Revisiting Ginza Bricktown: The Politics of Urban Space in Early Meiji Tokyo

Wed, Mar 24, 2021, 4:30 pm
East Asian Studies Program

Registration required. Register here.

Ginza Bricktown (1872) is celebrated as an exemplar of Japanese efforts to rapidly modernize and Westernize following the Meiji Restoration of 1868. By constructing a district of Western-style brick buildings and paved streets at the center of the capital, the story goes, Meiji Government leaders could demonstrate Japan's newfound progress to observers both foreign and domestic. Yet this narrative elides the political conflicts and local contestation that challenged the planning and construction of Bricktown from the outset and prompted its early termination. This talk will revisit Ginza Bricktown to explore the less visible backstreets of the district, where the existence of traditional buildings reveals the elite power-struggles and local forces that shaped the city. Far from an exemplar of successful modernization during the Meiji Period, then, Ginza Bricktown was instead a stage where the volatile politics of the Meiji Period were played out in the urban space of Tokyo.

Tristan R. Grunow is Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern Japanese History at Pacific University. Previously, he was Associate Research Scholar at the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University, Assistant Professor without Review at the University of British Columbia, postdoctoral fellow at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University, Visiting Assistant Professor at Bowdoin College, and a Fulbright Fellow at Hōsei University in Tokyo. His research charts the urban history of Tokyo during the Meiji Period. He is also the co-organizer of the UBC Meiji at 150 Project, co-curator of the Meiji at 150 Digital Teaching Resource and Hokkaidō 150 online platform, and host and producer of the Meiji at 150 Podcast, the Hokkaidō 150 podcast, and the Japan on the Record podcast series.   

This lecture's Q & A session will be moderated by Ryo Morimoto (Anthropology). 

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