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



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

Between Imperial Capital and World

Tokyo Futures, 1868-2020 UK-Japan lecture series

Venue: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London | Russell Square | WC1H 0XG
6:15 – 9 PM | 14 October 2015

About the Lecture:

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:

About the Lecture Series:

From the middle of the nineteenth century, Japan, like the rest of the world, was shaken by the transformations that followed its encounter with industry and empire. The country entered a new era, named after the Meiji emperor, and embarked on an ambitious programme of modernization, centred on Tokyo, its new capital.

The UK-Japan Lecture Series, consisting of six lectures held in the UK and Japan, will explore the upheaval, as it played out in the people’s understanding and experience of art, nature and the city. How did these come together in shaping the new capital? How did the Meiji experience leave its mark on city and country in the twentieth century? And how might we draw on this history as we head towards the second Tokyo Olympics in 2020?

The talks are intended to be accessible to those with no prior knowledge of Japanese history.
Admission is free and all are welcome. Booking essential. To book your seat, please follow the link below or email the Sainsbury Institute.

About the lecture series:


24 April 2015 | Cathedral Hostry, Norwich | Professor Julia Adeney Thomas (University of Notre Dame)

30 May 2015 | Meiji Jingu, Tokyo | Professor Inaga Shigemi (International Research Centre for Japanese


14 October 2015 | Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, London | Professor Jordan Sand (Georgetown University)

31 October 2015 | Japanese Nursing Association Hall, Tokyo | Professor Kuroishi Izumi ( Aoyama Gakuin Univeristy)


12 February 2016 | British Museum, London | Dr Sarah Teasley ( Royal College of Art)

19 March 2016 | Kyoto University of Arts and Design, Gaien Campus, Tokyo | Professor Watanabe Toshio (Research Centre for Transnational Art,
Identity and Nation, University of the Arts London)

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


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