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4. Improvement of Urban Environment

4-1. Changing demand circumstances in the Kinki region

  1. Disaster-resistant city planning

    The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake took the lives of over 5,500 people and destroyed some 200,000 houses. Office buildings, plants, and places of business collapsed, and what are called "life lines," comprising gas, electricity, water and telephone services, were suspended. The quake caused devastating damage to major industries as well as personal property. It is said that estimates for direct damages amount to approximately 10 trillion yen. As the Kinki region suffered the enormous brunt of the damage it is strongly hoped that disaster-resistant cities be built, taking precautions against not only earthquakes but also various other types of natural disasters.

  2. Creating cities of comfort

    Cities should be the place for politics, the economy, culture, and life. However, since the period of rapid economic growth, only production (economic) activities have been valued. As a result, city planning which places priority on efficiency has been promoted. The fact is being repented efforts have not been made to create relaxation or affluence nor to cope with disasters. In addition, the Kinki region faces the problems of poorly-utilized or unused land, traffic congestion, river pollution, and an increased crime rate.
    The slow economic growth continues and a shift to the "matured society" is progressing. It is demanded to build cities where limited space is effectively used and where residents and visitors can reside without uneasiness and feel inner contentment, such as relaxation, affluence, and comfort.

    1. Effective use of urban space

      For the effective use of limited urban space, it is required to fully utilize poorly-used or unused space. Concrete suggestions are the development of poorly-used or unused land typified by the Osaka bay area, construction of high-rise buildings that is made possible by the deregulation concerning the Midosuji area skyline, and use of underground space.

    2. Creation of cities' attractiveness and amenity improvement

      To gather people in a city, it is necessary to create attractiveness: cultural and leisure facilities aimed at the leisure age as well as improvement of cityscapes and the appearance of streets (buried cables, greenery, sign presentation, maintenance, etc.)

    3. Improvement of city convenience

      To gather people in a city, there is a need for secured city access and support for travel within the city by utilizing a car-navigation system and a parking lot guidance system.

    4. Building of a safe city

      To make a city safe and comfortable to live in, it is necessary to promote the introduction of a crime prevention system, clean energy for community central heating and air conditioning, and environmental improvement systems, such as a river purification system, as well as the renewal of dilapidated houses.
      It is also important to consider the elderly and physically handicapped in city planning.

  3. City planning and commerce

    In recent years, circumstances related to city planning and commerce have changed greatly, due to the trend of commercial functions being moved to the suburbs, and that competition among cities is increasing. This has resulted in the "hollowing out of commerce" in central urban areas.
    Under these circumstances, local governments, regional residents, and those involved in commerce are more interested in the role that commerce plays in city planning.

    1. Commerce as the city core

      The recent changes in circumstances involved in commerce have resulted in the hollowing-out of central urban areas. The many serious instances of inactive central city areas have made the role of commerce recognized anew. Strong hopes are placed on commerce in the central urban areas, as the core of the city.

    2. Dealing with leisure needs and increased spare time

      With people's changing sense of values, there is an increasing need for an enriched way of spending spare time, including recreation. To meet the needs and create a city's liveliness, consideration of commercial facilities where people can enjoy their spare time is required in city planning.

    3. Dealing with the aging society

      To provide a venue for shopping and communication suitable to the future aging society and welfare society, it is expected that convenient facilities where the elderly and the physically handicapped can go without uneasiness will be built. In particular, the aged tend to place emphasis on whether the facilities are near and whether there is a sense of friendliness and a person-to-person service, rather than on price. Thus, a further improvement of neighborhood commercial districts is expected so that people can gather there for relaxation as well as for daily shopping.

    4. Effectively dealing with disasters

      It was learned from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that commercial facilities' proper functioning is essential to the maintenance of residents' "life lines." It is important for residents that nearby commercial facilities where daily goods can be bought are safe and highly disaster-preventive, and that, in cases of disasters, the facilities will be able to function smoothly as suppliers of emergency goods. Such a dealing-with-disaster function of commercial facilities contributes to the security of the community and is expected to be incorporated into city planning.

4-2. Advantages of the Kinki region

  1. Characteristics of industrial accumulation

    1. Accumulation of major general contractors and developers

      In the Kinki region, there are not many regional coordinators who actually carry out urban development, including city planning consultants and commercial consultants. However, major general contractors and developers are accumulated in this region.

    2. Know-how on city planning

      Enterprises in the Kinki region are addressing new city planning. Taking an example, "Mosaic" opened by Tacto Co., Ltd. of the Hankyu Toho Group in the fall of 1992 at Kobe Harbor Land, features an image of a port town of the Mediterranean Sea area. The town is characterized in outward appearance by using old bricks, restaurants and shops give the impression of a single house, and the creation of a neighborhood-like atmosphere by narrow streets. It attracts attention as a noticeable case of urban improvement. As shown in this case, Kinki's local governments and enterprises have been active in building new cities, in a historical view of point, and have accumulated know-how regarding this objective.

