinjuku Historical Museum. By the authors.

FIG. 7

Exhibition of room in home at the Shitamchi Museum. By the authors.


Boym, “Nostalgia,” 15. 20

Sand, Tokyo Vernacular, 3.


FIG. 8

Photocopy of magazine article on Shōwa Cafes provided to the authors by staff at Cafe L’Ambre.

and to think about nostalgia in a way that treats ideas about the past as a “generative grammar” as Sand uses it, or a dynamic source of thinking about the future.20 The potential for this kind of project emerged from our encounters with individuals already embedded within the economy of nostalgia consumption. Café owners and employees, for instance, invariably knew about one another, knew where the other nostalgic cafés in the area were and often recommended we visit them, and in one case had photocopies from magazines and books on Shōwa cafes ready made to show and distribute to nostalgia tourists. Likewise, museum docents not only had recommendations for other museums with content appropriate to our project, but also could pull out more nostalgia media from their own archives, the very books and magazines that we’d focused on as “evidence” filed away alongside “authentic” archival materials. Where Mr. Andō at Café Bon saw a loss of communal sociality as Shinjuku’s skyscrapers grew and chain stores multiplied, our investigation of these pre-identified sites of nostalgia revealed a nascent social and professional network, one that evokes precisely the kinds of urban community that nostalgia consumers themselves looked to as a feature of the lost “good old days.” In the face of older generations’ eminently relatable skepticism, it seems imperative to harness this burgeoning, informal, and seemingly organic web of knowledge and correspondence, both in its mediatized component and at the more intimate scale of Shinjuku business networking with one another. Installed in scattered multiples across Shinjuku outside of or adjacent to sites already canonized by nostalgic media, these “bubbles” will be minimalist, generic, and semi-transparent in design. They are a series of containers of the moment, so to speak, of nostalgic encounter—the moment we wish to facilitate, but also enable the nostalgia tourist to move beyond. Inside the bubbles, interactive displays of historical and nostalgic media deliver contents that are site-specific, but will also connect the specific nostalgic life of each site to the broader history of the nostalgia itself, not least as a lucrative commodity. As an example of a possible exhibition item, we have designed a catalogue that, by inventorying images of the stereotypical attributes of each typological nostalgia site drawn from different sources, brings to the fore the visual and conceptual similarity of their mediatization. These sources, organized by type, will be identified on the facing page of each image collection, demonstrating the homogenization of form and content across both the sites themselves and their attendant media: just as the red velvet chairs found in every junkissa worth its salt have been dutifully reproduced in the museum, popular texts on local history use the same layouts, typefaces, and images as travel guides to bars with that prized Shōwa atmosphere. Hanazono Shrine Peace Cafe Cafe Bon

FIG. 9

Map of nostalgic sites in Shinjuku. By the authors.


Jokaku Ji

Cafe La Scala Kumano Shrine

Cafe Times

Shinjuku ƐƚĂƟŽŶ


Cafe L’Ambre Taiso Ji

The bubble’s function are twofold. First, the goal described above: drawing attention to the homogenization of memory in nostalgic media. Secondly, as a repeating urban form, the bubbles’ spatial proximity to the nostalgia sites highlights the hidden network that we discovered among otherwise unrelated typologies of nostalgic sites, allowing interested parties to see their own consumption of nostalgia as social, and interact with likeminded fellow seekers. Walking the line between being embedded in their respective sites, the bubbles act as self-contained spaces of contemplation, prompting visitors to consider the affiliate nostalgic site and its imbrication within processes of history, memory, and consumption—again, to round out the “moment” of nostalgic consumption with an awareness of its contingency, and, hopefully, to prompt a conceptual movement beyond the its conventions. As a final caveat, it is not our object, in capturing the nostalgia market and then revealing its mechanisms to its ardent consumers, to perform or endorse any kind of pathologization of nostalgia, nor to align ourselves with unhelpful assertions of consumer blinkeredness. In saying that we encourage nostalgia seekers to move beyond nostalgia itself, we call again upon the idea that the media of popular nostalgia treats these sites according to their informational uses, as spatially distinct sites of preservation of knowledge about “the past.” By front-loading not only the specific history of each site but also the history of nostalgia itself, we hope to clear the way for experience once again. In short, our project does not seek to shame individuals for their interest in these sites of nostalgia—neither the young consumers of an imagined past nor the older generations who shake their heads at the encroachment of Starbucks and skyscrapers. We believe that, as evidenced by the emphasis on community cooperation in mainline Shōwa nostalgia, even the most rose-colored or whitewashed remembrances of things past can contain the seeds of a re-imagined future. We do not fall into the trap of nostalgia ourselves by imagining a pure memory that exists outside the generalizations of nostalgia media. Instead, we recognize the importance of memory as an imperfect technology, and its inevitable rootedness in contemporary concerns, as one possible way out of a futurity that merely chugs through reproductive cycle after reproductive cycle. We wish to encourage a futurity that builds on notions of “how things were” (however whitewashed) to imagine how things might be. Thus by revealing nostalgia’s mechanisms, we hope to prompt not cynicism but rather an engagement with the social, historical, and economic structures in which contemporary forms of nostalgia exist, and to see the collectivity they summon through mediatized knowledge as a potentially empowering site of creativity. We wish to prompt the patrons of these sites to go beyond the literal interpretation of these sites and their attendant media as straightforward repositories of objective, memorial fact, and to see them as the dynamic sites of self-creation they are, both in situ and in a broader collective imaginary. Rather than disillusionment, our project seeks to prompt self-awareness, both at the level of the embedded, individual urban subject, and for collective subjects imbricated within a past that includes all levels of memory: the specifics of each city, each time, and each place; both official and idealized histories of a national past; and nostalgia as an intellectual, consumer, and social historical phenomenon itself, with a local flavor—all at once. URBAN NOSTALGIA

FIG. 10

Rendering of nostalgia bubble installation outside of Cafe L’Ambre. By the authors. (next page)








