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Cultures, Communities and Design

Mapping Everyday Community Life in Exurban Areas around Tokyo: Case study of Minamiashigara, Kanagawa prefecture
A. Pineda et al.
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


The shrinkage of urban peripheries in metropolitan areas is a growing phenomenon, and urban planners worldwide are proposing strategies to regenerate these peripheries. In Japan, most suburban and exurban towns are expected to experience the highest effects of depopulation in Japan in the coming decades. During the 1960s and 1970s, high-speed economic and population growth transformed these peripheries into urban sprawl, with a mix of residential and agricultural areas. Now, in times of depopulation, an increasing number of vacant houses and spaces derived from shrinkage are unevenly piercing the urban built environment, hindering the application of regeneration strategies. Community life spaces, usually scarce in the so-called urban sprawl, are particularly relevant since they can prevent the remaining inhabitants from moving out. This study focuses on residents’ everyday life spaces important for community life. The feeling of rootedness and sense of social bonding to these places can be integrated into new strategies to ameliorate the consequences of shrinkage. This research maps these everyday community spaces through interviews with local stakeholders in Minamiashigara, a 50.000 population town in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Here too significant development happened with the 1960s rapid population growth, when the population increased dramatically. Today, the city faces population decline, and new urban strategies are needed. This study aims to identify community spaces that can play an important role in this new phase. The interviews showed that in spite of the stereotypical image of sprawl areas as devoided of community spaces, there were a rich diversity of anonymous and informal spaces which were relevant to the community. These spaces can be integrated into future regeneration strategies to face decline. The proposed research methods and many of the findings could be applied to other exurban areas facing similar threats, not only in Japan but also worldwide.


Alejandro Pineda (corresponding author): graduated with honors from the Polytechnic School, University of Alicante in 2016, with a specialty in Technologies applied to Architecture and Urbanism. He obtained first place in the 8th “Healthy Housing awards” international competition. His master’s degree graduation thesis analyzed the Japanese Metabolism movement and its viability in today’s Japanese society. Since 2017 he has been working on urban revitalizing projects in various prefectures of Japan as a member of Boundless. This work focus on contrasting the perspective of foreign participants and residents to identify local resources and propose regeneration strategies. He has participated as a guest speaker in various conferences about urban revitalization in Japan. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate in Studiolab at Keio University. His research focuses on ways to map and strengthen the subjective components of place to ameliorate the consequences of urban shrinkage.

Maroya Harigaya: active member of Studiolab since 2019. He obtained his Architecture Degree in 2020 from Keio University, focusing his research on the identity and history of the suburban areas around Tokyo. In 2022 he obtained his Master Degree on this same university. His research targets the community everyday spaces in exurban cities, and their mapping.

Tomoki Hidenaga: active member of Studiolab since 2021. He is currently an Architecture degree candidate at Keio University. His research focuses on mapping relevant spaces for local residents’ life in peripheral areas of Tokyo.

Jorge Almazán: Practicing architect based in Tokyo and Associate Professor at Keio University, Tokyo. Graduated from the School of Architecture, Polytechnics University of Madrid in 2003. He completed the Doctoral Degree at Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2007. In 2008 he held the position of Invited Professor of Architectural Design at the University of Seoul. Since April 2009 he teaches in Keio University, where he leads Studiolab: a university-based collaboration platform that works as architecture design studio and research laboratory. He recently published “Emergent Tokyo: Designing the Spontaneous City,” an urban and architectural design manifesto based on Tokyo’s unique urban patterns.