JDR Vol.1 No.1 pp. 95-102
doi: 10.20965/jdr.2006.p0095


Urban Renewal for Earthquake-Proof Systems

Shunichi Sato

Urbal Renewal Division, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Qualified Civil Engineer, 5-5-17 Minami-magome, Ota-ku, Tokyo, Japan

August 1, 2006
In the latter half of the twentieth century we have cities with a population of ten million or more and highly developed rapid transit and freeways. By December 1972, the total population of Tokyo, the Capital of Japan, had grown to 11.6 million. Tokyo, standing with New York City, Shanghai, and London, is now one of the world's largest cities. In the Japan islands, people are moving to bigger cities on a large scale. This may be concluded from the fact that the economic miracle transformed a battered Japan into one of the greatest industrial nations of the world during the last decade. Economic and industrial activity was concentrated in limited areas, especially on the outskirts of large cities which furnished the consumer markets and in the built-up town areas which envelop minor enterprises allied with big industries. As the nation's largest city and its capital, it was only natural that Tokyo's postwar population growth should have outpaced the rest of the country, because it was the center of the world's highest national economic growth. Tokyo also now plays an important role as a center of political power as in it are concentrated the legislative bodies, the judiciary, and the natural administration. The fact that today's national activities in every field including culture and economy are related to the central political activity accerates the centralization of head offices of enterprises in Tokyo where they can best cope with the economic policy of the government. The number of publications from Tokyo, for example, is 80 per cent of the national total. Tokyo is the center of the country. This centralization brings us much benefit and at the same time it exerts an evil influence. Tokyo is suffering from urban problems such as pollution, traffic congestion, housing shortages, etc. which are also major problems in the other big cities in the world. The rapidity of the centralization of people and industries in Tokyo has made matters worse. An administrative report of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government analyzes the situation as follows, "An emergence of super high buildings and coiling freeways in the center of Tokyo has dramatically changed it into a modernized city, but at the same time the change has brought about the by-products of air pollution and traffic jams that threaten our daily life and health. Housing shortages, commuter congestion and rising prices are also detrimental to the goal of a happy citizenry". In November 1972, the World Conference of Great Cities was held in Tokyo; when the Tokyo Declaration was announced stating, "we cannot deny the fact that science and technology which have brought about many benefits to human beings are also having destructive effects in the large cities," it was enough to remind each participant of the seriousness of their urban problems. There is also a saying, "city planning in the twentieth century is a fight against cars and slums." Indeed the city is product of civilized society and it fares well or ill coincidentally with changes in economy and society supported by the civilization. One must not forget that the main host of a city is neither industry nor machinery, but human beings. A city is a settlement designed for human beings. Therefore we must discharge our duty without delay to fight under given conditions for urban reconstruction with co-existing residential, industrial, and commercial zoning making a comfortable city in which to live and work. We can easily imagine the dreadful damage an overcrowded Tokyo will suffer during a great earthquake. The experience of ruinous damage brought about by repeated earthquakes in the past tells us that the continuing sprawl and overcrowding of Tokyo will undoubtedly increase the danger. Even the newest scientific technology cannot prevent earthquakes. We must, therefore, recognize that it is not the mischief of nature, but the easygoing attitude of people that brings much of the ruin and damage by earthquakes. That means that peoples' efforts have been the minimum, and so we are now meeting the challenge of reorganization of the functions and structures of Tokyo from the civil engineering point of view with human wisdom, courage, and technology.
Cite this article as:
S. Sato, “Urban Renewal for Earthquake-Proof Systems,” J. Disaster Res., Vol.1 No.1, pp. 95-102, 2006.
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