25-28 February 2021: “On the border LINE” Exhibition


“ON the border LINE” was an exhibition based on re-examination of “border” in the current uncertain and chaotic modern times. Boundaries divide anything into two: this is science, this is not science; this is art, this is not art; this is seeing, this is hearing. What about the border itself? Much ambiguity is expected where boundaries are drawn. Students from the Dept. of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering at Tokyo Tech explored and translated this concept into exhibits, and invited visitors to take a look at the world from various borderline perspectives.”

The exhibition was held on 25-28 February 2021 at the Playground of Shibuya Scramble Square QWS in Tokyo. Despite strict preventive measures put in place against COVID-19 infection, more than 160 people visited the space during the 4-day face-to-face exhibition. The project aimed to re-frame various ambiguous boundaries in modern times under the current disarrayed global condition.

In 2020, our ‘normal’ everyday activities were suddenly disrupted by the spread of COVID-19. Since then, human life has been significantly affected. Countless visible borders, such as masks and social distancing, have become indispensable. At the same time, the ‘new normal’ has redefined various views of the world. However, amidst these uncertainties and disorder, there must be something that can only be captured at this very moment. Based on this feeling, this exhibition was held to invite visitors to experience the feeling of standing on various overlooked borderlines.

The show was directed by Masamune Kawasaki, 2nd year Master’s student of the Engineering Sciences and Design course. A total of nine works from Tokyo Tech students were exhibited.

Complex Tones (複雑系の音色) by Rei Sato

“If I didn’t see this work, I probably wouldn’t have encountered the world of quantum for the rest of my life…”
(impression from anonymous visitor)

Complex Tones (複雑系の音色)” by Rei Sato (Photo credit: artist)

Making use of knowledge from his field of interest – physics research – Rei Sato brought the visitors to listen to his mysterious ‘quantum music’. Referring to music that operates in quantum mechanic ways, quantum music has been recently recognized as a new music technology mainly in Western Europe. These tones enabled visitors to hear previously unperceived quantum interaction through music. This works as a border that connects people and complex systems. Chihiro Wada

“…we probably have been living while struggling to deal with this kind of dual opposition.” (impression from anonymous visitor)” by Chihiro Wada (Photo credit: artist)

Using a black and white theme, Chihiro Wada expressed her personal view of science and technology. The title represents the atomic bombing that happened on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 in her hometown of Hiroshima, which was also the birth of her complex feelings toward science. Specializing in the field of Gender Studies of Humanities, her view toward science and technology gradually changed after enrolling in Tokyo Tech, a concept she tried to convey through this work.

Your Touch Makes Me Fragrant by Yuke Wang

“The scent of artificial flowers was very mysterious. Just like a science fiction!” (impression from anonymous visitor)

Your Touch Makes Me Fragrant” by Yuke Wang (Photo credit: artist)

Through this ‘cyber flower’ interactive installation, Yuke Wang tried to explore the relationship between humans and artificial things. The ‘dead’ flower would become ‘alive’ with emotion and give out fragrance just like a real flower when coming in contact with a human. Having been working on olfactory research, Yuke Wang designed this artificial flower to give out a rose scent after being directly touched by the visitors.

“Border Between Us (私たちの間)” by Yamei

“I can watch this forever…” (impression from anonymous visitor)

“Border Between Us (私たちの間)” by Yamei, BACK (Photo credit: artist)
“Border Between Us (私たちの間)” by Yamei, FRONT (Photo credit: artist)

This sculpture work represented a mass of ‘love’, which exists with an unfilled gap. Through this work, Yamei expressed how ‘words’ are an important element in building relationships between people. The various expressions of love written on this work represent any means for people to express and listen, in the effort to understand and be understood. While the gap–border of communication exists forever, people are still yearning to build ‘love’ between them.

