Tokyo as an idea
The purpose of the article was to examine how the Japanese view the city and its inhabitants. When he says “the city” he means it in a broad sense, not just Tokyo. Urban thought in JPN has 2 aspects; a medieval one (sentimental) and a more modern, intellectual one (developed in the Tokugawa period). The older thoughts have 3 parts: 1) city as mediation- mediation between heaven and earth because there was no direct connection. No belief in a god presiding over the city. Mediation between man and nature (ex: economy had markets and farms). 2)city as a process- Buddhist idea of impermanence, city always changing. It was taken literally when they built buildings out of plant material that decayed and caught fire, so the city was always in flux. Impermanence also suggested by ukiyo, or the city as a floating world. 3)city as art-
Tokugawa thought, samurai viewpoint. Encouraged both urbanization and preservation of agrarian society. The city was the seat of power (where the shogun was). City as power resulted in desire to fireproof city to make it more permanent but the plan was never carried out. One critic, Sorai, said city was corrupt, forcing people to become dependent upon merchants, but it did have good bureaucratic intent. City as a family (emphasis on the hierarchy). The pleasure district (segregated ukiyo) allowed a place for social criticism, but it was neutralized because of the district’s moral isolation.
Edokko, a child of Edo. Proud of city, sees city as place of prosperity and of political strength. Lived for the moment and rejected the chonin ideal of diligence.
1868-1900-Tokyo Restoration. End of sankin kotai (yearly migration of daimyo into Edo) hurt city’s economy, political influence. 1890s Tokyo comes to be seen as less of a city and more of a national symbol of imperial power. Novelist Koda Rohan suggested a complete reconstruction of the city…wanted high density of wealth and population. This left no carriers of his ideas that rejected the notions of the chonin.
City as a problem 1895-1923. Explosion of growth led to confusion of a once familiar city. Now overcrowded. Disputes over streetcar system arose about ownership and payment to employees. They came to symbolize threat of change instead of progress. There emerged an anti-urbanist movement, were pro-agrarian, existed even in late Meiji period. Fringe of a city, where it fades into countryside is the perfect picture of a city as mediation. Most of the most recent writers have lacked any particular attachment to a certain place.
Municipal socialism looked at the city as a problem. Socialist Katayama (educated at Yale) pushed for public ownership of all major utilities. Socialist Abe pushed for public ownership of all urban land.
Urban designers wanted Garden cities, a blend of urban and agrarian culture. Frequently turned to the West for inspiration, especially the U.S.A. However, it didn’t translate fully. Citizen in the U.S.A. implies a realm of public, but in JPN it implies duty to a hierarchy. Autonomy in JPN meant a commitment to the national good.
Bureaucracy of Social Affairs- Built institutions like schools, health centers, orphanages. They move to promote a Confucian morality. This movement, however, was not all that effective.
Writers known as medievalists…two types. One was almost totally urban in thought and the other was half urban-half bourgeois.
Post Earthquake Tokyo. Sept. 1 1923. this furthered the notion of city as a problem, as rebuilding would be a huge task. Also, had to deal with the depressed economy. The city as modern life also emerged. Aspects of both home and streets as elements of modern life. In light of the destruction that was done, people began to try and abide by an altered notion of the chonin mentality in that they planned ahead for individual conveniencce. Consumerism was a large part of this.
Wartime Tokyo 1931-1945= city as any kind of idea disappears. The new Tokyo was more heavily controlled by government, as opposed to the desire for increased autonomy. Still, urban planning continued by individuals. Ironically, professor Haigaku finished his book on how to fire proof the city at the same time that Tokyo was firebombed in 1945 by the U.S. after the bombing, when planning resumed, the people still wanted to rebuild the city out of wood.
In sum, the gist of this whole article, while confusing at times, is that different groups saw the city a certain way based on their perspective and current events.