Durham • Tokyo • Chicago • Jerusalem • Turin • Athens • Venice

Category: Tokyo

Kate Leonard, Spring 2022

The work of this semester took many of the ideas that Team Tokyo discussed last semester, and formed them into tangible work. Specifically, I collaborated with Felix, Surya, and Professor Wendell to visualize the Kasumigaoka Apartment Complexes and the movement of two individuals who once resided in the now destroyed apartments.  

We used many forms of media to investigate the history of Kasumigaoka. WIth the help of Matthew, we were able to track the change of Kasumigaoka and the surrounding area in Tokyo over time. Aerial maps taken from the 1920s all the way to present day were essential to our understanding of how the Olympics shaped the infrastructure and housing of Tokyo in the area. Through these aerial maps, we were able to see the construction and destruction of Kasumigaoka. We also utilized photographs and housing plans of the apartment complex to build a 3D model of the housing units using Sketch-Up. Sketch-Up–which Professor Wendell taught us how to navigate–allowed us to create something viewers could interface with and use to get a more complete understanding of the apartment complex.

Finally, we relied on interviews and other literature to chart the movement of displaced individuals who once lived in Kasumigaoka. We focused on the case studies of “J-san” and “S-san,” individuals who had given multiple interviews about their movement throughout their life and experience being evicted by the Japanese government. These stories were very powerful and distressing at times, and speak to the ways in which the Olympics does not always benefit a city and its people. J-san, born in 1933, moved early throughout their life because of the war. In between when they were born and then they moved to Kasumigaoka with their parents in 1965, J-san lived in Minobu, Fukushima, and various other locations in Tokyo. They stayed in Kasumigaoka for the longest period of time, living there until the Japanese government evicted them in 2013. The land, which is near the Japanese National Stadium and other buildings constructed for the Olympics, was taken to accommodate more Olympic infrastructure. Similarly, S-San was born in Fukugawa and then shortly after moved to Dailan, Manchuria for her father’s work on the Manchurian Railway Company. Following Japan’s defeat in WWII, S-san’s family was repatriated to Japan, where they bounced around to different cities until settling in Kasumigaoka in 1951. Similarly to J-san’s story, S-san lived in Kasumigaoka until being evicted and relocated to the Jingumae Apartments. All of this work can be viewed using this link and clicking the “view story” button. 

What I enjoyed most about this semester was the use of many different forms of media and archives. Most of my work at Duke previously relied on literature, written academic sources, and only occasional photographs or videos. It was a really unique learning experience to explore the topic of displacement in relation to the Olympics through old maps, photographs, and 3D models. I am grateful to have learned something new about Tokyo and the Olympics and even more grateful to have worked with such a wonderful team! Even as I graduate this year, I am excited to see how the lab continues to explore cities in the coming year!

Sana Hairadin, Spring 2022

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. 

Jeffrey Hwang, Spring 2022

For the past few months of my spring semester, I was on the Tokyo Team as an undergraduate planning fellow in the Visualizing Cities Lab. More specifically, I specialized in Tokyo Visual Media surrounding the 1964 and 2021 Tokyo Olympics, one of 3 other sub-groups (transportation and maps). In my group, we primarily discussed and retrieved archival materials to explore the impact of visual media on diffusing the Tokyo Olympics, how such materials were designed, and their implications on Japanese society. Our work integrated well into our whole-team sessions as well where we explored how maps and digital tools can be used to analyze relevant sources like maps to improve accuracy. My semester with the Tokyo team has been overall crucial for me to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of the Tokyo Olympics (I didn’t even know that there was a 1964 Tokyo).

Most of my time as a fellow was devoted to the Tokyo Visual Media sub-group. What first piqued my interest in Tokyo visual media was the vintage media book that Professor Weinstein bought one day. Before I entered the lab, I already had some experience with Japanese historical research. Last semester, I had researched and produced a mini-documentary on the history and commentary surrounding the Japanese women’s-only train system in the Gender and Political Economy class. There I was first exposed to the mannerism posters we discussed in the Tokyo team and the media book showcased. My still burgeoning interest in visual media and design further bolstered with urbanism eventually drove me to join the visual-media sub-group team. In the team, I was exposed to so much Japanese Olympic history that I had not encountered before. In particular, I was intrigued by the radical Hi-Red arts movement and the heavy investment in universalizing communication in the Olympics.

