I had intense Imposter Syndrome coming into the Visualizing Cities Lab at the beginning of the school year because my experience with visual media studies was extremely limited. Really the only exposure I had to visual media in any capacity was Dr. Weisenfeld’s class, “From the Art of the Pleasure Quarters to Tokyo Pop,” which I took in the Spring of 2021. I loved the class especially because I have long been interested in Japan, and her class sparked my interest in better understanding how Japan is represented. This interest was further stoked by theory I have come across in my Cultural Anthropology classes. Theorists such as J.B. Harley made me question the effects of demarcations of space, and I knew I wanted to explore it from a visual standpoint, which is why I was so excited to join the Tokyo team of the VCL.
This semester, the Tokyo team looked at how the Tokyo 1964 Olympics impacted boundaries within the capital, infrastructure, and the cultural habits of the people. The Tokyo 1964 Olympics is a really interesting event to study because the spectacle marked a huge transition for Japan, propelling them from their once war-torn image to the sparkling, revolutionary, technology savvy metropolis that we associate with it today. I was particularly interested in the concept of sanitation in relation to Japan’s shift in image. In contemporary times, Japan has a reputation for being one of the cleanest countries in the world, however, this was not always the case. The Japanese government spearheaded a huge Tokyo cleanup in preparation for the Olympics, and this initiative still is seen in the culture of cleanliness today.
As I was researching this topic, I first wanted to learn more about what measures were taken to clean up Tokyo. Although I’m still searching for material on what the government did in specific to “beautify” the country, the information I found on events led my non-governmental groups interested me more. Specifically, I looked at satirical events put on by the Japanese Group “Hi Red Center,” which were staged to highlight the hollowness of the government’s actions. This group took cleanliness to the extreme to poke fun at the absurdity of the whole cleanliness initiative. Hi Red Center led events throughout the city, so I started working on mapping the events to try and discern any important patterns or relations to the community of the area they performed in.
Mapping different facets of the 1964 Olympics is something I hope to continue to do next semester. I want to learn more about why Olympic events were hosted in specific areas of Tokyo, and what that says about the Olympics committee and the area in which the “beautification” occurred. Looking forward to the next semester, I am still concerned with an issue I struggled with this semester, which is accessing materials that are in Japanese. I feel that my Japanese language abilities my hinder my research, but I’m optimistic that with the help of my team, we will still be able to create an amazing end project!
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