, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 247–257 | Cite as

Central place preference by social geographic groups with reference to the tributary area of Shibuya, Southwest Tokyo

  • Flüchter W. 


Central place preference by social geographic groups is in the Tokyo area less determined by social status than by age and life cycles differentiated by sex.

In case of the tributary area of Shibuya a simple classification into young people (male and female bachelors) and married people (husbands and housewives) indicates essential differences in central place preferences between these groups.

The bachelors, particularly the young men, are most important for central place orientations in that they show distinctive spatial behavioural patterns in terms of complexity, mobility and intensity of distance-movements. The young people being employed — today joculously called “dokushin kizoku” (bachelors' aristocracy) because of their salary raised remarkably as well as of their extensive concumer demands and high buying power — are representative for the present-day economically independent young generation. The bachelors judge urban center attractiveness on the basis of shopping facilities and also in terms of “atmosphere” — meeting friends, strolling through town and amusing themselves. The young people are very much courted by commercial enterprises and are regarded as special trend setters having great influence on the image and vitality of Tokyo's inner urban centers.

Most attractive for the young people are the ring centers. In the southwestern suburban areas Shibuya predominates; however generally speaking it is Shinjuku, the western and leading (ring)-center, which draws the young people most strongly. “Special centers” such as Harajuku, Aoyama and Roppongi are also preferred by this group, often in combination with a ring-center visit. Towards the inner city core (Ginza-Nihonbashi) central place preferences chiefly of the young male bachelors are declining gradually.

Compared with young people the married people prefer the ring centers only slightly before the Ginza area, which for shopping is primarily visited by housewives, for “going out” mainly by husbands. Particularly in the inner city core near the main office districts a typical feature for Tokyo of central place preference is evident. For the “salaryman” — the most representative business type in the Tokyo area — “going out” is identical with “not going home”. This phenomenon depends on the place of work in two aspects. First, spatially in terms of a close connection between office and inner city amusement/shopping centers and additionally distance-movements towards a ring center nearest of the place of work or residence. Second, socially — social activities after working hours mainly carried out with colleagues result in a behavioural pattern, in which a clear differentiation between company and private life appears to be difficult. For “not going home” there are many reasons — among others the constricted living conditions of Japanese homes as Westerners believe — however, other factors play a much more important role: (i) Mainly the extremely long commuting distances, which allow the “salaryman” a real “leaving home to go out” only on Sundays or holidays. Other reasons for this typically Japanese feature closely related to inner city tavern and bar visits, may be seen in (ii) the traditionally very limited participation of Japanese housewives to their husbands' out-door social activities; (iii) a system of charging and crediting expenses to one's personal bank account or the company account; (iv) the personal atmosphere of taverns and bars providing the best chances for communication/relaxation and for overcoming stress and frustrations experienced in the office.

Shopping is particularly for housewives the most important motivation for visiting urban centers, in this respect two Japanese characteristics should be mentioned: First, fashion and being well-groomed are, as far as the mass of people particularly the young women is concerned, more highly esteemed than in other urban societies. As a consequence good clothes are much in demand. Purchases of these kinds of articles are most often made in department stores and cause the longest distance-movements. Second, in rank of central goods next to fashion and quality clothes follow standard gifts such as “seibo” and “chugen”. The purchase of these articles is apart from the unique custom of giving gifts twice a year typically Japanese also in so far as it contradicts the least-effort criterion in central place theory. Though these patterns mostly bought by housewives or middle-aged and older people are substantially more of daily or periodical than episodical demand, they are related to surprisingly long distance-movements because of usually being bought for “image” reasons in leading department stores located in higher-ranking more distant urban centers.

Typical behaviour for all groups visiting higher-order urban centers is an often used combination of shopping and taking part in out-door activities such as meeting friends/acquaintances, strolling around, going to the cinema or other show performances, eating, drinking and chatting together. This is due to the outstanding facilities available not only in retail-trade but also in the gastronomic, entertainment and amusement sectors.

Taken all together, complexity and intensity of central place preferences in Tokyo reflect the higher and different attractiveness of Japanese urban centers compared with that of other urban societies. The urban centers are highly esteemed because of their excellent facilities as well as of their vitality, crowds and activity. These latter characteristics are summarized by the word “nigiyaka” meaning vivacity, which is most typical for Japanese urban centers. The inner city centers of Tokyo can be regarded in the true sense of this term as urban “foci” compensating for diverse problems such as environmental pollution or lack of inner urban green areas, making life in the most densely populated area of the world worthwhile.


Urban Center Ring Center Department Store Tributary Area City Core 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Flüchter W. 
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyRuhr University BochumBochumFR Germany

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