The Hi-Red movement was an arts collective where avant-garde artists made public art demonstrations to draw attention toward governmental urban reform. Upon being selected as the 1964 Olympics host, the government and corporations saw this as an opportunity to regain economic, cultural, and social capital on the world stage. Thus, mass sanitation, cleansing, and reconstruction efforts were implemented causing mass displacement and relocation in the Tokyo area in order to make the city “presentable” for the global audience. Hi-Red interrogated and fought against such commercialism and mass reform by targeting the authenticity and ethics of them. Seeing pictures of their demonstrations and reading about them was very fascinating.

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were also the first Olympics to have used modernized graphic design. The consistency of Helvetica and adoption of pictograms were evidence. In order to bridge linguistic and cultural barriers, pictograms were designed to universalize communication, especially the events. My group spent a session analyzing the pictograms and we found an evolution in visual representation between the first and second Tokyo Olympics. The silhouette of 2021 bodies tended to be slimmers and sleeker. Shapes also had more rounded edges. We suspected that this may have been a manner to make the pictograms genderless to further universalize them. There, however, was still a great amount of noticeable similarities between the first and second Olympic pictograms. Some were almost the same in design. The visuals’ purposes were clearly used for Japan’s entrance into globalization.

I noticed this trend, when I was finding visuals to upload onto Omeka. Among the many graphics I encountered, I eventually selected a picture of Downtown Tokyo and the packaging and advertisements of Japanese Tobacco. The picture was of Downtown Tokyo one year before the 1964 Olympics, and corporations had altered the urban form with bright signs and rotating contraptions. The visual commercialization of the area seemed like it was fantasizing Tokyo to make the city palatable for foreigners. Conversely, tobacco packaging was geared toward Japanese citizens who were also enthusiastic about the competition. Packaging integrated the Olympics and even included limited-time promotions.

Overall, this in-depth exploration of visual culture was fascinating. Being a fellow at the Visualizing Cities Lab has propelled my passion for visual design and global urbanism.

Richard Gao, Spring 2022

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.


Felix Borthwick, Spring 2022

As an anthropologist, it feels easy to write about cities. Some of us spend a lot of time in them, working with others who live and breathe urban space daily. This gives us a richness of experience, which we then try to use to say something about life in the city itself. But teaching others about cities is a different matter. What one writes about a given city does not necessarily have any inherent pedagogical value – other processes must intervene before something become ‘teachable’.

I joined the VCL with this concern for ‘teaching the city’, as it’s something I expect to do myself one day. Other questions quickly emerged: How can we teach the city visually? Though anthropologists do often incorporate visual material, they are still a very text reliant lot. I was interested in how we could use the ‘visual’ as an entry point in a way that remained faithful to the ethnographic experience of the city that anthropology holds so dear.

My last question surfaced during Team Tokyo’s initial discussions. Anchored in the 1964 Olympics, we leaned into the use of historical visuals to explore Tokyo’s changes around that time. But, stealing from Marx, all that is Tokyo melts into air. My research on Japan’s postwar public housing (danchi) has taught me that cities like Tokyo present us with a profound problem because they constantly change. Though at least 400 years old, modern Tokyo’s architectural record is astoundingly thin. This historical poverty begets a visual poverty: you can’t really ‘see’ the historical layers of Tokyo because so much of it is gone. How do we teach about something that is no longer there?

With all this in mind, the Housing sub-group’s project began with Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics. Several news articles told remarkable stories of now-elderly residents who had been evicted from their homes for Olympics-related redevelopment not once, but twice – before both the 1964 games and the 2020 games. One main site emerged: Kasumigaoka Apartments, a public housing project constructed during the pre-1964 wave of urban renewal that was then demolished during a similar wave before 2020.

