USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Identities + Differences

“A life in boundless pursuit of pleasure makes one blasé because it agitates the nerves to their strongest reactivity for such a long time that they finally cease to react at all”

The city as a leader creates spectacle in a sense that the city is not only seen as an object but rather as a transformation of a place. The city provokes lives through the unique narratives created by itself, the people, and the culture. The spectacle and the phenomenon, or stimulations, relate to the normal and extreme. Tokyo is seen as a conforming society, where everything needs to regenerate in order to keep its set system from collapsing. The rules of engagement are set in place to drive order. No one deviates away from the law to do individual thinking; they simply just follow it.  The importance of being an individual within a city is to take on the role as an observant. By doing so, a larger understanding can be created through the stimulations. The idea where the blasé can either become more personal but with the consequence of being more conforming to society versus the blasé being less personal but with more room for individualism is solely up to the individual.

In a city like Tokyo, culture takes on a large role in deciphering the evolution of its dynamic. The city does not revolve around one culture but rather the city is a culture.

Within the conformed society, there are subcultures delved within the generic. The white collar business man seen walking to his destination on any given work day blends in among the mass canvas of other identically dressed neighbors packed into the subway station. The Pachinko Gambling centers offer a moment of spectacle where the businessman can create their own worlds within these loud, colorful, ornate alternative havens. Once they obtain their fulfillment they step outside the doors to once again enter the conventional world. The idea of the normal versus the extreme reflects the mental engagement of the individual within society. The Takeashita Dori in Harajuku offers an opportunity for the individual to express their personalities through fashion. Their choice of fashion displays a physical and tangible personal statement giving the opportunity to stray away from the collective. Efforts are made to be different and defy the silent rules set within society.

Attempts are made at simplifying the complexity, in this case the layers of culture. In terms of the generic versus the individual, some cases call for systems where people must be seen as a collective otherwise they will fail. Rules then become the main driver in defining the system as the dynamic evolves. The Ise Shrine located in Ise City, is rebuilt every twenty years where one site is torn down as its neighboring site is built on. The tradition is held neither through writing nor orally, but through the act of building. The heritage is found within the body of the building where the concept of wabi-sabi is implemented; the Shinto belief that death and renewal are temporary. Thus by erecting the shrine, the symbolism of the connection between ancient sacred traditions to the present lives on.

09/10/2013 Paula M Narvaez


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Buying Culture

The immense access and availability of information is a key component of modern globalization that fuels the growth of the middle class and as a byproduct, creates the enticement to go out and experience cultures other than their own. Today, there is a great demand for an authentic experience abroad, and in a country like China, this demand is met at a crossroads between the vast ancient culture that is offered, and the manufactured culture that results from the thousands of outsiders that have a collective influence on it.

The ancient Chinese civilization was one of the first developed civilizations in human history, and its long timeline holds a richness that makes the Chinese culture one of the most sought-after in the world. From the natural landmarks of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, to the 13,000+ miles of the man-made Great Wall, China is home to cultural treasures and is itself a wonder of the world today. The Chinese culture sells itself. In fact, it is prototypical of how culture has become one of the biggest commodities of the 21st century. However, the large influx of foreigners wanting to tour this place has had a deep, fundamental impact on this civilization and everyone’s “authentic” experience of it. The more people come to experience the Chinese culture, the more processed and “inauthentic” it becomes. This alteration most easily occurs when there is a large inflow of outsiders to a particular place over time. If just one person, per say, were to travel to a village wanting to experience its authenticity, that one person would most likely not have an impact on the cultural whole and still be able to take it in at its originally state. However, if one hundred people were to continually do this week after week, they would undoubtedly have a collective impact on the culture. It is an inevitable paradox.

Once the society is altered, it becomes subject to the supply and demand brought on by the tourism that flourishes here. The social, political, and most importantly, economical forces that result are the strongest influencers of a new manufactured culture, a culture that caters to the tourists’ demands and is rendered to an exoskeleton of the rich Chinese culture that once was. This is cultural production. It is an illusion of a culture that exists independently and on its own accord.

Furthermore, the idea of the real fake entails an acceptance of this manufactured culture as authentic. To draw a parallel, the typical Chinese red braided bracelets- believed to keep evil spirits away- have long been hand-crafted by a woodworking artisan. Today, they are mass produced by factory workers using molds to cast the material out of plastic. The production process is a mere ghost of the original, and yet tourists buy these real fake commodities with just as much eagerness. What’s more, there seems to be a consensus about their authenticity, so much so that the real fake satisfies as the real thing.


