My first experience joining the Tokyo Team in the Visualizing Cities Lab was at first intimidating but turned out to be immensely rewarding. It was invigorating to listen to everyone’s niche, comprehensive interests; however, there’s a sense of vulnerability that comes with sharing your insights to such knowledgeable peers– a feeling I learned to love. Initially, I appreciated the level of creative freedom fellows had in researching the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It was through this research that I even got to explore a rich collection of Japan maps located in Perkins Library that I would never have known existed if it wasn’t for the much appreciated guidance of the faculty leading the lab. In just a few meetings, my perceptions of a city shifted from simply observing its exterior to questioning how space is used, including conversations about public vs private spaces and even the removal of spaces.
While the Tokyo Team discussed the intersection of waterways, highways, and public spaces during the time of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, I became particularly interested in the media that transpired as a reaction of a time period marked by Japan’s rapid economic growth and social change in the world sphere. On the Media Team, we brought attention to manner posters, which are a genre of public service advertisements that employ creative designs to remind train passengers of proper manners while using the public transport system. When observing the evolution of these Tokyo Metro posters, I decided to focus on how the imagery changed over time and investigate the connection between design and the other Tokyo teams research on transportation and housing. I discovered that with the booming growth of public transportation and an extreme increase in passenger volume/traffic frequency as a result of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, a call for the diversification and extension of manner communication became formative for the Tokyo Metro. From boarding behaviors to the discouragement of littering, I conclude that manner posters hold a soft control on public transport morale that form a sense of collective among passengers by using popular, creative imagery. By distinguishing the changes in imagery (ukiyo-e vs superman) and the issued authority of posters (smoking vs use of mobile electronic devices), I learned that I could decipher a lot about the times in which a poster was created just by picking apart a single poster. Digging deeper into the politics of design, I was also able to unearth some pivotal events, such as The World Design Conference of 1960 that gave designs like the manner posters and pictogram designs from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics better recognition and ownership laws.
The process of transferring a select number of manner posters onto Omeka made me curious about the different ways we could digitally present our findings along with other forms of media regarding the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Simultaneously, I reflect on the personal growth I note exiting our Tuesday meetings with a distinct appreciation. I realize just how extensive the scope of this lab has the potential to be and I’m exceedingly grateful to have been a part of it this semester.