Kasumigaoka Apartments, c. 2015
(Source: http://sanpototabi.blog.jp/archives/1047891515.html)

Kasumigaoka became our focus. Thankfully, there was a wealth of online textual information that helped us trace its history. But visual materials were essential here too: working with aerial photography of the Yoyogi area from the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, we could track the changes the Kasumigaoka site had undergone since the 1930s. Things mentioned in interviews with former residents – Kasumigaoka’s construction in the early 1960s, the nagaya tenements that occupied the site earlier – suddenly had visual form.

1948 aerial photograph of Yoyogi area, showing nagaya tenements (center-right)
(Source: Geospatial Information Authority of Japan)

Armed with text and image, our group decided to digitally excavate Kasumigaoka. We had two immediate aims: tracking the development of the site to see how public housing typologies changed from the 1940s to the 1960s; and tracing the life paths of former residents to see how people moved through Tokyo, Japan, and the world before settling in Kasumigaoka. This historical ethnography would, we hoped, tell us something interesting about historical change and life experiences in Tokyo.

Relying on a combination of aerial photography to reference site layouts and contemporaneous floorplans, we used SketchUp to develop 3D models of the 1948-1963 tenements and the 1964-2016 Kasumigaoka complex. We also compiled a list of all the places each interviewed resident had lived in and the accompanying dates to plot spatially later. We integrated these elements via StoryMaps, bringing together contemporary photographs of Kasumigaoka, aerial photography of the changing site, the 3D models, and dynamic maps that tracked two residents’ paths through the city and the world. This combination of different sources helped us tell the story of Kasumigaoka – a microcosm of urban change in Tokyo.

3D SketchUp model of nagaya complex, based on 1948 aerial photograph and contemporary floor plans

Learning to use SketchUp and StoryMaps was a major takeaway from this process. But beyond mere technical pickups, this experience showed me the importance of digital visualization as a research and pedagogical tool. The hands-on process of building site models gave me insight into the materiality of the site itself in ways that escape traditional research methods. And these models, in concert with photography and maps, let us introduce others to a site that no longer existed in an immediate and interactive way. Anthropologists like myself – always interested in the ever-fleeting now – can use these tools to creatively engage with (and engage others with) what is no longer there. Visualizing the city through the creative use of technology thus bridges several gaps: the city’s past and present, urban history and urban anthropology, the virtual and the material, and pedagogy and research.

Selections from the final Kasumigaoka StoryMap

Charlie Colasurdo, Spring 2022

Now a fourth-semester VCL fellow, I’ve been fortunate enough to be exposed to various cities and methodologies by which my respective teams have examined them. In this semester, Team Tokyo engaged with the East Asian Megacity’s development in the latter half of the 20th century. Postwar Japan provided a unique and fertile ground for urban experimentation, with a relatively “blank slate” as a result of the destructive impact of the war. This resulted in a variety of experimental urban planning strategies and tools, from the Olympic Village in Tokyo in 1964 to the development of the Shinkansen, the bullet train that revolutionized domestic transit and urbanization. Our team brought together a variety of Japanese experts and neophytes on the subject (including myself). It was fantastic to hear about Tokyo from the perspective of public housing, government policy (like the famous ‘manner posters’), and the creation of a distinctive soft power through anime and other elements of Japanese visual and culinary culture. As an urbanist, I appreciated the conversations about Tokyo which engaged with the more granular everyday life of the city, particularly in small neighborhoods, and also extended these to the macroscopic perspective of the city and surrounding region. I especially was interested in the relationship between Tokyo’s built environment, food culture, and tourism—a confluence of factors I have previously engaged within Bangkok. My partner Natalie and I are working on a presentation on Tokyo’s transit—often looked at as the gold standard for metro systems, as well as the Shinkansen network. Both systems have facilitated extensive urban development within Tokyo itself, and also connected the city to the rest of Japan’s conurbations. The city’s metro system has been essential to ensuring Tokyo’s citizens have cheap, accessible, and efficient means of public transit around the world’s most populous cities.

