In praise of iron grandeur : the sensibility of kōjō moe and the reinvention of urban technoscape

Amano, Ikuho GND

Since the late 1980s, sci-fi fans and machinery aficionados in Japan have expressed their fascination with factories, projecting an imagination that sites of industrial facilities are simulacra of futuristic urban technoscape portrayed in Hollywood films. Although factory watching used to be an activity for a limited population, in the past decade organized factory night tours are becoming increasingly popular in Japan. This type of tour has expanded public interest in factories located on coastal industrial zones as a form of popular leisure-time activity. Widely known as kōjō moe (‘factory infatuation’), fans have elevated plants to objects for aesthetic appreciation. This mutation of value corresponds to an emergence of metaphysical durability of social objects as theorized by Michael Thompson’s (1979) Rubbish Theory. In the context of postwar Japan, those industrial factories have become, in Marilyn Ivy’s (1995) term, a significant form of cultural industry that complements the absence of local identity. A second driving force of kōjō moe is the contemporary digital technology that has altered the viewer’s experience of industrial factories. The circulation of digitally manipulated images provokes nostalgic sentiments and attracts the viewer to factory night tours. In the context of economic demise and gradual transition to postindustrial society, industrial factories represent the previous age of material grandeur. Alongside, kōjō moe has set forth longlasting artistic values of them as cultural capital.

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