In the volume you have just read, you have traversed a landscape of history, theory, urban and epistemological exploration, speculation, and narrative. It is one we have claimed breaches conventional models of knowledge production to form new interdisciplinary alliances, strange methodologies, queer representational devices, and novel conclusions. Like the setup to a punchline, Simpson, Bolaria, Harris, Poster, and Knauff studied Kabukichō (literally, “walking into a bar”) with collective intelligence from the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, ethnomusicology, public policy, and philosophy. Currie, Collins, and Odenheimer have presented, represented, and re-represented Golden Gai through means that have become the very way in which they learned about it. (Ed Ruscha might be a fourth member of this team.) We have grappled with, redefined, championed, and criticized ideas of risk, resilience, and uncertainty—issues central to contemporary urban life. Moore, Leisure, and Munaim’s contribution approached the very real issues of how to deal with the risk of natural disaster, while Bender and Cayer dealt with risk in the lives of the socioeconomically marginalized, suggesting that perhaps a spatial uncertainty might enable a new right to the city. There are attempts to fold time in on itself, identifying other presents, shifting pasts and histories, heading back to the future. Walsh, Liu, and Wasilco have established this fuzzy temporal ground through an examination of nostalgia, while Rauch, Sprengel, and Yamamoto speculated about an alternative future through the formation of sound. We have declared a new mode of cross-cultural, cross-temporal, and cross-disciplinary study. These are, as a whole, a lofty set of assertions. Our claims, however, are not fully realized in this volume. It falls short, yearning to be more than it has become. Rather than the fixed point which a print publication necessarily provides, it aims toward the potential embedded within an urban humanities. This short book speaks to a desire to move beyond the siloed and calcified borders that define not only the form and organization of our universities, but the very way in which we know and can imagine the world around us. So too the following chapter by Gu, McCormick, and Yang encapsulates this desire by channeling the unfulfilled promises of the as-of-yet emergent urban humanities. To end with the potential of a new way of knowing, we must begin with the basics—with the very idea of what it means to know. In perhaps the most well-known apocryphal tale of Socrates, he travels the world attempting to find someone wiser than himself. Someone had asked the oracle of Delphi if anyone was wiser than Socrates and the oracle responded that he was the wisest person alive. Socrates, well aware of his ignorance and limitations, was befuddled by this response. Yet after scouring the land, he discovered that people tended to be very knowledgeable in a particular way but could not comprehend their ignorance in other matters. Only Socrates was wise enough to know that he knew nothing. So begins humankind’s long, tumultuous relationship with knowledge, made ever more relevant in a day and age where only learning that yields a measurable dollar return is deemed useful, and where the very idea of being “learned” has come under attack by the political right.1 Attitudes on epistemology have evolved since Socrates’s insight, forming a robust set of means to deal with our vast ignorance. Cartesian



Here I am reminded by Rick Santorum’s 2012 speech, describing Barack Obama as a snob because of the desire for everyone to have a college education. See also Neil Gross, Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013).



Gu, McCormick, and Yang spell out this trend in their introduction, manifest in everything from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s new urban consulting venture, to the big urban data work being done by corporations such as Siemens and IBM. 3

See Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991). 4

Isaiah Berlin, “Two Concepts of Liberty” in Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958). 5

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958). 6

Elliot Eisner, “Art and Knowledge,” in Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research: Perspectives, Methodologies, Examples, and Issues, ed. J. Gary Knowles and Ardra L. Cole (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2008), 7.


doubt turned precisely this awareness of ignorance into knowledge via doubt. George Berkeley and others brought the possibility of immateriality to bear on the egocentric predicament. Perhaps most successfully of all— and, indeed, embraced by Descartes, Berkeley, and others—empiricists have leveraged intelligent and systematic observation to unleash unprecedented progress in science, health, and human achievement. Yet as the following chapter suggests, perhaps our traditional acceptance of empirical means for understanding cities—travel research, fieldwork, and site visits included— ought to be continually questioned. In the rush to satisfy the omnipresent “desire for the city,” whether it be from the academy’s fetish with all things urban, to the corporation’s need to monetize dense habitats, to our everyday want for the spoils of the city, we have all too often been pleasured with phenomenological posturing.2 We begin and end our pursuit of knowledge with tourist-like ease instead of laboring to comprehend cities through other means. Perhaps the potential of urban humanities lies in its suggestion that other non-empirical modes of knowing are not only appropriate but, in fact, demanded for the understanding of such a complex, culturally contingent, and unfathomable object as a city. Urban space may be the perfect site for a goal as heady as complicating empiricism. The knee-jerk reaction of retreating into a solipsistic no-man’s land is necessarily contradicted by the urban condition of collectivity. I think therefore I am becomes we think therefore we are. As we engage in the liberalization of our epistemology, so too do we have the opportunity to champion the urban potential described by Jürgen Habermas, one in which open political debate forms the basis for democratic society;3 or by Isaiah Berlin as “agonized plurality,” in which even the coexistence of conflicting beliefs provides the ground for a civil, liberal, pluralist society;4 or by Hannah Arendt in her identification of the dialectic human condition of having both a unique subjectivity and an essential equality which is manifest in our interactions.5 It is the urban ground that provides space for such interactions which, in turn, not only construct a political plurality values and beliefs but might also construct an epistemological plurality of how we value and believe. Gu, McCormick, and Yang hardly stop their meta-exploration with how we know, but take on the decidedly uncool issue of what we do in order to get around to knowing. In other words, their thoughtful reflection on methodology comes at a point when it seems no one wants to deal with such an undertaking—just as it has become ever more relevant in an age of rapidly changing technologies, wicked problems, and cross-disciplinary hybridization—and yet is fundamentally critical for the formation of an urban humanities. Working parodically through a whole host of established travel study methods, the authors quickly identify a curious and promising methodology developed not by a scholar, but by an artist: David Wilson’s peculiar formation of exhibits for his Museum of Jurassic Technology. As the exhibits oscillate between fact and fiction, between joke and curiosity, the “museum” both demonstrates the ambiguous boundaries of reality and suggests a means to worth through this ambiguity. As Elliot Eisner suggests, the “strength of using the arts in research may be closer to the act of problematizing traditional conclusions than it is to providing answers in containers that are watertight.”6 Or as John Dewey, whom Eisner cites,


