Saturday, June 27, 2009

The First Chapter of Isoda Kōichi's Tokyo as an Idea (1978)

This just in from Dr. Nabil al-Tasnimi:

I've assigned my students Isoda Kōichi's 磯田光一 ground-breaking study 『思想としての東京』, but I just remembered that they can't read Japanese. Is there anyway you could send me a translation of the first chapter by tomorrow evening? My lecture on the marginalization of shitamachi culture after the 1923 earthquake is tomorrow, so I really need it quick.

Nabil al-Tasnimi

Sure thing, Dr. al-Tasnimi. Here's my rough draft translation of the first chapter. I should mention that Isoda prefaces his chapter with a quote from Mori Mari's novel Crazy Maria (1967)[2] about how those living in Setagaya and other western wards of Tokyo are all rustic migrants from the provinces, as opposed to the more cultivated, shitamachi-born “Edokko.” To the narrator, these provincials are “even more despicable and groveling than the pets they keep.” Isoda argues that such a view, while a bit extreme, is in fact quite accurate. Regards, Beholdmyswarthyface.
Isoda Kōichi 磯田光一, Tokyo as an Idea 『思想としての東京』
Chapter One: The Inverted Images of Tokyo[1]

Building upon the Meiji prototype for the city, the 1921 "Tokyo Urban Design Map" 東京都市計画地図 sought to improve the city by putting more emphasis on roads. Beginning with the statement, "The decision to enact the following city plan has already been approved," the map divides the city's transportation routes into "roads" and "waterways and canals." There is nothing accidental about its planning, and its innovation is striking when one compares its road widths to that of an earlier 1902 map, entitled "New Design for Tokyo Urban Development" 東京市区改正新設計.
The map, conceived with the construction of the city's new streetcar system in mind, boasts road widths that are the widest to date and "in a class their own." The new pavement roads were to be over 36 meters wide, and the narrowest “fifth-class” roads were to have a width of over 12 meters. Supplementing this were the thoroughfare roads 広路, which were to be over 40 meters wide. Even with the municipal electric railway and the bus system added, there were no significant changes in this city-as-idea between 1903 (just prior to the Russo-Japanese War) and 1921.
However, these urban plans were suddenly scrapped after the 1923 Kantō earthquake. Following the quake there appeared a single map that would seal the fate of the Shōwa era "Teito," or Imperial Capital, and have important ramifications on literature and thought. That map was the 1925 "Zoning Map of Metropolitan Tokyo" 東京都市計画地域図.
Ever since the Meiji period, city planning was typically done in collaboration between the national government and Metropolitan Tokyo; however, the earthquake provided a rare opportunity for a new kind of city planning. This “Zoning Map of Metropolitan Tokyo” appeared just around this time, and, reprinted in a corner of the 1925 “New Map of Greater Tokyo” 最新大東京地図, it formed a part of the popular late-Taishō era map of Tokyo, and thus became well-known among the public.
Looking at the map, one can see that the west half of Tokyo is colored in light green, indicating “residential areas.” The areas around what are today the Chiyoda and Chūō wards are designated “business districts” and are colored in red. The "low-city" of the shitamachi region and the city of Kawasaki are designated as “industrial districts,” and are shown in blue. "Special District A" and "Special District B" are wards divided according to levels of pollution, and are shaded accordingly. Finally, dividing the pink “commercial districts” from the blue “industrial districts” is the Sumida River.

Given that the modernization of Tokyo in the Shōwa era corresponded with the expansion of the Western parts of city, we can see that it was these newly migrated provincials in the Setagaya and Suginami wards who led Tokyo’s march toward modernization by marginalizing the low-city residents (i.e., the Edokko, or Asakusa-zoku 浅草族) and barricading them within the newly designated “industrial region.” The question that must be asked, then – indeed, it is a question that could lead to a total reassessment of the psychological structure of Japan’s modernization – is how this initial distortion revealed itself in literature.

