Intersections of modernity and tradition: An urban planning history of Tokyo in the early Meiji period (1868-1888)

1996 1996

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Abstract (summary)

In the first two decades of the Meiji period (1868-1912) the country's leaders engaged in intense discussions about the future of the capital of Tokyo. Some leaders believed in the importance of urban beautification, while others regarded changes in urban infrastructure and services as essential to maintenance and growth of the city. Many of the proposed changes were cloaked in the language of progress. This work examines the course taken by urban leaders of the first decades of the Meiji period in establishing planning policy. This investigation depends heavily on planning documents, transcripts of planning committees, and on architectural and urban design data from completed urban improvement projects in Meiji Tokyo. My research focuses on two issues, (1) the extent to which the efforts of Japanese leaders focused the country on the goal of modernization, and (2) the extent to which efforts to achieve bunmei kaika, or cultural enlightenment, were superficial. My aim in this study is to demonstrate how the concepts of modernity and the struggle to develop a modern urban structure altered previous notions of cities and city planning practices. In summarizing my results, I review the debates among historians in reconstructing the developments in Tokyo's planning history, and conclude that poor articulation of planning policy in the first decades of the Meiji period reflects a lack of consensus among Meiji leaders about the definition and course of modernization. Rather than reject traditional approaches to planning, urban leaders eventually incorporated these approaches into their new planning methodologies. Modernity in the Japanese context, consequently, did not require dismantling preexisting urban structures. Instead, it represented a marriage of the political motivations of the country's leaders with the modern urban needs for improved transportation networks and zoning mechanisms. Exposure of the political system to popular opinion entailed the shifting of planning discourse from the theoretical to the practical realm, as well as from the private to the public realm.

Indexing (details)

Urban planning;
Area planning & development;
0999: Urban planning
0999: Area planning & development
0332: History
0729: Architecture
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; Social sciences; Japan
Intersections of modernity and tradition: An urban planning history of Tokyo in the early Meiji period (1868-1888)
Phillips, David Peter
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 57/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Mandelbaum, Seymour J.
University of Pennsylvania
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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