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  • Tokyo Apparatus (Version 1.0)
  • Sabu Kohso

I want to leave my home, or rather Japan.

—from an advertisement for an English language school posted on the Shinkansen

It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and stirs. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. What a mistake to have ever said the id. Everywhere it is machines—real ones, not figurative ones: machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections. An organ-machine is plugged into an energy-source-machine: the one produces a flow that the other interrupts.

—Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

The third person neuter “it” (ça) in the above epigraph of Deleuze and Guattari embodies an interaction among nameless energy/signal flows, where the becoming/production of “desire” takes place. What is desire? That is a big question. But the truth of desire is that, no matter how excessive, bizarre, violent, or divergent, it is producing another desire everywhere, operating substantially and ceaselessly. Desire is essentially ambiguous and heterogeneous: it is the main stage of drives for life activities, commodification [End Page 36] and control, even seduction to death, and also the motor drive of insurgency. In other words, it is a spectrum stretched between these multiple poles, and more. “Machines” in the sense of Deleuze and Guattari is equal to articulations in the process of production of and by desire.

Now the protagonist of the present article, Tokyo, is primarily a centralization and concentration of massive desire-productions and their institutionalization. It embodies the most effective and insidious way by which massive desire-productions are condensed into one location, and at the same time their limitless expansion takes place. Therefore, it would be better, for the sheer convenience of our present analyses of the metropolitan functions, to insert another concept—the “apparatus (dispositif)”—taken from a different lineage of thought by Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Tiquun, that is, for reconfirming an overwhelming presence of the given in front of us with respect to this monster called Tokyo. In this context, the apparatus as the given, said or unsaid, material or immaterial, is a mechanism of capturing desire-production, giving it substantial forms, making various machines: architectural machines, transportation machines, spectacle machines, etc., and congealing them into the apparatus. So it is that here the Tokyo metropolis is going to be seen not only as a geopolitical apparatus but also as the apparatus of apparatuses, consisting of captured machines, but from which nomadic machines of flight are becoming—as the battle between the forces of congealment and dispersion.


Every time I visit Japan I am astonished by the endless multiplication of kinds of commodity. For instance, the impetus to reproduce the food culture never wanes, though radiation is undoubtedly contaminating products, especially those that originate in northeastern Honshu. As if seeking to offset the calamity, the production of desire by propagating subspecies and providing them with new and seductive images has consistently accelerated, and that is more evident in cheap street food such as ramen than in haute cuisine. The [End Page 37] equivalent acceleration of desire is taking place in every sector of production, from clothing to electronic supplies to medicines to cars to family homes. Meanwhile, at least in Tokyo, the reconstruction of space and extension of the transportation system never cease, moving toward a more convenient and more beautiful metropolis. The shinkansen (bullet train) arrives every ten minutes, within seconds of its schedule, to transport us most comfortably to either the northern or southern tip of the archipelago. But once we are on the train, our gaze does not necessarily pause on beautiful rural Japan but mostly on miserable landscapes filled with clusters of tiny homes that look like papier-māché, where naked electric wires connect utility poles from block to block, to the end of the horizon. There are patches of small farmland here and there, many of which are unproductive, waiting to be sold as real estate commodity. It is likely that these homes are filled with new...


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pp. 36-53
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