Accepted paper:

Concepts of slow city implemented into the urban fabric of Tokyo


Michael Grieser (Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich)

Paper short abstract:

An ethical turn is unfolding concerning the ideal of good living in terms of bottom-up city planning in Tokyo. The paper will discuss the importance of 3.11 as a catalyst and the role of latent civil networks for this development. Then the paper compares these new concepts to the Italian slow city.

Paper long abstract:

The current discourse about "good living" in urban areas emerged in Japan as a result of the transition from a long period of rapid economic growth into a multiform period of stagnation since the 1990s. Processes such as the migration of industry, population decline in rural areas, the aging of society, and structural changes and reforms of the labor market have led to complex differences in the social space and called for the development of sustainable urban planning processes. As an alternative model to the functional, fast moving city focused on efficiency and growth, which an increasing number of citizens struggles to participate in, for quite some time various stakeholders/actors have been developing strategies and visions for a post-growth city, which have recourse to the slow city (cittàslow) movement. This paper focuses on bottom-up participatory implementations of concepts of "good living", which are put into practice by local stakeholders as a perceived-necessary answer to counter the fast-paced and "unsustainable" lifestyle of modern Tokyo. By drawing from 2 case studies conducted between 2015/2016 in the district of (1) Yanaka (谷中), which is subject to gentrification and desperately trying to protect its traditional values and city scape and (2) the transition town movement in Koganei (小金井), which aims to create an alternative lifestyle with less dependency on resources and growth (脱依存), the paper will illustrate the following: 1.) The triple disaster of 2011 has served as a catalyst for the discourse of "good living", increasing the number and the acceptance of informal/formal citizen movements who pursue an alternative lifestyle in the city. 2.) Small-knitted communities with intact neighborhood organizations and social ties between its inhabitants play a central role for initiating alternative, bottom-up participatory concepts of good life, as they provide the political-ethical spaces for its citizens to gather and actually design and try out alternative lifestyles. 3.) The paper will discuss to what degree similarities to the decelerating concept of slow city, that is normally only applied to rural areas in Japan can be found in the urban space of Tokyo.

panel S1_04
Conceptualising speed and deceleration