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Consuming Culture

Today, more people are traveling to many parts of the world. Whether it be backpacking across South America or traveling through Europe, most urbanites of first-world countries are eager to leave their current habitat and experience new places and cultures. This is becoming increasingly easier as the world continues to globalize. You can easily get lost in the endless sea of information that is out on the internet, or in the many travel guide books written by experts, and when you arrive at your desired destination many times you will find a tourist center with maps leading you to all the places you’d like to visit and respective cultures you want to experience. As this process of culture consumption gets easier, it is important to understand the meaning of culture and the traveler’s impact on it.

Culture is widely thought of as a static, historical fact. I have traveled throughout Japan for the last two weeks trying to take in, understand, and maybe even assimilate into its culture. But I have recognized that given the mere fact that I have inserted myself into the Japanese culture and its context, I have invariably become a contaminant of that culture. To understand this, one must first grapple with the concept that culture is not static, it is everchanging. In “Society as a Spectacle”, Debord argues that culture is held more as a true form of knowledge. The further you look back in time (history), the more culture becomes knowledge and is perceived as factual, it becomes ingrained. There is a factualness to knowledge, and this knowledge translates into history. Therefore, the act of looking forward no longer defines culture. Culture, if you are moving with the flow of time, becomes dynamic and fluid; it becomes a production process that is always in flux. Culture is only considered knowledge if time has transcended it and society has embraced it to where it is inextricably tied to its history. Essentially, any belief of having culture that is solidified in the contemporary sense of it is really quantified now as merely the notion of myth. It is myth because it is changeable, it is now completely reproducible.

Ultimately, as long as culture remains a dynamic vibrant device that moves forward and changes with the flow of time, it must exist independently of what might have shaped it in the past. As you travel the world to experience different cultures you validify culture as a commodity. As a result, the new culture that exists in that particular place is now profit driven; the tourism economy. The experience that you are having there or the bracelet that you are buying are no longer cultural experiences.objects local to the place but manufactured for the consumption of tourism. The important and more relevant question today is by whom and for what motives or ends is new global culture being produced, and how is this culture in turn shaping society.


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Failure, and the City

Throughout many parts of rapidly developing China remarkable juxtapositions exists. It is not in the least bit uncommon to see wealth, right next to poverty. Or is it uncommon to observe beautiful natural landscapes, interjected with mechanized industrial complexes. However, in Shenzhen there exists a particular juxtaposition, that when carefully examined, could provide deep insights into the way that, architects, planners, and urbanists think about the city. One instance of the juxtaposition is typically a tight aggregation of small buildings reaching five to six stories in height that spreads over, what would be three to four city blocks. Within this instance, the streets are full of people gathering in multitudes of shops and restaurants. Small businesses line the streets, and vendors enthusiastically sell anything from clothes and food to furniture. However, in this instance forms of oppression also exist, prostitution and drug abuse among others are evident. Furthermore, sanitation and other infrastructure components are often lacking quality in this instance. The other instance occurs often times just on the other side of a street of the first. It is typically defined by newly constructed towers in a controlled complex. The complexes often provide resources such as educational facilities for young children or facilities for leisure such as restaurants. The former instance typically is identified as an urban village while the latter is one of the common copies of new Chinese developments.

The insights that can be gained from these two instances arise not from their individual qualities but instead from circumstances of their creation. The Urban villages exist as a combination of residual policies left from the communist organization of China, and market demands created by the wave of urbanization. The borders of the urban village are determined through a governmental process where negotiations are made between villagers and the provincial government. The negotiations result in the former agricultural land of the villages being exchanged with the government for compensation. The resulting islands of land owned by the villagers after some time become surrounded by the city. The villagers often take advantage of the opportunity this creates by building apartments or commercial space that are then leased, which provides income for the villagers. The villager’s right to develop their property usually results in what is typically known as an urban village. Subsequently, government or a developer becomes reengaged and negotiates again in an effort to replace the urban village with new, usually tower, developments.

