Book Announcement: Modern Kyoto: Building for Ceremony and Commemoration, 1868-1940

Modern Kyoto: Building for Ceremony and Commemoration, 1868–1940
Alice Y. Tseng

Can an imperial city survive, let alone thrive, without an emperor? Alice Y. Tseng answers this intriguing question in Modern Kyoto, a comprehensive study of the architectural and urban projects carried out in the old capital following Emperor Meiji’s move to Tokyo in 1868. Tseng contends that Kyoto—from the time of the relocation to the height of the Asia-Pacific War—remained critical to Japan’s emperor-centered national agenda as politicians, planners, historians, and architects mobilized the city’s historical connection to the imperial house to develop new public architecture, infrastructure, and urban spaces. Royal births, weddings, enthronements, and funerals throughout the period served as catalysts for fashioning a monumental modern city fit for hosting commemorative events for an eager domestic and international audience.

Using a wide range of visual material (including architectural plans, postcards, commercial maps, and guidebooks), Tseng traces the development of four core areas of Kyoto: the palaces in the center, the Okazaki Park area in the east, the Kyoto Station area in the south, and the Kitayama district in the north. She offers an unprecedented framework that correlates nation building, civic boosterism, and emperor reverence to explore a diverse body of built works. Interlinking microhistories of the Imperial Garden, Heian Shrine, Lake Biwa Canal, the prefectural library, zoological and botanical gardens, main railway station, and municipal art museum, among others, her work asserts Kyoto’s vital position as a multifaceted center of culture and patriotism in the expanding Japanese empire.

Table of contents:

Chapter one: A new imperial garden and imperial shrine
Chapter two: Beginnings of a cultural park in Okazaki
Chapter three: Enthronements and exhibitions
Chapter four: Commemorative projects as urban landmarks

For more information, please see

Alice Y. Tseng is associate professor of history of art and architecture at Boston University


About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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