Adopting a model approach to Tokyo’s subway

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

While studying information science and engineering as a graduate student at the University of Tokyo in 2008, Takatsugu Kuriyama created a 3-D map of underground railway lines in Tokyo that included the subway systems and JR Lines. He used water hoses and multicolored ink to replicate the maze of lines that weave through the earth under the nation’s capital.

The result, which he calls Tokyo Arteria, is as impressive for its beauty as it is for demonstrating the complex world that lies beneath Tokyo. Buried under the capital is a system that is “vivid, beautiful and even mysterious,” Kuriyama says.

The Japan Times On Sunday spoke with Kuriyama regarding his unique project.

What inspired you to create a 3-D map of the Tokyo subway?

Tokyo Arteria was initially created for an exhibition that was organized by a professor at my grad school. He told us that we could make anything we wanted, and I felt it might be interesting to replicate the city’s underground map using a different method. It’s also probably worth noting: I’ve always liked trains.

Why the subway?

I used to live in Yokohama at the time, and I usually took the subway to the campus. There is a section near Ochanomizu Station where the train briefly emerges out of the underground that I always found interesting. Ochanomizu Station is also unique because the JR Chuo Line and Sobu Line both go through it, and the structure is so complex and multidimensional. That’s where I got the inspiration for my project.

What is the map made of and how did you make it?

It’s made of vinyl hoses. I used colored water to represent each subway line. It took me about ¥70,000 and two months to complete the project. The wires that hold the tubes are scaled-down lengths of the actual depth of each subway line, and the most difficult part was twisting those wires with my fingers for each station and subway platforms. My fingertips were damaged for a while. Tokyo Arteria is dismantled now, and I’m keeping the components at an atelier I manage with friends.

Tokyo Arteria was created in 2008, but continues to attract attention (it was most recently featured in a Japanese online magazine last December).

I am surprised about how people remain interested in it. It might be the fact that Tokyo Arteria is not a simple computer graphics project but it’s made of real items. I also think it demonstrates the uniqueness of underground Tokyo, which for many people is and always will be a topic of interest and wonder.