As Co-Director of the Duke Initiative for Urban Studies, I was happy to promote the VCL for its final semester to students I have taught in my House Course “Urban Studies 101”, along with promoting the Lab on our social media channels. There are several students from both Duke and Duke Kunshan who have been able to expand their academic horizons in the exploration of cities through VCL, which will be a formative experience in their careers and develop interests in urban studies. This summer, I am excited to continue my experiences with the Lab as a curriculum development fellow for Professor Paul Jaskot, where I will collaborate with a team of undergraduates and graduate students to help develop an Urban Studies “gateway” course within the Art, Art History & Visual Studies Department that will form the nucleus of future urban studies academic program at Duke. I plan on drawing upon my work in the VCL over the last two years, along with my experiences creating a curriculum for our House Course, to inform our curricular development this summer. Beyond this, I will be continuing my career in urban studies as a research intern at Urban Studies Lab, a Bangkok-based think tank and consultancy dedicated to exploring and solving pressing urban issues in the global south. This experience will allow me to build on my past experiences interning in the city, and provide a foundation to conduct field research for my senior thesis, tentatively titled “Street Food City: Bangkok Foodways in the 21st Century”. This interdisciplinary project seeks to understand the relationship between the built environment, policy, tourism, and street food culture in 21st Century Bangkok. It will subsequently identify challenges and opportunities facing Bangkok’s food culture and provide actionable policy solutions that draw upon both the best practices in urban planning and policy and the distinctive foodscape and history of Bangkok.

I am immensely grateful to have had the community of VCL as a backdrop for my entire Duke experience. I’ve made great friends and connections through this community, and it helped catalyze my interest in cities to work towards creating a formal academic program in urban studies as my legacy here.

Michael Cao, Spring 2022

After spending a productive fall semester studying Western civilization and the edifices of Athens, Greece, I was able to globalize my experience as a Visualizing Cities Fellow by migrating to the Tokyo research group. I had wanted to work with Dr. Gennifer Weisenfeld on Japanese studies as I felt it was important to spend time within an Eastern atmosphere. Cities were certainly not just Western ideas, and I knew to expand my competency as a researcher, digital-humanist, and student invested in Asiatic studies, focusing on history, culture, and metropolitanism from an Eastern perspective was to be a formative endeavor. Early on, working with the Tokyo group, we plumbed the intersections of globalism and the cumulative evolution of Tokyo as a city from the Edo and Meiji periods onwards. One of the topics we discussed was the idea of spatiality, and how the creation and destruction of public spaces intersected with a grander narrative of urban and national identity. One typology I researched was transit in Tokyo—how maps of railway networks from the 20th century reflected the spatial growth of transportation and population. From this research, an alluring question arose: how does space, particularly public space, facilitate and engender social connections and meanings—what role does visuality play? As I also wanted to explore media theory, I eventually began researching “Manā” or “Manner Posters”, which refer to a collective artistic and social media advertisement campaign that emerged along rail and subway stations in 20th century Tokyo. The posters are visually dynamic images intended to communicate proper subway etiquette to passengers, often done in comedic, nostalgic, or avant-garde ways. Using the Omeka software and Dublin Core Metadata syntax to build an archival collection, I researched the work of artist Hideya Kawakita, who curated an assortment of Manā Posters for the Tokyo Teito Rapid Transit Authority in the 1980s. The research was fascinating because it was multi-factorial. There was the artistry and design implementations motivating the posters—how the use of perspective, symbology, and language were mediums of communication and instruction. And there was also a confluence of ideology and meaning-making. Kawakita’s work for example was enhanced by both historical nationalism and cosmopolitanism. One Manā Poster depicts a character from a famous kabuki theater play, Sukeroku, only someone from Japan might know, while another depicts the universally recognized stature of Napoleon Bonaparte. This form of both local and global spatial awareness seemed to reflect the very dynamism of modern Tokyo itself—how by the late 1900s transit passengers were no longer city-dwellers but also foreign visitors, expatriates, and immigrants. Studying the visuality and significance of Manā Posters, then, presented me the opportunity to do exactly what I had initially wanted, which was to use the veneer of Tokyo to examine the constellation of cultural interactions between East and West that continue to this day. Japanese Manā Posters are one such example of this Eastern and Western intersectionality, and as I’ve emphatically learned this semester, studying a city can become synonymous with studying the world.

Omeka Collection

Don’t forget your umbrella

Clearly show your train pass

Surya Cannon, Spring 2022

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.

