井の中の蛙

10/20/2004

Capital and Water: The Role of Rivers in Tokyo City Planning, 1880s-1940s

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:17 am

One of our weblog’s authors, Roderick Wilson, is giving a talk this Friday in Tokyo at the Modern Japanese History Workshop. Since Rod is one of us, I just want to put in an extra plug for his talk here and wish him the best of luck. Below is the blurb found in the H-Japan posting about his upcoming event:

For many years now, Tokyo has been much maligned for its lack of greenery and waterside spaces. Typically, blame is cast on the influence of industry and a succession of Kafkaesque bureaucrats and city planners during the city s rapid industrialization from the 1890s onward. But, while the city indeed industrialized, society changed, and the environment suffered, Tokyo also remained a city of canals and rivers through the 1950s. And, these waterways teemed with barges, lighters, and rafts–more than twenty thousand of them in 1920–hauling the fuel and food that fed the city s factories and people. Thus, it was because of, rather than in spite of, the interests of industry and commerce that successive generations of city planners both retained and maintained the city s vast network of waterways.

At November’s Modern Japanese History Workshop, I will present my ongoing research about how Tokyo s city planners sought to harness and control the city’s waterways for economic growth. This work is part of a chapter in my larger dissertation project entitled Riverwork: A Social and Environmental History of Tokyo’s Sumida River, 1850s-1950s, where I show how industrialization produced new social and environmental relations along the city s waterways. Moreover, by showing how Tokyo has always been both more and less than the capital city of Japan–a metonymical place for all things national, I use the history of Tokyo and its rivers to show how the city worked as a nexus amidst several layers of cultural, social, and economic networks–local, regional, national, imperial and international. Specifically, in November s presentation, I will use this approach to show how transnational ideas and technologies about urban planning and civil engineering were institutionalized at a national level and applied locally with dramatic consequences for the entire Kanto region.

I hope we can hear more about Rod’s research in the future. You can find directions to the talk in the original announcement.

Halting Speeches

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:14 am

I will continue to post the odd passage I find here and there during my reading that I find particularly memorable. In Andrew Gordon‘s Labor and Imperial Democracy in Prewar Japan there is an interesting section where he lists phrases from 15 speeches (out of 22 total) made at one rally of the Sôdômei’s Electric and Machine Worker’s Union that were halted by the police who attended. The final phrases show nicely what kinds of words specifically brought action:

1. Capitalists are…[halted]
2. We workers first must destroy…[halted]
3. The only course is to build the road to freedom with our own strength…[halted]
4. We have absolutely no freedom. At dawn I had a dream. I was advancing down the road to freedom carrying a sword, when I fell into a deep crevice. This is a crevice that captures those who speak the truth…[halted]
5. It is just too irrational for members of our own class [i.e., the police] to stand above us and repress us…[halted]
6. As Lenin said, “Those who do not work will not eat…[halted]
7. To discover how, and with what, to destroy this system is our objective…[halted]
8. In order to live we must finally destroy the present system…[halted]
9. Together with all of you, I will devote all my strength to the destruction of everything…[halted]
10. We must destroy capitalism…[halted]
11. In order to live we must attack capitalism at its roots; we must entirely destroy the existing social order…[halted]
12. One after another the speakers have been unjustly halted…[halted]
13. We must struggle against those who oppose us…[halted]
14. For example, a revolution…[halted]
15. The labor movement must move to end the plunder of capitalists…[halted] (136)

The phrases translated from a 1921 report cited in Gordon’s footnotes. Gordon has noted in italics the final words in the original Japanese phrasing of each speech.

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