    3. Active improvement of the urban environment by local governments

      As a remarkable case in the Kinki region, Kobe City has been pursuing advanced urban improvement on artificial islands: Port Island and Rokko Island. Also, a prefectural ordinance has been enforced in Osaka and Hyogo Prefectures to require the installation of slopes and elevators in private facilities. Thus, Kinki's local governments are actively addressing the upgrading of the urban environment.

  2. Characteristics of research and development infrastructure

    Aiming to build safe and disaster-resistant cities, universities, prefabricated house makers, and construction companies in the Kinki region are working on research and development, including "crisis management in disasters," earthquake-resistant technology, seismic isolation technology, and the development of highly strengthened concrete.
    The Institute of Disaster Prevention, Kyoto University is engaged in a comprehensive study of various disasters, from an earthquake to storm and flood damage, and measures to cope with such disasters. Since the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, staff members of the institute have been addressing studies concerning the mechanism of earthquakes and the development of an information system to map the devastated area, and have offered proposals for the land readjustment program.
    Meanwhile, Takenaka Komuten Co., Ltd. and The Zenitaka Corp. are pursuing research and development concerning earthquake-resistant technology and seismic isolation technology. Ohbayashi Corp. has incorporated data on active faults and strata into map information and has developed a simulation system to forecast earthquake damage to buildings.
    At the Research Institute of Image Information Science, research and development is proceeding, concerning an "Image Simulation System" that will provide integrated images of a wide range of urban areas to comprehensively control the maintenance and growth of cities.

  3. Others

    1. Possibility of advanced city planning

      Learning lessons from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the Kinki region is expected to materialize ideal and affluent cities of the 21st century soon.

    2. Accumulated antipollution technology

      In the Kinki region, the manufacturing industry has been accumulated in the Hanshin Industrial Area. The Kinki region has been facing problems of environmental pollution in urban areas, and local governments and businesses have been addressing antipollution measures. Thus, the Kinki region has an accumulation of technology in this field.

    3. Preservation of terraces of stores and houses

      The Kinki region has been trying to preserve the streets of onetime capitals Kyoto and Nara. Kyoto City is planning to incorporate the "System for Neighboring Landscape Improvement" into its regulations to designate Fushimi's "sake" (rice wine) cellar street as the first such district. Nara City Planning Center has opened the "Naramachi Story House" in the Naramachi District (a popular name), where streets of the Edo Period still remain. The Naramachi Story House will be a base for a campaign to preserve historical streets.
      It is expected that such know-how as mentioned above, along with preserved historical streets, will be utilized in a new type of city planning, as seen in the example of Kurokabe in Nagahama City.

[Examples of new business]
  1. Information processing system backup

    In 1994, the Itochu Kobe Center was opened in Kita Ward, Kobe as a backup base for customer information processing systems. The center was not damaged by the great earthquake and provided full service.

  2. New complex city planning

    A large-scale new city, International Cultural Park City, is planned in the extensive 742-ha area in Hokusetsu district, 20 km from central Osaka. The city plan aims at an international base for research of life science.

  3. Robot to clean river bed

    Kobe Mechatronics Co. has developed a robot which cleans the river bed. The company became independent of a ship equipment manufacturer to start this business, utilizing its expertise.

  4. Car navigation software

    Osaka-based Strawberry Co., Ltd. was founded jointly by Nichimen Corp. and Data West Co., Ltd. (Osaka-based). The company is pursuing the development of car navigation software. Data West is the pioneer of CD-ROM software production. It has been developing the car navigation software, targeting the American market, and has been able to enter the Japanese market via this joint investment with Nichimen.

  5. Parking lot system and traffic information system

    Omron Corp. is actively working on the development of information processing and communication equipment/systems related to automobile traffic, such as a parking lot guidance system and number plate reading equipment.

  6. Rooftop greening

    Toho Reo Corp., an Osaka-based maker of artificial soil, has developed alpha-Base System, a combination of pearlite (calcined rock) and organic matter. The weight of this material is one third that of soil and holds three times as much water. The new soil is utilized for rooftop greening.

4-3. Problems in the Kinki region

  1. Reconstruction of urban functions viewed from the perspective of industrial location

    In reconstructing the cities devastated by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, full consideration must be given not only to safe and comfortable-oriented city planning, but also to what urban space should be used for from the viewpoint of industrial functions. It is important that various urban functions, including industry, housing, industrial/living infrastructure and international exchange, be improved and operated under well-balanced conditions.

    In particular, such a simplistic scenario as making the Hanshin area cities satellite cities of Osaka should be avoided. To prevent the loss of production bases and to secure employment, it is important to pursue attractive city building which will prompt industrial activity and upgrade industrial/living infrastructure.

