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

By Louise Young | Go to book overview

Introduction
URBANISM AND JAPANESE MODERN

THE AGE OF THE CITY

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 neologism modan—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. This new consciousness of the modern tried to make sense of the ways that the economic growth of the teens and twenties dramatically altered urban modes of production and consumption. To chroniclers of the new age, transformation of their built environment into a futurescape of paved roads and electric streetlamps, the rise of “social problems” like labor strikes and unsightly slums, and a mass consumer culture linked to the baseball field and the movie palace, all stood out as defining modernity. The city, in short, assumed the face of “modern Japan.”

How were ideas about modernity produced and circulated? What were their material and ideological effects? To answer these questions, this book looks at both the subjective consciousness and the social structures of “the modern.” Though humanities fields differ in their understanding of this term, historians tend to conceive of modernity as a tale of two revolutions: the political, social, cultural, and economic transformations that attended the advent of the nation-state, and the emergence of industrial capitalism.

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Part One - Contexts 1
  • Introduction - Urbanism and Japanese Modern 3
  • One - World War One and the City Idea 15
  • Part Two - Geo-Power and Urban-Centrism 35
  • Two - The Ideology of the Metropolis 37
  • Three - Colonizing the Country 83
  • Part Three - Modern Times and the City Idea 139
  • Four - The Past in the Present 141
  • Five - The Cult of the New 188
  • Epilogue - Urbanism and Twentieth-Century Japan 240
  • Notes 259
  • Bibliography 287
  • Index 297
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