The City Remade, the City Evaded: Transformations of Life in and Away from Urban Japan

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: The City Remade, the City Evaded: Transformations of Life in and Away from Urban Japan
Stream: Urban Studies
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Nathaniel Smith, University of Arizona, United States (organizer, presenter, chair)
Heide Imai, Senshu University, Japan (presenter)
James Farrer, Sophia University, Japan (presenter)
Susanne Klien, Hokkaido University, Japan (presenter)


Urbanity is a filter for life in Japan, orienting labor, social space, and regimes of taste. This panel brings together ethnographically-driven research in the social sciences to consider changes in urban life as it evolves both within and beyond the megacity. We take up novel places like the “hidden” slices of urbanity found in the narrow back-alley, shopping street, or crusty postwar yokochō, consider the "bistro battleground" of a suburban neighborhood where entrepreneur chefs draw competing global culinary cultures into pockets of decidedly everyday life, examine forms of resistance to urbanity enacted by young “lifestyle migrants” pursuing new food ventures and hoping for a slower life in rural areas, and evaluate how parts of Tokyo stand as symbolic Petri dishes for the coming “diverse Japan” of the future, as tourism remakes and attempts to gentrify the famously gritty neighborhood of Kabukicho into a would-be welcome mat for the world. As Japan’s population ages and its rural centers wane, dynamic urban development in the Tokyo megacity is conversely reaching new heights. In the run-up to the Summer Olympics, we focus on how the megacity of Tokyo is being remade or evaded by locals and visitors alike and consider what revitalization campaigns, new forms of cosmopolitanism, and efforts to imagine alternatives to the clout of urban Japan reveal about changing aspects of society.