2.1 Dichotomy Versus Grey
Dichotomy is probably one of easiest approaches to understand and plan complicated issues. When faced with complexity, people
usually try to understand the issue by locating it in a very simple dichotomous structure: yes or no, black or white, right or wrong, ad infinitum. Such a dichotomous concept has been applied to urban and regional planning. Cities in medieval Europe, often surrounded by a wall and moat, had a clear boundary between its dense urban fabric with virtually no green, and its surrounding wide-open rural landscapes filled with diverse types of greenery (Fig. 4.1).
Rooted in such a legacy, one key concept of modern urban and regional planning initiated in Western Europe at the dawn of the twentieth century was to differentiate urban fabric from surrounding rural areas to ensure efficiency both in urban development
in the city and agricultural production in the rural areas. At the end of the nineteenth century Ebenezer Howard
(1850–1928), an English urban planner, proposed the concept of Garden City (Fig. 4.2), a city in which people live harmoniously together with nature. In his concept Howard stated that town and country should be married and become a couple together, but he never meant that the two should be mixed.
Even though Howard said that the town and countryside should be planned together, a distinct boundary between the two remained intact in his concept. Then came Sir Patrick Abercrombie (1879–1957)
, an English urban planner in charge of the Greater London Plan in 1944. In the plan Sir Abercrombie installed a greenbelt, surrounding London to curb urban expansion and clearly differentiate the urban fabric from the surrounding rural areas (Fig. 4.3). Dichotomous land use patterns came to be the international standard for modern urban and regional planning in the West. Today, many regions in the world and their cities are following the same planning system based on this dichotomous land use concept.
What can commonly be found on the fringe of Japanese cities, on the contrary, is a small-scale mixture of urban and rural land uses, which we define as “grey” landscape (Fig. 4.4). From the perspective that prefers dichotomous solutions, “grey” is often regarded as ambiguity and/or disorder. “Grey” indeed has been synonymous with uncontrolled, uncivilized, and thus undesirable solutions.
However, although a dichotomous approach provides a simple and clear but rather static and even persistent solution, “grey” allows for various shades of lightness between the extremes of black and white. If a planning concept is based on a “grey” approach, the result becomes flexible to a given condition, which leads to adaptable solutions that successfully provide “resilience” to cities and regions. The growing concern regarding natural disasters as a result of global climate change
has forced cities and regions around the world to seek a new planning concept that provides resilient solutions in responding to unanticipated catastrophes which could very well directly affect them soon. The “grey” approach is one practical answer to such demand.
2.2 Landscape Patterns in Three City Regions
To clarify the differences in landscape patterns of city regions in the West and East, we examine three major cities and their suburbs: New York City, Paris, and Tokyo. Some 15 km northwest from the center of New York City, Central Park on Manhattan Island, is a place called East Rutherford, New Jersey (population: 10,000; 10 km2). What you find in this quaint town is a typical American suburban landscape mostly comprised of detached houses, free-standing structures one or two stories high surrounded by wide open lawn (Fig. 4.5). Some 15 km northwest from the center of Paris, Cite Island, brings you to Argenteuil, Ille de France (population: 100,000+; 17 km2).
Although the design and size of houses differ from those in East Rutherford, a similar suburban landscape with detached houses awaits (Fig. 4.6). Concerning Tokyo, however, the landscape differs somewhat. Some 15 km northwest from the city center, the Imperial Palace, lies Nerima Ward
(population: 100,000+; 48 km2), which is still a part of the core area of Tokyo called 23 Wards. Nerima is a typical residential neighborhood in the suburb of Tokyo, but includes small parcels of farmland in addition to houses (Fig. 4.7). Nerima is still in Tokyo, one of largest cities in the world that accommodates and home to more than 10 million people. Even so, within its boundary farmland parcels remain a trait of Tokyo’s dense urban fabric.
Travelling 40 km northwest from New York City lies Pyramid Mountain, NJ. In addition to small villages, what is mostly found in this area is forest (Fig. 4.8). Some 40 km northwest from Paris is a village called Vigny, an area which is mostly farmland (Fig. 4.9). As for Tokyo, 40 km northwest of center city brings you to a city called Kawagoe, where you find a landscape virtually the same as that of Nerima: a landscape characterized by a small-scale mixture of urban and rural land uses (Fig. 4.10).