Mariko Azuma, Spring 2022

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

Natalie Aramendia, Spring 2022

As a freshman DKU student spending my first year at Duke, I knew that I wanted to make the most out of my time on the Duke campus and explore as many opportunities related to urban studies. Naturally, I was thrilled to learn of this lab’s existence, and am grateful to have been able to participate during VCL’s last semester. During this session, I worked with the Tokyo group, where we explored how city space was reconfigured to prepare for the 1964 Olympics. At our first meeting, I remember feeling intimidated at how much the other groups members already seemed to know about Tokyo. After that session, I dedicated a significant amount of time to researching as much as I could about Tokyo, its relation to the 1964 games, and figuring out through which lens to view the city. With time I found myself gravitating toward certain topics, such as the roles/identity of the different central business districts, mobility throughout the day (daytime vs nighttime populations), as well as the pictograms created for the games (the modern, wordless icons created to help with language barriers as the Tokyo Olympics were the first non-western hosted Olympics). I like to paint a lot in my free time, especially illustrated maps, so I’m always intrigued about how a simple image can convey a place, memory, concept, or in the case of the Olympics – a sporting event.

As a group, we began the semester looking at the American occupation housing of Washington Heights, maps of the Shibuya/Yoyogi Area, and the manner posters. After a few more sessions, we split into 3 main subgroups to structure our research: transportation, housing, and visual media. I joined the transportation subgroup, as I’ve grown up right outside DC (with our lovely metro system) and I’ve always felt drawn to the transportation side of a city. With this new sense of direction, I focused my research on the role of the Shinkansen bullet train, and how it drew the periphery into the games and helped reflect Tokyo’s rise as an economic superpower. We examined maps that showed the expansion of the train and metro systems over the years, the development around railways, and the role of transit in Tokyo’s suburbanization after the Olympics.

For me, I was most fascinated by the role that train stations had in Tokyo, and in which ways the zoning and population distribution make Tokyo different from American cities. Instead of having one central urban core, Tokyo is a decentralized well-connected ‘city of cities’, so it makes sense that public transportation is a big part of Tokyo city life. As for the train stations, I thought it was really interesting that they act as the heart of each mini-city, and don’t just function as a transport hub, but as multi-use city spaces. These stations are designed to be accessible by foot, and include different commercial stores, leisure activities, and provide a space for innovation and exchange of ideas. Overall, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with the Tokyo group under VCL, and I’ve really enjoyed learning from teammates about the different ways to approach understanding a city.

Kate Leonard, Fall 2021

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!


Xinyue (Sunny) Gao, Fall 2021

VCL was the first lab I joined after coming to Duke, and at first, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit in quickly and that I would have trouble participating in the discussions. But after joining the first meeting, I found that my worries were superfluous. All the professors in VCL were very friendly, willing to share their insights, good at listening to students’ ideas and gave professional advice.

At the first meeting, we graduate students were divided into small groups to lead discussions on several topics about cities. The discussion was completely improvised and interesting, and I also found that the undergraduate students on the same team were able to quickly find perspectives from their own knowledge areas even when they were faced with unfamiliar topics. They were able to improve their ideas under the guidance, and they had a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the topic.

In the lab, we can also learn a lot of diverse perspectives from the students of different teams. For example, Kate and I held a workshop on Omeka together, in which we talked about User’s Guide to Omeka, Dublin Core and Metadata, Omeka and Metadata, etc. So, it’s a pleasure to join VCL and discuss and learn with students from different backgrounds!

In Team Tokyo, we mainly explored the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. For this reason, I have some thoughts ideas:

【1】Determination, Modernization, Peace—First in Asia

Japan arranged for representatives of students born on the day of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 to light the main torch at the opening ceremony, showing Japan’s determination to rebuild its home after World War II.

Recovering from the devastation of war and after the era of militarism, Japan has rebuilt into a modern, peaceful democracy country. Japan has rapidly completed the construction of highways and high-speed trains.

As the people’s incomes increased, many Japanese families purchased televisions to watch the Olympics, which was the first time an Olympic event was broadcast live around the world via satellite. Also, this was the last Olympic Games to use the cinder track.

It is considered to be the turning point in Japan’s path to prosperity. In the four years following the Olympics, Japan became the world’s second largest economy, behind the United States.

