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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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

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Singapore

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 

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Qatar

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.

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Politics of the Global Economy

I am about half way in the second time teaching this course at Temple University here in Tokyo. It’s certainly already been one of the highlights of my time here in Japan, and nicely complements my rather scholarly pursuits at GRIPS.

temple

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