puts in more stark terms, “science states meaning, art expresses it.”7 If we are to work through unfathomable cities toward the end of new kinds of knowledge, then certainly our methodology must be equally plural, drawing on the power of art practice as knowledge as easily as it draws on history, cultural studies, design, and social sciences. The authors return as we all have throughout this book, in the end, to the idea of futurity—to the notion that rather than solutions, scenarios, or suggestions, the most powerful scholarly act is simply to point toward other possibilities. It is perhaps a trick of language and semantics but this is one of the great powers of the humanities, on which is ill-appreciated in so many realms of knowledge: that how we speak, write, and think recursively informs how things are. That it is precisely through language that we can begin to unpack and transform culture, society, and our world. As Amir Eshel describes it, “literature creates the ‘open, future, possible,’ by expanding our vocabularies, by probing the human ability to act, and by prompting reflection and debate.”8 In identifying with this sort of futurity, he returns to the epistemological tradition claimed by Richard Rorty, Hannah Arendt, Percy Bysshe Shelly, and even by Aristotle: in elevating the poetic above the objective, one finds the means to propel society forward, to deal with the possible instead of the inevitable, to understand our world anew. So to return to the first paragraph, our laundry list of bold claims, perhaps we can reduce them to variations on the theme of futurity: for Shinjuku, for risk and resilience, for urbanism, for scholarly work, for knowledge. Our need is not for predicting the future or for logically projecting lines on trend charts, but rather for openness to a seemingly unimaginable condition apart from what is, the what-could-become that lies in our collective blind spot. And so the following chapter by Gu, McCormick, and Yang breaks open our conclusions and renders their varying degrees of tidiness into a stark relief: we are not finished but look where we are headed, see here another possibility. It performs as both a coda to the book, a conclusion which balances the efforts of the previous chapters, but also as a cliffhanger, a pointing to the unfinished business we have at hand.



Ibid., 8. 8

Amir Eshel, Futurity: Contemporary Literature and the Quest for the Past (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013), 4.








“As the world grows increasingly urban, so grows the imperative to more fully comprehend the space of our collective life. Nowhere is this more urgent than in the context of intensely interactive, rapidly expanding cities of the Pacific Rim. Urban humanities offer an emerging paradigm to explore the lived spaces of dynamic proximities, cultural hybridities, and networked interconnections. The complexity of such spaces calls for new intellectual and practical alliances between environmental design and the humanities and for the advanced tools that each brings to bear on its objects of investigation. Urban humanities integrates the interpretive, historical approaches of the humanities with the material, projective practices of design, to document, elucidate, and transform the cultural object we call the city.” —UCLA Urban Humanities Website Statement 7000.0 6000.0

Urban and rural populations of the world, 1950-2050. Source: World Urbanization Prospects: The 2007 Revision. New York: United Nations, 2006.

5000.0 Population (millions)

FIG. 1

4000.0 3000.0 2000.0 1000.0 0.0 1950





Urban population


“Key Findings of the 2007 Revision,” in World Urbanization Prospects: The 2007 Revision (New York: United Nations, 2006), 2. Accessed online at http://www.


2000 Year






Rural population

In 2008, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, a branch of the United Nations, released a critical report entitled World Urbanization Prospects: The 2007 Revision which addressed the state of human population and development. It announced, “During 2008, for the first time in history, the proportion of the world’s population living in urban areas will reach fifty percent” (fig. 1).1 This statistic confirmed the longheld suspicions of urbanists around the globe: city life is one of the most commonly shared experiences of the twentieth century and is increasingly becoming the lens through which we understand the world. Among other factors that have drawn attention to the conditions of urbanity, the report that the earth’s inhabitants are increasingly living in cities has inspired a renewed institutional and academic focus on metropolitan life. Cities have become the frontline of scholarly investigation, culminating in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary programs that produce data mining projects and treatises that cover a


myriad of aspects on the urban condition. University research initiatives such as MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, Harvard’s Project on the City, and our very own UCLA cityLAB all turn to the metropolitan area as the matrix for inventive thinking and new modes of knowledge production. In the Humanities, universities have launched “urban clusters” on campuses across the United States to encourage students in all fields to engage with emerging approaches to urban studies both locally and globally. In similar fashion, events launched by cultural institutions, such as the New Museum’s Ideas City Festival and BMW Guggenheim Lab’s financial-cultural collaboration, a traveling lab that has been set up in New York, Berlin, and Mumbai, look to the city as their site of exploration. In addition to cultural and academic institutions, giant technology corporations such as Google, IBM, and Microsoft, car industries including Audi and BMW, and the World Health Organization each have a stake in studying the city. Urban studies pioneered by the for- and non-profit sectors in the last two decades mirrors a rich history of scholarly engagement with issues connected to urban life. The intellectual and critical investigations of urban scholars and specialists across all fields have deeply shaped the everyday language and understanding of what cities are, how they perform, how they are perceived, and what they mean to us as human subjects. In the words of Peter Mortenbock and Helge Mooshamer, professors of Visual Culture: “cities, regions, countries, and continents are being experienced less and less as fixed territories and increasingly as fluid and contested landscapes, formed and mobilized by networks of integrating realities.”2 The instability and indeterminacy of the contemporary city are beyond an exact definition and yet it is precisely these qualities that have attracted experts from diverse fields to attempt to test and reveal a hidden order. From an early definition of the city as constructed by the political coexistence and citizenry relationships of its inhabitants (Greek Polis and the Roman Civitas), to an understanding of the city as a network of mass consumer culture, and again to recent ideas about the city as a part of a global network and “cosmopolitan community,” experts in the humanities and the sciences shape the way that urban life is understood.3 As cities are being evaluated, they are being defined. The shift in scholarly perspective from city as built environment to city as the meeting point of various networks is also demonstrated in the representational techniques such as the model, image, diagram, figurative language, and notation, deployed by experts to encapsulate their understanding of forms, principles, codes, and multiple dimensions of information that are interwoven. Architectural theorist Mark Wigley states, “The city is not an object or phenomenon, but a decision...The very idea of the city is itself an aesthetic decision, a decision that has to be continually remade, a decision that shapes the figure of the architect as such.”4 Wigley’s notion of the city as constructed by the decision of its observer or intervener is not limited to the architectural field: all studies of the cities are a process of decision-making. Experts give shape to the city through choosing specific problems that they are interested to diagnose, rethink, and mediate. To examine the experts’ framework of knowing and the representational devices they used in producing knowledge about the city, is to examine both the city as a subject and the experts as audience.



