This semester in the Visualizing Cities Lab, I continued my work on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Since the team gained new members, we split up into three groups — with Kate and Felix I focused on housing (specifically public apartment complexes) in terms of displacement and gentrification. In short, we learned that in the past century, two different types of residential structures have occupied the place where the Japan National Stadium Stands today: the older was a nagaya or Japanese longhouse tenement adapted out of old army barracks, made of deteriorating wood and metal, and a public housing project called the Kasumigaoka apartments. Many of the residents of Kasumigaoka, who were evicted for the construction of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, had spent some part of their early life living in the nagaya at that same spot. The Japanese government used the Olympics as a force for sanitizing the city, which included demolishing slums and tenements throughout Tokyo — the nagaya where the Stadium stands today just happened to be the most directly in the way. Some residents, including one of the two we profiled in our summative presentation, had been relocated by the Japanese government at least three times over the course of their lives.
Our group tackled both the abstract/thematic and the deeply personal elements of city life, as well as how to best present this information. I spent much of my time thinking about how we approach researching cities, and how we should share what we’ve learned with others. We ended up presenting a general overview of what happened at the site through 3D models and two “micro-histories” of individuals who lived in the Kasumigaoka Apartments. However, I wonder if this was the best way for us to present what we discovered. As someone who comes from a bit of a computer science background, I wonder if, sometimes, the push for digital work is not actually the most effective way to communicate — at the moment. Indeed, in my experience with the digital humanities thus far, most of the platforms used aren’t very open-ended or user friendly, and don’t provide the collaborative, real-time teamwork options needed. This isn’t to say that I’m pro-powerpoint presentation, either, but I think if I return for the next semester I would like to spend more time thinking about the mode of presentation — what better alternatives could be, and how easily they could be accomplished. In the case of what we researched this semester, I think what we learned about gentrification in Japan and how frequent this government-sponsored relocation was for some parts of society could have been better presented in some form that better reflected the emotional ties people can have to a site, as well as the physical changes made to the land. I think we did the best we could with the resources (time, mostly) we had, but going forward, I will continue to think about ways in which urban/art historical research can be communicated to convey the impacts a city can have on peoples’ lives.