Asian Studies Conference Japan

Saturday, June 19 - Sunday 20, 2004
Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University

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 Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Session 3: Room 301

Cityscapes and Modernity in Asia: Bangkok, Xiamen, and Tokyo

Organizer/Chair: Roderick Wilson, Stanford University

Focusing on the urban space and form of three port cities--Bangkok, Xiamen (Amoy), and Tokyo, our panel focuses on their role as transnational portals. We aim to continue the current interrogation of modernity by arguing that it is less a particular progeny of Europe than a product of nineteenth and twentieth century global interaction and incubation. We will focus on three aspects of urban change: 1) market influence on infrastructural development through new forms of finance and organization; 2) urban planning as an expression of shifting approaches toward state-society and human-nature relations; and 3) the role of architecture in producing new forms of urban space.

In his paper on the harborscape of Xiamen, Onda shows how from the 1920s the the Nationalist Party reached beyond seeking political unity in China to demand unity in architectural form and urban space by planning and implementing extensive reform to the cosmopolitan jumble that was the city 's harborfront. Moving inland from the urban threshold of the harbor, Iwaki takes our panel along the newly planned streets of Bangkok to argue that, despite the ecological and economic role of the city's complex network of waterways, private and royal concerns imposed a new system of "modern" streets throughout the city and into the expanding suburbs in the 1990s. Wilson then focuses on the overlooked role of waterways in the rapid industrialization of Tokyo and the environmental and social costs of the city's subsequent burial of most of these waterways following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

1) Shigenao Onda, Hosei University
View from the Sea: The Spatial Use and Urban Beauty of Xiamen's Harbor Space

How did the Western concessions change China's port cities? How did the establishment of the Republic of China and the later accession of the Nationalist Party affect the urban space and form of China's cities? In this paper, I investigate these questions by focusing on the changing harborscape of the historical port city of Xiamen (Amoy), Fujian Province during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the wake of the Opium War, the British established a functionally conceived concession of warehouses and offices on reclaimed land in Xiamen to which many other countries later flocked. The beauty of the harborscape being as appreciated as its usefulness, in the late nineteenth century the HSBC and other companies built their branch offices alongside the older warehouses of trading houses to face directly out to sea. With the consolidation of political power under the Nationalist Party in the late 1920s, city leaders changed the composition of the city's facade by lengthening the harbor's total length and building highly visible public facilities like the city's Waterworks and Police Bureaus to face out over the bay. In addition, this modernizing government also required the reconstruction of extensive parts of the entire harborfront area to meet new uniform building and city regulations. Thus, while the port city of Xiamen shows a practical need in urban form as a trade center, the city's expansive harborscape also became the stage on which the city's private and public elites expressed their vision of the modern city.

2) Yasunobu Iwaki, Hosei University
Streets and Water of Bangkok, 1890s-1930s

In this paper, I focus on Bangkok and the results of road construction from the 1890s to the 1930s to argue that, while a network of streets expanded in the city center, a new system of canals spread throughout city's suburban areas. Located on swampy banks of Chaopraya River, the cityscape of nineteenth-century Bangkok with its dense web of waterways should properly be understood as a waterscape. From just before and after the new property laws of 1901, however, government and private developers began to modernize and develop the city by investing in the construction of new roads. Adapted to an area's social and economic conditions, these roads can be classified into three categories: 1) government financed roads in the central city with their landscaping trees, public facilities, and Western-style architecture; 2) privately financed redevelopment roads laid out atop marketplace waterways with the intent developing commercial districts; and 3) suburban development roads developed in new residential areas with both private or government finance. Particular to this third type was the extension of Bangkok waterscape into city's periphery through the simultaneous excavation of new canals alongside the new roads to serve the sewage and drainage needs of suburban Bangkok. Thus, in this period, national and private leaders emphasized their shared role in urban planning and development at the expense of city's important water environment. On the other hand, their development schemes in suburban Bangkok show a deeper appreciation of the ecological and economic needs of residents.

3) Roderick Wilson, Stanford University
From Water to Wheels: Tokyo's Industrial Landscape Before and After 1923

Addressing the hackneyed and often misconstrued shift from water to wheels, my paper focuses on the changing role of waterways in lives of Tokyoites from the 1890s to the 1930s.

In the first part of this paper, I argue that, even as factories spread over much of eastern Tokyo, industrialization and its requisite infrastructure of roads and railways did not destroy the city's system of rivers and canals. For the time, this infrastructure of macadam and steel supplemented and supported, rather than substituted, Tokyo's grid of waterways. In the second half, I examine how Gotô; Shinpei and his team of city planners sought to turn the misfortune of the 1923 Great Kantô Earthquake into a fortune making opportunity by redesigning the city as a whole along a system of roads and railways. Although many of their grander plans were reined in by budgetary reality and competing political interests, these planners did succeed in burying or bridging most of Tokyo's waterways in the name of public sanitation, economic efficiency, and flood control. Throughout, I also focus on the fact that, while Tokyo lost its waterways, the people who actually lived and worked the city's waters lost their livelihood.

This drawn out process of urban change, from a city borne on water to one increasingly carried on wheels, I conclude was as much a response to and result of Tokyo's incorporation in a worldwide exchange of goods as it was the global interchange of ideas about urban planning and economic development.

Discussant: Jeffrey Hanes, University of Oregon


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