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Symbolic Use of Globalization in Urban

Politics in Tokyo
TAKASHI MACHIMURA

Global city formation since the 1980s is not simply a response to economic restructuring;
it is also a political strategy for urban growth in the postfordist era. Cities change not
only as a result of the requirements of global or local capital but also as a result of state
policy at the local and national level (Feagin and Smith, 1987: 17). Nowadays one finds
a surprisingly similar form of global city policies all over the world, particularly in newlyemergent global cities. Indeed, even a passing glance at some political documents reveals
an international tendency toward such policies:
From now to the coming 21st century, it is expected that Tokyo will acquire greater importance
as a world city, by providing a basis for communication at both worldwide and national levels.
To be effective in achieving these goals, Tokyo must resolve the functional paralysis caused by
over-concentration, and make its living conditions more attractive. Presently, as the rapid trend
of transformation into a world city increases an already excessive demand for office space,
Tokyo is facing many new problems, such as the rising price of land in central areas. Greater
supply of space, urban restructuring, and better urban infrastructures and living conditions are
among the tasks to be carried out (Kokudo Shingikai, 1986: 4, authors translation).

This is a draft of a general plan written by the National Commission on Land


Development in 1986. Let us compare it with the case of another emergent world city,
Frankfurt am Main. If the name of the city had not been mentioned, the content could just
as easily have applied to Tokyo, without any alteration:
Frankfurts significance in the network of international metropolises is growing. Global
economic growth has not stopped. The upcurrent in the Asian-Pacific area can be felt in
Frankfurt through growing economic contacts and establishments. And this is only part of the
world that currently is in development. Financial trade has taken over the formerly leading role
of commerce and drives forward the interweaving of the world economy. One of the nodes of
this fabric is Frankfurt, which is on its way from a continental to an international financial
center (Wolfram Brueck, quoted in Keil and Lieser, 1992: 56).

As capital and information networks have connected cities and regions throughout
the world more firmly, the desire to become a critical node within the global system has
spread among major metropolises in the world. Strategies for future urban growth have
taken a more similar form among competing cities. Consequently, delocalization of urban
policy seems to be one of the specific outcomes of globalization. In particular, similar
policy packages for world city or global city status have been designed by various
governments and urban research institutions in different countries and, more interestingly,
these have been influencing each other beyond national boundaries.
But similarity or delocalization do not tell the whole story of urban restructuring. The
actual impacts of globalization always depend upon, and at the same time are regulated

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by, local contexts. No global city story can be understood without reference to the local
processes which give it its substantial form. As globalization changes from an abstract
idea to real forces rooted in a local arena, it acquires special significance as a political
symbol in each local context.
The aim of this article is to analyze both the expected and unexpected consequences
of globalization politics in Tokyo, and in doing so to draw a more diversified picture of
the relationships between the local and the global. Tokyo has often been counted as one of
the major global cities like New York and London. Recently, it has attracted much
attention from various urban scholars due to the drastic changes it has undergone and its
powerful economic influence (Sassen, 1991; Fujita, 1992; Douglass, 1993).
But economic images such as that of an international financial center or one of the
commanding posts of transnational corporations, cannot give us a total view of Tokyos
transformation in this era of globalization. Economic activity is always embedded in a
social and cultural setting. Thus, global city projects will take a unique shape in each city.
For instance, the local impacts of transnational corporations are usually mediated or
framed by the social, cultural and sometimes spatial structures of the cities in which those
corporations are located.
In addition, recent globalization can be seen as a continuation of a long trend of
western dominance possibly its ultimate phase. Tokyo started its modernization history
from a position on the Asian periphery about a century and a half ago, then climbed up
the ladder of growth rapidly to the core of the world economy. Thus, the historical
meaning of globalization clearly differs between Tokyo and other hegemonic western
cities such as New York and London, however similar their economic functions may be.
My argument here is that localism in the era of globalization can take two
contradictory forms: one is resistance to globalization, the other is utilization of
globalization. Because globalization-oriented politics always contains such dualism at the
local level, it cannot be free from perpetual tensions and conflicts, particularly in nonwestern countries where the cultural pressure of globalization tends to be more intense
than in western countries. In this process, the concept of globalization is often biased and
it is usually transformed, whether positively or negatively, into a political symbol by
dominant local actors who seek special benefits from a series of changes. Conflicts over
the definition of globalization reveal both what are the crucial interests for dominant
groups and what is excluded from this political process in a local context.

