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Roppongi Crossing

Roppongi Crossing: The Demise of a Tokyo Nightclub District and the Reshaping of a Global City

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Roppongi Crossing
    Book Description:

    For most of the latter half of the twentieth century, Roppongi was an enormously popular nightclub district that stood out from the other pleasure quarters of Tokyo for its mix of international entertainment and people. It was where Japanese and foreigners went to meet and play. With the crash of Japan's bubble economy in the 1990s, however, the neighborhood declined, and it now has a reputation as perhaps Tokyo's most dangerous district-a hotbed of illegal narcotics, prostitution, and other crimes. Its concentration of "bad foreigners," many from China, Russia and Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Southeast Asia is thought to be the source of the trouble. Roman Adrian Cybriwsky examines how Roppongi's nighttime economy is now under siege by both heavy-handed police action and the conservative Japanese "construction state," an alliance of large private builders and political interests with broad discretion to redevelop Tokyo. The construction state sees an opportunity to turn prime real estate into high-end residential and retail projects that will "clean up" the area and make Tokyo more competitive with Shanghai and other rising business centers in Asia. Roppongi Crossing is a revealing ethnography of what is arguably the most dynamic district in one of the world's most dynamic cities. Based on extensive fieldwork, it looks at the interplay between the neighborhood's nighttime rhythms; its emerging daytime economy of office towers and shopping malls; Japan's ongoing internationalization and changing ethnic mix; and Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown, the massive new construction projects now looming over the old playground.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3957-3
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Roppongi and the New Tokyo
    (pp. 1-29)

    There are two interconnected stories in this book, one about the last years of Roppongi, a famous and controversial nightclub district in one of Tokyo’s prestigious central neighborhoods, and the other about Tokyo itself as it changes in step with other great world cities in this time of globalized postindustrial economies and new fashions in urban living. The book’s title, which has gone through seemingly 1,001 iterations during the writing process, refers both to the location in Tokyo of a specific place called Roppongi Crossing, the busy street intersection that is the center of the Roppongi playground, and to the...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Roppongi Context
    (pp. 30-75)

    Perhaps the most enduring images of life in contemporary Tokyo are those of its notorious commutes to work. For millions of people each day, this is a journey by bus, train, or subway, sometimes all three combined plus walking at either end, that takes an hour, two hours, or even more just one way. During rush hour times on the most crowded lines, the conditions can be nothing less than awful as riders stand packed in moving train cars like sardines in an upright can. They are barely able to move, much less read a newspaper or converse, and are...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Roppongi Rises
    (pp. 76-102)

    In Tokyo, it is common for subdistricts of the city, major streets, key bridges, hillocks, slopes, and other bits of geography to have names that are instructive about local history. In Roppongi, which means “six trees,” it is often assumed that the reference is to specific trees that stood there in the past. As previously mentioned, these “trees” are actually the family names of six feudal lords who had their mansions in the district in the early years of the Tokugawa Shogunate: Uesugi (upper Cryptomeria), Kutsuki (rotting tree), Takagi (tall tree), Aoki (green tree), Katagiri (wayside Paulownia), and Ichiryū (one...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Roppongi Rhythms, Recently
    (pp. 103-151)

    Early in the morning, Roppongi belongs to the crows. At least that’s the case on this June day during the crows’ mating season. They are enormous crows, black as can be, with mastodonic beaks, strong, mean, and smart. I’ve never seen crows anywhere in my travels like these Japanese crows (Corvus macrorhynchos). They have been known to stop trains by piling stones on rails, attack people and kill small pets, and crack nuts by dropping them onto the path of traffic. They are Tokyo’s scourge, feeding on the leftovers of a well-fed city, scattering the contents of street-side trash bags,...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Roppongi Troubles
    (pp. 152-197)

    The word gaijin is the colloquial Japanese word for “foreigner,” and nowadays, most of the news that comes from Roppongi is bad news, mostly about crime, and very often about foreigner or gaijin crime. Many people think of the neighborhood as Tokyo’s most dangerous district and avoid it. That is probably why there is so much of the other kind of media reporting from Roppongi too, that about campaigns by officialdom and grassroots organizations to clean up the neighborhood, about immigration actions against “bad foreigners,” and about upscale and “proper” events that signal the birth of a “New Roppongi,” such...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Roppongi Remade
    (pp. 198-247)

    I begin with a reminder that remaking Roppongi is not just about the cleanup of a misbehaving nightclub district; the backdrop is also about reforming how people live in Tokyo and setting a new, high standard for Japanese urban life. For those with building in mind and who want to remake in fundamental ways the character of life in Tokyo, it is convenient that Roppongi has been bad: it can more easily be condemned to die, and public opinion will be supportive. With that accomplished, Roppongi’s demolition becomes easier and can be followed by the shaping of a new urban...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Roppongi Reflections
    (pp. 248-266)

    In 1970, the Five Man Electrical Band wrote a song called “Signs” in which the lyrics complained that everywhere one looked, there were posted signs about what to do and what not to do in a particular area. Their words were quite prescient about how social control would evolve in the surveillance of closed-circuit television (cctv) and the overtly privatized urban spaces of cities everywhere about a generation later and would apply quite comfortably to the New Roppongi of today, a landscape in which posted signs abound to let one know who is welcome and who is not and to...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 267-278)
    (pp. 279-282)
    (pp. 283-294)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 295-302)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 303-303)