The Aftermath of the Construction of Kyoto Tower

Kyoto Tower has already been erected and this fact is irreversible. But the struggle between traditionalism and modernism was still on-going afterwards. The following passage aims to depict the direction of Kyoto over landscape disputes after the major debate on the Tower. Though the outcry may have dwindled over the years, the opposition to Kyoto Tower suggests that Kyotoites are concerned of something more than purely aesthetic disagreement. The controversy raised questions on the possibility for the old capital to preserve the heritage, and promote modernisation for the sake of urban development simultaneously.

Regards to the macro view of Kyoto’s development, American historian John Whitney Hall once said, “Kyoto more than Tokyo forces upon us an awareness of the conflicts and tensions which still can be found in Japanese life, posing constantly the question of where Japan’s historical past fits into its modern present.” She believes that Kyoto has taken a middle way in tackling the dilemma between tradition and creativity. This is evident by the various landscape disputes such as the Kyoto Station, where debates is ever-going, and is subjected to public’s opinion.

Focusing back onto the Kyoto Tower, the disputes ignited a series of changes in its landscape policy making. Of all cities in East Asia, Kyoto has the oldest and probably the strictest official preservation policy. This is an outcome of the citizens’ stance on protecting the cityscape and their cultural identity. Yet, the Kyoto Tower triggered a modification of the Building Standard Act right after its opening. The municipal government has loosened the restrictions and given consent to the construction of buildings up to 45 meters tall in the development district. In the case of Kyoto tower, the government realized a new standard is needed to calibrate a balance between development and preservation. Hence, a new building act is released to give more space for negotiation.

Another impact is the increase in public awareness towards landscape issues. Various concern groups formed by the general public such as The Group of Loving Kyoto, The Group of Wives to Protect Kyoto and The Council of The Young have made large impact in the debate on Kyoto Tower, and became important parties that surveillance related issues since then. Together with the spread of media, they have enough ammunition to confront with developers and business parties when landscape disputes loomed in.

Nevertheless, despite on the public’s view on landscape preservation, other forces have been irresistibly pushing Kyoto to develop. Looking into the landscape of Kyoto, the geography and topography have served as a barrier for the city’s development. Surrounded by high mountains, Kyoto remains landlocked, and has no where to seek for expansion. Hence, with the limited amount of flatland, companies found it to be inevitable for them to tear down old low rise houses for new taller structures, with higher efficiency and effectiveness. Hence, it is apparent that tension between traditionalism and modernism is an ever-going negotiation between different forces.

Christoph Brumann, Urban Spaces in Japan: Cultural and Social Perspectives. (New York: Routledge, 2012), 54-55,70

Guenter Nitschke, ‘A Sense of Place: Urban Preservation and Renewal in Kyoto.’ Kyoto Journal. Accessed December 9th, 2016.

Juliet Winters Carpenter, Seeing Kyoto. (Kondansha International, 2005), 81-83

John Dougill, ‘Kyoto: A Cultural and Literary History’. (Oxford: 2005)

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