Globalization as a political ideology


Since the late 1970s, the relationships between global forces and local forces in the urban
restructuring process have been one of the central issues in urban studies (King, 1989).
The debate started from a bold assertion that contemporary urban forms were more
strongly determined by emergent global forces such as transnational corporations, global
capital, and a new international division of labor, than by local forces. Several pioneer
studies broke ground in this new intellectual field (Friedmann and Wolff, 1982;
Friedmann, 1986), although their views on the global impacts on the urban process were
often only illustrative.
These pioneering works were followed by many more descriptive studies which tried
to show an intermingling of the global, national and local forces in each urban setting.
Many studies in this stage can be characterized by this special emphasis on the relative
autonomy of local politics in the process of urban restructuring (Savitch, 1988; Logan and
Swanstrom, 1990; Goetz and Clarke, 1993; Knox and Taylor, 1995; Eade, 1997).
But, before going on to discuss the next stage of theorization, several latent aspects of
the globalization debate should be reconsidered. Globalization provides a common basis
for the activities and experiences of actors in quite different nations by incorporating each

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locality into a more firmly combined global system. But this does not simply lead to the
homogenization of different localities. On the contrary, historical and cultural differences
among cities and regions are often made more apparent than before, and moreover,
political and economic conflicts are sometimes provoked more frequently. Three recent
changes should be noted in relation to these trends of differentiation.
First, the emergent global economy has produced a transborder system of cities and
regions. Each local economy is now incorporated into global dynamics on both a longterm and real-time basis, and significantly new forms of transnational inequality and
global hierarchies have begun to take shape more clearly. Traditional world structures
which have dominated the capitalist economy since the sixteenth century, especially the
center-periphery structure, still prevail in this changing system. But the old structure has
been transformed by the growth of newly industrialized regions such as Japan, South
Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Singapore. Furthermore, global connections among capital
and cities, organized by transnational banks and firms, have generated new hierarchical
orders in the world economy.
Second, the development of a global culture sometimes produces opposing effects on
local cultural scenes. Progress in telecommunications technology, the development of
information industries, and a more mobile population have dispersed a more common
way of life and a more common definition of situations among people of different nations.
But if we take a closer look it is apparent that global culture remains centered in the West,
rooted in particular in American mass culture (Hall, 1991). Therefore, for non-western
nations like Japan, and even for some western nations, the reception of global culture is
accompanied by latent tensions between the indigenous culture based on ethnic traditions
and consumption-oriented mass culture often supported by global capital.
Third, the consequences of drastic changes in international politics after the end of
the cold war should be stressed. From a long-term point of view, an obsolete East-West
relationship may be replaced by a new, more stable framework of international politics.
However, an enthusiastic quest for differences, which were usually suppressed by state
power before, often cause less stable situations at a local level. Political conflicts and
even bloody battles are provoked in the name of ethnic and religious differences.
Indeed, globalizing forces never assume a unitary form in each locality. Global
economy, global culture and global politics do not in fact provide an exclusive
environment for various urban and regional actors. The specificity of the process of
transformation in each area should not be overlooked. Thus we have to tell not a single
story, but different and intermingled stories of globalization at a local level.
Similarly, localism cannot remain untouched and unchanged in the era of
globalization. What is truly important here is that globalization adds several different
meanings to the concept of localism. In order to survive under the global economy, local
actors often have to adjust their political and economic interests to become more flexible
in the face of constantly changing global situations. Unstable and sometimes even
contradictory globalizing forces have to be associated with or incorporated into a
traditional domestic system. Therefore, local actors are usually expected to show an
ability to deal with this process more advantageously and with less friction.
Furthermore, under the growing pressure of cultural homogenization, local actors
have to constantly redefine and reconfirm their identity in order to retain their historical
consistency and cultural uniqueness. In a cultural domain, local actors are expected to
sustain the core of their indigenous culture by way of a constant modification of external
cultures into a more acceptable form. The return to the local is often a response to
globalization (Hall, 1991: 33). Moreover, as Edward Said (1993: xiii) suggested, cultural
and/or religious fundamentalism could be one of the consequences of globalization.
Thus, localism can take, at the same time, two different and often contradictory forms
in the era of globalization. One is localism as a positive adjustment to, or even utilization
of, globalization, and the other is localism as a resistance to globalization. Local political