When the city is considered as a whole both of the two conditions, of urban village and modern skyscraper development, exist within the same ecosystem. Both conditions are results of political policies and economic demand. Both conditions satisfy a certain niche that is needed by the city. In certain yet distinct ways both conditions represent a form of chaos evident in the city. As much as politicians, developers, planners, and architects try to control the physical outputs their efforts will not affect the underlying chaotic inputs. In the essay “What Happened to Urbanism,” Rem Koolhaas writes, that the chaotic inputs,” happens when things are not designed, it cannot be engineered, it infiltrates, architects can only resist it and fail.” However, even with lack of control comes responsibility. The urbanist has tools to activate the city for higher potential. The tools might be as tangible as infrastructure, architecture, or public space. Or the tools might be intangible such as culture, community, and pride. However, even with these tools urbanists have failed to improve the potential of cities, in fact sometimes they failed spectacularly. Nonetheless the city has flourished. Koolhass argues that regardless of failures architects and urbanists need to take a stand on urban issues. By taking a position these professions can in fact learn from their mistakes and hopefully improve in the future. In China the issue of the Urban Village and skyscraper is evolving. The country is taking a stand, and learning from mistakes. It is now that many professions have the opportunity to guide the course of this work and have a historical impact.


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Social Class Struggle

     Shifts within the global economy have generated the manner in which the land is used including the rearrangement of residential neighborhoods or in the case of Shenzhen, the urban villages. Urban villages are pre-existing villages where the city has infiltrated its surrounding by building around them. With aims to reform and improve rural living standards, urban villagers simply wanted to ease into the urban rather than have higher income and social influence. Whole villages are being torn down and replaced by redevelopment housing ranging from mid-rise to high-rise where in many cases migrant villagers cannot afford the new rent.

“Class struggle” where the government ignores the demands of the residents has established social hierarchies. Consequently urban development is affected by the class struggle. The speed of redevelopment reflects the desire of “wanting” to take over as a dominant role within the global economy. The market has invaded the way we live and what shapes our cities thus there is an immediate need to build. Speed acts as a conceptual driving tool for the market force. Yet the social construction of cities relies on a balanced ecosystem. There must be different socio-economic statuses in order to run a functioning system.

The city as a whole triggers the emotion attached to experiences. The city is constantly changing along with the social engagement. Culture shapes form similarly to the constant morphology of a city; both are ever changing. But one may ask how does one see through the layers over time to gain an authentic essence of the city? As cultural engagement changes including people and the architecture, the urban process becomes evident.

Initially an economic experiment with political intent, Shenzhen proved to redefine the definition of a city. Within thirty years, the population of Shenzhen went from 35,000 residents to 14,000,000, becoming an instant city essentially overnight. The land is fertile due to its close proximity to the Pearl River Delta, which made the area fall under a desirable condition of urban emergence. From rice fields the area was flattened out to provide land for factories and housing. The new metropolis came into existence with no intermediary paving landscape into large highways. The new expansion created transit features and access to capital. Globalization became an ultimate agglomeration. Improving the general standards of living, reforming collectivism and opening Chinese markets, Shenzhen became what it is today, a market driven urbanization that governs and sustains the economy. The question is, should this define or influence the future development of cities? As of now, a city that is inching its way closer to a utopian lifestyle is proving that this may be the route to take.

11/25/2013 Paula M Naarvaez

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Voyeurs or walkers?

Too often do we associate our designs to be used by the users at a specific manner. Designed space is used by a variety of users. Hence, the way humans interact with space is different for everyone. This applies to cities as well. Not only do we have to investigate the basic forms and structures and macro view of the cityscape, but also the culture and social aspect of the city. Hence, to fully understand a city, we have to observe the city from a geometrical and anthropological perspective.

De Certeau explores the two types of cities, the geometrical and anthropological. As a voyeur overlooking the city from a bird’s eye view, he only understands the overall physicality of the city. Being so detached from the city, it is impossible to understand the city. Certeau comments that “this panorama-city is a ‘theoretical’ simulacrum whose condition of possibility is an oblivion and a misunderstanding of practices.” Contrastingly, the anthropological city allows him to truly understand these practices, analyzing the city while walking in the city and engaging with the people. The relationship between the person, the space, and the surrounding crowd provides a bigger picture of how city acts upon users and how users act upon space.

Before arriving to Shanghai, I have always observed the city geometrically. Based on iconic photographs and maps of Shanghai, I know that the city is divided into two sides, PuDong and PuXi. Like any other “tourists”, I am amazed by the skyscrapers on the Central Business District (CBD) and by the skyline. However, purely remembering the iconic image of Shanghai’s skyline does not fully explain true mechanisms of the city – the economic, social, political, and physical aspect of Shanghai.

