Ginza Bricktown and the Politics of Urban Space in Early Meiji Tokyo

Ginza Bricktown and the Politics of Urban Space in Early Meiji Tokyo

Tristan R. Grunow -- Associate Research Scholar, Yale Council on East Asian Studies

Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Room 106, Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures See map
143 Elm Street
New Haven , CT 06510

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 an Associate Research Scholar at the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale.  Previously, he was Assistant Professor without Review in the History Department 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 book manuscript charts the respatialization of the built environment of Tokyo under the process of Japanese state-formation and empire-building in the Meiji Period.