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Takashi Machimura

actors are expected to manage these contrasting processes simultaneously. Such dualism,
however, often creates and heightens latent tensions in globalization politics at the local
level, particularly in non-western countries where the cultural pressure of globalization
tends to take a more intense form than in western countries.
This is the main reason why contemporary local politics often makes use of
globalization as a political ideology. Because globalization politics at the local level
always contains some unstable factors due to such dualism, local dominant actors who
have a special interest in the consequences of globalization have to demonstrate the
legitimacy of globalization policy to other members of their society. One of the prevailing
options here is to veil this dualistic nature by overemphasizing one side of globalizations
effects. As a result, concepts like globalization or global city act as a political
ideology, which often makes peoples views on actual situations inaccurate at the same
time as it mobilizes them politically. We need to be more attentive to the hidden functions
of globalization.
In order to present this ideological side of globalization, I will discuss two different
issues in Tokyos recent globalization politics. One issue is the urban restructuring
process toward a global city under the booming economy, the other is the response to
growing ethnic diversity. I intend to show that the political processes around these issues
can be understood as conflicting dynamics of this dualism. The concept of globalization
played a specific role as a political symbol in each complicated process.

Turning Tokyo into a global city: complete westernization or


Japanization of the West?
Since the 1980s, the boom in urban restructuring, particularly the quest for global city
formation, has swept over major metropolises from the Atlantic-Rim to the Pacific-Rim,
and from core countries to developing countries in the world economy. And, of course,
Tokyo is no exception to this.
So far as economic and spatial restructuring is concerned, the main story of global
city formation in Tokyo seems to be just like that of other competing cities in the world.
The process of transformation is usually divided into three overlapping phases: a
changing position in the world economy; the economic restructuring of cities; and its
impacts on social and spatial structures.
Tokyo has been a national center for business and finance since the end of the
nineteenth century. Yet, as Sassen pointed out, What has changed since the late 1970s is
the structure of the business and financial sectors, the magnitude of these sectors, and
their weight in the economics of these cities (Sassen, 1991: 168). As a combined result of
the transnationalization of Japanese corporations, a sharp rise in land prices and a
drastically expanding stock market, all of which contributed to a huge accumulation of
capital, Tokyo became one of the major financial centers for international transactions of
capital.
The dense concentration of markets, headquarters of foreign firms and producer
services constitute internationalized spaces at the heart of Tokyo (Sassen, 1991: 169).
Political coalitions for urban restructuring were soon made by national and local
governments, large-scale urban development corporations, and the ruling conservative
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) (Machimura, 1992; 1994). Obsolete industrial areas
located in the inner cities have been cleared and often replaced by postmodern style highrise office buildings, condominiums for high income residents, and prestigious business
parks containing shopping malls, museums and concert halls. Such urban spaces for
commercial and even residential use were incorporated into the cycle of capital
accumulation on a greater scale by both general construction and real estate companies.

