Tokyo/ Olympics 1964/(3) Infrastructural developments and decentralisation

With Tokyo being established as the strong and convenient city center of Japan, it was also an important agenda of th Government to decentralize the imploding capital, so that growth is also experienced in areas outside center Tokyo. This was a clear goal stated in the Tokyo Regional Plan published in 1985, proposing satellite cities and decentralization as solutions to Tokyo’s overflowing population.

development of the expressways as of 1990
the metropolitan expressway network proposal being included in official plans for the first time, Tokyo Land use Zoning Plan, 1955

The 1964 Olympics exacerbated the construction of a well developed transportation network in Tokyo, which accurately accomplished this agenda. With Tokyo station being the heart of the system, metropolitan expressways forming the Three Ring Roads extends outwards reaching surrounding areas. You can basically go to anywhere in Japan from Tokyo station. The high level of convenience makes Tokyo not only easy to move into, but also easy to move out of.

Population growth in concentric zones of increasing distance from Tokyo‘s center (1947-1985)

This data from the research institute for high-life in Tokyo, shows the population growth in concentric zones of increasing distance from Tokyo’s center in years 1947 to 1985. The fastest population growth took place in areas closest to Tokyo’s center in the immediate post-war periods, while population growth gradually increased in the more distant zones as time went by. In the 1960-65 period, the fastest growth took place in the zone delineated by the 30-40 kilometer radii. The highest growth rate was found further away from the city center post 1964, meaning that sub-urbanization became more prevalent. This is likely partly driven by the development of transportation network spurred by the Olympics.

Near the year 1985, growth is distributed the other way around with the proportionately biggest population increase occurring far outside of the center, between the 30-40 kilometer radius and even beyond. This is sub-urbanization achieved with help from the later opened expressway lines.

historical population distribution over a 100th year period

This data showing historical population distribution over a 100th year period, also showed a general phenomenon of sub-urbanization. By 2005, 81% of Tokyo’s population lives in the suburbs, up from a mere 16% 100 years ago. Concurrently, population of central Tokyo is down to 2% in 2005, compared to 23% in 1905.


東京圏都市研究プロジェクト by the research institute for high-life, 2005


2 Comments on “Tokyo/ Olympics 1964/(3) Infrastructural developments and decentralisation

  1. The figures which show the distribution of population around the center of Tokyo have a high reference value. It clearly tells that the regional population has grown a lot. However, I wonder if that means citizens are still proposed to work in Tokyo and commute from the satellite cities, or the proposal was promoting a development in those satellite cities in order to alleviate the overflowing population in Tokyo? As we all know, the congested train commute is an issue in Japan. I wonder if the proposal has created this problem or if there is any part covering this issue?

  2. Despite the decentralization process, Tokyo today still rank among cities with highest population density, posing great pressure on transportation system, it would be interesting to see if urban planners have certain preference between public and private transportation method and if they have attempted to coordinate the two system with complementing infrastructures to improve overall conditions.

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