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.
I am a development finance professional and urban economic historian based in Thailand and Germany. Below find scribbles from my inchoate explorations in space and time.
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
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.
The last of four posts sharing my TUJ syllabi is Metropolitan Tokyo. I probably put most work into this class: It was the one closest to my own research, the bar was high and I kept adapting the syllabus the more I taught it, in total five times over two years. Continue reading
The last of my four classes I taught at TUJ was this general education — “Gen Ed” — urban studies class, which TUJ ran for three consecutive semesters. Looking back, this may have been the most enjoyable of the classes of the four I taught in Tokyo. (I have also added the syllabi for two other classes I taught, i.e. Politics of the Global Economy and Economics of Development and Growth and will shortly put up the one for Metropolitan Tokyo.) Continue reading