Japan’s sluggish economy seems bound to hamper creative architectural development at a time when the proliferation of its ubiquitous and convenient, yet anti-community, urban high-rise apartment buildings creates new challenges for the country moving forward. How will the nation create greener, healthier, more liveable settings for its citizens over the next decade…and century?
I touched on these topics in more depth last month in a series examining Japanese aesthetics.
But there’s some reason for optimism. For one, there seems to be a thriving bottom-up movement gaining momentum across the country that has many Japanese in urban areas now actively engaging with ‘rural traditions.’ This can include things like consuming local foods and using locally-sourced materials for building, and even the actual incorporation of the countryside into ultra-modern urban settings. A rice paddy being planted smack bang in the centre of an upscale Tokyo multi-use building or in an empty lot in the centre of one of its chicest neighbourhoods are just two examples of how this is being done.
Also, over the years, there’s been an increase in green roofs across urban centres, a process that was amped up several years ago with a government initiative to encourage residents to plant on their rooftops.
These trends are clearly working to help realize Japan’s hopes for a greener and sustainable future, because Tokyo has recently been named one of the world’s ten greenest cities by Canadian news and analysis magazine The Mark, along with Copenhagen, London and Vienna—and it’s the only city in Asia to make the list.
The Mark describes Tokyo as a world-class green city, noting:
‘One of the world's most densely populated cities, Tokyo still manages to keep things remarkably clean and green. The Japanese capital was recently selected to participate in a billion-dollar project, spearheaded by the Clinton Global Initiative, to increase the energy efficiency of city-owned buildings in an effort to reduce CO2 emissions. Meanwhile, 200 hectares of green space and more than 200,000 roadside trees will be added to the city centre over the coming years.’
It’s only to be hoped that just as it made itself a global leader in electronics and automobile manufacturing, Japan can now build on such recognition and embrace a greener future as a regional leader in sustainability.
Images: mrhayata (top), Marufish (bottom).