Face Myself by Ayano Nagata

“I didn’t know that just by having something else replaced your own face, your mind could be affected this much.” (impression from anonymous visitor)

Face Myself” by Ayano Nagata (Photo credit: artist)

Inspired by the mask that has become part of everyday life during the Coronavirus pandemic, this interactive installation was designed as a ‘mirror’ that can show different ‘faces’ of oneself. Through this work, Ayano Nagata tried to realize the desire of ‘choosing body and fashion that can express one’s personality without being bound by natural body’ in the future. In this AR-based installation, visitors could have their face replaced by non-human avatars while still wearing masks.

Society Apparatus (社会apparatus) by Farah Fauzia

“…I wonder if human also possess some kind of independent thing that will never get mixed.” (impression from anonymous visitor)

Society Apparatus (社会apparatus)” by Farah Fauzia (Photo credit: artist)

Making use of knowledge in Chemistry from her Chemical Engineering background, Farah Fauzia wanted to deliver the beauty of ‘layers’ that form in society. Through this colorful installation, visitors could directly see how various liquids would not blend even if they were mixed together due to their different characteristics. With this demonstration, she tried to convey her opinion that it should be fine to stay true to our own ‘color’ in society.

The Boundary Line by Wang Hezheng

“This made me realize that the boundaries in the landscape are not just those created by humans.” (impression from anonymous visitor)

The Boundary Line” by Wang Hezheng (Photo credit: artist)

By following the hundreds of photos taken along the journey from Tokyo Tech to the Shibuya QWS venue that were displayed on the floor of exhibition hall, Wang Hezheng invited the visitors to re-discover the beauty of the inconspicuous scenery in daily life. Graduated from Architecture studies, she transformed the everyday landscape into novel scenery by noticing the ‘boundary line’ that divide the materials, colors, and spaces and let visitors to enjoy new perspectives.

Rethinking the Subject (主体再考) by Tomohiro Ichikawa

“It was interesting to express the current social situation and the emotions of people living in it.”
(impression from anonymous visitor)

Rethinking the Subject (主体再考)” by Tomohiro Ichikawa (Photo credit: artist)

This work expressed two systems – open and closed – using the flow of water. Tomohiro Ichikawa wanted to convey his view that current society – in chaos due to forces such as capitalism and the Coronavirus pandemic, has divided people into independent subjects. Having major interest in Psychology research, he tried to re-question the whole situation by positioning the ‘subject’ from different point of view together with the visitors.

Is it evolution or erosion (進化か、侵食か) by Natsumi Kato and Yuke Wang

“It was beautiful to contrast technology and tradition.” (impression from anonymous visitor)

Is it evolution or erosion (進化か、侵食か)” by Natsumi Kato and Yuke Wang (Photo credit: artists)

Using Kintsugi (金継ぎ) to connect traditional ceramic vessels and modern plastic cups, Kato and Wang tried to question the value of new things. As human lives become more efficient, some value is added but some is lost when things become more convenient. Is it evolution, or is it erosion? The set of new things born from different value aimed to ask such question to the visitors.


During the exhibition, visitors from diverse background could enjoy the exhibits while interacting with the students from Tokyo Tech. The communication went beyond the simple explanation of their works, and reached a phase of re-questioning of various concepts and thoughts. Among the most notable impressions from the visitors, some pointed out how the concept from each exhibit managed to be conveyed in an easy-to-understand manner compared with the usual art exhibitions. This was probably made possible due to integration of science and art as basis for the show.

This event is the first student-centered project conducted as part of the Satellite Lab STADHI of Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI), which aims to integrate science/technology with art/design and is organized by Nohara laboratory led by Prof. Kayoko Nohara. Among the supporters, Prof. Masahiko Hara and Dr. Giorgio Salani from Tokyo Tech acted as technical advisors, with Dr. Heather Barnett from Central Saint Martins, University Arts London, as honorary advisor.