More importantly, immersing myself to Shanghai for the past two weeks gave myself an anthropological perspective of the city. A visit to the bund on China’s public holiday was a perfect opportunity to emerge myself into the local culture. It was a Friday night and a Chinese public holiday. I was finally part of the crowd of the locals walking and pushing along NanJing East Road to reach to the Bund. The experience was more than just enjoying the skyline of the Bund. It was more about viewing the crowd at the Bund than the skyline. While finally standing on the boardwalk of the bund after a twenty-minute struggle walking from the subway station, I was still having trouble enjoying the scenery. People were yelling to each other. A woman lost her son in the crowd. Hence, frantically pushing the crowd and calling her son’s name and talking to the phone at the same time. A man was trying to help his son to get the best view of the bund among the crowd hence pushing us and moving the crowd to get the best position on the boardwalk. Even policemen were part of the crowd, constantly blowing their whistle and waving their arms to hopefully construct order. Blowing whistles, honking cars, screaming kids, shouting policemen, and loudly talking people. Noise level at the bund had definitely risen to its highest capability.

It was then that I started to realize the real culture of this city. Glamorous buildings and skyscrapers are only iconic images for the world that Shanghai is going to be the most developed city. But to fully understand how Chinese locals utilize the city, it is important to observe their activities. Observations at the bund show that Chinese locals like to be loud and crowded. If the crowd of Chinese locals were to be replaced with Japanese locals who are known for having high discipline, the atmosphere at the bund would be different. Rather than people pushing around, spitting without hesitation, singing, or blowing the whistle, people would be quietly strolling along the boardwalk, sitting at the benches enjoying the night view, or casually sipping their beer with friends. Hence, different people with different cultural background manipulate the atmosphere of the city.

This further brings to the question of whether Shanghai’s rapid economic development of the city fits coherently with its social and cultural development. It is obvious that Shanghai has improved and developed drastically for the past ten years. The CBD proves Shanghai’s capability to achieve high economic standards by creating more building to generate money, and inviting western companies to facilitate globalization. However, it is also evident that Shanghai still needs improvement on its social and cultural development. Situations such as locals spitting at public casually, or fighting and pushing to get into the subway, or even cutting the line to pay at the “Uniqlo” store, clearly shows the lack of education for the majority of Chinese locals.

In conclusion, Shanghai shows its glamorous side geometrically. The built structures, such as skyscrapers at the CBD district and all western companies, show that Shanghai has well achieved economically. However as the city is seen from an anthropological perspective, the lack of education is shown. A better balance between the economic development and the social and cultural development would mould the city even better geometrically and anthropologically.

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The Symbiosis Between Information Technology and Cultural Interactions

“While advances like the telephone and automobile clearly had wide-ranging impacts on the twentieth-century city, the recent wave of information technology promises to prove many more”- Scott Page and Brian Phillips, Urban Interfaces Designing the In-Between

Technology has become so vital in our lives that it facilitates almost everything around us. It allows us to gather information and increase our awareness of different programs as the distribution of communication, interaction and information is constantly morphing on a day-to-day basis. It now holds a greater presence within our lives more than ever.

As cities are shifting towards technology based, the physical city and its inhabitants are relying on the developing network of communication infrastructures. Cities including Tokyo and Seoul have fully immersed into this concept. Tokyo’s transit stations, in particular Shibuya Station, are catering to its population density, entertainment, and commercial intensity. The city has tapped into digital technology resulting in its commercial centrality to reflect human patterns and culture. Seoul has immersed itself into a completely wireless city- regardless of the location within the city, one is guaranteed to have access to a wi-fi network above ground and below ground (ie. metro subways). The web presence is substantial, unlike any other city I have visited. Upon landing into the ICN Airport, I was immediately connected to the internet via iPhone. I had no network data yet the internet allowed me to stay connected- I was “in the network” and I was connected up until my departure one week later.

Information is constantly being created and distributed. Heavily influenced by “the perspectives of media, speed, and personal perception”, the representation of our world impacts the way in which we design (61). The evolution of technology affects the way we conceptualize design. With vertical and horizontal connections, the vertical builds upwards as the horizontal allows information technology to spread among the landscape through infrastructure.

