While sifting through photos, I just came across this gem taken from Claska’s roof terrace, sometime in December 2019.
The fourth article to be inspired by my PhD thesis has now been published in Planning Perspectives. Besides Planning History (which has a US focus), the journal is the go-to place for historical research on urban planning. I thought this might be the best fit for my work on the 1967 report by Professor Robson, which I had become intrigued about during my studies. It took a while from jotting down first thoughts to presenting at last year’s AAS to putting the manuscript through a total of three revisions — but here it is! Also see my ResearchGate profile to request the full text if you don’t have access.
Abstract: This article critically evaluates a 1967 consultancy report on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) by Professor William A. Robson. Robson, a pioneer of public administration science based at the London School of Economics his whole academic life, provided an in-depth analysis of the state of the Japanese capital during its high-speed growth spurt and at the beginning of the socialist Minobe prefectural administration. While many of Robson’s assessments and criticisms were poignant, his report failed to appreciate contextual intricacies as well as Tokyo’s distinctive path of urban development. A re-reading of the report with this in mind expands our understanding of the Japanese capital’s postwar history more than 50 years after the report’s publication. Its critical assessment also contributes to our understanding of how urban knowledge ‘travels’ across geographies.
We got back from a two-week trip to Japan last week and I wanted to jot down some observations for the record. It’s been four years since we left Tokyo for Bangkok (and Germany, intermittently, due to COVID). Now we’ve lived in Sydney since late 2021. All this back and forth meant that going back to Japan felt like a trip “home”.
I spoke to a great audience of mainly urban design and planning PhD students from Jorge Almazan’s Studiolab at Keio University a few weeks back. Jorge and his students as well as Joe McReynolds wrote the fantastic Emergent Tokyo and really succeeded at describing what makes Tokyo’s urbanization path so fascinating. I shared my recent Cities article on the postwar historical roots of the model and presented its findings in a 30-minute presentation, followed by a lively Q&A.
A lot of people are talking about Emergent Tokyo: Designing the Spontaneous City, a book that came out last year and which I was finally able to read. It is a great resource for all of us interested in describing that elusive “charge” of Japan’s capital. Few have been as successful in this task as the authors. While there are a lot of (generally very favorable) reviews out there already, I have jotted down some of my thoughts here. The full text is also available on the Urban Studies blog. I paste it below for ease of access.
I have decided to distil one more article out of my dissertation and then call it quits. I want to focus on the measurement of urban living standards and the “civil minimum” as well as other innovations carried out by TMG in the late 1960s and early 1970s chiefly under the Minobe administration. Continue reading
With my piece on the 1967 Robson Report forthcoming, I am nearing the final stretches of publishing the research of my dissertation in peer-reviewed journals. Finishing my PhD in three years from 2015-18, I wasn’t able to do it while engaged in my doctoral research. This was fortuitous in hindsight (I am biased of course) as it kept me from being distracted by the vagaries of scientific publishing. It would have made both processes–the publishing and the research–longer and altered the final product significantly. Continue reading
For the walker in Tokyo, the unexpected is always waiting (Jinnai Hidenobu)
Craig Mod is a publisher / artist / entrepreneur and flaneur whose newsletters I follow. He is based in Tokyo and accompanies his regular dispatches with great photography in which he captures details of the Japanese capital that are sometimes hard to describe in words.
His most recent “pop up” mailing list was a weeklong walking tour through the Tokyo of his memories. I was reminded of some of the academic stuff I have been teaching my students at Temple about space and memory, but also of my own time in the city.
I wrote a lengthy annotated bibliography for Oxford University Press’s Urban Studies series, for which I got commissioned last year and which kept me busy for an extended period of time. This 20-page document was much more fun to prepare than I thought.
It felt a little bit like writing an ode to the city I have come to know the best of all places I have ever lived in. This is because I spent several years researching its past as my full time occupation of course, but also because getting to know it required me to shed all preconceptions of how to perceive space.
My Japanese language skills were never good enough to approach Tokyo through primary literature, so this bibliography lists English works only. It is by no means exhaustive but the 100+ sources cover a lot of different aspects of the city’s history and current issues.
Jordan Sand offered generous help in identifying new sources and trimming the narrative. I hope it flows well enough to also offer something beyond the specific research query people might use this list for and discover something new.
The full text is behind the OUP paywall, but I hear many academic institutions have access to it. If not, please get in touch.
The thematic chapters are:
- General Historical Overviews for Edo/Tokyo
- 1603–1867: Edo Period
- The Scepter of Destruction
- Economic History
- Political and Social History
- Contested Spaces
- Tokyo as a World, Global, and Neoliberal City
- History of Urban Planning
- Tokyo Urban Form
- From Urban Tropes to Urban Theory
- Placemaking and Heritage
- Iconic Districts
- Tokyo Neighborhoods
- Gender and Sexuality
- Tokyo Imagined