Tokyo is Asia’s first megacity: its urban agglomeration topped the symbolic ten million inhabitants marker sometime after World War II. While it had been one of the world’s largest cities for centuries, arguably its most relevant growth spurt took place between 1950 and 1970. It was during this period that the already enormous urban agglomeration doubled in population. I call this phase of the city history the “Tokyo moment” (i.e., twenty years of rapid population growth to an already large urban area).
Read the whole article on The Metropole, the Urban History Association’s official blog.
A short but beautiful trip in late 2019 was the last time I managed to set foot in Yangon, visiting the magical Tripitaka Library and being shown around inside. A few photos from the inside below, dug up from the SD card today. Looking at them feels strange, it is February 2021 after all and our friends in Yangon are going through some hard times.
I am going to speak at this year’s Association for Asian Studies (virtual) conference, presenting on a panel about Tokyo. This post is meant to reactivate and synthesize some of the thinking from my thesis that so far has not been published and can contribute something new to the debate.
Convenience store locations
One concept I developed for my PhD was the “Tokyo moment”, basically a very large city growing rapidly. I did this to show how much of a trailblazer Tokyo, the world’s first Asian megacity was, and what this might mean for other cities in developing countries. I also used this “moment” to argue why I chose my period of observation as that covering the postwar period until roughly 1970.
Was postwar Tokyo a slum? This question has been at the heart of several posts on this blog. The first detailed Housing Survey allowing for a ward-level analysis in 1963 can help answer this question to some extent.
My paper in SSJJ explored the supply side of labor-intensive industrialization in an urban setting. It argued that it’s useful to conceive of urban space as a factor of production, like land once was before the neoclassical revolution. The following post shows how it is also useful to consider the urban dimension on the demand side.
Building near Takadanobaba, Tokyo
When skimming the back archives of this blog, I came across a farewell bid to Tokyo back in 2013. My wife and I had just spent six months there – her working and me taking a sabbatical that was to spark a passion for the city. We went back to Tokyo again in 2015, and left quite a long time ago in 2019. This reprise is thus long overdue, especially given the recent dearth of personal posts.
View towards center from a rooftop in Meguro-ku Continue reading
I have been amiss not to post a link to my PhD dissertation, which has been published on the website of my former university, the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, about a year ago. The title is “Urban Space in Economic History: Tokyo as Asia’s First Megacity 1945-1970”. Find the summary after the break.
View from GRIPS, Roppongi
Economic history has a long shelf-life when it comes to the data, but needs to be read in a changing context. Besides taking stock of my research, I want to interrogate myself what impact COVID-19 may have on a future monologue.