“Colonization”, Capital Relocation and Emergence of Binary Structure: Edo/Tokyo and the Meiji Revolution
Conférence de Megumi MATSUYAMA, Maître de conférences à l’Université de Meiji, Professeure invitée à l’EHESS en mars, dans le cadre du séminaire interdisciplinaire « Histoire du Japon moderne et contemporain : permanences et ruptures », le 5 mars 2020.
This lecture will explore the changing socio-spatial structures of Edo-Tokyo as the city emerged as the dominant political, economic, and cultural center of modern Japan through the Meiji Revolution. Until the mid-nineteenth century, the Japanese archipelago basically existed in a feudal state, ruled by more than 250 domain lords and hundreds of direct retainers of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which presided from the massive castle town of Edo. Such a governance system was also reflected in the physical structure of Edo.
During the Meiji Revolution, new political actors assocaited themselves to legitimacy of the Kyoto Court and disposed of the Tokugawa regime, The city of Edo was renamed Tokyo, or the “Eastern Capital.” The title was conferred in contrast to Kyoto which had been the historical capital city since 792. Hereafter, Kyoto was designated the “Western Capital,” one of the country’s two capital cities, alongside Edo/Tokyo. However, the Meiji Government pushed to construct a centralized national government based in the Eastern Capital of Tokyo, moving the political center of gravity gradually away from Kyoto. Thus, the urban structure of Edo, which had symbolized the federal governance of the Shogunate period, had to be dismantled through a “colonization” process led by the new government. This would transform the city into a fundamentally new shape by the mid1870s.