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
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.
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.
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
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. [Update June 2023: the link is dead, but you can download the thesis from my ResearchGate profile here.] 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
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.
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.