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Indeed, these processes seem to be explained completely by the concept of global


city or world city formation. But these analytical terms alone cannot account for the
entire story of Tokyos restructuring. What is important here is that these terms are
constantly being redefined in the local political process and soon come to contain an
ideological connotation. For example, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG),
which once enthusiastically aimed for urban restructuring, often depicted the future
Tokyo as a glorious world city in its general plan.
In the approaching 21st century, Tokyo will continue to develop as a megacity with a population
of twelve million, as a livable city with communication and mutual support among generations,
as a comfortable city with affluent green areas and beautiful waterfronts, and as a harmonious
city with a national and international node of information flow, and a world business center.
This future form of Tokyo as a world city or international city will afford it a leading role in
the world community (Tokyo-To, 1986: 35, authors translation).

Behind such a hotchpotch of urban images, there is an understanding, or actually a


misunderstanding, that what world city formation really means is an ultimate stage of
westernization. Since the late nineteenth century, the quest for an effective and acceptable
combination of indigenous local elements and overwhelmingly powerful western forces
has continued to be one of the most important issues in Tokyos urban politics. In spite of,
or perhaps because of Japans long tradition of isolation policy before its contact with the
capitalist world economy, westernization (ouka) and later internationalization
(kokusaika) were adopted as a national goal by the modernizing elite, and have
consistently been one of the most frequently cited concepts in developmental politics.
Numerous books and reports featuring the concept of global city or world city
were published by governments, both national and local, and various developmentoriented research institutions. Yet most of these fail to discuss any innovative
characteristics of globalization, nor do they contain any systematic analysis of the
changing cities. The principal purpose of this literature was to demonstrate the highly
competitive position of Tokyo by comparing it with major metropolises such as New
York, London and Paris. In spite of frequent references by the government to Tokyo as a
world city or global city its image remains very vague and even unrealistic. Actually
these terms became convenient catchwords which could be used to combine quite
different lines of urban policies.
In short, global city discourse functioned as an urban ideology to propagate the idea
of Tokyos leading position in the world economy to a wide audience. Numerous urban
redevelopment projects, which were actually accelerated by the booming economy and
land speculation, were regarded partly as evidence of an accumulated global function and
partly as infrastructures for future growth in the more competitive global situation. Such
lines of thinking officially gave legitimacy to the attempts to create a built environment
suited to the needs of global capital accumulation by Japanese corporations (Douglass,
1993: 1112). Yet they undoubtedly obscured and even hid existing and emergent social
problems.
The city appears to have entered an advanced stage of development. From the
perspective of economic functions, Tokyo is certainly approaching the position of other
major global cities like New York or London. Yet, however westernized and modernized
Tokyo becomes, it cannot erase its origin as a historic city in East Asia. This recognition
gave rise to two different points of view in urban journalism. One focused on the
uniqueness of Tokyo, arguing that western cities cannot provide an effective and selfcontained model for the future growth of Tokyo. The other, in contrast, still adhered to the
dominance of western elements. Yet the focus sometimes moved from an economic
perspective to a cultural perspective. Tokyo has certainly become one of the worlds
major economic centers, but it still depends heavily upon the cultural hegemony of the
West. From this standpoint, concepts such as Tokyo as a cultural world city are

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emphasized as the next goal of the city (NIRA Seisaku Kenkyu, 1995). Yet such a view
reflects western primacy in urban formation.
Consequently, the growth-oriented elite in the city were faced with the need for a new
and alternative image of the city which could legitimate the ongoing and future changes.
The quest for new stories of Tokyo as a global city started from this point. Currently, the
new images come from rather different roots. However, interestingly, the goals of this
new image production point to a similar direction: the re-Japanization or reAsianization of the westernized city.
First, a new vision of Tokyo was created as a future-oriented, technologically
advanced and often postmodern city. Numerous imaginary plans for the city were
presented by construction and real-estate companies which were competing with each
other for greater business opportunities. These included, for instance, designs for
underground cities, huge artificial islands, super tall buildings and various types of hightech city. Under the booming economy which brought a huge flow of capital to urban
development, a proliferation of postmodern architecture created a symbolic landscape for
this future-oriented city.
These schemes to transform the sea, sky, and subterranean space of the metropolis claim a
mission to remold the drab, jumbled landscape of Tokyo into a high-tech world city in which all
citizens will at last realize the promise of the good life commensurate with Japans economic
achievements (Douglass, 1993: 101).

