Urban life and the city idea in the twentieth century

Authored by: Louise Young

Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese History

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138815186
eBook ISBN: 9781315746678
Adobe ISBN:


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Why do we equate cities with modern life? In the Japanese case, national and regional development projects identified modernization with urbanization and the city with modern Japan, a process that intensified in the early decades of the twentieth century. Although the new age of the city accelerated the growth of Tokyo and Osaka, much of the action took place outside the metropolitan centres in Japan’s provincial cities. Drawing on the examples of the four regional centres of Sapporo, Niigata, Kanazawa, and Okayama, this chapter examines the twentieth century through the perspective of the provincial city. Telling the urban story from off centre helps rethink the master-narratives of the twentieth century and why we assume cities = future. This allows us to think in broader social-spatial terms about an urban-rural system that includes the ‘big six’, prefectural capitals, tertiary cities, and their respective suburbs and satellites.

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