Mapping Tokaido Megalopolis
Article/journal, Migration & borders, East Asia, Centre for the Study of Global Japan, Munk School

Tokaido Megalopolis: Lessons from a shrinking mega-conurbation

This paper examines the challenges posed by giant polycentric city-regions from the perspective of an analysis of the Tokaido Megalopolis, the first case of this urban scale in Asia. Many of the issues faced by today’s mega-conurbations were identified in Tokaido 60 years ago, but at a very different moment in world history, and with different interpretations of major challenges and possible policy responses. The paper makes four main points: first is that timing is important in urban development, particularly in relation to prevailing ideas and norms about planning. Second, even if complexity means that to an important extent mega-conurbations are self-organizing systems, they are still shaped by planning institutions both at the large scale with major infrastructure, and at smaller scales through regulation. Third, the institutions and rules structuring land development are profoundly important politically, economically, and in structuring long-run spatial and social equity outcomes, including distribution of the costs and benefits of urbanization. Finally, the emergence of any particular mega-conurbation is likely to be a once-only affair, and contingent patterns and processes of development will have long-term consequences for the urbanism achieved, and for the urban societies produced. These have important planning implications.