Peter Mortenbock and Helge Moshammer, “Going Astray: Network Transformation and the Asymmetries of Globalization,” Grey Room 1, no. 37 (2009): 30-51. 3

See Sakia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991). Also, Ulrich Beck, The Cosmopolitan Vision, (Cambridge: Polity, 2006). 4

Mark Wigley, “Resisting the City,” in TransUrbanism, ed. Joke Brouwers and Arjen Mulder (Rotterdam: V2_publishing, 2002), 118.


Depending on who is doing the looking or speaking, the “city� takes on a slightly different character: this variety of metropolitan investigators creates equally diverse productions of what the city is or could be. In this way, we get to know a city through the specific individuals or organizations that study them and the tools that they use. The notion of “city� that BMW Guggenheim presents is substantially different from the type of “city� that is deconstructed by an academic scholar. Both perspectives shed light on how knowledge is constructed based on specific narratives and new definitions for lived and observed experiences are formed. UCLA’s Urban Humanities Initiative entered this conversation by bringing graduate students together from across the disciplines to collaboratively test novel approaches to implementing and critiquing urban studies. As descriptive vocabularies and analytical tools change through new modes of inquiry and new methodologies of our fields, it is our responsibility to understand how shifts in critical perspectives set the limits for what can and cannot be thought about the city. For us, the physical city itself slipped from our line of investigation. Instead, we chose to turn our gaze to the conditions of our own making: the work of the expert and the intellectual habits that have become an inextricable part of the production of knowledge about the city.

FIG. 2

Partial inventory of experts’ site research. By the authors. 3URMHFW 7LWOH


















































“To begin, students must identify specific geographic locations for examination within a 1.5 km radius of the Shinjuku station and must unpack the topical issues at stake within those locations.” —Term Assignment, UHI Design Seminar Syllabus, Winter 2014 “This exhibition seeks to convey the structure and quality of a place called Shinjuku, a dense cluster of shopping and entertainment activity in the heart of Tokyo.” —Wall Labels, Shinjuku—The Phenomenal City, MoMA, 1975 When we read the words, “What is Shinjuku?” in the exhibition notes for the Museum of Modern Art’s 1975 exhibition, Shinjuku—The Phenomenal City, it struck a cord. Rather than narrow in on a geographic location of Shinjuku to investigate, we were fascinated with how Shinjuku has been represented in the past. How did previous experts break Shinjuku into pieces in order to put it back together again? As an architect and designer, a researcher in architecture and urbanism, and a historian of Japan and photography, we came together through a shared interest in rethinking how urban, architectural and photographic imagery construct and represent cities. Our research focused less on the functional realities of urban life but instead on the means by which such concepts become understood, represented, and projected. In order to conduct an archeology of existing representations of Shinjuku, we looked to other experts who have already begun to dissect the qualities of the site. Rather than begin with the question of “What is Shinjuku?” today, we naturally turned to the question, “What was their Shinjuku?” The methodologies that experts use to examine a site, object, or people determines the ways that these forms of investigation are re-represented, whether through publications, exhibitions or design projects. This may seem like an obvious critique of academic and professional disciplines, yet it is an observation that often goes unremarked. From the meticulous anthropology of modern living conducted by Kon Wajirō, to Reynard Banham’s euphoric driving tour of Los Angeles as the paradigm of the posturban future, and Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi’s deliberate misreading of Las Vegas, each process of examination uses a different tool from the urbanist toolkit to construct a slightly different object (fig. 2). We turned to the Museum of Modern Art’s 1975 exhibition, Shinjuku— The Phenomenal City as a prime example of how cities or their fragments are articulated through the supposedly objective voice of experts. The curators of this exhibition—Peter Gluck, architect, Henry Smith, historian, and Taki Kōji, architectural critic—claimed that their goal was to “convey the structure and quality of Shinjuku” and to “demonstrate the success of the Japanese way of urban design in a modern context.”5 According to them, the environment of Shinjuku, though visually chaotic, is the outcome of a constant process of ad hoc solutions posed to particular problems by a vast number of public and private participants. The exhibition attempts to deliver



Shinjuku—the Phenomenal City: Archives Pamphlet File, Miscellaneous Uncataloged Material (New York: MoMA, 1975), 2.


FIG. 3

Shinjuku—The Phenomenal City. MoMA, 1975. Source:


“a city of personal experience” by deploying multiple medias, including 3D maps, hanging banners, giant ads, stacks of photographic cubes, plastic food used by the commercial establishments, and a continuous slide show (fig. 3). These materials were organized under six categories—“The People,” “The Place,” “The Station,” “Goods and Services,” “History,” and “Overlay Map.” These classifications piqued our interest: they are broad enough to apply to any city in the world, and yet their creators maintained that they specifically described Shinjuku. Consciously or not, these types of authoritative anatomy treat the city as a classifiable, deconstructable space, setting the limits for what can and cannot be known about it. This tendency toward generalization, simplification, and over-categorization of urban facets is reflected across all fields of study. The curators of Shinjuku—The Phenomenal City attempted to transform a museum space into a representation of the city, transporting the viewer from a “white box” in New York City to the streets and buildings that make up Shinjuku, Tokyo. This act of bringing the viewer from one physical space to another forms a kind of “tour” of the site that creates meaning through inter-media relationships: photographic representations of the “real” connect with graphic symbols that convey messages about population demographics, food, and dress to lead the viewer around a simulated city. The visual artifacts on display transport the viewer, while at the same time, the disparate forms of media and representation construct a means of understanding the city that inspires movement through heterogeneous perspectives and concepts. Similarly, for any research aimed at describing a geographic location, travel, is essential to the collection and construction of information. The dependence on travel is mirrored in the field work and travel research conducted by scholars: as each exhibition relies upon site research to then take the visitor on a tour through a city, each expert too must travel to the city that he or she studies. The reliance on travel to a site is almost always obscured by a fixation upon the site itself. Instead, what if the act of travel and the necessity of being there were made central to the products of research? If the Grand Tours taken through Europe from the late-seventeenth through mid-nineteenth centuries have been described as inspiring awe through compression and commodification of classical culture rather than revealing or unearthing the sites visited, in what ways might travel research commodify urban culture or the culture of expertise? Because we too are “experts” in training, at the same time that we seek to understand the canonical bodies of work produced by others, we are also placing our own processes and expectations at the center of the research. From questioning how cities become represented through exhibition and publications to investigating “expert methodologies” utilized field work, and re-performing these methods in the streets of Tokyo, our intellectual processes is a way of coming to terms with the practice of geographically based research. In sharing a narrative of our own methodological journey, we hope to expand upon our understanding of how systematic and subjective research practices begin to form representations of a site as much as it hopes to inform it. As our departure date grew nearer and nearer, we felt increasingly like tourists, who are getting ready for a monumental trip could never prepare themselves enough for what the experience would be like or what they