As many Japanese entered the middle class, they purchased not only televisions, but other modern household appliances

“Japan was running, a country with a future,” says Hiromu Nagahara, an associate professor of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.


At the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, most of the female audience wore traditional Japanese dress kimonos, but most of the men wore modern dress suits.

While Japan’s emergence as an industrial powerhouse was built on strong social cohesion, this aspect of society often tends to suppress women, minorities, and other groups that do not conform to traditional expectations.

Japan ranks 120th out of 156 countries in terms of gender disparity, and many Japanese women find chairman’s comments reflect attitudes with which they are all too familiar.

The Olympic system is always fond of saying that sport is “one of the most powerful platforms for promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls.” But when former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, chairman of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, was recently asked about increasing gender diversity on the Japan Olympic Committee board, his answer was that “women are too nagging.

“If we increase the number of women on the council, we have to try to limit their speaking time, and it’s difficult for them to finish their speeches,” Mori reportedly said at the commissioners’ meeting. “We have about seven female members on the organizing committee, but everyone knows their place.”

The JOC and the 2020 East Olympic Organizing Committee, chaired by Yoshiro Mori, have the important task of upholding gender equality in sports activities and preventing athletes from being unduly victimized. Japanese women are underrepresented as leaders in various sports associations. Human Rights Watch recently reported that there is a long history of abuse of minors, including young girls, in Japanese sports. But his comments were supported by traditionalists.

As the issue of #MeToo abuse has gained global attention, several female athletes in Japan, including gymnasts, swimmers and wrestlers, have made allegations of harassment and abuse. Olympic wrestler Shin Ichi, who won four consecutive gold medals, had to fight the Japan Wrestling Association to have her coach, who harassed her, expelled from the sport.

In Japan, women who complain of discrimination or sexual assault carry a heavy stigma. Official figures show that more than 95 percent of sexual violence incidents go unreported, in part because sexual assault is considered a “shameful” subject in Japan and many victims feel it is useless to report it.

The Japanese justice system is very hostile to victims of sexual violence. Women, including transgender women, still face profound discrimination. Women still face strong resistance to keeping their original family names after marriage. In 2018, Japan’s top medical universities admitted to covertly manipulating test scores to suppress female admissions.

The International Olympic Committee has stated that Olympic host countries must “prohibit any form of discrimination,” including gender discrimination. The talk by Yoshiro Mori suggests that the Japanese government’s attitude toward women needs to change, and sports is a good place to start.

Looking forward to meeting VCL again in spring 2022!

Surya Cannon, Fall 2021

This semester, the Tokyo city team focused on understanding the historical and cultural context of the 1964 Olympics through group discussions and brainstorming exercises. We started with photos of the Yoyogi Olympic park and with articles about the Olympics’ relationship with the Japanese public. One of these articles focused on Tokyo’s push for sanitation during the city’s Olympic preparations — one advertisement using the hi no maru flag as a national symbol to encourage Tokyo’s citizens to properly dispose of their trash stood out to our team in particular. This image (see below) inspired the two main lenses through which we examined Tokyo as an event city this semester: sanitation and national identity.

We also linked these two topics together through the idea of bodies in the city, which to us meant athletics, physical health, gender, and the city’s infrastructure as a body.

I was most interested in the impact the 1964 Tokyo Olympics had on Japan’s global identity, and how Japan made these changes to its international relationships by highlighting or broadcasting specific images of bodies in the city. The 1964 Olympics was a major turning point in Japanese international identity as the country aimed to transition its World War II-era reputation in the West into that of a modern, technologically-advanced, peaceful nation while still maintaining a sense of cultural superiority over the rest of the world, if not the rest of Asia, within the Japanese public.

My primary references this semester were the essays about the 1964 Olympics in The East Asian Olympiads, 1934-2008: Building Bodies and Nations in Japan, Korea, and China and media about the “Oriental Witches”, the media nickname for Japan’s women’s volleyball team who won that year (see below for a photo of team captain Masae Kasai receiving the gold medal).

