chapter  3
22 Pages

Sensing Tokyo’s Alleyways:Everyday Life and Sensory Encounters in the Alleyways of a City in Transition

ByHeide Imai

Cities in Asia express much of their daily life in the streets. Walking, for example, in the urban back alleys of Tokyo, Japan, one comes across different scenes that are deeply rooted in local life and the traditions of place. However, contemporary Tokyo underwent rapid urbanization in the twentieth century and local urban life has been suppressed by the recent emergence of large scale urban and high-rise developments. Focusing in this context on the meaning of vernacular alleyways, it is argued that Tokyo’s positioning as a ‘global city’ has caused many discussions, but seldom are they directly focused on the daily sensory experience of urban life at the bottom edge and inside the small scale urban alleys, the rojis. Taking the case of the inner urban neighborhoods of Nezu and Yanaka in Tokyo, this chapter will introduce walks undertaken with different individuals drawing on the sensory knowledge and daily practices of the user. Accordingly, the chapter will reflect on senses such as vision, sound, smell, touch and taste to describe the impact of the changing urban environment on the sensory experience of the urban alleyway and everyday life of its inhabitants. In discussing different sensory meanings of place, this study will explore to what extent the local space of the roji is still a part of contemporary urban life or whether it exists only in the collective mind.