Tokyo-born Tanizaki Jun'ichirō fled to the Kansai area in seek of peace and a more traditional sensibility after the 1923 Kantō earthquake. Nagai Kafū and Ishikawa Jun both assumed an antagonistic attitude toward these provincials, remaining instead nostalgically attached to the old shitamachi Edo culture. Kobayashi Hideo, Nagai Tatsuo, Fukuda Tsuneari, and Nakamura Mitsuo too became disillusioned with modernization, and drifted to Kamakura, where they hoped to find "a second Edo."
Such realignments, of course, were not coincidental. Deciding where to live is a most significant expression of one's lifestyle and thought, and it is perhaps an ideological decision as well. One can add to this list of writers Yoshimoto Takaaki, who was originally from the shitamachi region and who despised the cultural left that loitered about Shinjuku, and Etō Jun, who hated fanaticism of any sort. But this is not to imply that those born in Tokyo are in any way superior to those born in the provinces. I'll be the first to admit that the fate of the individual is not to be determined by birthplace. If we consider what the Musashi region that is now Tokyo looked like before the Edo period, it becomes clear that we are all no more than clodhoppers in Western attire. Rather, I'm trying to reflect upon how hard it is, despite Japan’s advances in urbanization, for the modern individual to formulate himself, and to distill from this formation a universalistic subject that is part of a larger historical picture. Whatever we may deem post-war literature and thought to be, the only thing Japan has succeeded in accomplishing over these last thirty years is a) the provincialization of Tokyo and b) the Tokyo-ization of the provinces.

The paradox is that those native to Tokyo now perceive Tokyo as a “province,” while those originally from the provinces, in turn, have designated Tokyo as “the center.” Ironically, those for whom Tokyo has become "a province" have been forced into the position of having to defend the very thing which marginalized them, namely, the notion of bunmeikai, or "civilization."[3] The aspirations to modernity among those of the “centrist orientation” are somewhat understandable. On the flipside, the anarchists, anti-centrists and others of similar disposition, by being overly conscious of the state’s centrality, are expressing a sort of inverted centralist orientation. Now let us look at how this double structure was formed . . . [to be continued]

[1] Also see Chiyoko Kawakami's essay, "The Metropolitan Uncanny in the Works of Izumi Kyoka," in which she discusses the two perceptions of Tokyo (Tokyo-as-province and Tokyo-as-center), and the associations of various literary figures with these perceptions. She cites as “centrists” Mori Ōgai and Tayama Katai, and cites Kōda Rohan and Izumi Kyōka as examples of the Edokko group.
[2] Though not an Edokko herself, novelist Mori Mari 森茉莉 (1903-1987, daughter of literary giant Mori Ōgai 森鷗外), identified with the plebian culture of the old shitamachi region, and often lamented its marginalization in her works.
[3] By “civilization,” he is here referring to the notion of bunmeikaika 文明開化, which was the term used during the Meiji period to describe the course of “englightenment” through Westernization.


Claytonian said...

okay, so what's the deal? Is this a replacement for your other blog?

Ryan said...

yup. this one`s far easier to use (the people at google are geniuses), so i'll probably start phasing out with the other one and making this the main one.
ps thx for posting the nouryokushiken 1kyuu study materials. very helpful

Claytonian said...

Those are actually 2kyu; watch out you may be filling your head with extraneous knowledge! But anyways, that's how I found your old blog, through grammar points.

Claytonian said...

oh and I'd love to get the feed for this one, but for some reason it redirects me to your old blog through black magic.

Ryan said...

i'm not sure what you mean by "the feed" (i'm not so down with techy terms- all of it's black magic to me). are you trying to link it to your blog? for that, just use the address --

also, if you have any 1kyuu prep stuff, let me know. i think i should take it next year.

Claytonian said...

I'll probably take 1kyu as well.

A feed is the code you put out for feed readers. A feed reader lets you know when a blog has updated.

So I am guessing somewhere in your settings you set your feed to your old blog for some reason.

I no longer add blog links by html; my feed reader adds them to my blogroll on my page. But it needs the correct feed...

Ryan said...

doumo. i try and tinker with it a bit.

Ryan said...

i think i fixed it.

Claytonian said...

Seems to be still broken. If I use the firefox subscribe button, it just redirects your blog to itself (the new one this time)
If I use the googlereader subscribe bookmarklet, it says feeds/
has no items. If I remove the "feeds/" from that url (I've never seen that before), it once again only provides the feed for your old blog.

In settings, under the site feed tab, you should probably set your feeds to "full" and leave everything else blank. Hope it helps!

Ryan said...

thx. i changed it to full, and left all else blank.
got lots of new posts coming, so hope that helps.
cheers, R.

Claytonian said...

Okay, it worked finally, though I did have to subscribe to the second feed down the firefox button list (if that makes any sense to you). Anyhoo. Subscribed. By the way, if you would like, I could redesign your title image; the text overlaps currently. Of course I may be confusing you again...

Ryan said...

yes, please do.
by the title image, you mean the "tract on the perils of. . . " part, right?

Anonymous said...

You're a clodhopper in Western attire.

-Ian Hogarth

Jarvis32 said...

Here's a documentary on youtube about the quake and the post-quake reconstruction of the city.

desertratrecords said...

Happy 30th birthday to number 1 son. Family all misses you in Arizona and sends their regards. All, all, all my love, mamasan