During the Spring 2022 semester, Team Tokyo separated in to three main sub-groups to continue thinking through topics of interest from the fall semester. The three groups were transportation & trains, housing development, and visual media. At our last meeting, each of the subgroups presented outcomes in the form of digital and/or spatial collections. Learning about everyone’s interests and insights through our collective work has been an engaging experience that has taught me more about Tokyo as a dynamic Olympic city.

My subgroup was the visual media group. Four undergraduates and I discussed various functions of urban media in the city, particularly how the 1964 Olympics (and succeeding decades) introduced new ways to interact, control, and see the space of the city. As a moment for Japan to showcase its emergence from the post-war ruins, it was graphic design that served as a powerful medium of innovation. Our group began by looking in to the Olympics ephemera such as the Tokyo Olympics: Official Souvenir 1964. This is a booklet that includes advertisements of various kinds, recognizable through the simple, clear-cut modernist designs. This spurred further conversation on how visual languages are communicated in spaces, whether that is in English or Japanese, or in the form of pictograms (iconic tools of communication for the 1964 Olympics) and images that are not necessarily linguistic. These tools engage in the city to instruct and inform at varying degrees. At times signage can have extremely particular, practical meanings (enter, exit, caution) and other times a much broader, holistic, and moral meaning. These two degrees may also be expressed in the same visual media, simultaneously. We decided to focus in on “manner posters” which exhibit both meanings by offering instruction that is practical but also carefully composed. Christoph Schimkowsky in his article, “Manner Posters: A Genre Approach,” helped us understand the context of manner posters which increased in number after the Olympics and continue to be utilized by railway companies today. [1] As he discusses, manner posters are meant to communicate safety, efficiency, and comfort. The variation of these posters in how they attempt to attract the attention of the commuter was especially intriguing to us. We decided to pick out a few examples that drew our attention and gathered them in Omeka as a collection. Viewing the different posters we picked out emphasizes the creative, humorous, and at times cleverly composed messages that represent the complexity of visual media. Though this is still a starting point, I am grateful for the insight I received from the group members and look forward to learning more about visual media in the city.

[1] Christoph Schimkowsky (2021) Manner Posters: A Genre Approach, Japanese Studies, 41:2, 139-160, DOI: 10.1080/10371397.2021.1925097