Japan used the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to self-orientalize the country’s identity under the Western gaze, from modifying city infrastructure to idealize Tokyo as a clean, peaceful, “zen” place for tourists, to the Oriental Witches’ highly disciplined, intense training and kaiten reshibu (receive and rotate) techniques. Japanese women were used and presented in the Tokyo Olympics as cultural guides and athletes as a means to erase the problematic masculine aspects of Japan’s identity — WWII military and government leaders — from the world’s immediate memory.

Spaces presenting stereotypical ideas of Japanese womanhood (the geisha, meekness, agreeability, tradition, kimonos/yukata) were the most common ways that Western media and tourists would interact with and view the city, in medal ceremonies, cultural/historical tours, and hotels/restaurants/service establishments. It seems that Japan intentionally related its Western reputation to the feminine in order to maintain a “non-threatening” position of power, and emphasized stereotypically feminine ideas such as cleanliness, meticulousness, tranquility, and beauty in the 1964 Olympic spectacle to control the event’s international narrative.

In the coming semester, I would be interested in mapping out the real-life play of these gendered dynamics — what spaces in the city catered to tourists, and which locals went there for work or spectacle, too? How did sanitation efforts in city cleanup for the Olympics coincide with the locations of blood and STI testing sites for sex and service workers who would interact with tourists? What areas of the city became “faces”; how were parts of the city and the movements within it gendered?

Mariko Azuma, Fall 2021

My first-time experience of the Visualizing Cities Lab has given me a refreshing framework to approaching cities, particularly event cities and their multiple entry points. Firstly, I learned that the lab’s method of comprehensively discussing cities from diverse angles and experiences not only emphasizes the dynamism of a city’s identity, but also the fact that they are generative sites that continue to produce new peculiarities and relationships. Articles such as “Cities and Their News Media Images” by Eli Avraham, illustrates this point and provided a stimulating way to think about how cities have dimensions that are both imagined and real.[1] These dimensions might consist of the city’s history, relationships, generalizations, stereotypes, and a variation of favorable and unfavorable public images that become processed for “place marketing.” This especially becomes clear when a city is chosen to host a major event such as the Olympics or the International Exposition. Through such events, cities observable on a local scale suddenly take up more space in the imagination of national and international media.

Thinking about cities in this way, and learning more about the similarities and differences between event cities included in the Visualizing Cities Lab, has informed me about how fruitful and intriguing this subject area is. The way in which the lab was set up as a free-flowing, open-ended discussion with lab members bringing in various experiences and interest points, was also a new and thought-provoking space. It was a helpful way in learning to let ideas lead the way, interact with each other, and formulate new ones with no pressure to keep them limited in scope or possibility.

The specific city team I was in was the Tokyo Team, focused on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. With the advantage of being in a city team that hosted the most recent 2020 Olympics, it was fascinating to think back at the layered genealogy and continuity of such event cities. Our team initially discussed the various impressions of Tokyo’s relation to the Olympics including the cultural promotion of contrasting traditional and futuristic characteristics, the historical significance of Japan hosting the Olympics as the first Asian country, and the spatial transformations of reconstructing and destructing the physical infrastructure of the city. With such a rich array of cultural, historical, and spatial significances, the discussions themselves were enjoyable for me in noticing the dimensions of a city. We gradually started focusing more on the operative roles of Tokyo as the host of the 1964 Olympics in order to embody the most positive representation of Japan. This included infrastructure transformations and attention to cleanliness and sanitation, with seeing Tokyo as a dynamic body being a helpful entry point. Through exploring newspaper articles and images along with the discussions, the next step for our team would be to formulate a way to visually represent an aspect of the 1964 Olympics’ vastness. As we experiment more with Omeka and Neatline, we are interested in focusing in on the Olympic city’s physical evolution; through architecture as well as the mapping of both official and unofficial (artistic demonstrations) projects.

Visualizing Cities Lab-Tokyo Omeka Site: https://tokyo.visualizingcitieslab.org/

Team Tokyo Notes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1smXgSzc94Q7WCVS1OV38T-CAq4djxDCrJeS-k8FsAV8/edit?usp=sharing

[1] Avraham, Eli. “Cities and Their News Media Images” in Cities, Vol. 17, No. 5, (Elsevier Science, 2000) 363–370.


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