Chasing the Locals in Urban Japan

An Anthropocentric Approach to Conceptualizing Multilayered Locals in Contemporary Tokyo

  • Florian Purkarthofer (Autor/in)


The term “local” often has positive associations, adding a warm familiarity to
ordinary phenomena and items and creating “a sense of home.” Local communities,
locally produced products, and local traditions carry sentiments of belonging, often
capitalized on through branding strategies, policies, or even political propaganda. In
contrast, this paper takes a closer look at dissonance and conflicting conceptions of
the local. Because it is essential to critically rethink what constitutes locality, our
central question is: How can we define a type of “local” that is not based upon the
demands of a single (scientific) discipline or ideology like the “idealized image of the
local community,” but on qualitative parameters and factors of influence? The goal
of this research project, in which this paper is only a small but significant step on a
long journey, is to get one step closer to an analytical understanding of the local in
an anthropocentric sense, by rendering the local and existing conceptions through
the layer of sensory possibilities and affective processes. This anthropocentric and
sensory-sensitive approach to the local is achieved by analyzing empirical data
from fieldwork in urban neighborhoods in Tokyo.


urban space, local, anthropocentric, human scale, Tokyo, Japan