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Beyond the Metropolis

Beyond the Metropolis: Second Cities and Modern Life in Interwar Japan

Louise Young
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 323
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Metropolis
    Book Description:

    InBeyond the Metropolis, Louise Young looks at the emergence of urbanism in the interwar period, a global moment when the material and ideological structures that constitute "the city" took their characteristic modern shape. In Japan, as elsewhere, cities became the staging ground for wide ranging social, cultural, economic, and political transformations. The rise of social problems, the formation of a consumer marketplace, the proliferation of streetcars and streetcar suburbs, and the cascade of investments in urban development reinvented the city as both socio-spatial form and set of ideas. Young tells this story through the optic of the provincial city, examining four second-tier cities: Sapporo, Kanazawa, Niigata, and Okayama. As prefectural capitals, these cities constituted centers of their respective regions. All four grew at an enormous rate in the interwar decades, much as the metropolitan giants did. In spite of their commonalities, local conditions meant that policies of national development and the vagaries of the business cycle affected individual cities in diverse ways. As their differences reveal, there is no single master narrative of twentieth century modernization. By engaging urban culture beyond the metropolis, this study shows that Japanese modernity was not made in Tokyo and exported to the provinces, but rather co-constituted through the circulation and exchange of people and ideas throughout the country and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95538-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)

      (pp. 3-14)

      In Japan, the interwar period (1918–37) constituted a time of intensive reflection on what it meant to be “modern.” At a moment of rapid urbanization, as expanding city populations remade the social and physical landscapes of their communities, the Japanese began to link modernity with the urban experience. Popular referents for the neologismmodan—jazz music, bobbed hair, cafés, automobiles, and multistory buildings—all conveyed the sense that what characterized the “modern” was the novel phenomenology of city life. In an outpouring of commentary, urbanites invented new categories to describe the changes they were experiencing in their everyday life....

    • ONE World War One and the City Idea
      (pp. 15-34)

      In the new wave of investments triggered by World War One, the focus of Japan’s economic expectations shifted from the nation to the city, where the capitalist revolution’s deepening impact was most dramatically felt. Sudden and rapid urban growth stretched the capabilities of city services and strained the seams of the built environment. The war boom propelled new groups to positions of social prominence, swelling the ranks of the new middle and working classes. Though prosperity proved evanescent, the possibility of gaining fabulous wealth in a short period of time was etched in popular memory as a feature of the...


    • TWO The Ideology of the Metropolis
      (pp. 37-82)

      One of the most striking effects of Japan’s modernization project of the late nineteenth century was the rising prominence and increasing centrality of Tokyo within the new national space. By the 1920s, Meiji government policies of national developmentalism pursued since the 1870s had built Tokyo up and transformed it into the control room for nationwide political parties, the seat of national government and apex of administrative hierarchies, the clearinghouse for the financial industry, the heart of the national transportation grid, a locus of industry and a major concentration of population, and the main portal to the outside world. These policies...

    • THREE Colonizing the Country
      (pp. 83-138)

      As Raymond Williams famously observed, the city-country binary constitutes one of the most prominent tropes of modernity. The opposition between the two, as well as their mutual dependency, emerged as a fundamental condition of industrial capitalism. Moreover, this new relationship between city and country was the product of both material and ideological forces—the operation of labor and commodity markets, the geographic distribution of industry and agriculture, and ideologies of progress and development.¹ For Japan, the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries constituted a time of transformation in the urban-rural relationship. This process began in the latter part of...


    • FOUR The Past in the Present
      (pp. 141-187)

      The urban juggernaut of the early twentieth century created new challenges for cities as they tried to deal with the dramatic changes in everyday life. Former castle towns, battered by Meiji reforms that had undercut the towns’ source of feudal privilege, recovered and began to grow at a swift pace.¹ The population churn generated by an increasingly mobile labor force destabilized urban communities, as newcomers to the city constituted an increasing share of the local demographic. The city became a melting pot, dissolving the social memory of the community that rested on the geographic stability of successive generations of residents....

    • FIVE The Cult of the New
      (pp. 188-239)

      The social and cultural movements of the interwar years expressed a fascination with “the new”—the new products, new fads, new pastimes, new lifestyles, and new types of men and women that erupted onto the urban landscape, only to be replaced with the new “new.” The regional turn reflected in the local-history movement also expressed itself through an upsurge of interest in what the face of the urban future would look like. The tourist industry, town planning, industrial exhibitions, and other forms of local boosterism promoted the locality and its capacity for progress and development. Guidebooks trumpeted the modern face...

    (pp. 240-258)

    In visible and invisible ways, the urban expansion of the interwar period left its mark on the twentieth century. As urban projects created a network of urban-centered institutions that sustained the modern city, urbanism entwined itself with modern life and became the face of the future. The underlying foundations of the urban form and the city idea laid down in these years have proved remarkably tenacious in the face of the dramatic changes of the past century. Among them, the regional transportation system still hews to the contours of the light-rail grid laid down during the building boom of the...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 259-286)
    (pp. 287-296)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 297-307)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 308-309)