Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Business Community and Urban Politics in Late 19th Century Tokyo

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Amaltas, Lower Ground Floor

This paper examines the transformation of the political structure of 19th century Edo/Tokyo by focusing on the development of its business community. While previous research has illustrated the city’s growth in detail, it has not fully accessed the impact of two major events involving Japan and East Asia; the opening of Japanese ports to trade in 1859 and the Sino-Japanese war in 1894-1895.


Being geographically close to Yokohama, the designated port to be opened in 1859, Edo (renamed as Tokyo after the Meiji Restoration in 1868) was directly affected by the start of foreign trade. Elite entrepreneurs involved in the trade, many of whom were the former samurai and came from outside Tokyo, quickly outgrew local merchants after the restoration. Most of them did not enter the newly established city assembly, but their relations with the assembly were stable for the first two decades. Their relations, however, significantly worsened after the economic growth following the Sino-Japanese war. A large host of new entrepreneurs challenged the hegemony of elite entrepreneurs, and the latter incorporated the former by strengthening the function of their community as an interest group. This step eventually caused them to clash with the city assembly over a tax hike plan, which greatly destabilized the city’s governance.


Drawing on Tokyo’s administrative archives, letters and newspaper articles, this paper places the city’s urban development process in a broader context, as well as exploring the changing self-image of the city related to other cities within and beyond national borders.

Maho Ikeda

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Japan

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1 - Business Community and Urban Politics in Late 19th Century Tokyo



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