Saturday, 31 October 2015

Intentional chaos or a result of restraint?

Throughout the six days I spent in Japan I noticed the planning context of Japan through various settings. In majority, I noticed the striking difference between Australia and Japan in regards to planning in the physical landscape. The landscape overall gave an impression of a chaotic space with high density housing situated next to urban agricultural land next to a single story dwelling being a regular vision throughout the landscape. This was particularly noticeable in Osaka but was present across all the cities visited in Japan. This led me to believe that Japan appears to not have strict planning regulations or zoning, apart from basic development rules in regards to safety of some developments. The Japanese landscape is a stark contrast from the landscapes of Australia, where strict planning legislation is followed explicitly. In Australia this practice results in a significant amount of unusable or open space but in Japan, the population density and land mass limits the possibility of this in the landscape. These practices give an impression of a highly mixed use space but a somewhat organised one, by fitting different land uses in where they fit into the landscape. There has also been the unintentional or not creation of unofficial zones. This was apparent in Tokyo where the highly valuable land of the commercial district in close proximity to Tokyo train station has restricted the potential of any residential development within at least a kilometre of the space due to the extreme cost of occupying that valuable space. Japan also gives an impression of a fairly affluent society. An example of this came from exploring the tsunami affected city of Sendai where after the event the government provided and is still providing the clearing and restoration of the affected spaces.

The social norms of Japan, including the significance of multi-generational households and traditional culture in regards to gender roles, has had an impact on the physical landscape through some development occurring to appeal to a particular demographic. Traditional gender roles could be linked with gender inequality resulting in an impression of a lesser progressive nation in regards to this context compared to Australia. The cultural differences are witnessed throughout the landscape in regards to housing with wealth not flaunted by size as it is in Australia but through the quality of the materials used throughout their home. These cultural differences are also shown through the evident pride the Japanese people have for their spaces. Throughout the whole of Japan I constantly saw the absence of public facilities such as rubbish bins, yet I was never met with the presence of littering as I would in Australia. I also witnessed the absence of other public facilities such as on-street seating and public toilets. The absence of these facilities on the street however are fulfilled by the strong presence of these facilities throughout the many train stations in Japanese cities. In Japan, the train stations are not just a highly effective transport facility but also destination shopping and food facilities too. These privately owned spaces provide all the needs of the consumers of these spaces that the public spaces do not.

Overall, it is difficult to tell if the planning in Japan is actually as chaotic as it seems and if that chaos is intentional or just the result of the restraints Japan faces in regards to population density and land mass.

Kaylee Thompson