BRI Research Paper


Metropolitanism as a Way of Life -The Case of Tokyo, 1868-1930-.

S.Watanabe; March, 1981. 52p.


Modern urban planning, which seems to predominate in the contemporary world, is the historical product of late nineteenth century Europe and America. The particular socio-historical conditions of these Western countries have strongly influenced their approaches to planning. This is especially true of attitudes of planning toward the metropolis.

By the 1890's, the ever-growing metropolis was recognized not only as an inescapable phenomenon but also as a menance to the physical, social, and even political welfare of the people living there. To tackle this metropolitan problem, modern urban planning as a social system was institutionalized and has a hereditary, built-in "anti-metropolitan" bias. This planning system was most strongly supported by the then emerging middle-class, who, with increasing political power, wanted to move out into suburbia previously open only to the more affluent classes [ 1 ] . It is ironic that modern Western urban planning is so deeply biased by an anti-urban ideology.

A sharp contrast is presented by Japanese planning, in which the anti-urban or anti-metropolitan bias is virtually alien. Pioneering Japanese planners, with a strong urban tradition and centralized planning powers, tried to foster the metropolis rather than to discourage it as the Britons did or to dismantle it as the Americans did. Japan is one of those rare cases in which the metropolis is still alive and doing well at the functional as well as ideological levels.

With this contrast in mind, a general history of Tokyo's metropolitan development is presented as a case study for international comparison [ 2 ] . The uniquely individual character of the Japanese planning system can be understood by a study of the attitudes and effects of modern Japanese planning to the metropolitan development and by identifying the socio-historical factors determining these attitudes and effects.

Although neither Japan or Tokyo has thus far established authoritatively the historical subdivisions of its planning history, five major periods can be identified: Pre-Modern(until 1868), Meiji(1868-1912), Taisho-Early Showa (1912-30), Wartime (1930-45), and Post-War Periods [ 3 ] . In addition, the historical subdivision in Western countries does not fall into the same time slots in Japan, which imposes a difficult problem in international comparison.

For instance, in 1890's, when the metropolis began to be questioned in Western countries, modern Tokyo had only reached the peak population of feudal Edo. It was not until the early 1900's when Tokyo began to grow beyond Edo's urban area into suburbs, a factor which was recognized in the planning context as late as the 1910's. Accordingly main focus will be given to Taisho-Early Showa Period, roughly corresponding to the 1910's and 1920's, when Tokyo's full-scale suburbanization was related to Japan's emerging planning system. With this period as the center, a rather detailed analysis will be devoted to tracing the historical background into the Meiji and pre-Meiji Periods, but only a brief look will be conducted into the 1930's, which has little relevance to the subject.

Therefore, the analysis that follows will be divided
into: (1) Edo (1590-1868), (2) Meiji, (3) Taisho-Early Showa Periods with an epilogue at the end.

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