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Free Content Tokyo, gender and mobility: Tracking fictional characters on real monorails, trains, subways and trams

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Multiple strands of early twenty-first-century Tokyo’s gendered narratives find expression in a large body of internationally circulated short stories, novels and films from Japan that figuratively incorporate portions of the city’s actual transportation infrastructure. It is an infrastructure that frames and defines Tokyo – a ‘city of trains’ – as a socially dynamic geographical entity. Urban rail-system-rich texts such as Noboru Tsujihara’s ‘My Slightly Crooked Brooch’ – along with Natsuo Kirino’s Real World, Fuminori Nakamura’s The Thief, Shosuke Murakami’s Train Man, Banana Yoshimoto’s ‘Newlywed’, and Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s Café Lumière – show the illusoriness (especially for women) of the alluring promise of mobility in both life and on the rails. At the same time, they contain hints of newly emerging interventions and choices, along with the possibility of a counter-hegemonic discourse in which women resolutely assert their agency on a rail system built by and mostly for men.

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Keywords: Banana Yoshimoto; Café Lumière; Fuminori Nakamura; Natsuo Kirino; Noboru Tsujihara; Tokyo; Train Man; gender

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Temple University

Publication date: 01 March 2014

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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