The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty-First Century

The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty-First Century

The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty-First Century

The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty-First Century

Synopsis

This is a comprehensive analysis of urbanization and planning in Japan. It describes the development of the Japanese urban system from the 19th century to the present, examining issues such as the evolution of urban planning.

Excerpt

The terrorist attacks against North American cities on 11 September 2001 have been followed by war in Afghanistan. A remarkable international coalition of governments, centred on the United States, is working by a variety of means to combat terrorism, and at this time of writing the coalition is holding together. Public opinion in several countries participating in the coalition is, however, more ambivalent.

The danger of creating more terrorists by combating terrorism is serious. But the effort to press on with the anti-terrorist campaign - by bombing raids on cities if necessary - is justified in terms of the “defence of the civilised world” against the dark forces of fundamentalism and terror. The notion of “civilisation” has come back into our vocabulary in a big way since 11 September. But it transcends the narrow definitions of that term used by writers such as Toynbee and Huntington; it is seen as embracing, potentially at least, the greater part of mankind. In practice, however, “civilisation” does not fit easily with those hundreds of millions of people who cannot escape from dire poverty, intolerance and exploitation. Unless these problems are tackled with determination and intelligence, it should surprise nobody that terror will be used to horrifying effect against the world deemed “civilised”.

In all significant senses Japan today is part of our “civilised world”. The average standard of living of the Japanese people is high. The GNP of Japan is second only to that of the United States, and is larger than the combined GNP of all the other countries of Asia. Even the economy of China, though attracting much attention for the rapidity of its growth, is many times smaller than that of Japan. The national interests of Japan, taking a hard-nosed view, lie with the interests of the advanced countries and their broad set of economic, political, social and moral values. Japan in most ways is an open democratic society. Since the early 1990s she has been suffering from severe problems of economic and political mismanagement. In the broadest of terms the problem is one of a painful transition from one form of political economy to another. The process of transition is far from over and mismanagement has cost the economy dear. Japan is also faced by deeper structural problems, including that of a rapidly ageing population. Nevertheless, the key point is that this is a gigantic economy having enormous international weight.

The Japanese, being a proud people and heirs to an ancient civilisation, have long been concerned to map out their own path in the world, and this creates a certain tension with the trends of globalisation so apparent in the world today. Nevertheless, Japan is slowly forging her own set of compromises whereby assimilation to essential global norms of behaviour is tempered by the maintenance of structures and practices based on its own cultural experiences. The next stage, however, in which Japanese expertise and commitment are desperately needed, is in the long and painful task of mitigating and eventually eliminating,

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