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July 1, 2022

Rediscovering Japanese Urban Space in a World Context

Oshima, Ken Tadashi. (2016). Rediscovering Japanese Urban Space in a World Context. Journal Of Urban History, 42(3), 623 – 633.

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Counter to the rise of the modern metropolis in Japan in the era of high-speed growth following World War II, a movement to embrace elements of traditional townscapes that had been lost as rational urban planning took hold from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. During this period, the realities of large-scale urban development and increasing urban problems would eventually expose the limitations of functional planning and the need to preserve traditional structures and townscapes. While architects like Bruno Taut had praised the virtues of the farmhouse villages at Shirakawago in the 1930s and Yoshida Tetsur presented traditional Japanese architecture to an international audience as contemporary design before World War II, among others, the discourse subsequently shifted from Japanese objects and structures to urban space in the postwar period. This discourse on Japanese urban space would lead to the publication of Nihon no toshi kukan (Japanese Urban Space) in 1963 (1968 as a book) that presented the work of the Toshi dezain kenkyutai (Urban Design Research Group) including Isozaki Arata (1931-) and architectural historian It Teiji (1922-2010). This article analyzes the origins and implications of this work through a plethora of subsequent design surveys throughout Japan and other trajectories of research and design of Japanese urban space from the 1960s to the present.


Japanese Urban Space; Urban Landscape; Serial Vision; Imageability; Design Survey