Tokyo | Residential Boom in 1980s

Personal anecdote by a journalist Peter Popham articulates a very dense, very megalopolitan lifestyle of Tokyo in 1980s. Popham claims that the results of the near-simultaneous development of dozens of bed towns across the city is that they all look and feel identical. Some may say it is true for any megalopolises around the world, but it’s even truer in Tokyo, because of the vastness of the new development compared to the paucity and insignificance of what went before. Many of the architecture do not try to adapt to unique topography; they have been built, built and built.

It is quite interesting to note that the author drew attention to the comformist behavior of Tokyoites. This indicates both architecturally and in terms of facilities provided – a park, a shopping mall with a sort of French name – the bed towns of Tokyo are dreary bunch.

Tokyo | Advertisement for New Town
Tokyo | Advertisement for New Town










The crucial information of this “Mitsui Real Estates Part City” is the “21 minutes to Tokyo Station, 10 minutes to Yokohama Station”. By easing the transportation, this undesirable suburb is suddenly transformed into a desirable place to live. These compounds are scattered around in Tokyo, especially in suburbs. Speaking about ubiquitous compounds, it takes me back to Kengo Kuma’s plan for residential areas.

Tokyo | Kengo Tange plan showing residential sector and infrastructural passage
Tokyo | Kengo Tange plan showing residential sector at the back and infrastructural passage









The unit clusters behind major infrastructural expressways are the residential blocks for Kengo Kuma’s blocks. Similar to the massive housing construction of 1980s, these blocks are scattered along the outside of the major transportation hub. Residential blocks are connected to major hub through linear mega-streets, thus direct connections between residential blocks and transportation is created. These blocks are quite huge compared to human scale, and this is also true for estate development in 1970s and 80s Japan. Kengo Kuma’s insight into Tokyo development had been right in some cases, though it happened much quicker than he expected.


POPHAM, P. (1985) Tokyo: The City at the End of the World. Michigan: Kodansha Amer Inc

2 Comments on “Tokyo | Residential Boom in 1980s

  1. First, I think it was an interesting approach to base your article on an advertisement because in some ways it reflects the aspirations of a certain social class during a period of time.I think you pointed out the crucial issue when it comes to dormitory towns which is that the quality of the place is not intrinsic anymore but proportional to the time to link this place to a city center. This notion of time and transportation was a good opportunity to introduce modern and metabolist principles as you did even if I think the presentation of the projects was a bit brief.

  2. I agree with the comments above. The advertisement is a very interesting source you provided so we can guess the culture background of the city at the time and even the of relationships between the government and citizens. You mentioned about the development of mega-street and big blocks are true for estate development in the 1970s and 80s. I also read about another post of yours talking about the 1960s-1990s development, knowing that there was a rise of land cost under the international boom in the 80s. However, I could not find out the reason of why having the big blocks and mega-street? So was it because of the land price? Did the development based on any other cities as a model?
    And I have a little question about the author of the plan, should it be Kenzo Tange instead of Kuma?

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