This semester, I worked in the Tokyo Team and grouped with three other undergrads to explore how the 1964 Olympics brought about changes in social media. Specifically, we focused on manner posters, which illustrated the social conducts that passengers were supposed to follow in the public transportation space, especially the metro stations. While the two other groups explored issues on a larger scale, such as the evolution of Tokyo’s transportation lines and public housing, our focus on these images revealed how government reinforced social conduct by appealing to elements from the pop culture. We decided to archive and present these images through entries in the Omeka.
I will discuss two of my favorite manner posters and interpret the language encoded by the visual elements. The work Dream at Home was posted during the Christmas of 1981, which was a time for friends and couples to meet up for parties or dinner in Japan. It was a time when many people got drunk, fell asleep on the subway train, and missed their stations. This poster spoke to this phenomenon by incorporating characters from the manga series Doraemon, widely popular for the imaginative stories of a robotic cat from the 21st century. In the image, Doraemon dresses up as a Santa Clause and Nobita’s father is sleeping soundly, whose Santa head and the gift box add to the festive atmosphere. The bold read headline “Dream at Home” clarifies the purpose of this poster——encouraging drunk people not to pass out on the train. This poster alludes to pop culture and incorporates the holiday-specific elements to teach passengers the manner of staying sober on the train.
The other piece embodies more modern and representational elements but also alludes to a Japanese tradition——hanami (flower viewing), indicated by the silhouette of cherry blossom petals on the background. This was a time when Japanese people held outdoor parties under the sakura trees. The image features a bright pink background with a heart shape cutout. The pink color together with the green suit reminds people of the vibrancy and warmth of Spring. While a man jumps up to rush through the closing subway door, a woman opens her mouth in surprise, illustrating the danger associated with this behavior. The text below the figures reads: “ At the beginning of new life, be slow and be smart.” This points to the major theme of this poster——Don’t squeeze in when the subway doors are about to close.
My studies of manner posters in the Tokyo Team inspire me that urban research is like putting together puzzle pieces. While there is no single definition of cities, the multidisciplinary approaches we adopted help reconstruct a more thorough, vivid, and realistic image of cities. For example, while focusing on the evolution of public transportation lines enriches our understanding of how urban transportation plays with other socioeconomic factors such as industrialization and event such as the Olympics, our focus on the manner posters reflects how government shapes social customs in the urban space. In the future, I will expand my research to explore other forms of media, such as street graffiti, and reflect on what they tell us about urbanization.