might be able find there. We found it remarkable that, facing an actual trip to the site we were meant to study that we were critical of any attempt to glean information from the site itself. We were, after all, only after its representation. It struck us how travel research and tourism are intrinsically intertwined and almost identical in the way they provide “moments that we imagine to be of sublime experience, of unique direct connection between individual and place that we experience vicariously.”6 Were we tourists, experts, or dilettantes, or a little of each? Thus we grappled with the simultaneous compulsion that not only should we question the analytical methods of the expert, but the unstated assumptions of travel-based research itself. How does travel-based research, like tourism, have its own specific way of constructing knowledge that connects in captivating ways to experts and exhibitions? III. THE QUESTION OF TRAVEL AND FIELD WORK

“While this original coupling of being-there and a nascent body of conceptualization and theorization was critical and salutary, gradually there developed a slippage between the conceptual advances of the discipline and the methods of research that were held to be the source of those advances. As the slippage deepened between the original motives for field-work and its increasingly taken-for-granted status, it became both a mandatory rite de passage and like such rites, not subject to public scrutiny. Sooner or later the question was going to be posed: If the discipline of anthropology depended on participant-observation or ethnographic fieldwork, then why was it that so little attention had ever been explicitly paid to the nature and experience of fieldwork? And what exactly was fieldwork supposed to contribute to a practice of critical thinking?” —Paul Rabinow, Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco6 Knowing that we would soon embark on a ten-day research trip to Tokyo, we began with a self-critical reflection of travel research. How is site-specific and travel research instrumentalized within our own academic disciplines, be it architecture, urban design, or history? From the Grand Tour to present-day proliferations of urban ethnography, travel has long been viewed as a necessary activity and instrument for all fields of knowledge advancement, as well as a form of self-education. The importance of travel in the study of a physical place, object, or archive has been critical to research projects across the humanities and social sciences since their invention. Pragmatically, the role of travel was seen to provide cultivation of the individual person; learning of foreign languages; establishing a network of international (and sometimes diplomatic) contacts for future political careers; investigation into new technologies and arts and production of scholarship through written accounts of their observations, which would then be published.7 Travel to a site is also seen to provide experience of place, embodiment of a place, access to the archive,



Paul Rabinow, Reflections on Field Work in Morocco (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), xi. 7

Justin Stagl. A History of Curiosity: The Theory of Travel, 1550-1800, (Australia: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1995).



Suzanne Ewing, Jérémie M. McGowan, Chris Speed, and Victoria C. Bernie, Architecture and Field/ work (London: Routledge, 2011), 43. 9

Joan Ockman and Salomon Frausto, Architourism: Authentic, Escapist, Exotic, Spectacular (Munich: Prestel, 2005), 184.


connections with local “experts,” and “a space in and through which to stage a particular set of critiques.”8 In the words of Joan Ockman, travel research has the potential to “transform ‘research’ into an aesthetic, making an instrument into an end in itself.”9 Is travel inherently necessary to the study of a particular place? Not all site research requires travel. For example, architects may rely more on project documentation and drawings over first-hand experience, placing a different value on travel than other fields such as urban sociology or anthropology where travel is the prerequisite of the work. Travel to a site, person, or archive, is essential to scholarly work, and yet there are no rules regulating how often it should be done, how far one should go, or how long one should stay. The necessities of being on a site are slowly eroded by technologies such as Google Books and Patents or Skype, which allow the researcher to make virtual contact with the subject of study. Thus, more than ever, we should question the meaning behind contact and firstperson experience. In the case of the Urban Humanities Initiative, we were assigned Shinjuku like a term paper: we knew where we would travel to before we knew what we would look for at the site. This meant that as a collective group of researchers, we prioritized travel as a crucial aspect of our work and an instrument within the research process. We wondered, if the act of going there became more important than the act of the work being done there? Travel, of course, requires a place to go to. The site is thus undifferentiated from the act of travel itself. Distance is not a requisite for research, but what is found at the end of the destination is. That in itself ties us irrevocably to the idea of the “site” of research as a primary source of information. In this way, research culture has exhibited an understanding that a site, its location and properties (qualitative and quantitative), contains some aspect or data that can be observed, collected or experienced through the presence of the person. The conception that knowledge must be located in a physical space which remains elusive until the person actually moves onto a site, has been central to nearly all forms of site-research. We understand that the site exists before we arrive at it, but might we also understand how sites become constructed upon our arrival? The sites where experts have conducted their field research are also mirrors that reflect back onto the observers. An expert’s representation of a site demonstrates his/her particular way of not only viewing the city, but also knowing and envisioning it. Site research is carried out not simply to collect information, but also to mobilize a repertoire of methods such as writing, sketching, recording, measuring, calculating, interviewing, categorizing, performing, in addition to many others. For us, these methods are the ways the gaze of the expert is constructed, creating a tension between the object of observation and the observer. Through an investigation of various disciplinary methodologies, we identified and extracted multiple types of gaze and began to think about the effects of transplanting these “gazes” to different sites. What would it look like to reproduce the methodology of an anthropologist studying commodity exchange in Indonesia on the streets of Tokyo? The goal was not to make the obvious point that all methods of inquiry are prejudiced


and incomprehensive, or suggest that the materials that experts gather are necessary to support or can fully prove their conclusions. What we intended to do is to challenge the typical, professional deployment of methods in an urban study by asking questions about the assumptions that they make. What is specific about one’s presence on a site, in comparison with viewing its image or representation, that could cause a chemical reaction with the observer and deliver certain unique messages? What if there is no “site” but simply the contextual constellation of knowledge that experts have accrued through their work? How do the site-specific gazes of different experts differ and where do they converge? How do notions of alterity, outside, and otherness have an impact on and challenge the expert gaze? Could we intervene within the act of observation, interrupt the relevance between the gaze and the object, then mix and match each component of study perversely? Or would creating new methods only occlude what can be seen? Our goal was to expand the reflective relationship between the object and its audience, and thereby broaden the horizon of the expert’s sight. IV. SHINJUKU MISGUIDANCE