Evidently it was just a dream. Yet, through the whole history of modern Tokyo, one finds
a multitude of such visionary images of the future city. Since the beginning of its
modernization, Tokyo has repeatedly experienced the destruction and reconstruction of
the built environment because of earthquakes, war and rapid economic growth. For this
high-speed city, the endless transformation seems to be rather a normal process. These
perpetual changes of the built environment have actually thrown the city into
considerable disorder. But negative aspects of the changes have often been hidden by
the marvelous image of the future Tokyo. Such a retreat to the future partly came from a
naive popular belief in endless growth.
Yet another reason is more political and ideological. A structural obsession with
endless change was necessary for both perpetual capital accumulation and the
reproduction of the growth illusion itself. City builders of Tokyo constantly
emphasized the necessity for change, whether it was real and practical or not.
Therefore, from a historical point of view, an emphasis on a postmodern type of
urban dream in bubble-era Tokyo was not an exception but a normal process of
modern urban development.
A second aspect of the new image comes from a quite different direction: from the
past history of Tokyo. The most impressive argument here emphasizes the structural
consistency of the city from pre-modern to modern times. In order to understand the
significance of this argument, we must start with an explanation of the long-accepted
view of the city. For over one hundred years, as stated before, modernization and its
variations such as westernization or industrialization had been one of the primary goals of
the city. As urban transformation took a more radical form, old traits of the historic city
often became a target of total destruction. Such destruction was sometimes carried out
under peremptory state power, but these processes nevertheless needed to be legitimated
by some widely acceptable logic.
For this reason, the cleavage between modern Tokyo and pre-modern Edo the old
name of Tokyo before the Meiji Restoration in 1868 was usually emphasized very
strongly. While modern elements were often seen as evidence of progress, negative views
were almost exclusively associated with the pre-modern era. According to such
reasoning, the destruction of feudal traits was simply a part of the progress towards a
modern city.

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Yet the current transformation, both physical and cultural, has shifted such views on
pre-modern Tokyo in a more positive direction. Physical demolition accelerated by the
recent boom in urban redevelopment has, in a sense, generated popular interest in the
historical identity of the city. The growing interest in postmodernism has also
contributed to a re-evaluation of traditional values and elements. For instance, urban
history has become an attractive genre in journalism, and numerous books on Edos
culture and society have been published since the 1980s (Ogi et al., 1987). Certainly these
trends have offered a new cultural frame for Tokyos image.
More importantly, such changes in historical perspective were taken by the city
government as a cultural basis for its urban restructuring policy. Cultural policies became
one of the most expanding policy areas for the TMG in the bubble era. In order to spread
such an official viewpoint, the government started a campaign of image production in
the late 1980s. A new magazine for Tokyo-based urban culture, Tokyo-Jin, the literal
meaning of which is Tokyo-people, was launched in 1986 with the financial help of the
government. In 1993, a huge postmodern style museum named Edo-Tokyo Museum was
also opened by the TMG. Both of these projects demonstrate a preoccupation with the
historical identity of the city, particularly through the visual representation of urban
culture, and in effect contribute to the invention of tradition.
To date there is still no consensus about the citys new image. Yet these different
arguments have effectively created a utopian image of the city, combining the good old
days of Edo and the glorious future of global city Tokyo. Although these views seem to
go in totally different directions, they are both oriented to the redefinition of the
westernized image of the city in a more domestic context. Interestingly, the reJapanization of the westernized city provided an important context for the discourse
about global city Tokyo after modernism.
Yet a growth-oriented restructuring of the global city constitutes only half the story of
Tokyos transformation. The peculiar combination of the quest for a global city and a
retreat to Japaneseness soon met with another aspect of globalization: the international
migration of labor.

