Virtual Special Issue for IPHS Conference Planning Perspectives: An international journal of history, planning and the environment

Planning Perspectives

GUEST EDITORIAL - Gabriel Schwake

The upcoming 18th International Planning History Society (IPHS) conference taking place in Yokohama focuses on rapid globalization and aims to bring forward different scholar perspectives on this theme. The city of Yokohama, its port and historic foreign settlement, established in the 1850’s, embody the end of Japan’s centuries long isolation policy and the beginning of its official relationship with the west. Therefore, due to its history as a platform of cross-cultural interactions and influences, Yokohama is the ideal host for this event.

This virtual theme issue of Planning Perspectives is in conjunction with the 18th IPHS conference, as it brings together a collection of previously published papers focusing on Japanese urban planning and development. The papers, written by Japanese and foreign scholars alike, cover a wide historical period, ranging from the late 1800s, with the end of the Edo period and the Meiji restorations, through the Taishō era of the early 1900s and the post-war redevelopment of the 1940s and 50s, up to the turn of the 21th century. Furthermore, this virtual issue demonstrates the broad range of approaches and methodologies to the study of cross-cultural urbanism in Planning Perspectives as it consists of multiple and interdisciplinary approaches including historic, economic, cultural and social aspects.

In the pre-war period, with the end of the isolation policy, Japanese planners began adopting foreign ideas and methods into the local planning culture, as shown by Aya Sakai (2011), Andre Sorensen (2001), Shilpi Tewari & David Beynon (2016) and Yorifusa Ishida (1990). Sakai focuses on the penetration of so-called western concepts in to Japanese planning methods during the Meiji period (1868-1912) of the 1860s and 1870s. By showing how public parks were adopted to Japanese culture, Sakai illustrates the cross-cultural dialogue between local and global traditions. Sorensen deals with the concerns for public welfare and urban quality of life during the Taishō years (1905-1930), and how this affected the Japanese urban planning and management policies. Tewari and Beynon concentrate on the Dojunkai apartments, built after the 1923 Kantō earthquake. They claim that these apartments constitute an experiment conducted by local architects and planners to adapt western urban development concepts to the Japanese sensibilities and urban requirements. Ishida’s paper, explores Magosaburo Ohara’s pre-war attempt to construct an industrial village, which will offer, alongside to employment, also proper dwelling and welfare services. Though this village was never realized, Ishida shows how this effort eventually led to the improvement of labour conditions in Japan.

The post-war period, examined by Junichi Hasegawa (2014), Norihiro Nakai (1988), David Edgington (2017) and Andrea Yuri Flores Urushima (2011), was a period of redevelopment and accelerated urbanism. Both Nakai and Hasegawa focus on the influence of the 1968 Japanese City Planning Law, and how it shaped the local urban environment. Nakai claims that this law led to sporadic urban development, while Hasegawa examines the political and public pressure that led legislation process. Edgington, explores the culture of Japanese comprehensive planning, and how this differs from western examples. Edington also illustrates the manner these methods began to change in the early 2000s due to the contemporary challenges of Japanese urban planning. The accelerated urban development is also the focus of Flores Urushima’s article. She examines the Expo 1970 in Osaka as an attempt to develop the Kansai are, in contrast to Tokyo, by providing local planners and architects with the experience of government planning processes.

Kosuke Matsubara’s article (2015), provides a unique perspective as it focuses on the work of the Japanese planner Gyoji Banshoya, outside of his homeland. Therefore, illustrating not only how foreign planners and concepts influenced Japanese planning culture, as shown in previous articles, but also how Japanese planners and concepts influenced foreign cultures as well.

Together, these articles constitute a sample of the conducted research on Japanese planning during the past two decades. They also emphasise the contribution of Planning Perspectives to the international debate of transnational urbanism, which will be discussed at the 18th IPHS conference in Yokohama. Moreover, this virtual issue also demonstrates the broad range of approaches and methodologies in the study of cities and urban development brought in Planning Perspectives.


Gabriel Schwake is a Ph.D candidate in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment
TU Delft, Julianalaan 134, 2628 BL, Delft, The Netherlands