Saturday 31 October 2015

I was unsure what to expect when arriving in Japan...

Flying in over Osaka was a shock to me, as I had never seen such a large expanse of dense development. Initially I was impressed with the sheer size and variety of the development within Shin Osaka. However, once the initial novelty of such a vastly different urban landscape wore off, I realised the random nature of development within both Osaka and Tokyo. The urban form appeared to follow no rhythm or evidence of land use planning. There was one instance in Osaka where I saw a single level dwelling surrounded by 12 storey office buildings. To me this sight was representative of the contrasts that are evident in cities of rapid uncontrolled development. 

Tokyo appeared quite similar to the form of Osaka, however, the higher class economic centre painted a different picture. The biggest difference between Osaka and Tokyo was seen in the centre of the city. The high-class office buildings and imperial palace gardens create an organised and controlled feel to what is otherwise a hectic and confusing urban form. It was astonishing to see the amount of new high-rise buildings that have been established from the springboard of consistently low interest rates. Despite the difference between these areas, one of the constants is the presence of accurate and efficient rail transport networks. 

The vast expanse of railway options demonstrates the strict order that this country is capable of. For me, this showed the disregard for planning and controlling urban form that the Japanese government exhibit. When looking at planning from this perspective, it could be argued that land use planning and cultural heritage are issues of low priority in Japanese society. 

The later part of the tour took us to a vastly different urban renewal project in the outskirts of Sendai. The city of Sendai appeared to have a more consistent urban form with more consistency between buildings within the central area. The reconstruction of the tsunami devastated area showed the power of the workforce within Japan, again demonstrating the efficiency of the system when an issue is perceived as a priority. The constant stream of trucks and large tsunami wall once again demonstrated the ability of this government to get things done. It was interesting to note that despite this apparent efficiency, there was a significant delay in the political planning response to the tsunami. 

The professors of Shokei Gakuin referenced Brisbane’s quick response to the floods as a model to strive for when planning disaster relief efforts. From this brief understanding of such a foreign society, it can be concluded that Japan is an efficient country that has immense ability when a stringent plan is implemented.

Will Russell

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