Tokyo Teleport Town: between utopia and reality
To what extent did the urban and scientific utopia of an ideal city become a reality? 14.02.2013 Simona Kalikova
Tokyo Teleport Town: between utopia and reality Simona Kalikova Introduction: "Tokyo consciously strives to transform itself into a world city through the creation of a network centre for innovation, information and finance." 1 Since the end of the Second World War the Tokyo metropolis was object of reconstruction, enlargement and development. Nevertheless, the urban growth enhanced by these transformations posed soon many problems – among the most important the land shortage for industrial and residential use. Therefore, since the 1960s, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) started to develop different urban projects, which were supposed to bring an efficient solution to the land shortage as well as to contribute to the decentralization of the Tokyo Metropolis. The ultimate objective of TMG's urban projects was to "promote the transition to a balanced and characteristic multi-core urban structure"2. According to the Second and Third Long-Term urban plan (1986 and 1990), the development of 7 sub-centers (respectively Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Osaki, UenoAsakusa, Kinshicho-Kameido and Waterfront Sub-center Teleport Town) was to be promoted. Whereas the 6 former sub-centers were already highly developed, the Tokyo Teleport Town (nicknamed T3), was the "imagined catalyst for the multicore urban structure adaptive to the demands of the future"3. Thus, the T3 was to become an "ideal self-sufficient city", harmonically combining residential, economic, cultural and leisure centers. Because of the highly ambitious and controversial nature of the T3 project, the objective of this paper will be to examine the extent to which this urban and scientific utopia of an ideal city became a reality. As it will be demonstrated through the analysis of the characteristic features of this utopist project (1) and of the impact of the burst of the bubble economy to its construction (2), the Tokyo Teleport Town represents nowadays rather a touristic attraction than an "ideal city", similar to the other sub-centers of Tokyo. 1) The utopist project of Tokyo Teleport Town After the success of Expo 85 in Tsukuba, dealing with the theme "Science and Technology for Man at Home" and having attracted over 20 million visitors from 111 countries, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government wanted to enhance the international success of the Tokyo Metropolis. Therefore, in the early 1990s, the Tokyo governor Shunichi Suzuki initiated an ambitious waterfront development project having for objective to raise the Tokyo Teleport Town on the artificial island of Odaiba as a showcase of futuristic living. The whole project was supposed to be completed in 1996 in order to host the international urban exposition "World City Expo Tokyo "96"" also called "Tokyo Frontier". According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, "The Tokyo Teleport Town project is preparing Tokyo to become a 21st century international metropolis for the future's advanced information oriented society [...] Plans call for it to be a highly futuristic city with advanced telecommunications technology that will provide outstanding links to business centers around the globe" 4 Thus, the T3 was supposed to be more than a showcase project destined for an International Exposition. It was supposed to become a self-sufficient city harmonically combining commercial, residential and cultural centers hosting approximately 60 000 residents and working population overlapping 100 000. According to the plans, when finished, this new city was expected to be oneand- a half times the size of the Shinjuku district. Moreover, the T3 was planned to function as Japan’s main international communication gateway, providing the Japanese metropolis with high 1
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