This paper concerns the land conversion process in the rural-urban fringe of Maebashi city, a medium sized city in Japan. The author investigated land-use change, land ownership change, and landowners' land-use decisions.
The author examined the urbanization of Maebashi city from 1976 to 1989 using digital land informa-tion obtained from the National Land Agency. Owing to data constraints, the conversion from rural to urban use was analyzed. Little change was observed in the central area, where by 1980 almost all, land was urbanized. A high rate of change was identified in two zones: the inner fringe zone (two to four kilometers from the central business district (CBD) ), and the isolated residences' and industrial park zone (six to seven kilometers from the CBD). The author examined land-use change on a micro-scale using the example of Rokku, an area located in the inner fringe. Land ownership change was ex-amined from 1980 to 1993 using land assessment data from the property tax division of Maebashi city hall. The information about landowners' land-use decisions was obtained by interviewing 30 land-owners who had traded or inherited more than 1, 000 square meters. These people accounted for almost half of all traded land.
In the sample area, the amount of farmland has decreased. Conversely, the number of roads have in-creased as a result of land readjustment. New housing, parking lots, and shops have replaced farm-land along the main street and along the new roads. These urban uses have come into being in two ways: 1) land bought and sold through real estate firms and 2) owners changing the use of their land. This converted land has contributed to the growth of the built-up area of Maebashi.
The landowners in the sample area made land-use decisions based on the following factors, the first set of which are the initial factors: land readjustment, land inheritance, need for a larger income, request to sell their land, and failure of a non-agricultural business. The second set are deci-sion factors, and include the existence of successors in agriculture, payment of inheritance tax, inten-tion to keep farming, possession of land with good access to roads, and their own desire to utilize the land. Based on their decisions, their behaviour can be divided into three categories: utilizing, trading (or selling), and abandoning land.
Most of the traded land has been converted to urban uses such as housing, parking, or shops. The uti-lized land, which has been converted from rural to urban uses by its owners, is distributed along the main roads leading to central Maebashi and close to the owners' houses. Land abandonment is occurr-ing as a result of an ongoing agricultural labor shortage and as a counter measure against the reduc-tion of land due to land readjustment. Most of the landowners in the sample area purchase small lots and leave them idle. Lots that have been reduced in size due to land readjustment can then be com-bined with the small idle lots, so that owners' loss of land due to land readjustment is minimized. Aban-doned land is scattered among other uses and thus results in urban sprawl. Utilized land and traded land are based on different decisions by the landowners. Much of the land in the inner fringe is in demand; thus both land being utilized and land being traded tend to be converted to urban uses.
The Association of Japanese Gergraphers