A reluctant transformation into a multi-ethnic global city:


internationalization politics in an uninternational city
From the outset of the studies, a multi-ethnic situation was considered to be one of the
most important characteristics of the global city (Friedmann, 1986). Recently Tokyo has
acquired such a character, though to a lesser extent compared to other major global cities
such as New York and London. This was caused by a sudden influx of foreign population.
In 1980, 114,000 registered foreign residents lived in Metropolitan Tokyo and 82,000
lived in its surrounding area (Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba Prefectures). By the end of
1992 this number had more than doubled in Metropolitan Tokyo (264,000) and more than
tripled in the surrounding area (268,000). However these numbers do not include the
majority of undocumented workers. According to my indirect estimation based on
immigration statistics, their population in 1993 amounted to 84,000 in Metropolitan
Tokyo and 100,000 in its vicinities (Machimura, 1994).
Another aspect of global city formation has its origins in this unexpected change. But,
unlike the case of economic and spatial restructuring, the policy response of local
governments to this multi-ethnic situation is often reluctant and inconsistent. The
openness of local society to foreign culture and populations has long been emphasized as
an official goal by local governments. However, numerous local communities have
remained substantially closed to new members from abroad. Here again, the duality of
localism provides a basic frame of understanding.

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One thread of this story has its root in the idea of internationalization(Kokusaika).
The meaning of this frequently cited term is usually very vague, but the idea of making
society more open to foreign culture is regarded at least as one of its kernels.
Internationalization has been a long-anticipated and attractive goal of public policy at
both national and local levels in Japan.
Along with this general background, the recent economic globalization strengthened
a prevalent belief in internationalization. The city government of Tokyo, which sought
global city status in the global system, repeatedly declared that internationalization
was the most significant goal and would be necessary for the future growth of the city.
Governmental commissions often established policy packages to facilitate the citys
progress towards internationalization.
Both Japanese returning from abroad and foreigners tend to find life in Tokyo inconvenient and
uncomfortable in many ways, due to differences in culture, customs, and the social system, as well
as the language barrier. It is important that foreign residents themselves actively try to learn the
language and understand everyday customs, the rules of community, the legal system, etc. At the
same time, however, we need to reexamine the nature of Japanese society and work to make it
open a society in which persons who are at a disadvantage in some way and those with different
values and customs can all live together, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, as fellow residents.
Such efforts will help smooth the way for the internationalization of the community and make
Tokyo a more people-friendly and attractive city (Tokyo-to, 1994: 17, italics in original).

Yet another and thicker thread of the story is woven by quite different trends. Such a
special emphasis on internationalization can be seen, at the same time, as strong
evidence of the difficulty in its realization. Moreover, when local societies in Tokyo
became really internationalized due to the sudden influx of foreign populations,
particularly from other Asian countries, such internationalization policies soon appeared
not to provide any effective help. As Douglass pointed out, the term internationalization
is a somewhat misleading description of the Japanese Economy. In terms of foreign labor,
investment, or capital stock, there is as yet very little international participation in the
process. The city is not becoming substantially more international in the sense of
openness to a diversity of peoples or to deep cultural exchanges (Douglass, 1993: 111).
Despite a growing economic dependency upon foreign workers, there still exist strong
social and cultural forces to make foreign people invisible and, moreover, to exclude
them from existing communities.
Currently Tokyos urban economy possesses two different faces: one is a postindustrial, or world-city type, but the other is still a substantially manufacturing-based
type. The most critical point is that both of these sectors demanded a low-income labor
force during the economic boom since the middle of the 1980s. Numerous foreign
migrant workers, both legal and illegal, were hired partly as an important substitute for
the shrinking base of young Japanese workers and partly as a less expensive and more
flexible labor force, especially for more competitive small-scale enterprises. Foreign
workers have been increasingly incorporated into the urban labor market of Tokyo.
Local administration, however, remains rather reluctant to create a public system that
would respond appropriately to the growing ethnic diversity. Two reasons in particular
account for this. First, in spite of internationalization policy, the government and
business leaders tend to evaluate the consequences of ethnic diversity from a purely
economic perspective, especially, from a calculation of its economic costs and benefits.
Indeed, the possibility of internationalization often depends upon, and is determined by,
the economic conditions of the city. Foreign workers are preferred in many cases because
they command relatively lower wages and less fringe benefits. A permanent reception of
foreign workers is still often regarded as a negative option because of the expected
increase in economic and social costs such as education, welfare, medical care, security
and cultural conflicts.