  2. Industrial function-conscious city planning

    In view of the coexistence of business activities and communities as well as the improvement of the urban environment, arrangement and improvement of plants should be planned by giving consideration to the facilities' harmony with the surrounding environment and to upgrading of disaster-prevention functions.

  3. Comfortable city planning

    In recent years, problems have arisen in city convenience, including increasing traffic congestion, disturbance of business activities due to soaring land price, and the relocation of stores in other areas. In addition, in the current overcrowded environment, such aspects of relaxation and amenities as home floor space, the percentage of resident-owned housing and greenery, are all far from sufficient. To meet residents' needs for inner contentment, such as relaxation, peace and comfort, the promotion of the environmental improvements mentioned above is required.

  4. City planning and commerce

    1. Lack of viewpoint covering broad areas

      In many cases, city planning for the development of accumulated commercial facilities is created on a cities-towns-and-villages basis or on a accumulated commercial facilities basis. Under the current situation in which competition among cities is becoming intensified, current city planning cannot always properly deal with the extension of the market beyond such boundaries.

    2. Inadequate treatment of facility image and operation

      City planning tends to concern such physical aspects as the accumulation of commercial facilities and the improvement of public facilities. In contrast, the establishment of a city's image or the operation of event squares and community halls tends to be valued lightly. As a result, there are some cases in which upgraded facilities are not effectively used or do not contribute fully to attractive city building. In the future, improvement should not be limited to physical aspects, and further consideration should be given to such areas as the proper operation of facilities.

  5. Fostering of regional development coordinators and provision of business opportunities

    For urban and regional development, various systems and approaches are prepared, including reconstruction programs for the areas devastated by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, and city planning with commerce as the core. However, there are some cases in which plans are suspended or set back midway, due to difficulties in coordinating land owners' private rights or in reaching agreements among those concerned regarding the long-term comprehensive outlook, the preliminary stage in applying such systems and approaches. This forms an obstacle to city building programs. The regional development coordinator will serve as a promoter to promote smooth coordination and city planning. This kind of coordinator has not yet been established as a profession, however. The market for this area has not yet been fully established as a business. It is a future task to provide regional development coordinators with business opportunities and to promote the fostering of such coordinators.

4-4. Future image of the industry in the Kinki region

  1. Advanced new urban development industry and advanced disaster-prevention industry toward the 21st century

    Fifty years after World War II, system fatigue is noted everywhere. Measures are urgently required to cope with the problems of the aging of society and the environment. There is also concern over the hollowing-out of industry as a result of intensifying international competition. The process of reconstructing the areas devastated by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake should be a frontier project for the drastic review of the Japanese economy and society.
    In reconstructing the quake-devastated area, one of Japan's largest urban regions, it is important to recognize the significance of the program in this era and to aim at a city which epitomizes what an affluent Japan of the 21st century should be. The reconstruction should not be mere repair work to restore the destroyed area to its original condition, but showed create a new city which will overcome the various problems that currently face Japanese society. During this process, it is expected that new urban development industry will develop.
    It is also expected that, during the reconstruction process, the disaster-prevention-related industry will grow from production to systematic development of materials and equipment for urban environmental improvement.

  2. Development of Osaka Bay Area

    Effective use of the extensive poorly-utilized or unused land in the Osaka Bay Area is expected to result not only in industrial promotion, but also the formation of community zones, which will offer a new lifestyle, including housing and a place for relaxation.

  3. Advanced welfare industry

    The improvement of public facilities with consideration for the elderly and the handicapped will be promoted, leading to the development of a welfare industry.

  4. Advanced ecological business

    The introduction and development of advanced technology, including a water purification system, community central heating and air conditioning, garbage cleaning robots and automatic waterings system for green areas, will accelerate artificial restoration of disappearing natural areas, such as shore protection works for waterfront areas and artificial tidelands. The growth of ecology-related industry is expected, as demonstrated by the utilization of shipbuilding technology in the water purification system and the utilization of a heat supply system in community central heating and air conditioning.

  5. Introduction of a comprehensive urban information network

    The introduction of information systems related to automobile traffic, including a parking lot guidance system and car navigation system, is progressing. In line with this, a comprehensive urban information network system will be introduced, utilizing satellite/radio communications and ground stations. The network system will provide information on cities and daily life beyond simple automobile traffic information. The growth of related industries, including the information/communication related equipment industry, the system development industry, and the media industry is expected.

  6. City planning with commerce as the core

    The accumulation of commercial functions is a constituent of the most appropriate amenities. It can provide not only commercial functions, but also various functions in a combined form, such as culture/cultivation, information/communications, social contact, leisure, and comfort functions.
    With such function at its core, it is expected that city building which integrates a sense of the value of daily life, such as the relaxation and comfort of residents, as well as their coexistence in the community, will be promoted.

Report by the Committee on Kinki Industrial Structure for the 21st Century,
Kinki Bureau of International Trade and Industry,
October 1995