The Urban Geography That Lies Within Tokyo History Essay

In chapter nine of Human Geography, Urban Geography is introduced as how spaces within cities are organized. Cities are developed by settlers of the place. The reason why people prefer to live in the city area is mainly because of seven reasons: center of political power, industrial might, higher education, technological innovation, artistic achievement, and medical advances. There are two factors that maintain a necessity and sufficiency relationship while deciding a location for a city: site and situation. Site is the local geographic characteristics while situation is only related to regional characteristics.

The population of Japan has reached 127 million recently. Focusing on a specific city in Japan, Tokyo, known as the capital of Japan, is a unique metropolis with 32 million residences today. Looking at statics, currently and the number has dramatically increased in the past two centuries: in the mid-1820s, there were about 530,000 people, in 1900, there were 1.5 million people, in the mid-1920s, there were more than 5 million people, and in early 1960s, there were more than 15 million people. Currently, Tokyo itself is increasing but almost reaching a plateau up to today; if we look at the graph above, we could see that the rate of population is at an increasing rate except for the year 1945. The reason is that there were several factors such as the war and economic status of the nation. The fact that Tokyo had experienced rapid expansion near the beginning of 20th century, the site and situation has set the foundation for such a city.

In Tokyo’s success in development, there are several factors that were crucial for the urban development and strategies for planning Tokyo: lack of land that could be used for development, lack of energy sources (most of the oil is imported), and lastly, the transportation along with the road planning. In fact, approximately two thirds of the land in Japan is mountains, meaning that the majority of the population has to be crowded in the remaining one third. This causes the price of the land being extremely high, which makes it harder for having roads or railways. After the first modernization act that occurred around 1868, the first modern highway was built in 1965, meaning that Japan lacked the motivation for constructing roads until now.

Now, focusing on the site and situation of Tokyo (along with Japan), Tokyo is located in the middle part of the Honshu Island. As Japan is an island nation that is formed with four main islands, the location among the islands is important because it should be easily accessible from everywhere. Along with Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, Honshu Island is the biggest mainland of Japan that is located in the middle of the four islands. Moreover, the geographical location of Tokyo is what makes it the perfect place for the capital. In Japan, as the place is surrounded by sea, security of the land is one of the great aspects that a capital should have. Tokyo is considered to be the “inner” land in the Honshu Island, with a structure that resembles a harbor.

Tokyo is situated in the center of the Japanese archipelago, in the southern part of the Kanto area. The city is bordered by two rivers (Tamagawa River and Kanagawa Prefecture in the South and Edogawa River and Chiba Prefecture in the East), each covering the South and the East part of Tokyo. The Saitama Prefecture is located in the North, while the West is surrounded by a mountain range. The mainland of the city is at the northwestern part of the Tokyo Bay. Closely looking towards the location of Tokyo, we could notice that the city is deep inside the Uraga Channel and into the Tokyo Bay. Miura Peninsula and Boso Peninsula are another important land in the geography; the two creates a channel that makes the city safer than other cities, protecting the people from invasions and such.

Tokyo is also known as Edo; it was first fortified by the Edo clan in the late twelfth century; the town became the center of a nationwide military government after the castle was finished in 1457. Now, one characteristic that make Tokyo distinct from other cities in history is the way it was treated. Tokyo became the capital of Japan during the 18th century despite the fact that the emperor lived in Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan and the emperor’s abode from 794 to 1868. The reason was that Kyoto is almost in the center of the Honshu Island. The North is surrounded by the East Sea while all four sides are surrounded by prefectures such as the Fukui, Osaka, Nara, Mie, Shiga, and Hyogo. The emperor to reside in Kyoto in the past was that it was one of the places that were hard to get to. It is encircled on three sides by Higashiyama, Kitayama, and Nishiyama mountains which make it safe. The reason why Kyoto was not chosen to be the capital of Japan was because of the lack of transportation near the area. Since Japan itself is a country that had water as the major way of transportation, the fact that Kyoto’s closest body of water is a small river is critical.

Moving back to Tokyo, Tokyo has a unique history about automobiles. After World War II, the Japanese started a “macroeconomic” strategy which limited personal consumption in order to maximize saving, investments, and exports. This lead to a situation where the degree of motorization was lower than that of poorer cities like Singapore; according to statistics, in the 1950s, there were 16 automobiles per every 1,000 citizens of Tokyo. This, and the fact that Tokyo developed its railroad system before the popularization of motorized vehicles, is the motivation for such a developed railway connection. In history, Tokyo was able to connect with its neighboring towns as early as in 1869 (the connection was with Yokohama). The electrification of the railroads near 1915 gave a significant importance to the suburban traffic within this city. Numerous lines were opened before World War II by the companies that needed a method of transportation. The road network in Tokyo is of a small traffic capacity, while only focused on the main urban center. Near the 1980s, Tokyo was facing a situation where the citizens are favoring more “efficient” way of transportation. Near the end of 1980s, because the roads were designed to hold only a small amount of traffic, people started using bicycles and other methods to move around.

The process of the shaping of urban form can be directly related to the nature of feudalism: everything from development, mature state and finally its collapse. Some pointed to the evolutionary process of the city as being coincident with the big fire which greatly influenced its reconstruction planning. The period of urban evolution can be divided into four phases. The 1st phase is from1590, the time Ieyasu came up to Edoto1656, when the Meireki big fire burnt down almost the whole city. The 2nd phase is from1657 to1715, before the time of the kyoho reform. The 3rd phase is from1716 to1867, near the end of the Tokugawashogunate. The 4th phase is from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the end of the nineteenth century.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, there was a dramatic turning point in Japanese urban planning. Traditional planning principles and design methods were displaced by the impact of the innovation of the Industrial Revolution which originated in the Western world. This significant development was responsible for the full influence of Western society to be felt in Japan. The shikukaisei project, reorganizing municipal streets and the utility network, such as water supply and sewerage, was a starting point of urban planning in modern Japan. This, however, also showed that reform of urban form, the fundamental structure of which has been established, is not easily accomplished by urban planning efforts only.

Related Post