Anxious Mobilities

A Visual Inquiry into Pandemic Disruptions of Urban Railway Mobilities in Tokyo

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Christoph Schimkowsky Visiting Research Fellow, Åbo Akademi University, UK

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The COVID-19 pandemic has not just prompted the widespread deceleration and halting of human movement, but also reconfigured enduring mobilities. This visual essay examines work commutes on Tokyo's urban railway system as an example of an urban mobility practice that partially withstood the immobilizing effect of the pandemic. Combining text and comic-style drawings, it explores the viral transformation of passenger practices and experiences during Tokyo's first “state of emergency” (April–May 2020) to ask how passengers on one of the world's busiest urban railway systems learned to move with viral risk in a city that refrained from imposing official mobility restrictions. The essay introduces the notion of anxious mobilities to highlight how mobility experiences and practices in pandemic cities came to be characterized by a sense of unease. It calls attention to undulating processes of (de)sensitization to risk that mobile subjects may undergo when movement becomes associated with danger.

Contributor Notes

Christoph Schimkowsky was recently awarded his PhD from the University of Sheffield (Department of Sociological Studies/School of East Asian Studies) for his work on the management of passenger conduct on public transport in Japanese cities. He is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at Åbo Akademi University (Turku, Finland) as part of the PUTSPACE (Public Transport as Public Space in European Cities) project and will take up a postdoctoral position at the University of Tokyo in November 2022. Christoph's work has previously appeared in Mobilities, Japanese Studies, and Visual Communication, among others. E-mail:

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Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies


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