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

Part of the Centre for Japanaese Research Lunchtime Lecture Series

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 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 contestation that shaped the urban space of early Meiji Tokyo.

grunow-photoTristan Grunow is Assistant Professor without Review in the Department of History at UBC.  Previously, he was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Havard University, and Visiting Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies at Bowdoin College.  His research examines the respacing of built and natural environments in the process of Japanese state-formation and empire-building.