The hybridization of ideas on public parks: introduction of Western thought and practice into nineteenth-century Japan

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This paper explores the ways in which Western ideas of public parks were introduced to Japan in the 1860s and 1870s. It concerns ways that Western ideas were transmitted and adopted in Japan, where ideas were introduced from various Western sources and hybridized within the society adopting them. It discusses how the modern urban feature of the public park was employed in the process of modernizing Japanese society and its cities, by focusing on the events leading to the creation of open space amenities in the Yokohama foreign settlement, and by examining the process by which the new type of space called ‘park’ as well as the notion of ‘public’ were understood over the Meiji restoration. The paper outlines cultural and social aspects of Japanese traditions that emerged through dialogues with modernization, as possible reasons for their struggles to translate and adopt Western discourses of a public park. First, Japan's own long history of garden design complicated Japanese acceptance of various styles of park, which were derived through each social backgrounds of Western countries. Second, the idea of public was confused with that of the state, particularly in the middle of the dramatic political and social changes occurring in Japanese society, in the process of translating the term ‘public’.

Keywords: Meiji restoration; Yokohama Park; Yokohama foreign settlement; public; translation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering,Hokkaido University, Japan

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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