Tokyo is the capital city of Japan with a population of 14million. Formerly a political and cultural hub, today Tokyo is a technologically advanced city in the country and also a leading city in the business and finance sector. 

Although Tokyo is ranked amongst the best cities to live in, for the opportunities it offers to people, it has also led to urban pollution. This is due to the migration of people to the city, growing population and expansion of industries within the city. The traffic levels are also increasing leading to air pollution. Tokyo has gone through vast changes in the past years due to rapid urbanization being a cause of urban pollution.

Urban pollution: Tokyo Sheet1
Urban pollution: Tokyo Sheet2
Air pollution_©

Planning of Tokyo

The Urban development planning of Tokyo in 2001 had a vision of evolving the city into an environmentally friendly and advanced city that offers and appeals to emerge as the world’s model. The model was to establish a greener cityscape

This proposal included reinforcing wide-area transport infrastructure, hubs to boost economic vitality, converting it into a low carbon consumption city, water and greener network, higher residential standard and disaster-resistant city. These policies attracted migrants all over the world to settle down in Tokyo for its fast-moving life. As a result, the density started increasing and as one can see it as a growth of the city, it also led to various issues. 

Urban pollution: Tokyo Sheet3


Conditions in the city have deteriorated due to the high concentration of population. Over 27 million people inhabit the Metropolitan community area that has led to traffic within the city. This problem remains unsolved in both road and railway transport. The improvement of transport infrastructure is examined especially to high-grade ring roads and commuter railways from the long-run aspect. 

Regional decentralisation and timewise equilibration are a few of the ways opted on a short-term basis to control the traffic. Advanced traffic information systems help monitor the traffic condition within the city and allow the officials to take necessary steps to control traffic.  

Urban pollution: Tokyo Sheet4

Urban Population

The population of Tokyo in 2014 was 34,765,638, increasing at an average annual rate of 0.8% since 2000. It is often described as crowding and figuratively bursting. It is said that Tokyo has reached its ‘urban peak’ and has stopped growing due to the lack of accommodation of newer people and opportunities. 

As a result, the near future might see a decrease in the urban population if the city stops growing and doesn’t create a change of atmosphere. The only way to prevent the city is by urban renewal policies and schemes that will help control the situation and make the city more liveable.  

Urban pollution: Tokyo Sheet5
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Urban renewal

The project revitalisation involves diversifying the functions in the city and coming together socially and economically to pursue the circular megalopolis structure which would allow the region to fully demonstrate its functionality. This would create compact city hubs and higher functions around train stations and other central locations. 

The vision divides Tokyo into five different zones for urban maintenance and coexistence with the environment. This plan defines the future of the city from a long-term perspective and the path to follow.

Urban pollution: Tokyo Sheet6

Urban Development Plan for Disaster-resistance

The city has laid down zones for redevelopment as shown in the plan based on regions and roads that come under priority development and connectivity development plan as of 2014. The urban renewal act stipulates matters where urban revival is necessary. These are categorised as residential redevelopment zones, development of disaster-resistant blocks, fireproof zones, and development of roadside communities in various districts. 

The master plan has been revised every five years to develop housing policies to create a better residential environment for all Tokyo residents. Housing policies are more focused on, considering the growing population within the city to meet the demands of the population. Tokyo is well known for its wooden houses closely stacked next to one another, which is currently becoming an issue of frequent fires. 

To retain the beauty of Tokyo’s architecture and safeguard the heritage, the authorities proposed a disaster-resistant housing policy which would create safe and peaceful residential districts, provide various services that benefit the residents, encourage proper management and renewal of apartment complexes, thus planning for after disaster recoveries. 

In the plan, areas with close-set wooden houses that are likely to suffer major damage in the event of an earthquake have been designated “Development Districts” (28 districts covering about 7,000 ha). Among these districts, those that urgently require redevelopment to enhance disaster resistance are designated “Priority Development Districts” (11 districts covering approx. 2,400 ha). 

In these districts, development of roads, parks, and other basic infrastructure, as well as reconstruction of old wooden houses into shared residences or fire/quake-resistant homes are underway based on policies to regulate and encourage plans such as the project to develop areas with close-set wooden houses and a program to develop disaster-resistant blocks.

Urban pollution: Tokyo Sheet7
master plan_©

In the 2013 scheme, the Special development zones are stepping up the building fireproofing regulations and are reconstructing these buildings. The districts also focus on creating city-planned roads to form firebreaks, block the spread of fire and serve as a space for evacuation and rescue operations. 

In addition, the planners have also been working towards making roadside buildings earthquake resistant and widening the roads that help faster movement during a disaster. These steps have also helped the communities come together creating more pedestrian-friendly streets and informed neighbourhoods. 

Urban pollution: Tokyo Sheet8

Tokyo then and now 

Through the years, Tokyo has grown in various aspects. Today, the city is a mix of older and newer cultures and is open to urban growth. The way to move ahead is by preserving the past and the existing condition of the city. Hence, relentless efforts are being made by policymakers and designers to revive and retain the authenticity and importance of the city. 

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then and now_© 
Urban pollution: Tokyo Sheet10


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Shreya M Jain is currently studying in 4th year of architecture. She believes that architecture is a reciprocation of one’s thoughts and feels that it creates a dialogue between people and its surroundings. Through her writing she wishes to share how time and space can create meaningful impressions in an individuals life.