Tokyo, urban, walking

The tourist (in Tokyo) as flâneur

December 11, 2023

If tourism is part of the commodification of everyday life in Tokyo city, then the photographer tourist is an anxious figure , as they are very aware that their drifting could lead to becoming hopelessly lost in the city It takes time and walking experience to construct a map of Shinkju so that you are able to find your way around the ward with no knowledge of the Japanese language. There was no way that I was a master of Shinjuku’s spaces.

There was no way that I was standing outside the mass looking on without being implicated in it or claiming a particular knowledge of them despite engaging in making photos of these spaces. Whilst walking Tokyo city with its mediascape with its surfeit of signs that are no longer anchored to referents there was no need to go beyond being a tourist to become a travel professional. I had no list of obligatory sights nor was being in Shinjuku predetermined, or planned through a packaged and guided tour. That guided tour came after the 5 days in Tokyo with the Basho tour and walking the Kumano Kodo.

Sony A7 R111
2, Shinjuku, Toyko

The figure of the tourist as flâneur is not one of being a mindless consumer or a shopping mall rat since the type of gaze cultivated by flânerie is mobile, fragmented, momentary, and open to chance. Photographic flânerie, which has its roots in early 20th century (Kertész, Brassaï, Atget), has an evident connection with the gaze of flânerie—its mobility, instantaneity, transitivity, fragmentation, and openness to chance. It registers and affirms the random and the uncontrolled.

However, the proliferation, repetition, and imitation in street photography gradually transforms certain types of images into visual clichés due to the burgeoning flow of vernacular images of everyday life on social media. Despite this the strength of photographic flânerie is its ability to make sense of the changing social condition by means of perambulating urban non-expert mediated observations. This implies the idea of the flânerie in the post modern city in the early 21st century as a specific practice of observation, knowledge accumulation, and production of texts.

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