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close this bookUnited Nations University - Work in Progress Newsletter - Volume 13, Number 3, 1991(UNU, 1991, 12 pages)
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentCities in the 21 st century - The urban half
View the documentThe pathology of the city
View the documentNew strategies for urban poverty
View the documentLopsided modernization and the urban poor
View the documentUrban transport and urban growth
View the documentThe hub of Japan
View the documentThe land game
View the documentShaping Tokyo for the future
View the documentSeoul: Still a metropolis in the making
View the documentAsia's growing urban rings
View the document"A giant supermarket..." - Is there anything good about mega-cities?
View the documentThe emerging world city system
View the documentUNU update

Shaping Tokyo for the future

By Hisatake Togo

The three wards of Tokyo's central business district have a daytime population of some 2.5 million. As night falls, nearly nine out often people leave for their homes elsewhere, on packed commuter trains which, every year, deposit them farther away from their downtown place of work. The need to decentralize the business community now so tightly and expensively packed into downtown Tokyo, argues Hisatake Togo, is an urgent priority for Japan. Dr. Togo is Managing Director of the Tokyo Institute for Municipal Research. - Editor

The major administrative task for Tokyo, as far as its urban structure is concerned, can be simply put: to transform the present centralized structure into a multi-centred one that balances both work and home - and to look forward to a 21 st century Tokyo that is a pleasant city in which to live. Such a multi-centred structure would check the further concentration of business functions in the inner city, disperse these functions to sub-centres, and produce a city in which the relationship between workplace and home are more rationally balanced.

This concept has been made clear in several long-term plans advanced over the last decade by the Tokyo metropolitan government. But in implementing such plans, a number of policy considerations arise - that involve, for example, the promotion of desirable land uses and the development of a transportation network to support urban activities. Would it make more sense to give priority to the restriction of business functions in the central area, or to the development of new areas, away from the inner city, to accommodate such functions? Both might be desirable goals - but realistically impossible to implement at the same time.

Two Pressing Issues: Government Offices, the Bay Area

Two of the most pressing issues facing Tokyo at the moment are the relocation of the metropolitan government offices and the development of a waterfront sub-centre along Tokyo Bay.

In September 1985, Tokyo Governor Shunichi Suzuki presented a proposal to the Metropolitan Assembly for the relocation of the metropolitan government office (which will be known as City Hall) to Shinjuku, one of the city's major sub-centres. The new government office was opened in April of this year.

This relocation is in accordance with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's idea of diverting business functions from the central area, first outlined in the national Capital Region Development Plan over three decades ago in 1958. It is hoped that such a move will serve as a pilot project in the conversion of Tokyo's urban structure into a more multi-centred one.

The Waterfront: Reclaiming Tokyo Bay

The past decade has seen a rapidly increasing conversion of previously residential sites in the downtown areas to office space. The process has been accelerated by the internationalization of Tokyo and its recognition as a key nodal point in global communications, financial and otherwise. With this change, however, has come a distortion of the city's traditional role as a place to live, work and relax.

To help counter this, the metropolitan government has been encouraging businesses to relocate in the waterfront area along Tokyo Bay, with the anticipation that it will also supply housing. The basic plan for the development of the waterfront sub-centre was announced in March 1988. It is hoped that this will lead to the establishment of a totally new Tokyo sub-centre - often referred to as a "city of the future."

The waterfront plan calls for the creation of a sub-centre with a proper balance of employment, residential and leisure facilities on 448 hectares of reclaimed land. Eventually, it is anticipated that the waterfront project will house 60,000 people and provide employment for some 110,000 workers. A key concept is that of creating a comfortable space, where diverse urban functions are effectively and systematically anticipated. There will be facilities for business activities, such as the Tokyo Teleport and an international exhibition site, along with urban housing and cultural and recreational facilities.

A view of Tokyo's Shinjuku district

Undoing the Centralized Society

Over the last 100 years, Japan has permitted Tokyo to expand into a huge metropolis, out of a desire to create a centralized society. Today, however, as the harmful effects of excessive centralization become more and more apparent, the notion that society needs to decentralize is gaining acceptance. Changing the structure of the Tokyo Metropolitan Region into a multi-centred one is a difficult task - but we have made a start. The wisdom which we will draw upon from the participants in this conference - representing large cities around the world - will help us shape our future.