“‘They no longer follow how it was made’: that clause reveals to us how it happens that people who want to be interested in science find it dull. They gape at the discovery from the outside, and they may find it strange or marvelous, but their finding is passive; they do not enter and follow and relive the steps by which the new idea was created. But no creative work, in art or in science, truly exists for us unless we ourselves help to create it.” —Jacob Bronowski, The Visionary Eye10 Shinjuku—The Phenomenal City belongs to a cohort of exhibitions about urban life that present a rational, logical interpretation of a city by mobilizing different tropes of classification. These exhibitions argue that they have come to an understanding of the complex workings of metropolitan life through simple graphics and optimistic or assertive framing devices that exclude subjective reflection. As a knowledge repository, this type of authoritative exhibition presents a highly subjective notion of the city through objective accounting, leaning on didactic language, photographic “evidence” and diagrammed maps to portray Shinjuku according to the curator’s vision. For us, it represented an extreme example of the ways expert knowledge, in an effort to relay what it knows, begins to establish its own generalizations and essentializations. Conceptual Artist Fred Wilson proposes a counter narrative to these types of authoritative knowledge in his exhibition project “Mining the Museum,” which presents the ignored histories from within the Maryland Historical Society’s archives. This act of re-presenting artifacts through the iteration of a previously ignored story is similar to the exhibitionary strategies of the Museum of Jurassic Technology (MJT) which conflates fact with fiction within its exhibition walls.11 Dedicating itself as “an educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and



Jacob Bronowski, Piero E. Ariotti, and Rita Bronowski, The Visionary Eye: Essays in the Arts, Literature, and Science (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1978), 35. 11

In its satirical, wonder-provoking use of “the tiresome, pedantic qualities of ‘authenticating’ scholarship, the Museum of Jurassic Technology has been called both a museum and a critique of museums. It’s exhibitions display the mythical and obscure alongside possibly fictional histories, calling into question the role of the museum as a definitive source of information. See Lawrence Weschler, Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology, New York: Vintage Books, 1995.



Sam Jacob, “Vriesendorp Syndrome: Overwhelmed by the Geographies of Sensation, Memory, and Plenty,” in Perspecta 41: Grand Tour (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008), 31. 13

Francesco Carreri. Walkscapes: Walking As an Aesthetic Practice = El Andar Como Practica Estetica (Barcelona: Editorial Gustava Gili, GG, 2002), 12.


the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic,” the MJT borrows from the pedantic display and language of natural history museums in order to produce a counter-narrative to what we consider to be common knowledge. Exhibitions such as “Tell the Bees: Belief, Knowledge, and Hypersymbolic Cognition: An Exhibit of Pre-Scientific Cures and Remedies,” “Rotten Luck: The Decaying Dice of Ricky Jay,” and “No One May Ever Have the Same Knowledge Again: Letters to Mt. Wilson Observatory,” create fantastical worlds that inspire wonder and fascination in oddity at the same time that they cause the viewer to question their origins. In a similar manner, Dutch artist Madelon Vriesendrop’s “Object Archive,” a collection of cheap souvenirs around the world “makes no pretense to erudition, education or enlightenment.” Like Madelon Vriesendrop’s “Object Archive,” could the objective of an exhibition or a body of research be to point to what we do not yet understand? How might one be able to interrogate the way that knowledge about the city is produced by emphasizing the “errors, misunderstandings, and mistakes” produced in various forms of travel research to reveal the ways in which they “mirror our own misconceptions, the gaps in our own knowledge?”12 In thinking about the authority given to the gaze of the “expert” and the translation of experience into knowledge and then representation, we turned to the toolset of the expert: their methods. We began with an extensive list of various scholars, their sites, and what they did at each site. For instance, in Learning from Las Vegas, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and their Yale Architecture studio documented their sites through photographs and drawings. Kon Wajirō, an anthropologist and modernologist active in Japan in the early twentieth century, drew all of the items in his subject’s apartments, noting if they were old, new, and made in Japan or not, or positioned himself on a street corner in the Ginza to sketch the clothing patterns of passersby at a particular time of day. In yet another strategy of urban analysis, architectural historian Jinnai Hidenobu insisted that he and his students could unearth and rediscover historical Tokyo from the highways, new roads, and buildings that have obscured it by carefully walking its streets, historical maps in hand. After compiling a list of various types of urban studies methods such as these, we narrowed them down to five of the most commonly used approaches to studying a site or site specific object: measuring, cataloguing, documenting change over time, psychogeographic interactions with space, and observing social patterns. We chose these “methods” both for their ubiquity as well out of an interest in the types of information they might disclose. By identifying these main methods, we looked for ways to problematize the automatic assumptions of their value as working tools. To do so, we proposed re-performing and replicating these existing methods of site-specific research through the lens of the hyperbolic, the absurd, and the errant. Moving from site to site, re-performing each “method,” our “research” mirrored what architect Francesco Carreri has poetically called the “first architecture” in his book Walkscapes when he writes, “walking becomes man’s first aesthetic act, penetrating the territories of chaos, constructing an order on which to develop the architecture of situated objects.”13 The act of walking is a constant construction and reconstruction


