The Metabolist Imagination

Visions of the City in Postwar Japanese Architecture and Science Fiction

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William O. Gardner

BOOK PREVIEW—We’ve provided a sample of the full-text here for review purposes.

The devastation of the Second World War gave rise to imaginations both utopian and apocalyptic. In Japan, a fascinating confluence of architects and science fiction writers took advantage of this space to begin remaking urban design. In The Metabolist Imagination, William O. Gardner explores the unique Metabolism movement, which allied with science fiction authors to foresee the global cities that would emerge in the postwar era.

This first comparative study of postwar Japanese architecture and science fiction builds on the resurgence of interest in Metabolist architecture while establishing new directions for exploration. Gardner focuses on how these innovators created unique versions of shared concepts—including futurity, megastructures, capsules, and cybercities—making lasting contributions that resonate with contemporary conversations around cyberpunk, climate change, anime, and more.

The Metabolist Imagination features original documentation of collaborations between giants of postwar Japanese art and architecture, such as the landmark 1970 Osaka Expo. It also provides the most sustained English-language discussion to date of the work of Komatsu Sakyō, considered one of the “big three” authors of postwar Japanese science fiction. These studies are underscored by Gardner’s insightful approach—treating architecture as a form of speculative fiction while positioning science fiction as an intervention into urban design—making it a necessary read for today’s visionaries.

Background photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash


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    The University of Minnesota Press gratefully acknowledges the Suntory Foundation for its support of this publication.

    The University of Minnesota Press gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance provided for the publication of this book by the Connie Hungerford Fund of the Provost’s Office of Swarthmore College.

    Portions of chapter 1 and chapter 3 were previously published in “Narratives of Collapse and Generation: Komatsu Sakyō’s Disaster Novels and the Metabolist Movement,” in “Beyond Fukushima: Culture, Media, and Meaning from Catastrophe,” special issue, Japan Forum 26, no. 3 (2014): 306–24. Portions of chapter 2 were previously published in “From Parody to Simulacrum: Japanese SF, Regionalism, and the Inauthentic in the Early Works of Komatsu Sakyō and Tsutsui Yasutaka,” in “Three Asias: Japan, South Korea, China,” special issue, Paradoxa 22 (2010): 65–76. An earlier version of chapter 4 was published as “The 1970 Osaka Expo and/as Science Fiction,” in “Expo ’70 and Japanese Art: Dissonant Voices,” special issue, Review of Japanese Culture and Society 28 (December 2011): 26–43.

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    University of Minnesota Press
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    Minneapolis, MN
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    Regents of the University of Minnesota