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Monday, March 13, 2006
High-rise living in Tokyo
Interesting article in the Washington Post about the increasing income disparities and need for social housing in Tokyo at the same time as developments like the famous Roppongi Hills - 'compact cities' within the city, with high-rise luxury apartments and retail, offering a complete lifestyle, are becoming more and more common and successful.

"We are seeing our society divided up by income," said Masahiro Yamada, a sociologist at Tokyo Gakugei University. "If we keep going like this, we will see the creation of slums in Tokyo even as more places like Roppongi Hills go up for those with extraordinary incomes."...Over the past five years, the number of Tokyo's 100-yen shops -- akin to dollar stores in the United States -- has nearly doubled. Yet over the same period, the number of local outlets of the French fashion house Chanel has jumped from 24 to 37.

Roppongi Hills is an extraordinary development in both its absolutely astronomical expense and also its interesting mix of open-to-all retail, culture and open public spaces. Tourists from the poor suburbs come to gawp; but it is crucially not a gated development. I still don't know whether this makes it 'good' or not - socially or architecturally - and the development has invited bilious critique as much as praise. There was certainly no pretense towards a 'democratic', 'consultative' process - it is about money and hubris - but the concept and results are so extraordinary and bizarre, really, that it can't be simply condemned.


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