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As the Japanese state continues to prohibit an influx of foreign unskilled workers,


with the exception of Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Latin America, the
national and local governments rarely recognize their dependency upon foreign workers
in spite of their growing position in the labor force. Consequently many foreigners still
remain without substantial protection in many policy areas. Moreover, a lot of foreignborn women working in the sex industry have never been regarded as workers who
deserve any legal protection (Ballescas, 1992).
Second, such an economic-centered view is often enhanced by the myth of Japan as
a single-nation country. This deep-rooted ideology has been long intensified by Japans
isolated nature (Oguma, 1996). Yet this does not mean that the nation is really
homogeneous from an ethnic point of view. Indeed, over six hundred thousand Koreans
live as permanent residents within Japanese society. In spite of this fact, such an
ethnocentric ideology has been repeatedly wielded as an argument for sustaining the
existing social order and integration. As a result, the view that foreigners are or should be
only temporary guests still prevails in many localities. The changing ethnic landscape of
Tokyo has gradually undermined the traditional view of homogeneous Tokyo, but to
date it has not led to any firm consensus on a future form of the diversity.
Obviously, there is a sharp cleavage between the image of a glorious global city and
that of a homogeneous city. This contradiction is usually obscured and de-politicized by
the frequent emphasis on a superficial conception of internationalization or global
city. Social and cultural forces are still considerably functioning to make emerging
diversity less visible. Yet, there is no guarantee that such a process of social control will
continue to work in future.
Recently, various ethnic groups have started to develop their own space for economic
and cultural activities in Tokyo (Okuda and Tajima, 1993; 1995; Komai, 1995). Ethnic
diversity is becoming one of the most important characteristics, particularly in the inner
areas of this global city. More fragmented social structures will be, sooner or later, an
inevitable feature of Tokyo. Will such a change lead to a more tolerant atmosphere for the
ethnic minorities? This depends on whether ethnic diversity comes to be more widely
recognized, and thus, whether the ideological veil of internationalization is finally
removed.
Ethnic tensions have also begun to occur in Tokyo. Although they are still less severe
in their appearance than in other major global cities, more diverse issues have entered the
urban political arena. For instance, thousands of Iranian workers had started gathering at a
major public park in central Tokyo every Sunday afternoon from 1990 to 1993. This short
history illustrates how foreign minorities are controlled by local government. After the
end of the Iran-Iraq war, a large number of Iranians came to Japan as target workers from
economically distressed Iran. For Iranian people who were lacking in effective channels
for information exchange, this gathering soon served as a temporary base for a support
network and the consumption of ethnic goods. Yet, after the economic bubble burst, the
occupational status of Iranian workers became less stable in the secondary labor market.
As a result, while public gathering increased in value as a means of exchanging
information and goods, some groups began to use it as a trading area for illegal goods
such as drugs. In April 1993, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government ordered that the
corners of the park where Iranian workers had created small ethnic bazaars should be
closed due to the necessity of gardening. Consequently the Iranians lost a large-scale
public gathering space and they were forced to be less visible to the ordinary Japanese
people.
Once again, we come to the conclusion that a peculiar combination of both resistance
to globalization and positive adjustment to globalization provides a basic frame for
globalization politics at a local level. What is important here is that in Japanese society
there exist social and cultural forces which keep this contradiction hidden from the public
and veil it with a deeply-rooted ideology of social harmony.

