(4) Denenchofu: Japan’s first “garden city” 田園調布の歴史 (1918-1928)

I will eventually write something more coherent on this topic, but for now, let me list some helpful resources concerning Denenchofu 田園調布, Japan’s first “garden city”, and currently one of the most desirable locations in Tokyo for upscale, suburban living (while still having access to good public transportation).

The place name is fairly literal: Denen 田園 means “garden” or “countryside” or “rural”; and Chofu is a local Tokyo place name (e.g. Chofu city 調布市 in southwest Tokyo.)

For reference, here’s a Google image search for “田園” – I suppose this is what the developers wanted to evoke in naming this suburb.

Den-en rural garden countryside Japan photo.jpg

Here’s a map and aerial photo of Denenchofu today. (Google Maps)

(1) Notes from “Garden city Japanese style: the case of Den-en Toshi Company Ltd., 1918-28”, by Shun-Ichi J. Watanabe

This article was published in Shaping an Urban World, edited by Gordon E. Cherry 1977/1980 (pages 129-143). Notes from my reading:

  • There was a land boom in Tokyo due to World War 1, which was initiated by land owning-speculators
  • The land that would become Denenchofu was essentially all farmland or woodlands
  • Shibusawa Eiichi helped organize the enterprise
  • A prospectus was published in 1918
  • A new train line would be built t serve the community (the Meguro-Kamata Electric Railway)
  • The community would be in the middle of nowhere – new facilities would need to be built to support the community
  • Denenchofu was not a “true” garden city in the mold of the British Ebeneezer Howard; Denenchofu was meant to be part of Tokyo, not completely separate
  • Denenchofu was built almost entirely as a private enterprise; there was no statutory/government planning
  • 1923’s devastating earthquake helped spur sales, as 20% of region’s housing was lost, and also as people were now more fearful of living in crowded areas that were susceptible to fire; these factors spurred upper-middle class Tokyo-ites to move to suburbs
  • By 1928 most of the land had been sold

The following photo includes interesting quotes about the impact of the 1923 earthquake on Denenchofu:

  • Quote 1: “Shibusawa’s son, who walked through the destroyed capital [Tokyo] to Den-en Toshi, recalls: ‘In contrast to the hell-like tragedies and miseries in the City area, how beautiful Senzoku area was!…This is heaven and that, hell!”
  • Quote 2: “The Tokyo earthquake accelerated the suburban exodus of the upper-middle class.”
  • Quote 3: the company “bought such a newspaper advertisement as: ‘This formidable earthquake has proved Den-en Toshi a sfae place. From the central city to Den-en Toshi! It means to move from a cinema without an emergency exit to a huge park. It is now that we should secure the land for peaceful life which is the most important property.'”

(2) Photos from book review: Garden Suburb of Evil, by Murray Fraser, April 22, 2014

(3) Regional Planning in Great Britain – Focus on the Transfer and Transformation of the Garden City Concept イギリスの地域計画 : 田園都市理論の受容と変容を中心として, by Etsuo Yamamura 山村悦夫 (PDF)

An excerpt: 

“The strongest influence of the English regional planning on the urban planning in Japan was from Howard’s Garden City concept. Through the construction of Letchworth and Welwyn Garden Cities and the establishment of the International Garden City Association, this concept became known all over the world.

The concept is contalned in the publication by the Local Bureau of the Home Ministry in the detailed description on “The Garden Clty” and the Garden City
Company Ltd which constucted “Denenchofu” (the first Garden City in Japan). In this book, the first two chapters were devoted to Garden City and the rest describing Western social works, Iiving impyovements and education.”

(4) Some personal thoughts

  • First Impressions: Denenchofu is not as “obnoxious” to me as gated communities in the United States because Denenchofu does not bar public access to its streets.
  • Accessibility: it takes about 35 minutes to get from Denenchofu to Tokyo station; 17 minutes to get to Shibuya station.
  • Things to do: I’ve walked through the town twice; not much to do as far as I recall, though it is quite pleasant.
  • Similar places: A similarly upscale and pleasant community is Seijo 成城, the town surrounding Seijogakuen-Mae Station (map); this area has more shopping and a livelier feel than Denenchofu, but also has plenty of trees and a relaxing atmosphere. (map)

Other notes:

  • This place is also written as Den-en-chofu in English
  • Originally the place was called Tamagawadai Garden City (source).

Other ‘garden cities’ in the Tokyo area:

Other links:

Twitter:

  • Denenchofu station in 1963:

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8 comments

  1. […] Tokiwadai Residential Area 常盤台住宅地 (map) is a suburban development that was came about with the opening of 武蔵常磐駅 Musashi-Jobu Station in 1935 (now ときわ台駅 Tokiwadai Station) (source). The station, on the Tobu Tojo Line 東武東上線, is just an 11-minute train ride from the hustle and bustle of Ikebukuro Station; because of the neighborhood’s quiet character (and its history), Tokiwadai is referred to as the “Denenchofu of Itabashi” 『板橋の田園調布』 (See: Denenchofu: Japan’s first “garden city”). […]

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