Settling Sapporo: City and State in the Global Nineteenth Century
Thornton, Michael Alan
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AbstractIn this thesis, I investigate the role of citybuilding in the colonization of Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, during the nineteenth century. Using archival sources from the United States and Japan, I explore five spatial strategies deployed by the Japanese state to assert its control over the region: planning for a new capital; mapping the city; encouraging and controlling migration to the city; administering the city; and modeling new forms of agricultural practice in the city for use throughout the wider colony. I consider the debates and contests that characterized all these strategies, and illustrate their importance in turning Sapporo from a riverside outpost of two houses into the indisputed capital of the region. I argue that Sapporo was essential as a centralized site of power and authority for a settler-colonial Japanese regime.
Despite the strong role of the state, ordinary people—whether Indigenous Ainu or settler Japanese—made their own way in the young town. High levels of transience, temporary residence, and disorder characterized Sapporo’s early years, and its frontier location meant that the rule of law often had to be modified to encourage settlement. Yet this frontier location did not mean isolation: flows of people, ideas, and plant matter connected Sapporo to the rest of Japan, and further afield. Its founding and development took place in a world that was become much more closely connected by the second half of the century. Sapporo’s functions, therefore, evolved from a version of Japan’s early modern castle towns toward the central node in a modernizing bureaucratic apparatus that envisioned a much more powerful state role in territorial expansion in northern Japan.
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