Saturday, 31 October 2015

The importance of culture and history in planning


Taking a view of the big picture in Japan, it is evident that in seeing and experiencing Japan in a cultural and historical sense gives at least some understanding of the human geography and its influence on the environment. I personally went into Japan with a perception of Asia from experience as a chaotic, frenzied and corrupted culture with urban geography to match, and I really didn’t expect metropolitan Japan to be any different. I was proven completely wrong, to say the least. It is clear that urban geography in Japan reflects a wide range of cultures and influences, both Western and Asian, whilst also remaining a uniquely Japanese flavour and identity. The primary difference I noticed between Japan and Australia was a culture based around politeness and homogeneity, and multi-lateral planning decisions reflecting this. A crucial example of this phenomena was the way in which public transportation was planned and organised throughout Japan. Whilst all railway lines were privately owned and operated by different entities, they all used the same rolling stock, with the same ticketing systems, inside the same stations and for the most part, the same routes and areas. It is clear that uniformity and order is king in Japan, and this idea was demonstrated further by Kit Weddle’s explanation of the spatial distribution of new and old buildings within the Tokyo city landscape. Clusters of new buildings juxtapose older, four-storey or smaller ones built before better seismic technology had been developed. In Sendai, a rural centre of Japan, emergency public housing was built with shared, uniform open spaces more typical of Garden Cities. It is clear that Japanese identity and culture is very homogenous but with some influences from the West. However, decisions made on a multi-lateral level reflect cultural, social and practical forethought.

Patrick Spinazzola