The objective of this study is to examine the centrality of Sendai City in the regional urban system in the Tohoku district through the analysis of agglomeration processes and locational patterns of lodging facilities and their operations in urban areas. Japanese lodging facilities can be divided into two main categories : Japanese style lodging, called ryokans
, and western style hotels.
Most lodging facilities in the Tohoku district were composed of ryokans
in the 1960s. When the size and number of hotels began to increase rapidly in Sendai in the early 1970s, western style hotels multiplied in the Tohoku district, following the trend that occurred in the main metropolitan regions of Tokyo-Yokohama and Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe. The increase in the number of hotels in Sendai, as well as in Sapporo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka in this period, signifies that hotel construction diffused from the largest cities to regional central cities following the national urban hierarchy.
After the first increase in hotels in Sendai, hotel construction diffused to prefectural capitals and other major cities in the Tohoku district. This agglomeration process reflected the spatio-temporal differences among the cities. Each city is different in terms of population size and growth, urban functions and access to major transportation networks. In Morioka City, for example, the number of hotels increased rapidly in the early 1980s, after the opening of the Tohoku-Shinkansen (Tokyo-Morioka), which connected the northern Tohoku district with Sendai or Tokyo. The opening of the Tohoku-Shinkansen also resulted in the second rapid hotel increase in Sendai.
While the number of ryokans
in urban areas has remained stable or has decreased since the 1970s in the Tohoku district, locational patterns of ryokans
and hotels have changed considerably, especially in Sendai. In 1970, the majority of hotels were ryokans
, which were densely located, traditionally in the CBD and its surrounding areas in Sendai. However, after the first and second phase of new hotel construction, ryokans
located in the CBD decreased rapidly because of rising land prices and the construction of high-rise buildings. As a result, in 1996 the western style hotels were clustered in the CBD, while ryokans
remained dispersedly in the surrounding CBD areas. However, few hotels were located in the core of Sendai's CBD near the station because this area had already been developed before the first increase in the number of hotels.
The rapid and large-scale increase in the number of hotels in Sendai was a result of an increase in the range of services that they provided. Most of the hotels constructed during the first period of increase were commercial hotels catering to the needs of tourists. Therefore, the main function of their hotels was lodging. However, many hotels that were built during the second period of increase were equipped with convention facilities. Thus, hotel operations started to revolve around banquets, conventions and restaurant dining. These operations, especially large-scale convention halls, also attracted business customers from Tokyo and the Tohoku district.
The agglomeration processes of lodging facilities reflect the regional urban system and urban structure, and the functions of lodging facilities signify the geographical characteristics and the centrality of Sendai.
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