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close this bookEmerging World Cities in Pacific Asia (UNU, 1996, 528 pages)
close this folderPart 2. Changing Asia-Pacific world cities
close this folderThe Japanese urban system and the growing centrality of Tokyo in the global economy
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentJapanese urbanization in perspective: An overview, 1955-1991
View the documentFunctional and structural changes
View the documentNew growth upon new accumulation: The Capital Tokyo Metropolitan Area
View the documentNew agglomeration and ''Tokyo problems''
View the documentFuture prospects and policy implications
View the documentReferences
View the documentAppendix

Future prospects and policy implications

This section will conclude the analytical review of the transitional process of the Japanese urban and regional system since the 1980s, with special emphasis on the hyper-concentration in the Capital Tokyo Metropolitan Area.

The mega-city of Tokyo is still growing rapidly, and its development is even accelerated in order to attract more key urban functions to the area. Where is the future for Tokyo, then?

First, in terms of physical space, there are two potentially available locations for further development. One comprises the eastern and northern parts of the metropolis, namely such prefectures as Chiba and Ibaragi. The other lies in the middle of the city centre, where obsolete infrastructure and old housing stock need to be redeveloped (figs. 4.9 and 4.10). Waterfront developments, however, will be more experimental, rather than substantial, providing models for the future. If these two different types of development are appropriately linked and coordinated, then Tokyo will still be able to offer vigorous urban dynamism.

Second, in terms of policy implications, the future lies in successful decentralization, which must be tackled on three different geographical scales.

Fig. 4.9 The potential area for further development en Tokyo Metropolitan Area (Source: National Land Agency, White Paper on National Land Use, 1990)

First, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been advocating effective decentralization within the central business districts, providing multiple business centres around the present highly congested business areas. The Metropolitan Government demonstrated its determination by moving its governmental office from the crowded Marunouchi area to the new business centre in Shinjuku, while leaving the waterfront development on the Bay for the future.

Second, the Governors of the Capital Tokyo Metropolitan Area and the National Land Agency work together to promote intra-metropolitan decentralization. Policy initiatives have been launched, and the means to achieve the goal are twofold. One is to establish an effective transportation system, linking all radiating, uni-centred highway systems through a layered belt highway system, so that key urban functions can be widely distributed over the metropolitan area (fig. 4.11). The other is to redistribute the business centres themselves over the area, linking them to each other with high-tech-based telecommunications networks and rapid transit systems, thus creating reverse commuting flows. The functions of government and business headquarters/administration are expected to disperse (fig. 4.12).

Fig. 4.10 The area requiring redevelopment in Tokyo Metropolitan Area (Source: National Land Agency, White Paper on National Land Use, 1990)

Fig. 4.11 A schematic highway network plan of Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Fig. 4.12 A schematic multi-centred structural plan of Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Third, at the national level, the National Land Agency and the various ministries have been coordinating to redesign the inter-metropolitan network, by promoting the accumulation of central urban functions in other metropolitan areas and regional metropolises. Osaka, Nagoya, and Sendai are viable candidates to become alternatives to Tokyo with respect to key functions, including governmental functions. Since the middle of the 1980s, serious debates on the possibility of transferring the nation's capital have been under way.

All in all, to what extent these planning efforts to decentralize the urban system are successful will be highly dependent upon how effectively decentralization at the three different levels is coordinated.

Finally, after stating all these needs for decentralization, one special comment should be added on the paradox of decentralization.

Centralization and decentralization both occur in a system, and, by definition, change in one subsystem will inevitably generate repercussions in the rest of the system. Decentralization at one level of the system often triggers centralization at different levels and/or in other parts of system. The decentralization of international financial transactions into a bipolar system triggered hyper-concentration in Tokyo. If Tokyo overcomes its centralization problems and successfully decentralizes its functions over the intra- and inter-metropolitan system, then this will create similar hyper-concentrations in, say, the Osaka or Sendai metropolitan areas. Furthermore, if Tokyo becomes decentralized, then its potential to attract business and other urban functions will inevitably rise, thus a new concentration will undoubtedly come into play again. Any policy effort towards decentralization should take into account its "self-defeating" nature. Perhaps the present planning practice of "choking and easing" might be one politically as well as economically viable means to accomplish longer-term reorganization and adjustment.