Between Imperial Capital and World City: The Tourist’s Tokyo a Century Ago

Tokyo Futures Series
Wednesday 14 Oct 2015 | 6.15 - 9pm

Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London | Russell Square | WC1H 0XG

Jordan Sand
Georgetown University

About the Tokyo Futures, 1868-2020 | UK-Japan lecture series

Detail from a post card celebrating the completion of Meiji shrine 1st-3rd November, 1920 (Meiji Shrine Archives)

Detail from a post card celebrating the completion of Meiji shrine 1st-3rd November, 1920 (Meiji Shrine Archives)

In anticipation of the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo, the city is busily making preparations to play host to visitors from around the world. The present campaign to enhance Tokyo’s appeal for foreign tourists provides a fitting opportunity to review what kind of a tourist destination Tokyo was in generations past. It also happens that 2020 will mark the centenary of Meiji Shrine, which has been one of the city’s most popular sites to visit since its completion in 1920.

This lecture will explore how Tokyo appeared to tourists a century ago. Tokyo at the time was the capital of a young colonial empire. Tokyo tourism thus targeted visitors from the colonies as well as from overseas. Japan in 1920 strove to display Tokyo’s position as an imperial capital with the same energy Japan today seeks to demonstrate to the world Tokyo’s present status as a cosmopolitan world city.

About the Speaker

Jordan Sand is Associate Professor of Japanese History and Culture at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He teaches modern Japanese history and other topics in East Asian history, as well as urban history and the world history of food. He has a doctorate in history from Columbia University and an MA in architecture history from the University of Tokyo. His research and writing has focused on architecture, urbanism, material culture and the history of everyday life. House and Home in Modern Japan (Harvard, 2004) explores the ways that westernizing reformers reinvented Japanese domestic space and family life during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His most recent book, Tokyo Vernacular: Common Spaces, Local Histories, Found Objects (University of California Press, 2013), analyzes problems of history and memory in the postindustrial city. He has also examined the comparative history of urban fires and firefighting, the modernization and globalization of Japanese food (including sushi, miso, and MSG), and the history of furniture and interiors, and topics in the study of heritage and museums. He is presently working on a study of manifestations of colonialism in physical forms ranging from bodily comportment to urban planning.

From 2009 through 2011, he served as Chair of Georgetown’s Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. During the academic year 2012-13, he was a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Information Studies, where he taught a seminar on approaches to the modern city.


This lecture is free to attend. Registration is required and will open at a later date.

To register and for further information please contact: SOAS website

Organiser: Japan Research Centre
Contact email: centres@soas.ac.uk
Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4893


The UK-Japan Lecture Series is supported by the Toshiba International Foundation and the Japan Foundation.

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It is co-organised by the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, the Meiji Jingu Intercultural Research Institute, and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

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Meiji Jingu Intercultural Research Institute
Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures

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