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By Kristin Trapp

Japan’s urbanism was not as easily seen as I had imagined it would be.  As I was walking through the many unmarked streets of Japan I began to look for distinct markings and buildings that really shouted transnational or vernacular urbanism.  Much to my dismay it was not that simple.  I had to then look for some of the dimensions of global cultural flow including ethnoscapes, mediascapes, and finanscapes, and not all of them were as easily visible as I had anticipated either. 

            Ethnoscapes are the ways tourists, immigrants, refugees and guest workers move about a city.  This was challenging to observe since 99.3% of Japan's population is native Japanese.  The only tourists I witnessed were either students of Semester at Sea or in some way affiliated with the program.  Immigrants were also hard to observe within the cities.  I only saw three people that to the best of my knowledge were immigrants and they were players on the Japanese baseball team.  Refugees and guest workers were also some what of a rare commodity, so if I was going to learn more about the city I had better look to another dimension, for instance mediascapes.

            Mediascapes are the worldwide distribution of information through newspapers, magazines, TV program and films.  This was not as hard to observe since there were TVs, newspapers and magazines everywhere, the only problem was I don’t speak or read Japanese, so to the best of my knowledge the mediascapes for Japan do have a world wide distribution of information.  However, the advertisements that were posted every where were in English.  This brought me to my last dimension, finanscapes. photo

            Finanscapes are the global capital flow.  Japan really shocked me when it came to its cities.  I never did make it to Tokyo but I do not really feel that I missed out since four out of the five cities that I did visit could be classified as large scale urban cities.  Every square inch of property was covered with concrete and skyscrapers filled the skies.  This really surprised me since I was expecting Japan’s cities to be filled with rice fields and temples, not international businesses and large scale buildings.  The most shocking observation I made about Japan’s cities was the conglomeration of the buildings.  Walking down any given street I could pass an ancient temple, a new apartment building, a moderately older house a rice field and the Gap, or some other international business.  Walking through the city I really grasped what Theodore C. Bestor was talking about in his paper on “Supply-Side Sushi: Commodity, Market, and the Global City.”  I could really understand what Bestor was talking about and I could see how even with the tuna exports and imports how important it is to be a global city.  The daily lives of the people would be greatly effected without the exportation. 

            The way Japanese cities were laid out really surprised me.  To be able to walk around and witness palaces and temples that had existed for hundreds of years co-existing with the new technology that today’s architecture has to offer was astonishing.  Time and technology really has had an impact on the way Japan’s cities operate, although the time honored traditions are still prevalent.  

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