Tokyo/ Olympics 1964/ (4) Over concentration of development in the capital

Indeed, the urban renewal changes constructed in time for the 1964 games pushed Tokyo towards becoming a strong and powerful metropolis. However it is undeniable that the developments did not benefit the city entirely. The infrastructural network improvements was saturated in the city center, in areas that would gain more international recognition, largely found within the Yamanote Line. The Metropolitan expressway forming the Three Ring Roads system today only had its inner portion constructed by the 1964. In short, investments poured into more affluent areas of Tokyo, which explained the boom the city experienced soon after, while the suburbs and areas on the outskirts of Tokyo weren’t experiencing similar growth and treatment.

Tokaido Shinkansen Opening, 1964

It has been argued, that over-concentration of development in the city center also led to many more adverse outcomes. For example, new addition to the existing infrastructure system such as the Tokaido Shinkansen, sucked in young workforce into the city seeking for better job opportunities. As a result subsequent facilities and housing subdivisions had to be built surrounding transport nodes within the capital. This boosted the development of these areas, but in turn has also directed potential and much needed investments away from the less developed suburbs. As stated in the previous narrative, Tokyo did manage to decentralize and suburbanization did become more important post 1964, however the reality is that a large part of the country only became “bedroom communities” for the capital, and citizens still have to go further into the city for job opportunities, facilities and services. 

The focused development of Tokyo, made it easier for citizens to move from a regional capital to Tokyo than to the nearest city. Shinkansen lines and local train lines rarely have direct transfer stops in between, and often you’d have to transfer to Tokyo before getting to any other part of the country. This has directly impacted the physical shape of the capital. The city is growing denser vertically both upwards and downwards. As buildings increase on ground, newer train platforms are built underground. The Tokyo station is digging deeper and deeper, with the latest and deepest terminal being the new Chuo Shinkansen proposed to connect Tokyo to Nagoya in 2027.

construction of highway over the Nihonbashi bridge, 1963 (asahi news)
proposed underground route, 2018, (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Japan)

Another one of the more evident specimen of destruction directly coming from the 1964 Olympics, was the covering of the Nihonbashi bridge with a section of overhead expressway. The high cost and rushed constructions of the Shinkansen in the same period impacted the construction of highways. To avoid purchasing land and shrink processing time, highways had to be built above existing rivers and canals. This resulted into the formation this major eyesore.  As the 2020 Olympics approaches, a proposal to uncover the Nihonbashi bridge was passed. A 1.2 km section of the overhead highway will be moved underground, constructions beginning in 2020 soon after the Olympics. As the city renews its urban fabric and image preparing for 2020 and the city’s future, past decisions have to be reconsidered and infrastructural moves that deals with the negative impact left behind by 1964’s rushed decisions have to be made.

1 Comment on “Tokyo/ Olympics 1964/ (4) Over concentration of development in the capital

  1. A good interpretation of how Japanese made use of 1964 Olympics to promote infrastructure construction, urban planning and establish a mega-city image in the world after WWII.

    And you could also make more comparison with the changes brought by 2020 Olympics.

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