Urban Space as a Factor of Production

The first of hopefully 3-4 articles drawn from my PhD finally got published with Social Science Journal Japan, a journal run by the University of Tokyo and distributed by OUP. It’s taken a little (!) longer than expected due to my day job as well as general COVID-induced turmoil in all our lives. Anyway, I will put up a proper post celebrating this moment. For now, you can read the abstract below and find the full article here.

Urban Space as a Factor of Production: Accounting for the Success of Small Factories in Postwar Tokyo

This paper demonstrates that small manufacturing firms in postwar Tokyo were exceptionally successful. Not only were they more productive than their national peers, they were also remarkably competitive vis-à-vis large factories in Tokyo. The existing explanations for this double outperformance do not take full account of the urban setting in which this process took place. Small factories compensated for higher labor costs by being more efficient users of urban space. They thrived thanks to Tokyo’s particular urban form, which included a preference for mixed use and often blurred the boundaries between living and workplace. Small factories also benefited from being embedded in the relatively egalitarian structure of postwar Tokyo, as the city avoided spatial stratification despite megacity growth. Although Tokyo’s small factories remain important, their competitive edge has eroded from the 1970s onward.

Manuscript ideas

Economic history has a long shelf-life when it comes to the data, but needs to be read in a changing context. Besides taking stock of my research, I want to interrogate myself what impact COVID-19 may have on a future monologue.

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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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Tokyo housing supply

Tokyo’s skyline is set to see 45 new skyscrapers by the 2020 Olympics, Bloomberg reports. Such heightened construction activity is seen as evidence of 1) the effectiveness of Abenomics, 2) building regulations that encourage new construction and 3) a generally competitive rental market that leads to lower rents. How much truth is there in this?

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Thirty years and nothing changed? 

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Tokyo inequalities – background

What follows is the first post in a series on manifestations of inequality in postwar Tokyo. In these, I plan to cover living conditions and income inequalities across the different wards, at different points in time. Before going into the data that I collected over the past couple of days (and continue to collect), however, a few general words on inequality in Japan.

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Income inequality trends, as per Iyoda Mitsuhiko (1991)

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