Section 1 Urban and Environmental Studies


Thomas Feldhoff, Duisburg-Essen University
Natacha Aveline, E.N.S., Lyon  

Call for Papers (deadline: October 31, 2004):

Japan’s Aging Society
and its problems and implications for future urban development

The traditional Japanese “urban development model” is currently undergoing a dramatic change. Large cities have been so far continuously expanding under the pressure of a strong inflow of migrants from the countryside and soaring land prices. They are now experiencing an adverse move, with bad demographic prospects and sluggish land markets. According to official forecasts, elderly aged over 65, who accounted for 8 % of the population in the 1970s, will reach the proportion of 25 % in 2020. This rapid aging of society is expected to be more pronounced in urban areas, as rural zones have already faced a dramatic demographic decline over the past decades.

In Tokyo, the fall in land prices, combined with the redevelopment of large parcels formerly occupied by railway facilities in Eastern areas, is re-orienting the population flow from the suburbs to the center since the mid-1990s. Tokyo is thus enjoying again an inflow of migrants, after having experienced a continuous demographic outflow to the benefit of its suburbs over a period of about 35 years. However, this trend is likely to change by 2010, as a population outflow of 20 % is being forecasted for the period 2010 to 2050.

This rapidly aging of society, in a context of decreasing land values, has strong implications in terms of urban development and urban policy. The Urban and Environmental Studies Section of the next EAJS conference will therefore focus on this issue. On behalf of the EAJS, we are pleased to invite scholars of relating disciplines such as architecture, economics, geography, politics, sociology and urban studies to participate in our Vienna session. In particular, we wish to encourage papers that address the following questions:

  1. How is the spatial balance of large cities challenged by the decline of the suburbs to the benefit of the central areas? This question involves a broad range of issues, such as transportation and urban policies, business management and land development of railway companies, new kind of redevelopment projects in the center of cities, housing relocation strategies of households, new trends in the housing markets.
  2. Are “shrinking cities” a phenomenon that can be observed in Japan like elsewhere? Massive population and job losses convulse neighbourhoods, cities and regions. When buildings stand empty, infrastructures collapse and urban life erodes, what can residents and urban planners do about shrinking? What are the causes of urban shrinkage and what about the impact on urban cultures?
  3. How is the Japanese urban society preparing the coming “silver boom”? The rising share of elderly generates demand for new kind of urban services in a wide array of industries, such as transportation services (railway and new light transit systems), retail industries, property development (housing units with medical assistance), leisure and cultural industries. Japan is taking a leading role in this field among industrialized countries, thus paving the way for further innovation in other aging societies.
  4. How important is population aging to Japan’s future prosperity? Will Japan’s economy weaken further under the burden of the demographic dilemma? How is society handling depopulation and what can be done to reserve the decline?

Of course, for those who do not fit with the main topic, papers dealing with relevant aspects of urban and regional development are welcome as well.

Proposals (including title and abstract) need to be received by October 31, 2004. Please contact Natacha Aveline and Thomas Feldhoff with submissions or for more information.