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

By Louise Young | Go to book overview

TWO
The Ideology of the Metropolis

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 increased Tokyo’s centrality in cultural ways as well, as it became a center of higher education, the high arts, the publishing industry, and the mass media.

In a material sense, these economic, political, and cultural institutions and networks concentrated power and resources in the capital, producing and reproducing its centrality. But just as significant, people came to think of Tokyo as the first among cities: they believed it to be the largest, the best, the foremost, the fastest, the most advanced. And because nothing succeeds like success, this faith in Tokyo as number one augmented the capital’s capacity to attract still more economic, cultural, and political resources. In other words, belief in Tokyo as the center had a power-effect, which reinforced and reproduced its centrality. It is this combination of material and ideological forces that I highlight by the term Tokyo-centrism.

Intellectuals, the literati in particular, stood at the heart of this process. Literary production in the early twentieth century was concerned, overwhelmingly, with everyday life. Because their depictions of life in the metropolis, in the provincial town, and in the rural village critically shaped urban and rural imaginaries, writers occupied a central role 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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