Property Australia

A tale of two cities: Lessons from Japan

PROPERTY AUSTRALIA February 11, 2020

Japan’s cities are a manifestation of innovative thinking, technological ingenuity and decades of investment in infrastructure. What can we learn from Japan’s approach to city building?

Following the Second World War, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics gave Japan a “springboard” to relaunch itself as an open trading country.

Today, as Japan gears up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2025 World Expo in Osaka, ambitious architectural and urban regeneration projects are reshaping the nation.

“Japan is an inspiring example of reconstruction, innovation, technological ingenuity and financial strength,” says the Property Council’s policy manager, Collin Jennings.

“Economic expansion through industrialisation throughout the second half of the 20th century, drove Japanese people to the cities,” says Jennings, who has painstakingly assembled the itinerary for the Property Council’s upcoming Japan Study Tour.

New roads, homes and commercial buildings were constructed as Japan’s economy soared to the second highest in the world, behind only the United States.

Tokyo, with a metropolitan population of more than 30 million, manages the challenges of any large metropolis while sitting on one of the world’s most volatile tectonic fault lines, Jennings explains.

“Daily tremors are not uncommon on this geologically unstable plate, and yet the need to build up is a necessity given Japan’s land mass.

“Building offices and apartments in this unstable part of the world has been the challenge for governments, engineers, architects and academics for decades, however the fruits of their thinking are now on display in cities like Tokyo and Osaka.”

Take Shibuya Scramble Square in Tokyo. At 230 metres, and soaring to 47 floors above ground, this is the newest and tallest building in Shibuya. The 28 floors of office space span more than 73,000 sqm, while 213 retail outlets cover 32, 000 sqm from the two basement levels to the 16th floor.

“The crown, both literally and figuratively, is Shibuya Sky. This multi floor experience culminates with Sky-Stage, an outdoor observation area on the roof of the building that provides 360-degree views of Tokyo.”

Then there’s Toranomon Hills, which Jennings calls a “multi-asset building on steroids”. This skyscraper complex in Tokyo’s Minato district is the city’s tallest. The 247 metres over 52 floors incorporates four different asset classes: retail, office, residential and a five-star hotel. There’s also 6,000 sqm of green space at the building’s base.

“Toranomon Hills was constructed over a ring road. This unique design system integrated the building and the infrastructure seamlessly,” Jennings explains.

Meanwhile, Osaka is also undergoing an urban renaissance as it prepares for the 2025 World Expo.

The 24-hectare infill development at Umekita – roughly the same size as the proposed Central Station development in Sydney –will transform the former rail yards at Osaka station into a bustling new transit-oriented centre.

“Umekita has direct access to the Umeda station, the largest terminal in western Japan which moves over 2.5million commuters each day,” Jennings explains.

Then there’s Yumeshima, a 309ha artificial island in Osaka Bay. Infilled using gravel and sand from construction sites around Osaka, Yumeshima is currently the home to one of the biggest container terminals in Japan but is being transformed for the World Expo.

“Floating hotels and a new subway station will all be constructed for the Expo along with five large plazas. A new casino for the city and an integrated resort will leave a legacy long after the World Expo is over,” Jennings adds.

“There’s a lot we can learn from this tale of two cities.”

The Property Council’s Japan Study Tour, from 15-21 March, features a carefully curated selection of site and walking tours, exclusive briefings and expert keynotes. The Japan Study Tour is nearly sold out – only three places remain! Do not delay. Register today.