of images; to move through space is to see space in three dimensions, to construct space through the passage. Underlying this idea is that movement itself becomes a significant way of perceiving a space that space does not necessarily need to be constructed through material manipulations but rather through the act of seeing across the axis of time and space. Movement coupled with seeing becomes a process rather than a product of urban knowledge. Thus, both in the sites chosen, travel from one site to the next, and the “methods” of data collection performed, we sought to find new ways to understand how meaning is constructed by the coupling of observation and movement. Each day, we walked to a different location and replicated each of our five methods. We found that each time, depending on what we found at the site a new way of doing or performing the method would reveal itself. Was this the importance of first-hand experience validated in the act? We documented the gaze of those who are most intimate with the Citizens Plaza—the statues who watch over it twenty-four hours a day (fig. 4). We experienced a space through its designed and undesigned uses and tested it with our bodies (fig. 5). We quantitatively confirmed the existence of intimacy in the interiors of Golden Gai’s bars and identified the nonintimate moments produced from intrusive site specific objects (fig. 6). By projecting others’ gazes onto our site, we did not intend to create another representation of Shinjuku. Instead, we attempt to interrogate aspects of site-specific research and problematize the presumption of its validity. If MoMA’s 1975 exhibition portrayed Shinjuku as a city defined by the assumed personal experiences of its inhabitants, for us, it is a place constructed by the experiences of an expert. Back in Los Angeles, it was essential to find a way to process the questions we underwent and the “data” we collected in order to construct a narrative around it in a way that would clarify and represent our critique. Rather than seeking to produce an explanatory project which encapsulated Shinjuku, we instead sought to encapsulate our own self-reflective journey through the urban humanities. After considering a few different possible formats, we settled on the idea of creating a glossary in which we would inventory and index concepts related to our working process and the larger urban humanities discourse. Borrowing the exhibitionary strategies of the Museum of Jurassic Technology which “deploys the traditional signs of a museum’s institutional authority—meticulous presentation, exhaustive captions, excessive didactics, and state-of-the-art technical armature” in order to subvert the very notion of the authoritative, the format of a glossary allows the flexibility to create a self-reflexive reading of a wide range of issues.14 Envisioned as a participatory book project, the Glossary of Urban Humanities is a collection of 93 words that relate to, critique, and playfully interrogate the terms and concepts that have become the staple of urban humanities projects. We found that while there was no lack of interesting approaches to an interdisciplinary study of the city, there was in fact a dearth of conversation regarding the basic habits and assumptions underpining these types of research within and beyond the Urban Humanities Initiative itself. These include the relationship between expert knowledge and the representation of its subject, the inextricable condition



Lawrence Weschler, Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (New York: Pantheon Books, 1995), 29.


FIG. 4

The gaze of the statues at the Citizens Plaza. By the authors.

FIG. 5

Psychogeographic interaction with the designed space at the Citizens Plaza. By the authors.



of travel within fieldwork, and assumptions of site-specific research as primary sources of knowledge. Like anthropological linguists embedded within their subject matter, the Glossary is an investigation into the urban humanities research process through the most commonly used language of its students and experts. Terms such as “futurity,” “travel-research,” “fieldwork,” and “representation” make up our collected vocabulary which is in turn representative of urban humanities developing concepts, signs, and theories (fig. 7). As language is our main intellectual tool for thinking and acting in the world, it befits the Urban Humanities Initiative to collect, examine and put up for display the very tools it uses to define and propel itself. These terms, collected over the course of the year from key texts and compelling conversations with our colleagues, represents a small sample of an emerging urban humanities lexicon. The glossary, understood as a compilation of vocabulary or defined terms listed in alphabetical order, is typically intended to delineate a particular domain of knowledge. A glossary is as specific as it is discriminatory, prioritizing certain terms over others while refusing to be comprehensive in order to be pertinent to the conversation it finds itself in. Admittedly, this type of knowledge repository is perpetually unfinished. Just as other collections of shared knowledge such as the dictionary and the encyclopedia are understood to be constantly evolving as new words are invented and meanings of existent words metamorphose, the glossary also can expand and contract to accommodate new concepts. Recognizing that this is only the incipient year of the Urban Humanities Initiative, we propose that our future cohort engages with an ongoing effort in furthering and developing the Glossary. In the process of envisioning urban humanities as a new field of scholarly inquiry, a glossary can act as a tongue-in-cheek guide to asking productive questions and making the internal methods of the scholar visible and open for critique. Or perhaps it is the anti-guide, a source more inclined to cause the reader to question his or her perspective than provide a working template. Either way, the glossary should point to absences and opportunities, changing the way the viewer thinks about these concepts and scholarly output itself. Accompanying the glossary is an imagery map of Shinjuku that was drawn based on a similar logic to the Glossary to reflect our gaze as well as that of the experts’ we examined. Unfolded horizontally, the map depicts our research field in a way that is between imagination and reality —the cityscape of Shinjuku is recognizable, yet has been mediated after selection, omission, and exaggeration. To intentionally avoid an accurate replication, the map is drawn in cavalier perspective (or, multiple vanishing point perspective), a technique borrowed from Chinese landscape painting, which is unlike a typical one-point perspective wherein the painter’s position is fixed. Influenced by the Taoist cosmological belief that Tao, the inherent rule of the nature, is everywhere and nowhere, the painter makes observations from a moving viewpoint, creates a sketch in his or her mind, and then draws an imaginary landscape based on what he or she has observed. This technique frees the painter’s aesthetic consciousness and allows the expression of what the eyes cannot see. Characters of various experts who are acting out their urban studies are projected onto this



FIG. 6

Various forms of intimacy testing in Golden Gai. By the authors.



multi-perspective map. The Grand Tourists, Walter Benjamin, Kon Wajirō, Reyner Banham, Robert Venturi, Martha Rosler, Madelon Vriesendorp, Rem Koolhaas, and the Urban Humanities Initiative research groups are each portrayed conducting the fieldwork they have done, but this time in Shinjuku (fig. 8). In this way, the map brings together field experts both literally and metaphorically, and allows them to question each other’s work or establish a dialogue amongst one another. By projecting them onto the sites that we visited, we playfully draw parallels and contrasts between a whole genealogy of experts. This cinematographic piece recounts how experts go to a site, collect materials, and then, curate and reproduce the knowledge they learned from the site. What if we were to examine Mr. A’s object from Mr. B’s lens by putting these experts in relationship to one another? Can one person’s narrative about another city be a tale of Shinjuku? The map attempts to allure the viewer into an imaginary reflection on Shinjuku through multi-angle observation. When one visits a city while holding a map of another city, will he get lost, or be misled, or accidentally arrive at a kind of Wonderland? In this way, our map is not only staging the past or the present, but a proposition for a future itinerary. V. THE REALITY OF FUTURITY

