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Parkscapes: Green Spaces in Modern Japan

Thomas R. H. Havens
Copyright Date: 2011
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    Book Description:

    Japan today protects one-seventh of its land surface in parks, which are visited by well over a billion people each year. Parkscapes analyzes the origins, development, and distinctive features of these public spaces. Green zones were created by the government beginning in the late nineteenth century for state purposes but eventually evolved into sites of negotiation between bureaucrats and ordinary citizens who use them for demonstrations, riots, and shelters, as well as recreation. Thomas Havens shows how revolutionary officials in the 1870s seized private properties and converted them into public parks for educating and managing citizens in the new emperor-sanctioned state. Rebuilding Tokyo and Yokohama after the earthquake and fires of 1923 spurred the spread of urban parklands both in the capital and other cities. According to Havens, the growth of suburbs, the national mobilization of World War II, and the post-1945 American occupation helped speed the creation of more urban parks, setting the stage for vast increases in public green spaces during Japan’s golden age of affluence from the 1960s through the 1980s. Since the 1990s the Japanese public has embraced a heightened ecological consciousness and become deeply involved in the design and management of both city and natural parks—realms once monopolized by government bureaucrats. As in other prosperous countries, public-private partnerships have increasingly become the norm in operating parks for public benefit, yet the heavy hand of officialdom is still felt throughout Japan’s open lands. Based on extensive research in government documents, travel records, and accounts by frequent park visitors, Parkscapes is the first book in any language to examine the history of both urban and national parks of Japan. As an account of how Japan’s experience of spatial modernity challenges current thinking about protection and use of the nonhuman environment globally, the book will appeal widely to readers of spatial and environmental history as well as those interested in modern Japan and its many inviting green spaces.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6059-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. [Maps]
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. Preface
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  5. Introduction: Parklands and Japan
    (pp. 1-18)

    Writing in 1894 at the dawn of his country’s Asian empire, the Japanese geographer Shiga Shigetaka (1863–1927) declared that his fellow citizens, “in order to continue improving Japanese culture in the future, must make every effort to protect Japan’s natural landscape.”¹ In this pithy call to action Shiga interwove the Japanese people and their surroundings into an unbroken fabric stretching from their past environmental inheritance to their future greatness as a distinct national culture. Exhortations by Shiga, Mori Ōgai (Rintarō, 1862–1922), Abe Isoo (1865–1949), and many other activists during the Meiji era (1868–1912) emboldened Japan’s fledgling...

  6. CHAPTER 1 From Private Lands to Public Spaces: Early City Parks
    (pp. 19-52)

    Five years after coming to power in 1868 the Meiji government began to define public spaces by seizing private properties abandoned by warrior elites and religious institutions, then converting them to city parks for the diversion, and the control, of citizen-subjects under the new imperial regime. During the previous Edo era relatively few places were available in city or country for ordinary people to experience the outdoors as a site of leisure, not labor. Beginning in 1873, dozens of city parks were created by fiat, bringing new opportunities to urban dwellers to interact with the natural environment, in spaces with...

  7. CHAPTER 2 National Parks for Wealth, Health, and Empire
    (pp. 53-84)

    The national park as an idea in Japan traces to the 1870s, initially without the backing of government that city parks received. While the authorities were busy creating public space in the form of urban parklands—a few of them tantamount to nation’s parks—elites outside the ruling group adapted another mode of spatial modernity from Western models: the concept of national spaces mapped as public parks in the mountains and at the seaside. Both these modes of public land management reinscribed human beings’ interactions with their nonhuman surroundings; in the twentieth century urban and national parks sometimes competed for...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Visions of a Green Tokyo
    (pp. 85-121)

    While Japan wrestled with defining and constructing public parklands as national spaces in the 1920s and 1930s, planners in the Home Ministry and Tokyo prefectural government crafted two visionary designs for the future metropolitan landscape, incorporating public parks and other open spaces on a scale hardly imagined during the city’s early years as the imperial capital. The first of these top-down plans was set in motion by the Kanto earthquake and fires of September 1923 but was partly thwarted by insufficient budget allocations and flagging political zeal for remaking the face of Tokyo. The second, the Green Space Plan of...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Parks and Prosperity, 1950s–1980s
    (pp. 122-153)

    “In a land with so much scenic beauty and with such a high degree of appreciation of the cultural values of scenery as Japan, [it is disappointing] to find so few areas which are properly preserved and set aside for public recreation and enjoyment.”¹ With these measured words combining protection and praxis, Charles A. Richey, a senior planner in the United States National Park Service, gave the occupation’s imprimatur in 1948 to the goal of Japan’s national parks from their birth: conserving the country’s abundant nonhuman resources by balancing desires for outdoor recreation against the need to protect the environment...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Parks and New Eco-Regimes
    (pp. 154-186)

    Japan in the 1990s and early 2000s was washed by the same tides of emergent ecological consciousness as other countries with postindustrial economies and rich environmental legacies. Like their global counterparts, civic-minded Japanese increasingly engaged with ecological issues in general and open-space planning in particular, in both city and natural parks. Despite the tangled complexities and Croesian cost of adding more parks, green spaces, and open lands, Japan devotes two thirds of its surface to forests and for more than a generation has reserved one seventh of its land area as urban greenery and national, quasi-national, and prefectural natural parks....

  11. AFTERWORD: Parks, the Public, and the Environment in Japan
    (pp. 187-194)

    “We would like to cut down the trees with nature in mind,” declared Suzuki Takehiko, chair of the Shōsenkyō Tourism Association of Yamanashi Prefecture in 2008. The seeming illogic of Suzuki’s entreaty, with which the Environment Ministry apparently concurred, was easily explained: Shōsenkyo Gorge billed itself as “Japan’s most beautiful valley,” a sightseeing highlight of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, but recently trees had grown up to spoil the view. The trees posed no threat to the nonhuman environment in Shōsenkyō, but in anthropocentric terms they imperiled tourism in the economically struggling region.¹ This episode illustrates an ongoing dilemma faced by societies...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 195-240)
  13. Sources Cited
    (pp. 241-264)
  14. Index
    (pp. 265-272)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-274)