Organized Panel Session
This paper examines the discursive, economic, and material ramifications of what local boosters termed the “Age of the Pacific” in interwar Yokohama (1918-1941). The decades between the World Wars dramatically reshaped Yokohama’s overseas commercial networks, as global and domestic economic shocks throughout the 1920s and a devastating earthquake in 1923 severely disrupted the silk export markets on which the port’s economy heavily relied. As Yokohama’s local government, business, and media leaders scrambled to restore their city’s economic footing amidst these crises, they envisioned a coming “Age of the Pacific” in which the locus of global economic activity shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and in which Yokohama transformed from a port reliant on U.S. and European markets to a central player in a new, Pacific-wide web of commercial networks. This imagined future economic geography was predicated on parallel claims to Yokohama’s position at the heart of the Japanese economy due to its proximity to the capital of Tokyo, as well as Yokohama’s exceptionalism within the Japanese empire as the birthplace of “modern Japan” and arbiter of Japan’s integration into the global economy. Through the local mass media, civic events, tourist guides, and government and business periodicals, these local boosters pursued a new place for Yokohama in geographies of global commerce by rebuilding its economy around new bases in industrial manufacturing and tourism from the 1920s until the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941.