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Counter-Currents– Tokyo

Finished research

Tokyo Counter-Currents is a three-month photography campaign, beginning with the slowness of the Trans-Siberian railway and ending in the frenzy of Tokyo. Led by photographer Sylvie Bonnot, the project aims to capture the unique choreography of Japanese crowds in built urban spaces. Discover her work on our virtual gallery: Artistic Lab.

Research participants


Contact : Tom Dubois

Contre-courants - Tokyo - Sylvie Bonnot

The mille-feuille landscape of Tokyo, its incessant flows, its immensity, its historicity, are characterized by blurred masses of people moving on foot, by train, in cars, etc. The objective of this photography campaign was to capture the trajectories of the people there and to bring out the lines of their movements alongside those of the urbanism, in the anonymity of these blurred masses. The project has being realized by Sylvie Bonnot, who was advised by Natacha Aveline, a CNRS researcher specializing in property studies in Southeast Asia.

The world of Tokyo and its rail network are places of exchange and transit, but also – and quite evidently – spaces of daily life. This Hensen comprises a vast area in the center of Tokyo and its periphery. The project will seek to highlight the similarities and differences that exist between the mobilities of the crowds in the center versus those in the periphery. The Hensen is the scene of multiple mass movements, in which one can capture:

  • Transit and living areas of shops under the arcades of the Ueno, Shinjuku and Shibuya lines, which is home to stalls of all kinds, restaurants and game rooms, where employees can stop on their way home. This first phase will allow the artist to establish some initial photographic observations and map different types of mobility in a defined area.

  • The choreographies of women cleaning the Shinkansen could resonate with images of Tokyo’s parks during the cherry blossom season in mid-April, allowing for a comparison with movement for ritual, cultural and/or seasonal reasons.

  • Women’s movement in the city, outside of the home (most notably through places reserved especially for them, in a country where sexism is very present), will also be a cornerstone for the project.

  • Blue collar workers and white collar workers, whose ordered, coordinated movements reveal a disconcerting fluidity: though strangers to one another, they follow the same rules.

Going against the frenzy of speed and intense movement of Tokyo’s crowds, Sylvie Bonnot approached her terrain through slowness, taking the Trans-Siberian and navigating her way to Tokyo. Because of the length of the journey, a whole world came to life onboard the Trans-Siberian.

Discover her virtual exhibition on Artistic Lab !


For the Mobile Lives Forum, mobility is understood as the process of how individuals travel across distances in order to deploy through time and space the activities that make up their lifestyles. These travel practices are embedded in socio-technical systems, produced by transport and communication industries and techniques, and by normative discourses on these practices, with considerable social, environmental and spatial impacts.

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Movement is the crossing of space by people, objects, capital, ideas and other information. It is either oriented, and therefore occurs between an origin and one or more destinations, or it is more akin to the idea of simply wandering, with no real origin or destination.

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To cite this publication :

Sylvie Bonnot (17 March 2014), « Counter-Currents– Tokyo », Préparer la transition mobilitaire. Consulté le 15 July 2024, URL:

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