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NEWS
2013.02.28

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Exploring the Contradictions in Tokyofs Recent Trajectoryv

 

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Few cities in the world (outside China) have an urban landscape that has changed so dramatically as Tokyofs has in the last 30 years. Not only do high-rise buildings populate the cityfs sub-centres and interstitial  parts of the city centre, but many residential areas have become predominantly high and medium rise. In this talk I will introduce four recent papers that I have written in order, first, to present one personfs view of some of the contradictions behind these changes and, secondly, to reflect on some of possible interpretations in theoretical terms. Behind this talk lies a desire to address a fundamental difficulty in thinking and writing about Tokyo and other large Japanese cities: to what extent is it appropriate to deploy a critical lens honed in the eWestf to comment on changing urban conditions in Japan? The talk begins with an examination of the heady days of the 1980s and their continuation (in terms of changing urban landscape) in the 1990s. It discusses the changing face and image of the city. Tokyo became in a rather short space of time a picture-book city, one of the iconic reflections of late 20th century urbanism. But the same processes involved significant urban restructuring, which has continued through to the present day. In my talk I inquire into the nature of this restructuring and the role of the state and capital in bringing it about. In the second half of the talk, I examine some of the theoretical implications of Tokyofs changing urban landscape. More specifically, I ask to what extent these changes can be considered to reflect the introduction of neoliberal urban policies. Are they part of a worldwide trend or do they have specifically Japanese developmental state characteristics? Finally I argue that the most convincing way to interpret the changing nature of Tokyo (and Japanfs other large cities) is in a regional context. Tokyo, I suggest, is neither totally sui generis nor is it a World City that fits comfortably alongside New York and London. It does however share various traits with other cities of the East Asian region, and it is in this context that Tokyo is best understood.

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Paul Waley is an associate professor in Human Geography at the University of Leeds. His research grows out of a strong focus on specific geographic settings both in East Asia and South-eastern Europe. Tokyo has provided the context for much of his research, but latterly he has undertaken research on the Balkans and Italy. In recent publications, he has discussed the role of capital and the state in urban restructuring and argued that Tokyo is best conceptualised within a regional urban framework.  He has lived in Tokyo for over ten years from 1977 onwards, working as a journalist, writer and town planning consultant (for Arakawa Ward, Tokyo).