“Historical truth is always stranger and more unpredictable, more unimaginable, than any fiction: whatever the talent of the novelist, his inventions must always of necessity spring from extrapolation of or analogy with the real…” —Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future15 There is something about the physical space of the city that inspires inventive thoughts about the future, a kind of urban projective thinking. The material culture of cities reflects and responds to the logic of its time, place and people. Whether the city contains a dense network of concrete highways, asphalt airports abandoned to nature, seamless wood structures or multistory high rises separated by firewalls, this collective material, social, and political enterprise has been the source of both human imagination and human misguidance. Historian and sociologist Lewis Mumford identifies that the city has long been a receptacle of utopian tradition for imaginations of the future, because it is the city which can mirror the complexities of human society and frame its ideological container.16 For Mumford, utopian thinking based on the city is the only means by which humans can regain control over their lives. Paralleling the idea that the city is the foundation for intellectual thinking, Eric Cazdyn’s concept of materialism as a non-moralizing critique reinforces this thread of thought, which opens a way toward a radically different future by “mobiliz[ing] a political critique that cares more about how something works,” by examining the everydayness, the personal experience in a specific historical moment, and their relation to the grounded physical environment.17 Whether toward a utopia or a dystopia, projective thinking can function as a critical



Frederic Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future (New York: Verso, 2005): 256. 16

Lewis Mumford, “Utopia, the City and the Machine,” Daedalus 94/2 (1965): 278. 17

Eric Cazdyn, “Semi-ology of a Disaster or, Toward a Non-Moralizing Materialism,” Scapegoat: Architecture, Landscape, Political Economy, no. 02 (2012): 32-4.


tool loaded with cultural and political connotations that reflects, negates, or intensifies existing conditions of a society. As we think towards the future, we do not seek solutions, but an alterity—not the other, but an other—one that encompasses the entire spectrum of possible changes between utopia and dystopia. Because the very nature of futurity is not “what else” but “what will happen,” futurity is not necessarily against the present reality; moreover, it refers to and questions the present. Considering futurity reminds us that reality is not a fixed state and that the status quo deserves re-imaginations. Within these re-imaginations are unknown possibilities and unknown projections. Thus, futurity is also inextricably tied to uncertainty—the indefinite and pervertible reality. The Urban Humanities Initiative conceived of the terms “speculative,” “projective,” and “futurity” to serve as guiding conceptual tools that would help us shape our research in projective directions. The language of the projective and the possible is at the heart of the word “futurity,” which operates perpetually in the speculative tense. Yet the term itself implies not “what if,” “could be”, or even a “maybe,” but is an insistent “from what is.” From the Latin root futurus and the future particle of esse (to be), the basic foundations of the word is defined as “to grow from what is.” While futurity is not itself a type of solution, or progress, or technological advancement as imagined in the twentieth century, it is most definitely, and conceptually, defined as a quality or condition of the future. In this way it is directional, pulling from the past and present towards a time to come. If futurity looks back, it does so only to march forward. As a noun, futurity is a defined as a state of being; noun :noun \fyü-ˈtu̇ r-ə-tē, -ˈtyu̇ r-, -ˈchu̇ r-\ the quality of being or happening in the future.18


futurity (2014). In Retrieved May 20, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster. com/dictionary/futurity


In this manner, its definition or meaning is constructed solely through the logic of what it is, and what it is not. As a working tool, “futurity” is highly problematic as a conceptual prompt, because nouns inherently require one to think binarily—is, or is not. “This is futurity in our project, this is not futurity in our project. That is futurity.” If we are to borrow from language and its operations, we might look not towards vocabulary but towards grammar—the construction of meaning through rules and relationship that begin to suggest complex conditions. Beyond nouns and into grammatical moods, we propose alternate linguistic forms to drive future urban humanities projects. One possible model is the subjunctive, a grammatical form that expresses an unreality. In the English language, the subjunctive is used in statements that do not describe fact, or the known, but are instead expressions of necessity, possibility, wish-desire, or counterfactual reasoning. Used for both past events and future possibilities, the subjunctive is a form of theoretical language or reasoning which can express regret (“If we waited, we would have...”) or anticipation, hope, and desire (“If I see her, I could...). The “if… then...” structure of the subjunctive mood includes two parts: the “if” construction implies certain hypothetical conditions, and the “then” implies certain possible outcomes. The hypothetical sentence construction is the semiotic opening of outcomes that are at the threshold of knowing and not-knowing, between reality and


FIG. 7

Sample lexica from Glossary of Urban Humanities. By the authors.

uncertainty. Not denying the factual, it simply proposes counterfactuals. The Urban Humanities Initiative, its mining for potentialities and alterities, might be better understood in terms of defining not the facts of the city, but the counterfactual or the theoretical. If futurity is located anywhere in our project, it is within this proposition: that the scholarly imagination of the city is located not in the definition of what is, but what else? And in the construction of these hypotheticals, a self-examination of our own reflexive modes of working— whether through travel, gazing, thinking, writing, designing, speaking, presenting, re-representing—is not only a necessary step in propelling disciplinary knowledge but is also itself a constantly shifting and evolving model of experience and subjective interpretation.


FIG. 8

Imagery map of Shinjuku. By the authors. (next page)


aphic in a tation








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Akira. Dir. Ōtomo Katsuhiro. 1988. Bara no sōretsu 薔薇の葬列 [Funeral Parade of Roses]. Dir. Matsumoto Toshio. 1969. Gojira ゴジラ [Godzilla]. Dir. Honda Ishirō. 1954. Kyojin to gangu 巨⼈と玩具 [Giants and Toys]. Dir. Masumura Yasuzō. 1958. Nora inu 野良⽝ [Stray Dog]. Dir. Kurosawa Akira. 1949. Sans Soleil. Dir. Chris Marker. 1983. Shinjuku dorobō nikki 新宿泥棒⽇記 [Diary of a Shinjuku Thief]. Dir. Ōshima Nagisa. 1969. Tōkyō monogatari 東京物語 [Tokyo Story]. Dir. Ozu Yasujirō. 1953. Tōkyō orinpikku 東京オリンピック [Tokyo Olympiad]. Dir. Ichikawa Kon. 1965.



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