Tokyo/ Olympics 1964/ III Zooming Into the Short-term Impact of the Massive Expressway Development Plan to the Urban Fabrics
While the massive expressway development aims to achieve macro-objectives to Tokyo’s City Urban Development in previous narratives, one may not neglect the impact during the execution of all the constructions. In short, it is necessary to investigate the trade-off between long-term and short-term goals, the city scale and the human scale.
Tokyo is simply a city of destruction and construction during the 1960s. Between 1963 and 1964, if you visit Tokyo, you will be amazed at the scene. On many main roads in Tokyo, more than 10,000 large pits were dug, in order to build elevated roads and bridges, with more than 7,000 houses and more than 50,000 citizens demolished for the Olympic project. The city was full of gullies. It not only turns the traffic into a chaotic condition in which congestions can paralyses daily operations, but the resulting traffic accidents killed more than 1,000 people.
“There was no water in Tokyo at that time, only the steel bars on the top of the head and the black ruins under the feet.” – Japanese writer Takeshi Kaikō:
Looking at the residence of the construction workers, the hardships of the conditions made people feel chilling. The living space dark and crowded, dirty and ruined, and the air is filled with the smell of urinating urine.
When an urban scheme is being evaluated, the positive and negative outcomes are always emphasized, but the challenges during the execution of the plan are often overlooked. To execute such a large-scale urban development plan, it needs to employ equal amount of resources, in particular the mobilization of citizens. The trade-off for the construction of massive infrastructure are undesirable, if not unacceptable living conditions, under which any of them will cause massive reverberations and paralysis to any developed metropolitan cities nowadays.
It was after Jane Jacobs, an American-Canadian journalist, author, and activist who published book The Death and Life of Great American Cities in 1961, arguing that urban renewal did not respect the needs of city-dwellers.
Certainly, it may be unfair to conclude that the livelihood of citizen at that time is not being respected because the post-war city context of Tokyo and other factors do contribute to such planning. Yet, what if the undesirable conditions during the execution of the Olympics Urban Scheme really stacked up into enough resistance to the urban development, so that whole scheme is paralyzed under social unrest? Why is the Olympics Urban Scheme carried out successfully albeit such undesirable conditions? This actually leads to the next narrative, which relates to nationalism.