Visualizing the Past: Maps and Photography
With the technical issues of my project mostly resolved, the remaining elements to complete are the core of the web site: the information on the venues and their connection to the remaking of the Tokyo cityscape. To restate my original goal, I am seeking to explore two interconnected aspects of the 1964 Tokyo Games. The first is the cultural legacy of the Olympics in Tokyo and the second is the impact of the Games on the urban landscape. For this post, I will concentrate on the latter, the urban transformation of Tokyo.
The construction for the 1964 Olympics changed the nature of Tokyo the city and marked the start of a new age for Japan..Hosting the Olympics was a sizeable cost to Tokyo, although it can be argued the eventual benefits for Japan justified the cost–a rarity for the Games. It is this experience and memory of Japan in the global spotlight that is driving Tokyo to host 2020 at significant cost. However, much like the Olympics themselves, the transformation was not one without cost or problematic issues. Despite the excitement of 1964, a sizeable number of writers and artists protested against the Games. The Nihonbashi Bridge, one of the landmarks of Tokyo, was covered by an overpass. Thousands of workers were brought in to assist in the massive construction projects while on a sad note, stray cats and dogs were rounded up and killed.
While there are plenty of anecdotes and historical references to support this vision of urban change and renewal in postwar Tokyo, I wanted to stress the use of media and culture as well as text. The two approaches open to me were the use of maps and of images to show change over time and then comment on those changes within the text. Two very useful sources I have found are the 1940 and 1964 official Olympic Reports. Conveniently, the reports are available in English, as it is one of the two official Olympic languages. The other, if you couldn’t guess, is French. The reports have maps and images of the various venues. i am supplementing these with U.S. government photography. Due to the war and later occupation, the U.S. military took a great deal of images of Tokyo, now available in archives. The National Gymnasium complex in particular is well documented due to the proximity of an American military community which became the Olympic village. With these maps, a new technical issue has emerged: the matter of georectification. To show change from 1940 to 1964, I would want to align old maps with modern aerial views of Tokyo.
The second approach is to use photography to show comparisons between 1940, 1964 and 2020. This is possible due to the images available from the Olympic reports and the high number of image available Here however, copyright issues are a question. As this is a long term project for me, connecting to my studies in Japanese history, the Tokyo Olympics, and digital humanities, I will expanding the site in this direction over summer. While in Tokyo I use JuxtaposeJS by Knightlabs to show modern day Tokyo in comparison to 1940 and 1964.
The part of my project concerning urban change does not exist in a vacuum. In my next blog post I will discuss the cultural impact of the Games and discuss how the changes in everyday life reflected the sweeping changes in the city of Tokyo.