Update 1: Gathering ideas

•July 11, 2011 • 1 Comment

I have been negligent about posting, but my research is coming along. I am going to post everything I have been working on for the past few weeks.

The bookstore and other shops that I have been focusing on are down an “alley,” meaning that less foot traffic passes in front of them than shops on the main streets. The challenge for shop keepers is how to make themselves known to passers by on the main street and draw customers into the alley. My favorite coffee shop is also on a backstreet, which does not connect directly to the main street – wandering eyes cannot just glance from the main street and spot it. However, Kissako manages to attract many customers. First, Kissako is well represented in guidebooks to the area, online, and  in ephemera that promotes Jimbocho. Second, even though Kissako is surrounded by less than beautiful buildings, they have plenty of plants and a sign that faces out to the main connecting side streets. My guess is that passerby’s eyes focus on the plants and the building, ignore the rest, and are drawn into the cafe.












Part of what Kissako does well is create a sense of mystery and project a certain quality of “Shibui.” I think that creating this kind of space on the alley would draw more people in and encourage them to stay there longer. Rather than just being a space to pass through, it needs “subspaces” or points of interest to encourage people to linger.


Pictures of Meiji Era Tokyo

•June 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment


On Seidensticker’s Low City, High City

•June 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Dr. Braiterman asked us to think about how to incorporate Low City, High City into our research projects. I went to the alley on Sunday, but little happens there on Sundays. I noticed a few details that I hadn’t before, took a few pictures and headed off to my favorite cafe. At that point, I had only read about half the book, and I was thinking about the way Seidensticker talks about seasonal plants having an effect on the culture of the city. However, I doubt that anyone would journey to this alley to see the plants.

The cafe owner introduced me to a patron of his who is a bookstore owner, and we had a long conversation about American movies, difficult for me since I know next to nothing about that most important of American cultural exports. He mentioned that while he had sold Economics books and law books, lately he had switched to just selling novels. Another causal interview had led me to think about importance of the configuration of Jimbocho.

The Seidensticker book mentions that the intellectual center in Kanda/Jimbocho was tied to Japan’s effort to prove its proficiency in Western law and thus escape extrateratoriality. I do not want to peg too much on one casual interview, but perhaps the character of the association between Jimbocho and “knowledge” or “learning” is changing.

I like how Seidensticker talks about Edo/Tokyo in terms of its popular entertainment. The books sold in the bookstore in this project certainly fall under the heading of entertainment. I suppose the question is if this form is on its way out or not.

Regarding this space, the other thing I have been thinking about lately is how smokers use it. There is something so lonely about taking a smoking break next to the vending machines. Smoking under a nice tree or something would be a much more relaxing way to spend a break, not that I would know anything about that. Still, it seems that someone has implemented their own smoking “design solutions:” there is a nice little ash tray/can tucked away next to a vending machine. 

Inside the Bookshop

•June 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Further Thoughts about Hungry City…A Drawing of the Perfect Fish

•June 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Some of my friends and I were discussing Hungry City in an Izakaya the other night. The idea of the perfect fish, the equivalent of chicken with over enlarged breasts, with as many edible, monetizable parts as possible and as little waste as possible came up. My friend Seungjoo Park and I drew the following image. The first one is mine, and the second one is his, a comment on both mine and the idea of the “perfect fish” 

Drawing of the Street

•June 13, 2011 • 1 Comment

Drawing of the street

•June 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Street scene