The artists and organisers of the exhibition (Photo credit: G. Salani)

Written by Farah Fauzia

「ON the borderLINE」は、先の見えない混沌とした現代における「境界:Border」を見つめ直すことに基づく展覧会でした。境界は物事を二分します。これはサイエンス、これはサイエンスではない/これはアート、これはアートではない。しかし境界線上はどうでしょうか。きっと、多くのあいまいさからどっちつかずの混沌とした世界が広がっています。東京工業大学の融合理工学系の学生たちは、このコンセプトを調査して展示に変換し、観客たちをさまざまな境界線上で世界を見ることに誘いました。



Olfaction and its impact on train travellers well-being in Japan


Lead Researchers and authors: Prof Shinya Hanaoka, Xin Guo, Akari Nosaka, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Hanaoka Research Group, School of Environment and Society, Department of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering; Nathan Cohen, Tokyo Institute of Technology WRHI Visiting Professor; Central Saint martins, University of the Arts London.

FULL TITLE: Olfaction and its impact on train travellers well-being in Japan, a transdisciplinary collaborative research project integrating art, science and technology.

Following discussions in 2019 resulting from a presentation made at the ‘Colloquium with Central Saint Martins @ Tokyo Tech’ (14 May) a research project has developed led by Nathan Cohen and Shinya Hanaoka, with students attending the Hanaoka Research Group, Xin Guo and Akari Nosaka. This commenced in October 2019, as an olfactory project investigating the impact of odour on train passengers sense of well-being, with Xin Guo undertaking a supervised literature review. Over the duration of the research to date we have been investigating how smell influences our impression of the environment with a view to understanding if a heightened sense of well-being could be induced in passengers on public transport, particularly at times of stress, through the subtle introduction of certain odours.

Isumi Railway Company, Japan, train carriage (Credits: authors)

We are also interested in how smell can be used to positively enhance the experience and recollection of different aspects of making a particular journey, from the purchasing of a ticket, through travel to associations with particular places – an assisted form of auto-performative olfactory and culturally curated experience, both practical and aesthetic, which may be of interest to passengers and train companies in promoting travel as a healthy experience that could also enhance well-being and for purposes of tourism.

This complements research previously undertaken by Nathan Cohen collaboratively with the Japanese artist Reiko Kubota, along with others researching this, into the field of olfaction, memory and narrative,* with a view to establishing how the well-being benefits of olfaction can be adapted to a larger scale. Shinya Hanaoka expressed an interest in this in the context of public transport, a field in which he has expertise. For both of us this research opens up new possibilities for investigation in ways that we have not previously had the opportunity to explore.

The literature review did reveal some studies looking at different aspects of passenger response to train travel although there was relatively little published that covered the specific aspects in relation to olfaction that we are interested in investigating. There is, however, more literature available relating to personal response to different odour types, and this helped to inform the choices made regarding which odours to test and the methods that should be used to do this.

Tokyo Tech Olfactory research visit to Isumi Railway Company (Credits: authors)

In the Spring of 2020 Shinya Hanaoka approached a couple of train companies in Japan and the Isumi Railway Company in Chiba agreed to our conducting an experiment aboard one of their trains. This company runs a small railway line between Ohara and Kazusa-Nakano which provides for local transport needs and tourism, the journey running through the Boso peninsula known locally for its beautiful landscape. During the tourist season the company also offers gastronomic train journeys attracting visitors from within Japan and abroad, particularly during the Spring and early Summer flowering season.

Consequently, we devised an experiment where passenger response to odour on a train could be tested. This would enable us to test 2 odours and how they impacted travellers on 2 timed round trip journeys between Ohara to Otaki stations. Two hypothesise were being tested relating to the idea that a pleasant ambient smell on the train would (1) induce a change in railway users emotional response and that (2) it would influence their perception of the environment in which they were travelling, leading overall to an enhanced sense of well-being.

