Urban Space Studies – Tokyo

Graduate Program in Global Studies, Sophia University


  • Co-ordinator: Dr Julian Worrall
  • Period: 2 October 2011 – 26 January 2012
  • Time: Thursdays, 3:15pm – 6:30pm.
  • Location: Sophia University, Room 60-213B
  • Eligibility: Graduate students enrolled in the Graduate Program of Global Studies at Sophia University.
  • Outline: Download course outline here.


This course examines the city as a significant site for the elaboration of social and cultural patterns in Japan. The study of urban spaces and phenomena can yield powerful insights into culturally distinctive constructions of public and private; power and authority; social and economic structures; the natural and the artificial; history and memory; the real and the imaginary. The city is also a richly layered and continually shifting collective archive, in which embedded traces of the past are incorporated into projected futures in a continuous process of erasure and construction. And the city is a realm of vivid experience that finds artistic expression in literature, film, architecture, photography and other arts, shaping interpretations of a present in which the urban has become the dominant frame for contemporary life.

In this course, these multiple dimensions of the study of the city in Japan will be brought to bear upon the case of Tokyo. Using maps, plans, and photographs, we examine the physical layers of the city – its landscapes, architectures, infrastructures, and technologies. The social and cultural dimensions of urban life and its experience are apprehended via literary, artistic, and cinematic representations. The course engages questions both general and specific, such as: What is the idea of the city in Japan? How has Tokyo grown and transformed over its history? What mappings relate Tokyo’s urban space to its social groups and cultural formations? How is the boundary between public and private configured in Tokyo’s urban space and how is it changing? In what ways is the remembered past (and the imagined future) made present in contemporary Tokyo? How do we position Tokyo in relation to Japan, to the region, to the world?