The Japanese House after 1945

A major exhibition on Japanese single family homes is still on for a few days here in Tokyo. I did not manage to see the same show’s version on in London (nor Rome) a few months back, but bought both catalogues to compare.

Inside shot from the MOMAT exhibition

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Five-year anniversary

It’s been five years to the day that I started writing this blog, in Tokyo. Herewith a look back at some of the highlights and ideas for the future. Some of it may come across as a big tap on my own shoulder, so read on being warned.

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Tokyo as a slum, continued

A few weeks ago I discussed the concept of “Tokyo as a slum” and how apt it is to describe living conditions in the postwar period. This is important if we are to glean how useful Tokyo’s experience is to today’s emerging megacities. A more fitting description, I found, may be that of “shared space poverty”. I took a good look at the 1963 Housing Survey for data to support that line of thinking.

1963 construction on the Metropolitan Expressway (photo source)

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Tokyo public finance

I have been wading through historical budget data for the 23 wards here in Tokyo. To many, nothing could be more dry. However, I think that understanding public finance in the first megacity holds an important key in explaining the city’s success.

Tokyo as seen from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

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London social housing

I spent most of August in Europe. This included two weeks in London, where I stayed with my in-laws in the southeast as usual. This time I managed to get off the DLR and walked past two of the most important postwar social housing projects. These two are the Balfron Tower and Robin Hood Gardens.

Robin Hood Gardens

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UR Research Institute

My university, as part of their fantastic summer program, kindly organized a tour to the Urban Renaissance Agency Technology Research Institute the other day. The most relevant aspect to my research was the Housing Apartment History Hall. Here, some landmark apartments from what to most appear like faceless concrete blocks have been lovingly rebuilt.

Inside Maekawa’s Harumi Apartments

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Greenwashing?

I attended a short event at UNU here in Tokyo yesterday. Erik Solheim, head of the UN’s Environmental Programme, conversed with the audience. I couldn’t but feel a little exasperated upon leaving.

For lack of a better photo, this scene from rural Burma

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Tokyo as a slum

I re-read Matias’s and Rahul’s article on “When Tokyo Was A Slum” on Next City. It makes a good qualitative case as to why the city’s incremental, unplanned growth post-WWII may hold lessons for today’s developing cities. I looked for some quantitative substantiation of their claim that indeed Tokyo was a slum. Here is what I dug up.

Meguro-ku, seen from Town Hall

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Why does Japan have so many retail stores?

…goes the title of a relatively old paper by Professor David Flath, who  teaches economics at Ritsumeikan University these days. As I study Tokyo’s postwar history and, as part of that, am interested in the density of retail stores, it’s worth summing up the main points and adding a few more thoughts. The high density of retail is a phenomenon that despite several years of de-densification stays roughly intact today.

Evening conbini scene, Nakano-ku

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