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.
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