OAG talk

I gave a talk to the “Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Natur- und Voelkerkunde Ostasiens” (OAG, German East Asiatic Society) yesterday. After 20 years of living abroad, this was a great opportunity to translate some of my research into my mother tongue German. I spoke for about an hour, which allowed for quite an in-depth tour of the various themes that I have also explored over the years on this blog. The presentation can be downloaded here. I also translated it into English.

Space egalitarianism

The latest paper drawing on my PhD has now been published with the International Journal for Urban Sustainable Development. It covers one of the main threads of the dissertation, i.e. decreasing intra-urban inequalities during Tokyo’s rapid growth phase between 1955-1975. The two anonymous reviewers’ comments made me change the final section quite considerably, and their feedback was highly appreciated. Get in touch if you need the full paper. What follows is the abstract.

Intra-urban inequalities during rapid development: space egalitarianism in Tokyo between 1955-1975

This paper demonstrates empirically that Tokyo’s rapid post-war growth coincided with decreasing intra-urban inequalities in the special ward area, both in terms of private and public living standards. This phenomenon has not received much attention to date because Japan’s income inequalities were generally very low during this period. However, megacity growth of this kind is normally associated with growing segregation. This paper develops the narrative of ‘spatial egalitarianism’. It attributes low intra-urban inequalities to Tokyo’s homogenous urban form, equal economic structure of its neighbourhoods, and a redistributive intermediate layer of government that took a hands-off approach to urban planning. The implications are of relevance to today’s developing megacities in Asia and beyond.

Describing “Emergent Tokyo”

Drawing on my AAS presentation (already recorded, to be aired at the end of March 2021) I would like to write up another journal article on the “Tokyo model”. This would mean that all of my dissertation has been “used” and published in some form or another. For the sake of self-inspiration I will sketch out a skeleton of the article after the break.  Continue reading

The Tokyo Moment: What Developing Cities Can Learn From The Postwar Japanese Capital

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.

The Tokyo model

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

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The Tokyo moment

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.

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Demand-side aspects of labor-intensive industrialization

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

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PhD thesis

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

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Urban Space as a Factor of Production

The first of hopefully 3-4 articles drawn from my PhD finally got published with Social Science Journal Japan, a journal run by the University of Tokyo and distributed by OUP. It’s taken a little (!) longer than expected due to my day job as well as general COVID-induced turmoil in all our lives. Anyway, I will put up a proper post celebrating this moment. For now, you can read the abstract below and find the full article here.

Urban Space as a Factor of Production: Accounting for the Success of Small Factories in Postwar Tokyo

This paper demonstrates that small manufacturing firms in postwar Tokyo were exceptionally successful. Not only were they more productive than their national peers, they were also remarkably competitive vis-à-vis large factories in Tokyo. The existing explanations for this double outperformance do not take full account of the urban setting in which this process took place. Small factories compensated for higher labor costs by being more efficient users of urban space. They thrived thanks to Tokyo’s particular urban form, which included a preference for mixed use and often blurred the boundaries between living and workplace. Small factories also benefited from being embedded in the relatively egalitarian structure of postwar Tokyo, as the city avoided spatial stratification despite megacity growth. Although Tokyo’s small factories remain important, their competitive edge has eroded from the 1970s onward.