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Conclusion
The analysis of these two issues alone does not enable me to draw a total picture of
globalization politics in Tokyo. Three observations can, however, be made here.
First, the impacts of globalization on each locality are shaped by the specific local
and national context, particularly, by the political process. Global city formation is not
merely a reception of globalizing forces by local actors, but a more dynamic process.
Urban actors define the boundary between what is global and what is local, choose global
forces which may give benefits to them, incorporate these global factors into existing
structures, and give a legitimacy to the outcomes by mobilizing various political symbols.
In Tokyo, these processes have been dominated by the political coalition made-up of
growth-oriented governments at both national and local levels, urban developers and a
ruling conservative party.
Second, as Tokyo developed globally-oriented economic functions, paradoxically a
locally-rooted image of society and culture began to gain a more substantial or symbolic
importance. As Castells observed in his analysis of European cities, The separation
between these two (global and local) levels of our new reality leads to a structural urban
schizophrenia that threatens our social equilibrium and our quality of life (Castells, 1994:
301). But in the case of Tokyo, even such a separation is obscured by the strongly biased
image of global city or internationalization and, as a consequence, is not widely
recognized yet. Ironically, the restructuring strategy toward a global city seems to be
more directly connected to the ideology of the historical consistency of the city image. A
serious and productive debate on the future ethnic diversity is effectively suppressed by
the ideology of internationalization itself. This paradox is one of the most salient
features of globalization politics in Tokyo.
Third, the story of globalization is usually quite different between western and nonwestern societies for historical and geopolitical reasons. Certainly globalization means a
specific phase in which different countries and regions are thrown into a more
interdependent and firmly organized international system, and come to share more or less
similar values and interests in common. Yet these values and interests are neither neutral
nor ahistorical. In most cases they have a strong western bias, or are at least shaped by
western-centered institutions such as transnational corporations or the global mass media.
Therefore the meaning of the global, in reality, heavily depends upon the geographical
and cultural location of interpreters and decision-makers. Even globality has individual
local positions. On this point, as described here, the case of Tokyo presents a very
interesting example because of its enigmatic position.
The analysis has to answer one basic question: Is Tokyos globalization politics a
unique case among contemporary major capitalist cities? My answer to this is partly yes,
but in the main no. As often pointed out, Tokyo was quite unique in terms of the historical
course of its development in the capitalist world economy. In the postwar period, Japan
achieved rapid economic growth through the transformation of the whole nation into a
huge production line of manufacturing industries. The development state certainly
succeeded in increasing its influence in the world economy, but Tokyo at its center had
for a long time remained relatively untouched by the pattern of urban land use. Urban
restructuring in the 1980s was enormously stimulated by the economic bubble caused by
soaring land prices. And this in turn was significantly accelerated by the expanding gap
between the growing demand for space for managing global functions and a limited
supply of available space.
Yet an overemphasis on its unique position can also lead to misunderstanding. Tokyo
is not a unique case, but one of many typical cases. In the changing world economy,
Tokyo in the 1980s was a symbolic example of emerging global cities. In particular,
Tokyos case suggests the necessity of a historical and cultural analysis of global cities,

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Symbolic use of globalization in urban politics in Tokyo

193

especially of non-western types of global city. In the 1990s, however, Tokyo lost its
financial primacy in a more competitive Asian economy, and global city stories seem to
be dispersing among other rapidly growing Asian cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong,
Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and others. Therefore, we must pay more attention
not only to the westernization of non-western elements but also to the nonwesternization of western elements, particularly in the broader Asian context (Kim et
al., 1977).
Paradoxically, in an increasingly interdependent global economy and with the rise of
the supranational state, local governments appear to be at the forefront of the management
of the new urban contradictions and conflicts (Castells, 1994: 31). Global changes cannot
take shape without local and regional bases. Castells emphasized the roles of local
government and civil society in the era of globalization. Localism can be a political basis
for the effective and fair management of civil society. And yet, under some conditions,
such a basis can easily turn to a political apparatus which just mystifies the urban reality.
Does the current globalization process pave the way to less hierarchical structures in
global formation? Or is it just the beginning of a new type of global dominance?
Comparative analysis of localism is required for further investigation of the present global
system.
Takashi Machimura (cs00035@srv.cc.hit-u.ac.jp), Faculty of Social Sciences,
Hitotsubashi University, 2-1 Naka, Kunitachi, Tokyo 186-8601, Japan.

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