Vol. 7: Neon Signs in Times Square

Leaving aside Las Vegas, New York is the only major American city with a plethora of large neon signs. But even in New York, these are restricted primarily to Times Square. The density of the neon is comparable to that of the Ginza 4-chome crossroads in central Tokyo, but the spatial scale is completely different. The Y-shaped intersection in Times Square provides an ideal setting for neon signs, which serve to enhance the urban environment. There is surely nowhere so ideally suited to neon lighting. The New York city authorities have recently revised the municipal ordinances to make it compulsory for buildings directly facing Times Square to install neon signs over a specific size. The foresight and resolution of the city authorities are wholly commendable.

The fact that a good 80 percent of the neon signs in Times Square are connected with Japanese products can be interpreted either as reflecting the degree to which Japanese manufacturers favor neon signs or as symbolizing the Japanese enthusiasm for commerce. Whichever interpretation one adopts, it clearly reflects the way in which American industry is being given a good run for its money by Japanese industry. Although any Japanese person may well feel proud to see such a sight, the impression that it gives of Japanese occupation is somewhat uncanny.

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