Overview of Tokyo’s urban design

This blog is a companion to thetokyofiles.com, my primary site. Here I will document the current state and history of Tokyo’s urban design elements. I like to think of this as a “Tokyo urban planning museum”. Lofty goals, I know.

A working list of interesting and/or important features of Tokyo’s urban design, urban planning, and development:

Geographic features

Natural disasters and prevention

Elements of street design

Trains and subways (and “Transit-oriented development” TOD)

Trains and subways: History

Bicycle infrastructure 

Embellishments and street life

Trees and plants

Environment and ecology

Land transformation

  • Land reclamation
  • River straightening / River engineering 河川工学
  • Land Readjustment Projects 土地区画整理事業

Retail commerce

Pleasure and sin

Tokyo Architectural Forms

Tokyo Urban Planning History

Reclaimed land and conservation areas

  • Odaiba
  • Koto-ku / city of canals
  • Haneda Airport
  • Reclaimed rice paddies 田んぼ (tanbo) たんぼ (e.g. Ota-ku)
  • Conservation areas (e.g. 水谷田んぼ Mizutani tanbo in Saitama)
  • Satoyama 里山: woodlands / cultivated lower slopes (Wikipedia)
  • “Urban countryside” 「都会の田舎」 `Tokai no inaka’

Rivers, streams, and canals

Planned Communities (and Housing projects)

Parks and sports

Temples, and shrines

  • Temple land ownership
  • Temples and shrines on high land (Chiba area, e.g.)

Pedestrian culture

Cultural values and behaviors


  • Street design for elderly (PDF)
  • Safety measures for children (example)
  • Relationship between ‘Salaryman’ lifestyle and urban design

Cars and roads

  • Taxis
  • Car parking
  • Tolls
  • Parking lot and driveway “tube slopes” 鉄管スロープ (Twitter)

Mega projects

Theory and imaginative plans


  • Fishing
  • Factories & light industry (Kawasaki, Kawaguchi, Koto-ku, etc.)
  • Factory train lines
  • Energy (nuclear, etc.)

Government and law

Neighborhood typologies

  • Tokyo station / Ginza
  • Mixed-use neighborhoods
  • Residential city with at-grade train crossings (e.g. Ikegami line)
  • Danchi 団地 & housing complexes
  • 郊外住宅地 = suburban residential area
  • Large blocks with new apartments / buildings (e.g. Tenno isle; Odaiba)
  • Garden cities and upscale suburbs (Denenchofu, Seijo, Tokiwadai; “luxury villas” 高級別荘 at Sakura-shinmachi)
  • Western suburbs

Tokyo Sprawl

  • Train network
  • Contribution of housing complexes to sprawl
  • Narita Airport (protests: Farmers’ League Against Narita Airport)
  • Commuter culture: as seen in film (e.g. “Wisdom on the Hill”)
  • Number of commuters and where they come from

Tokyo Urban Planning Controversies

  • Gentrification / ‘high-rise gentrification’ (Twitter)
  • Sprawl and crowded subways
  • Narita airport (see above)

Map of topics discussed in this blog: