Dating Tokyo: De-alienation of a metropolis through intimate spaces

Vedrana Ikalovic, Darko Radovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In a metropolis, where movement is an inevitable part of everyday life, impermanence and alienation become two of its main characteristics. This is the situation in technologically oriented Tokyo, one of the world's biggest and most populated cities. The metropolis is fundamentally structured by flows that cause fleeting encounters between people and their environment. But as big and dynamic as the city is, Tokyo is also well known for the fine thread of much of its urban fabric, and for the unique qualities and human scale of its small, intimate places. The purpose of this article is to identify and typologically classify intimate spaces of everyday life in contemporary Tokyo and to interpret their key spatial characteristics. Focusing on the Taito Ward, an old downtown area, the article uses theories of play and activity to explore the tangible and intangible elements of the lifeworld. It applies visual methods to investigate concrete spaces in the ward where diverse personal possessions, as valuable traces of daily activity, can be found by recognizing their critical spatial characteristics. Subsequently, two main types of intimate places are identified: utilitarian (purpose-ful) and decorative (purpose-less). Their presence is common in leftover (or shared) spaces, typically on and along the paths and footways located between the low-rise buildings. The discussion concludes with suggestions of how to discern such meaningful places with the application of a Geographic Information System (GIS) to support their emergence and flourishing through planning and design practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-41
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Nov 1


  • Personal belongings
  • Play
  • Public space
  • Urban artefacts
  • Visual ethnography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Urban Studies


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