Friday, August 31, 2012

Outdoor Media Landscapes: Tokyo

Sensō-ji, Asakusa

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Tokyo ... getting there has been an ambition of mine for a long time, and it was a real thrill to finally make it.

To mark the occasion, here's a little photo essay devoted to Tokyo's outdoor media landscape. Since this is a blog on cities and citizenship, I'm basically dressing up some holiday snaps with a few observations on some of the forms of public address that are jossling for space and attention in the city.


The density of text and image on the surfaces of the city is one of the many things that is striking about (parts of) this city ... not a very original observation, I know, but there you go! There's just so much commercial communication. But because I can't read Japanese, I experienced most of it as a brilliant jumble of colour and light (and movement and sound in some cases). The density is exciting, even if its purpose isn't. Could we imagine this kind of media infrastructure being re-purposed?

Shinjuku at dusk


This video above gives a bit of a sense of the soundscape that goes with the eye candy in Shibuya ... intense!

Train Carriage Advertising

While the advertising and shop signage seems to crowd out almost everything else, it's a city that also rewards you for paying attention to some of the nooks and crannies in between the bright lights and colours. Some of the urban infrastructure like street signs and drain covers were beautiful to look at too...

Street sign on the famous Ginza St, one of the main shopping strips of the city, which was off-limits to cars on this particular Saturday and lined with furniture and stalls...

This ornate drain cover was in Shimokitazawa....

There were also a few spaces set aside for what appeared to be community notices, and lots of maps ... an essential bit of media infrastructure given the address system in use in the city, even in these days of mobile internet and Google maps.

Here below are some demonstrators trying to make themselves seen and heard in Harajuku ... they had a large and captive audience, but the crowds seemed to have other things on their mind (ie shopping!!). Sadly I have no idea what they were demonstrating about ... nuclear power, the need to repent and get with God, who knows?! Mass protests must have to generate a lot of colour and noise to get any attention...

Of course, I was on the look out for any signs of graffiti and street art too. What I found seemed to be concentrated in Shibuya and around Shinjuku station. Stickers seemed to be particularly well-suited to the context here ... there was hardly any space left for anything larger, and not many times of the day/night when you might have a place to yourself long enough to hang around painting. The sticker artists typically made good use of space below eye level, which was less crowded because it is of less value to advertisers. In fact, paying attention to the graffiti kind of drew my eye away from all the advertising and other media, and gave me a different perspective on the landscape.

One of the ubiquitous vending machines being used as a platform for various unauthorised media, Shibuya

I love this one in so many ways ... one of a series of "I hate nuclear rain" stickers I saw by the same artist throughout the city.

Melbourne, represent! :-) It was a nice surprise to see some familiar names ... stickers from Reka, Meggs, and Phibs of  Everfresh crew on this pole, among others.
Shop shutter, Asakusa

Finally, there was a whole genre of plastic food art on display outside restaurants that warrants a mention...

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OK, that's probably enough! Back to our regular program with the next post...

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