"In the next thirty minutes, you will open the door to this mysterious world and regain a lost eternity..."
― Opening narration, Neo Ultra Q
"When two persons in search of a Pokémon clash at the corner of Sunset and San Vicente, is there violence? Is there murder?"
― Werner Herzog, inquiring on the protocol of Pokémon Go
Tokyo doesn't need a protocol, if it in fact even has a protocol. Its urban policy is ad-hoc-ness. In medical terms, there is no treatment plan, no summarized consensus statements, nor no cohesive addresses to practical issues. How an architect deals with the design of a building does not have a prescriptive or universal code. As such, the lack of protocol enables diversity in its aesthetics as well as in its appropriation of aesthetics. Diversity in this sense can also be interpreted as fluidity in its various changes, like physical manifestations of the Japanese cultural psyche, refreshed every thirty years or so.
Even through its many metamorphoses, Tokyo hasn't quintessentially changed since the Edo period. The urban fabric still retains the divisions of the estates of daimyos, but set through periods of codes and appropriations – a kind of urban mitate-e – whether with the 17th C. wabi sabi imperfect beautification of the city, Edo period's shiso architectural humble subtleties, kabuki façades of exaggeration, or Meiji-era imported construction, stylistic mimicry, and military industrialization. Tokyo continued that way in the post-war Miracle and Bubble, becoming a hyper-consuming high-geared capitalist machine, capturing the essence of nowness, status, and cultural regimentalization, and reproducing the image of Japan's growing middle class and petite bourgeoisie in its expanding suburbanity. Even the current kawaii trend of infantile cuteness seems devised from Occupation times as a return to pre-war innocence, as reflected in a minimalist architectural formalism.
Though Tokyo seemingly has a scripted history mirroring a robust national psyche, it allows for moments of 'Absolute Other-ness' to pervade (____- zettai) – parties that you have no control over; whether with the Other's façades: 1950's concrete buildings resurfaced with 1980's tiles, to be resurfaced with 2010's steel panels. Or with the Other's code – as with American start-up, AIrBnB – which is shaking up the city's real estate and hotelier hierarchy, playing in the ambiguities of the public, the private sphere, and the law.
But now, more than ever, it is the culture of shiny new things (pika pika), with media-enabled fantasies, that's taking Tokyo by storm. Coincidently, it's Pikachu (again) and Pokémon Go, a corporate masterwork of how to literally superimpose stupendous kawaii vis-à-vis the city, augmenting reality by projecting parasitic cuteness onto the streets and gameifying the entirety of the prefectures. Technological blinders keep the populace placated while virtually beautifying the present reality that Tokyo as a population and as a city and Japan as a nation becomes... what? (More poor? More Olympic? Even more extemporary?) Maybe this only serves as a hypnotic stopgap until Tokyo receives its next therapy session.