Connections are formed between networks of the urban fabric or physical beings such as social networks. Formed communities via the web have created spatial constraints as they manipulate the manner in which the user desires to be apart of something. The downfall is that physical impacts are decreased which then blurs the distinction between virtual and physical space as location-awareness diminishes. The virtual interface focuses on the particular needs of the individual catering to personal environments. We are influenced by the physical form that acts as a vehicle for “modulating streams of images (62)”. Projected images such as advertisements or entertainment media instill in the user a desire to match what they see. Advertisements for reconstructive surgery were plastered all over Seoul. A city known for its surge in aesthetic surgery clinics, there is a need to perfect the physical form. The persuasive ads to achieve a ‘specific look’ send underlying messages of pressure to cave into the generic. As the city conforms based on economic exchange, this need for personalization overrides the importance of the collective users. The quantity versus the individual places the individual under the generic, simply a number within the population.

The need to regenerate the technological based society means that the system will collapse, it does not have the ability to personalize. It all reverts back to the idea that money is a driver for culture. There is a desire to discover new advanced technology as this has a direct correlation to power. The more information given and known keeps the distribution of communication going tapping into the culture that feeds into this phenomenon.

11/26/2013 Paula M Narvaez

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Temporal Transformation

Architecture in Tokyo has more layers than initially meets the eye. They transform into deeply layered vertical landscape of light, hue, and structure throughout various times of day, which reflect the transformation that the community goes through as the day changes. Mornings are governed by the motion of a sea of white collared shirts, rushing through the metro station on their way to who knows where. At this time, the buildings are homogenous in mood and coloring, as they are preparing to fill up with the morning crowd. By the afternoon the city shifts as the second wave of people rush though, children on their way home from school, people leaving their places of work, to cafes or shopping centers, making a paced transition to their home, while the buildings start to light up and fill up with people that are done with their daily obligations and are starting to leisurely enjoy themselves. By night fall the city is in chaos with the influx of people that are on their way to be social, whether it is at the bars, clubs, restaurants or just to be seen in the crossings, the entire city comes to life with motion; at this point the buildings are illuminated with every color imaginable, most displaying billboards or other advertisements trying to catch the eye of every passerby. Throughout the day the people morph from monochromatic worker bees to luminescent social creatures, and the buildings follow suit.

Everyday, as if by clockwork, this transformation happens. In a city where refinement is a guiding factor in social and psychological development, it is hard to not notice the highly structured transformation as it unfolds throughout ones explorations.  In “Walking in the city”, De Certeau talks about the ability for places to become habitable by the local authority governing the social uses of spaces. This is apparent in the shifting of life in these buildings due to the transformation of the local authority throughout the day. The facades of these buildings catalyze this transformation through the shifts it goes through as the day passes and the people go about their daily lives.

The façade becomes more than the division of interior and exterior spaces by becoming a portal to the split personalities of the city throughout time. The development of this “façade” appropriation happens at the city scale, through the divisions of neighborhoods, to the street scale, at the division of commercial streets, to the building scale, at the physical boundaries. Each space has it’s own identity through the market that it subsists of as well as the social standards that revolve around it throughout time. It is the shift in users throughout the day that allows for the temporal evolution brought on by users as they transform throughout the day.

In conclusion, the evolution of Tokyo happens at the scale of the person as they evolve throughout the day. As De Certeau says, the local authority governs the habitability of spaces and this is true in Tokyo due to the reuse of space throughout the day allowing for the transformation of work to leisure and play to happen at the efficient and rapid pace that it does.


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Conformity of the Urban

Upon first observation, the citizens living in Tokyo seem self-disciplined to a strict adherence to order and structure. The robust Tokyo transportation system is highly efficient, accurate, and punctual. In an almost ritualistic manner, Tokyo train commuters silently form a line, allow passengers to exit the train, and board the cars with the utmost fluidity. This blasé attitude described by Author Georg Simmel is clearly evident in their behavior. Most train passengers spend their commute staring at the train’s floor or focused on a book. Social interaction between commuters that do not know each other is rare, or even non-existent. After observing the first layer of the psychology of Tokyo’s society it seems that individuals act together as one to create a better society.

Simmel extensively theorizes how the psyche of the modern man has changed with intensification of city life. Simmel describes how the metropolitan man develops a blasé attitude to cope with the amount of stimuli in a city. Furthermore, Simmel argues that as a city grows, calculability as well as the market economy grows in power. These developments are evident in many cities around the world. However, Tokyo seems to incorporate all these elements to create a level of mechanization unique to its urban fabric. In many ways the existence of the complexity found in Tokyo seems only possible through the emergence of mechanization, and the suppression of individuality.

