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

By Louise Young | Go to book overview

ONE
World War One and the City Idea

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 urban economy, one dimension of the economic and social volatility of modern economic growth. The war years marked the eruption of a new level of crowd violence, on the factory floor and especially in the street, as rice riots broke out in cities throughout the country. Thus, World War One inscribed the image of the city with a new economic and social identity: one associated with an explosive pace of change, with instability, and with the specter of intensified social violence.

Such visions of the city stood in contrast to older urban imaginarles. The feudal concept of the castle town, burnished over three centuries of political stability under Tokugawa rule, envisioned the city as a monument to the enduring power of the military elite. Tokugawa policies concentrated the ruling caste of samurai in the cities, where they constituted as much as 40 percent of the population. The remaining urban population of artisans and merchants supplied the needs and wants of the samurai.1 Organized as instruments of samurai rule, cities became seats of higher learning and administration, which Tokugawa law defined as the exclusive province of the samurai. With the overthrow of the Tokugawa regime, samurai dominance of the city ended and the myth of samurai permanence was shattered. In the

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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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