Completing the questionnaire during the train journey (Credits: authors)

A questionnaire had to be devised to be completed by each traveller for each of the journeys they made with the different odours and also without an odour being introduced that would enable statistical analysis of participants responses. Led by Xin Guo, assisted by Akari Nosaka, 23 students from Tokyo Institute of Technology volunteered to participate in the experiment and questionnaire forms were completed on December 2nd 2020 when the main experiment took place, following an initial test in November.

The questionnaire was based on established psychological test methods. The first hypothesis, related to pleasure and arousal of emotion, was tested using the PAD Model (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974) and Russell’s Circumplex Model (Russell, 1980), adapted for use in Japan with a revised translation (任,井上 2018). The second hypothesis, perception of the train carriage environment, was tested by including an updated version of the Semantic Differential technique (SD method) (Osgood et al., 1957). Participants were asked to record their perceptions using a Visual Analogue Scale.^

Advice on the questionnaire preparation and experimental methodology was also provided by Associate Prof Mitsue Nagamine (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Nagamine Lab), and Prof Takefumi Kobayashi (Bunkyo Gakuin University). Prof Satomi Kunieda (Ritsumeikan University) also advised on the selection of the odour samples used in the experiment, which were distributed in the train carriage using fans.

Shinya Hanaoka (front centre), Xin Guo (front, second from left), Akari Nosaka (front, left side) and olfactory research experiment participants from Tokyo Institute of Technology at the Isumi Railway (Credits: authors)

While this was an initial test with 23 participants, we did learn that, for the majority of those taking part in the experiment, there was a measurable increase in their sense of well-being when exposed to both odour samples, Lavender and Lemon (citrus), compared to when travelling without an odour sample present.†

We are now entering the next stage of the research (April 2021 – March 2022) to establish how different olfactory sources enhance train passenger experience, and how this may also relate to tourism. Nathan Cohen, together with the team from the Hanaoka Research Group, will also be investigating the use of olfaction and the ways this can be developed and applied aesthetically to create memorable user train journeys.                 

*For details of this research please visit this website: www.olfactoryresearch.net/research

^Xin Guo has now graduated with a Master’s thesis titled: The influence of odor in a train carriage upon positive emotional response in railway users (鉄道車両内の香りが利用者のポジティブ感情に与える影響), that describes the research undertaken for this project up to March 2021.

† This experiment was conducted under Covid-19 pandemic restrictions which meant numbers of participants were restricted, so results should be interpreted accordingly.

S T A D H I – Science & Technology + Art & Design Hybrid Innovation

This research is supported by the Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI), School of Environment and Society, Department of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology.

© 2021 Photographs and intellectual content – all rights reserved by the authors.


「東京工業大学でのセントラル・セント・マーティンズ校とのコロキアム」 (https://www.tse.ens.titech.ac.jp/~deepmode/csm/blog/%e5%a0%b1%e5%91%8a%ef%bc%9a%ef%bc%92%ef%bc%90%ef%bc%91%ef%bc%99%e5%b9%b4%ef%bc%95%e6%9c%88%ef%bc%91%ef%bc%94%e6%97%a5%e3%81%ab%e3%82%bb%e3%83%b3%e3%83%88%e3%83%a9%e3%83%ab%e3%83%bb%e3%82%bb%e3%83%b3/)(5月14日)でのプレゼンテーションから発生した2019年の議論に続き、ネイサン・コーエン特定教授と花岡伸也教授が率いる研究プロジェクトが開始され、花岡研究室の郭欣と野坂朱里が参加しました。この研究は、香りが列車の乗客の幸福感に与える影響を調査する嗅覚プロジェクトとして2019年10月に開始し、郭欣が文献レビューを実施しました。これまでの研究期間中には、香りが環境の印象にどのように影響するかを調査してきました。特に、ストレスのある時に、特定の香りを導入することによって、公共交通機関の乗客に幸福感の高まりが誘発されるかどうかを理解するための調査を行っています。