Emergent Tokyo

Emergent Tokyo: DESIGNING THE SPONTANEOUS CITY ISBN:978-1-951541-32-3 https://oroeditions.com/product/emergent-tokyo


(2024-03-07) Smith Why Japanese Cities Are Such Nice Places To Live

Scott Sumner on Emergent Tokyo. I recently read a very interesting book on urban planning (or lack of planning) in Tokyo, entitled Emergent Tokyo

Much of Tokyo’s dynamism comes from the spontaneous way it developed:

As the Japanese government attempted to rebuild their devastated capital city, they initially drafted a comprehensive plan, but soon concluded that they lacked the budget to carry it out. And so, in areas where neither the government nor the country’s real-estate and transportation mega-corporations could properly fund reconstruction efforts, whole neighborhoods instead rapidly rebuilt themselves

Because of Japan’s light touch zoning it is relatively easy to build housing in Tokyo, and thus the city is not as “unaffordable” as you might expect.

Netflix has a charming Japanese TV series called Midnight Diner, which shows a tiny bar similar to those discussed in this book.

PS. After writing this post, I came across an interesting NYT story on Tokyo housing: Two full-time workers earning Tokyo’s minimum wage can comfortably afford the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in six of the city’s 23 wards.

By contrast, two people working minimum-wage jobs cannot afford the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in any of the 23 counties in the New York metropolitan area

Some cities, like Singapore and Vienna, have bucked the trend by using public money to build affordable housing. Almost 80 percent of Singapore residents live in public housing.

In Tokyo, by contrast, there is little public or subsidized housing. Instead, the government has focused on making it easy for developers to build.

Benjamin Bansal: Book review: Emergent Tokyo: Designing the Spontaneous City. This model holds important lessons for other cities in the world, but it is one that is increasingly under threat.

dense low-rise neighbourhoods (chapter 6), which are defined as having a population density of more than 20,000 people per km2 and a preponderance of low-rise, wooden residential housing stock that is often mixed-use and of a low vintage

What, then, are the salient features of Tokyo’s ‘emergent urbanism’? The authors mainly define it by what it is not, that is, corporate-led urbanism

How can the conditions for the emergence of such phenomena be created? The book closes with some preliminary answers (pp. 215–217).

A vibrant and decentralised small-scale manufacturing sector – the essential but often overlooked labour-intensive side of the Japanese economic miracle – anchored well-paying jobs to local neighbourhoods

A set of ‘generic’ neighbourhood features sprang up organically as the city expanded, for example, public baths, restaurants and small retail, the latter being protected by law from the competition of big business.

Since the 1980s, the balance between bottom-up and top-down has tilted progressively towards the latter, as the book can amply demonstrate throughout its pages

Besides being a clearly articulated manifesto for those trying to preserve Tokyo’s emergent properties, Emergent Tokyo helps distil lessons for other cities. Arguably, these are most relevant to developing (mega-)cities given that the Tokyo model’s main features came about during the post-war developmental state period

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