Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thursday Old Urbanism

A family member back from a Japan adventure was kind enough to oblige my request for photos of street scenes during her travels. Although you can easily get your Japanese narrow streets fix at Nathan Lewis' site, or even on Google Streetview, which now covers most of Japan, I thought I might share of few of them:

Asakusa District, Tokyo
Although many streets are effectively pedestrianized like this one, with little auto traffic, few if any are actually physically closed off to cars. On-street parking is almost nonexistent. Almost all bikes seem to be of the cruiser type at left, with high handlebars, comfy seats and a basket almost invariably attached in the front (and often the back as well). Helmets? Very few if any are worn, apparently.

Arcade-style public shopping streets, running for block after block, are abundant. In Kyoto, it appears a person could walk across much of the downtown area without leaving the shelter of one of these covered streets. Despite the near-total lack of nearby parking, the visual evidence shows that these streets aren't suffering from a dire lack of customers. I expected to find a website devoted to them, but that seems to be a project still in search of a creator.

Shinsaibashi, Osaka
Another very pleasant shopping street, in Osaka.


  1. I like "Thursday Old Urbanism." Once a week, just post some nice examples of what can be done, and what has been done, to great success.

    1. Thanks, Nathan. I'll try to bring it back every so often. You can't have too many photos.

  2. Sadly Japan seem to be getting rid of narrow streets any time there's a chance. E.g., when they raze a large area for new development, the streets they create, even if obviously intended for local use with high pedestrian usage tend to be fairly wide 2-lane roads with proper sidewalks.

    I don't know the factors that go into those decisions, but even if young Japanese are largely unexcited by cars (which is the case), the generations of Japanese who happen to be in positions of influence are those who grew up viewing car ownership as an exciting future and increased car access as a natural and "modern" goal. Luckily in Japan reality often keeps those tendencies in check, but nonetheless, they still do damage, if more slowly than in many other countries.

    I imagine the large and powerful car industry also has an influence.

    Hopefully generational change will eventually counter this tendency, but I fear that Japan will have changed for the worse by the time that happens... (bureaucracy moves slowly...)