However, as the layers of Tokyo’s society are peeled away to expose the deeper psyche, the yearning for individualism begins to show through. In subtle glimpses and hints, expressions of individuality begin to emerge from a sea of homogeneity. For the most part the society seems to stick to strict social stereotypes, but tucked into the many alleys of the city, vibrant sub-cultures thrive. Many of these subcultures act as an escape, reaction, or even a defiant notion against, the aggressive stereotypes of Japanese society. Some of these subcultures such as pachinko and anime are clearly recognizable around the city, while others stay hidden within the shadows of general Japanese society. Nonetheless, all of these subcultures pale in comparison to the driving force of cultural uniformity.

The emergence of mechanization within the Japanese Society has enabled the creation of the Tokyo metropolis, but sacrifices go hand in hand with the suppression of individuality. In his description of a generic metropolitan man, Simmel writes, “the individual has become a mere cog in an enormous organization of things and powers which tear from his hands all progress, spirituality, and value in order to transform them from their subjective form into the form of a purely objective life” (Simmel 422). The reduction of the individual to their specific duty within society seems very pronounced in Tokyo. However, the worshiping of individual freedom and power in America carries its own weaknesses and sacrifices. The cleanliness and precision of Tokyo unmistakably contrasts with the sprawl, grime, and inefficiencies of Los Angeles. Nonetheless, people around the world strive to make their way to America. Due to the influx of immigrants, the United States boasts one of the highest population growth rates among industrialized nations. In contrast Japan scrambles to find solutions to accommodate a rapidly diminishing population. Furthermore, the empowerment of the American individual may be one of the reasons why America is known for creative and technological innovation. In contrast Japan ranks last among twenty-four industrialized nations for entrepreneurial activity. The urban sprawl of America is unequivocally unsustainable. Many elements of urban development evident in Tokyo could have significant impacts if applied in the US. However, the suppression of individuality in Japan may hamper the ability to innovate creative solutions to human problems. Perhaps both societies can learn from one another in order to reach a greater future potential.

Sam R

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cost of efficiency

It’s astounding how quickly ones perception of a place can begin to shift. Japan, during the months preceding our arrival, had become built up in my mind as a place of fantastic efficiency and sense, where society functioned as it should. Coming from L.A. or more broadly, the U.S. in general this seemed incredibly appealing; on arrival this dream experienced a level of affirmation. The population exuded a certain level of awareness, blasé as Simmel calls it, that I had never seen before. Things work “properly,” public transportation is impeccable which should lead to a certain equalization of class, people are aware of their impact on the collective whole, quickly amassing into ordered lines and standing on the correct side of the escalator, they wait patiently at intersections, they follow the rules. The population, as a whole, is aware of its purpose, to make Japan economically more successful. But after this first impression, which could be described as the macro view, akin to de Certeau’s experience from the top of the World Trade Center, I had to come back down, I had to examine the situation from the micro level, from the street, and quickly my opinions on Japanese society headed in the opposite direction.

In the hope of making my impressions more understandable I will start with my conclusion, the majority of the Japanese population, like much of the globalized world, suffer from a complete absence of a self-determined consciousness, but unlike the majority of modern society, they are aware of their conscious death and have accepted it. With that said it is necessary for me to better describe my somewhat metaphorical notion of death, and death may be the wrong word for I am not sure there was life to begin with and can one exist without the other?  But I refer to the lack of self-consciousness or self-determination that permeates not only Japan but the majority of the modern world. They have no mental independence, and therefore, in my opinion, do not experience true life what the human mind is capable of. What strikes me about Japan is that the population has realized their lack of self-consciousness and accepted it. In order to achieve a consumerist society with this level of efficiency the people have had to, in what could be argued as their last conscious act, choose to give up their free will and consequently have every desire, ambition, dream catered for them.

Waro Kishi described Japanese culture as one of refinement, agglomerating technologies, ideologies, religions from their neighbors and vigorously polishing them, but instead I would describe Japan as the culture of imitation. Imitation is at the heart of consumerist culture and Japan, in my experience, is the champion of consumerism. From the vast shopping centers massed around transportation hubs to the Hips entertainment palace in Osaka, consumerism reigns supreme here and no one seems worried or ashamed. Debord describes it well near the conclusion of his work the Society of the Spectacle stating, “The acceptance and consumption of commodities are at the heart of this pseudo-response to a communication without response. The need to imitate which is felt by the consumer is precisely the infantile need conditioned by all the aspects of his fundamental disposition.”

Michael dH

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The views and opinions contained in this blog are solely those of the individual authors and do not represent the views and opinions of the University of Southern California or any of its officers or trustees.



AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu