The City as Subject: Seki Hajime and the Reinvention of Modern Osaka

By Jeffrey E. Hanes | Go to book overview

Introduction
Seki Hajime and Social Progressivism
in Prewar Japan

On Nakanoshima, at the center of the city of Osaka, stands the weatherworn statue of Mayor Seki Hajime (1873–1935). Nestled in the trees across from Osaka's Central Town Hall, a stone's throw from the City Hall, Seki gazes benevolently over the city he served from 1914 to 1935. Suitably modern and dignified in crisply creased trousers, starched collar, cravat, vest, and morning coat, he truly looks the part of the cosmopolitan “scholar-mayor” (gakusha shichō) who each morning reputedly ate an international breakfast of miso soup and toast in his book-lined study. Seki's fame was such that the city he served mourned his death with great pomp and circumstance. Hundreds of local and national luminaries attended the funeral, which began with a grand processional from the family home in Uehonmachi and wound south to Tennōji Park, and thousands more of the city's residents followed the proceedings live over JOBK radio. 1

Attached to the grimy stone pedestal on which Seki's figure stands is a commemorative plaque that forgettably proclaims him a paragon of civic virtue and a master of municipal management. This unremarkable monument to the remarkable interwar mayor who vowed to transform the Capital of Smoke (Kemuri no Miyako) into the Livable City (Sumigokochiyoki Toshi) is sadly appropriate, for while Seki achieved many things in interwar Osaka, livability was not one of them. His visionary plan to reinvent the city, which pivoted on the creation of working-class “garden suburbs” (den'en kōgai), itself went up in smoke—done in by the actions of greedy landed capitalists in the hinterlands of Osaka and the inaction of shortsighted, office-bound bureaucrats in Tokyo. Soon after they went up, Seki's model public-housing tracts were enveloped by urban sprawl.

Seki did not sit idly by as the combined forces of capitalism and statism quashed his plan. He fought mightily for metropolitan autonomy (daitoshi

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The City as Subject: Seki Hajime and the Reinvention of Modern Osaka
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Twentieth-Century Japan: the Emergence of a World Power *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction - Seki Hajime and Social Progressivism in Prewar Japan 1
  • 1 - A Portrait of the Economist as a Young Man 10
  • 2 - The People's National Economy 53
  • 3 - Class and Nation 97
  • 4 - Toward a Modern Moral Economy 127
  • 5 - A New Urbanism 169
  • 6 - The Livable City 210
  • Notes 269
  • Bibliography 315
  • Index 335
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