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The Japanese example: an ideal-typical case?

From an integrated transport and property perspective, Japan can be seen as an ideal-typical case of railway station development; but there are important limits to replicating the example in Europe because of great differences in context.

In Japan's major metropolitan areas, interchange stations (where passengers can transfer between commuter trains and local transport) have been the focus of intense property development, mostly promoted by private railway companies. Tokyo stations such as Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and Shibuya, where the commuter and national radials intersect the circular Yamanote line, provide some striking examples. The same can be said of similar radial/ circular interchanges in Osaka, namely Umeda-Hankyu and Umeda-JNR stations. Even through the recent crisis of the Japanese property market, such sites have remained popular with investors (Bongenaar, 1996). The following description of the Shibuya district in Tokyo may express some of the flavour of these highly complex nodes-places:

The Ginza line enters the station at the third floor level, just under the level of the Shuto motorway which passes above it. Other lines arrive under ground level, and together with the Toyoko, Inokashira and Yamanote lines that arrive there passing above street level, they make of Shibuya station a tridimensional intersection. Around the station a surprising bundle of alleys and small streets is animated by a multitude of small shops, restaurants, boutiques, cinemas, hotels and [most importantly] various department stores...The square in front of the station...is a popular meeting place for the inhabitants of Tokyo. On the edge of the district are areas traditionally devoted to night life, as the sakaribas of Marumayacho and Dogenzakacho,...and luxurious residential neighbourhoods as Shoto and Daikanyama. (Kurata, 1994, p. 105).

In Osaka (Edgington, 1990; Roty, 1996), development gravitates around the Umeda North terminals area and the Abeno South terminals area. These are connected with each other and the underground by a circular loop line. Around both clusters of terminals is a concentration of shopping and entertainment facilities. Between them lies the central business district, where more than a million people work daily. The local authorities are promoting an integrated strategy for station areas in the central city (Edgington, 1990). The loop is the support of the Naniwa Necklace Project, a string of complementary, multi-functional urban redevelopment projects on former railway yards and factory sites. A media city, a fashion town, museums and other cultural facilities, commercial and entertainment concentrations, housing and office complexes are being developed on 10 station sites totalling 259.4 ha. Furthermore, both in Tokyo and in Osaka, railway stations are also the focus of suburban development, as the example of new towns around Tokyo poignantly shows. Den'en Toshi—promoted by the Tokyu Railway Company since 1953—is in this sense prototypical (Jonker, 1996).

Developments on such a scale are made possible in Japan by a set of unique features. First and foremost of these is the much more central role of the train in mobility patterns and especially in commuting in the Tokyo and Osaka areas. The train has 35% of the passenger transport market share in Japan as a whole, and 90% in central Tokyo (as compared with 5.6% in the UK and 75.5% in central London, and 8.7% in France and 59% in central Paris; Bongenaar, 1996). In the Tokyo metropolitan region in 1988, 25% of the 74.1 million daily trips were made by train, 25% by bus, 26.8% by foot, 17.6% by bicycle, and 27.5% by car. In contrast, in the Ile de France region in the same year, 30% of the 19.3 million daily trips were by public transport, 10% by soft modes, and as much as 60% by car (Suzuki, 1996). On average 2.5 million passengers a day pass through Shinjuku, the busiest station in Japan (and in the world). At Osaka, a combination of six rail and metro stations provides the Umeda districts with a daily flow of 2.3 million people, with peaks of 640 000 for Osaka national railway station and 630 000 for Hankyu-Umeda private commuter station (Roty, 1996). For the sake of comparison, the busiest station in Europe is Paris Nord, with 300 000 passengers a day, while Waterloo, the busiest in London, has 180 000. Because of this dominant role of rail transport, the distance from a station in Japan largely determines the value of land; and that in turn creates the conditions for the integration of the financing and management of rail infrastructure and urban development.

Second, the large share of railway travel in passenger transport in Japan is possible only because of the much higher net population density. There are about 1550 inhabitants per square kilometre of habitable area in Japan. By contrast there are only 350 in the Netherlands, 260 in England, 160 in France, and 50 in the USA. Tokyo is not only densely populated; perhaps more importantly, the densely inhabited area has a wider scale than in European examples. The population density in the core is about half that of Paris (13 300/km2 against 20 500/km2) but in the periphery it is double (7700/km2 against 3300/km2). This makes the Tokyo region a multicentred agglomeration, with relatively continuous high densities, a feature reinforced by current planning policies (Jonker, 1996). Within this context, station areas provide the region's 27.6 million inhabitants with the most important opportunities for public contacts, entertainment and shopping. At Shinjuku station, for instance, there are 33 commercial streets and 3275 shops; at Shibuya, there are 31 commercial streets and 3421 shops (Suzuki, 1996).

Third, institutional differences are important. Most notable among these is the division of roles between an (until recently) more conventional national public railway company and the private railway conglomerates. Besides operating regional commuter networks in the bigger metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, these conglomerates are also active in the retail sector, hotels, real estate, construction, travel, advertising, resorts, media, entertainment, museums, universities, garden cities, and more. They are highly diversified companies with a strong territorial base, historically grown around the concept of the total living industry. The typical business formula combines three elements in a single operation: an urban pole including the railway terminal and a department store/ shopping centre; a development of the garden city or campus type along the line; and, at the other end of the line, a leisure and entertainment complex (Roty, 1996). An employee of one of these companies is likely to live in an apartment built by the group's real estate subsidiary, to travel between home and work on trains or buses run by the company, to shop in its supermarkets, to spend the weekend in its museums, amusement parks and golf courses. of course, to be a supporter of the group's baseball team (Kurata, 1994).

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