In New York City, representing North American cities, and in Paris, representing Western European cities, a distinct boundary between urban land use and rural land use is fixed somewhere in between 15 and 40 km from the city center. In Tokyo, which represents Japanese cities, though, no such distinct boundary between urban and rural land uses can be identified because a small-scale mixture of urban and rural land uses continues the entire distance from 15 to 40 km, and even beyond.
2.3 Legacy of Mixture
Edo, formerly Tokyo, is known as a city which used to be the largest in the world, accommodating over one million people at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The population density of the city was nearly five times higher than that of Tokyo today, even though houses were mostly one or two stories high. However, despite having such a massive and dense urban fabric, more than 40% of the land inside the administrative boundary of Edo was designated for agricultural uses (Fig. 4.11). Moreover, such farmland parcels
were integrated into the urban fabric, not merely surrounding the city as is common in western urban design. Though an administrative boundary has existed, no physical boundary
which visually separates the urban fabric
from surrounding rural land uses could be identified on the fringe of the city.
Such a legacy still continues. Today, even in the core area of Tokyo which is comprised of 23 Wards, 11 wards still maintain farmland parcels
in their territory. The amount of farmland parcels is limited: only around 3.5% of all Tokyo and 1% of the 23 Wards core area. However, although the amount is limited and the size is very small – sometimes as small as 500 m2, smaller than a 50 m swimming pool – these farmland parcels are mostly active farmland still owned and maintained by professional farmers, not farming area for urban hobby farmers or retirees (Fig. 4.12).
2.4 Layer Model
What land use models are behind these realities? The Western land use model starts with drawing a clear boundary between urban and rural zones, and then cuts the land into units with homogeneous land uses. The model can therefore be characterized as a system which provides ordered and well-controlled land uses. Japanese planners once applied this rationale to Japanese cities including Tokyo. In 1939 Comprehensive Parks and Open Space Plan of Tokyo was proposed, and one key feature of the plan was a greenbelt surrounding Tokyo to stop urban sprawl
– the rapid expansion of the geographic extent of cities and towns – and thus realize a distinct separationSeeSeeBoundary of urban and rural land uses (Fig. 4.13).
However, installing a greenbelt did not prove to be a success. Even if you were to look at Tokyo today from a satellite, not even
a one remnant of the belt can be found. What is visible is a large-scale maze of urban fabric continuously sprawling all the way towards the mountain ranges surrounding Tokyo.
Other Japanese cities including Osaka and Nagoya also tried to install a greenbelt but they all failed because of the lack of efficient policies on the land use. Instead of a greenbelt, cities in Japan changed their policy to draw a boundary line surrounding each local municipality and not around the entire metropolitan area. The Urban Planning Act, revised in 1968, was designed to achieve such a separation. According to this Act, each local municipality was required to designate land as either one of two types: Urbanization Promotion Area (UPA), or Urbanization Control Area (UCA)
. UPA is the area for urban developments
; UCA is, in principle, primarily for agricultural uses without conventional urban development.
But once again, distinct separation failed to be achieved. What actually happened was an incomplete separation even though a line to designate UPA and UCA was drawn around the city. Why did such a failure occur? We would argue that this situation occurred because of the layer model which the Japanese planning system had been maintaining, and not because of an inadequate application of the City Planning Act of 1968.
In short, two major layers characterize the model. First is, of course, the “Urban” layer, based on the City Planning Act of 1968, but this is not the only layer. The second layer which defines the land use in Japan’s urban fringe is a “Rural” layer based on the Agricultural Land Act of 1952. The Japanese agricultural system had long been based on a landlord-tenant farmer system, which prohibited Japanese agriculture from becoming modernized and thus caused tenant farmers to endure extremely low income. The Agricultural Land Act aimed to eliminate such a system and modernize agriculture by making farmland available to all tenant farmers. The Act, however, also prohibited non-farmers from owning their own farmlands because the former landlord-tenant farmer system could very well have been revived if farmlands were bought by non-farmers, especially by enterprises, and rented out to farmers.
The Agricultural Land Act can therefore be interpreted as an act that aimed to draw a line between people: sharply differentiating farmers and non-farmers. The Urban Planning Act of 1968 was an act to draw a line between land use differentiating urban (UPA) and rural (UCA) land uses. Japanese did not ignore but have carefully been obeying the regulations. However, because these two layers followed different orders – people-oriented versus land-oriented – a chaotic-looking situation occurred when these two were overlaid. The situation should not be labelled “disordered” because each layer is well controlled albeit following different orders. Order is there, but is not visible at a glance. The layers must be separated to understand the order of each layer, which is called an underlying “hidden order” (Ashihara 1989)