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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

On spatial inequality

Spatial inequalities refer to the uneven distribution of resources across space, i.e. that it varies depending on location. Examples of this are the uneven distribution of income, access to health, or availability of shopping outlets. The following looks at some of the main concepts and issues, including how to measure spatial inequalities.

Tokyo as seen from atop Roppongi Hills

Continue reading


Flights back to Europe from Japan are hellishly expensive in the summer. This year, we found a good deal from Singapore to London, and back to Tokyo (via Qatar, as written about here). A great opportunity to get to know the Southeast Asian entrepot for a few days.

Singapore National Museum 

Continue reading


A very brief stopover, owing to the flight routing but also a long-held dream, was Qatar. Here, we stayed overnight, and had the chance to visit the marvelous Museum of Islamic Art and reflect a little on this part of the world, at this very point in time.

Continue reading