2003 Volume 55 Issue 3 Pages 277-292
It was not until the late 1990s That inner Tokyo started to regain population. This paper explores the extent of that shift and it is argued that population recovery in Minato Ward in inner Tokyo differs from the nature of 'gentrification' observed in Western countries.
The 'bubble era' of the late 1980s resulted in rapid land price inflation, land speculation on inner city plots and involved a considerable area of land while displacing former residents. The idea that Tokyo was becoming a 'global city' supported land speculation for office and commercial demands. Inner Tokyo continued to lose population in the late 1980s as a consequence of competition with business and commercial land use. Tokyo Wards implemented various policies to prevent the further outflow of residents, which included rent subsidies to renters and the substitution of mortgage interests exceeding 2%. The Wards also leased rented housing to household renters, and issued guidelines to locate rental family-sized housing in newly-built office buildings.
After the collapse of the 'bubble', however, office and commercial demands suddenly disappeared and land prices fell rapidly. The financial crisis induced firms to sell or utilize their land for housing. By the late 1990s, high rise apartments were built on such speculated land. GIS-based mapping analysis revealed that the construction of public and private housing mainly contributed to population recovery, followed by the opening of new subway stations.
A questionnaire survey was conducted to examine who had moved into the newly-provided housing in the inner city. Data were collected on household type, occupation, former residential location and reasons for the move.
The survey revealed that single female households and double income couples with no children predominated in the private housing sector. The main reason for the move was proximity to workplace. This reflects the fact that movers into the inner city mainly consist of households placing a higher priority on employment than on nurturing children. Couples with children would move into the inner city if they secured low cost (public) housing. Many constraints still prevent the inflow of households with children, such as high housing cost in both private rented housing and owner occupied housing, and limited nursery school capacity.
The provision of public housing, which is a counter policy to the population decline, results in relatively low income households returning to the inner city. Subsequent private housing construction which was caused by the collapse of the 'bubble' attracts different types of households from a wider area. Population recovery in inner Tokyo differs from gentrification in the West in that it is not limited only to more affluent people relocating to the inner city.