Preservation of the Kyoto Grids 2


An intriguing paradox between literal definitions of ‘aged’ and ‘decay’ has summarized the current situation of Kyoto. The term ‘aged’ is perhaps how Kyoto values herself, an ancient city preserved with modern inputs. These plugins could be defined in different manners. First off, it may suggest the infrastructure implemented during late Meiji period. Or else, it could be defined as the virtual regulations and measures imposed, that restrict further development of the city. So, the ambiguity of how on definition prioritize another, and how they contradict themselves would give a larger picture of the reasons and outcome across the Kyoto grids.


The departure point of this discourse was the infrastructure implanted in the late Meiji period. Kyotoshi 3 dai jigyoshi (京都市三大事業), was proposed and consisted of three aspects. One of them was the extension of the built tram-railway network. An anomaly was resulted in the southwestern part of Kyoto. It was named the Koin Dori (後院通) along the Senbon Sen (千本線) railway, which was a diagonal tram railway or in other words, a diagonal traffic course across the grids. The uniqueness derived from this diagonal ‘cut’, because in terms of persisting practices and practicality, this attempt would not be cost-efficient. Consider it would splinter the rectangularity of the Kyoto grids in the area. So, why would that happen?

壬生車庫nowadays, google map image

Potential cause deduced from maps could be the discontinuity in railway pavement. The former end of the tram-railway was the Mibu tram garage. Further development implied in the three schemes, ‘Kyotoshi 3 dai jigyoshi’. Therefore, the tramway was incidentally conjoined with the grid-like tramway network. While the tramway construction was in process, the settlement within the area was responding to this dramatic change of the grid concept. The map was persuasive to proof the adaptations within. Another convincing reason was the matter of local ownership.


This quote implied that during the process of modernization, the authority of city council was still a doubt, or perhaps a relatively passive position to monitor the development. The local timber-trading industry could surpass and reject the practicality and efficiency of a grid-based traffic network. It indirectly exposed the weakness of the city council, yet left an argumentative scar which was the diagonal cut, of which party should prioritize another. Should local residents reserve the right for changes in grid, or was it the chance for the city council to practice its local authority through strict regulations? This diagonal attempt, was seemingly the last possible chance in Kyoto consider the legislations and guidelines set these years. It implied an authority handover from the local parties to the city council.

color code restrictions

Nowadays, strict legislative measures are imposed to regulate the structure and aesthetic of the grids. On one hand, they contribute to the preservation of this ‘aged’ cityscape. On the other hand, they might result in an economic or social decay, for instance abandoned districts in the rest of Japan could easily be found, due to population aging or a retreat in commercial activities. So to differentiate from the real ‘aging’ process, it has to provoke a feasible re-development scheme.



The above approaches are to address the importance of vernacular structure of machis (京町家) along main traffic courses and to preserve heritage sites. The importance of machis is conveyed through the itemized building regulations. Angle of roof, height levels and even the color codes of the envelope are all part of the considerations. Therefore, how could Kyoto grids seek an innovative solution under such strict regulations? It is an irony provoked by the council itself.

individual grid planning

In conclusion, innovative part of the reanimation scheme is probably the last hope for Kyoto grids. It is the promotion of grids’ identity and a comfortable living experience in the grids. Each grid is equipped with a large proportion of greenery as leisure place, a clean separation between residential and commercial programs with educational program blended in, are the intentions to achieve the ideal grid methodology.




京 みやこ の景観ガイドライン ■建築物の高さ編

京都市情報館 (京都の土産話)

『京都市營電氣事業沿革誌』 京都市電氣局、京都、昭和8年



1 Comment on “Preservation of the Kyoto Grids 2

  1. It is interesting to know how the confrontation between local residents and the city council had resulted in such impact, the diagonal tramway. But apart from that, any other anomaly was caused due to this reason? To what extent the grids’ownership would have interfered the tramway paving?

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