City Planning In Japan

         In Japan, city planning law encompasses urban and surrounding areas.  It entails regulations and city projects. The term city has broader coverage for land development in city planning regions covering multiple jurisdictions and district level planning.  It includes regional planning and development as well as transportation planning. Municipal projects are included as well as large-scale projects developed by the national and prefecture governments.

City Planning Laws & Policies

City Planning Law (applied to areas designated as City Planning Districts) Policies regarding development and conservation
Urbanization Areas
Land Use Controls
Public facilities planning (planning for roads, parks, sewer systems, infrastructure
District level plans
Urban Development Projects, including redevelopment
Land Development Zoning & Development Rights
Project Approvals
City Planning Regulations

The current City Planning Legislation was enacted in 1968. Increasing economic development, concentration in urban areas, problems of poor infrastructure, environmental problems and inadequate infrastructure have required amendments to the 1968 City Planning Act.

The goals of the 1968 Act involved:

Preparation of land use plans
Designation of development parcels in developing areas
Land Use Regulation through the Land Development
Permit structure
Determination of cost sharing for infrastructure improvements between the government and private landowners and improvement of infrastructure
Passing the responsibility of city planning to local governments

Each City Planning Area constitutes a region in which the City Planning Act is applied. These areas typically extend over several jurisdictions because of the interconnected nature of planning and development. The administrative regions are responsible for transportation projects, public facilities and infrastructure.

Policies for development and control of each City Planning Area are set out on large- scale maps. There are two segments to a City Planning Area:  A. an Urban Promotion Area (UPA) and an Urban Control Area (UCA). Buildings are generally not permitted in the UCA. City real estate planning taxes are imposed only within the UPA. Development of infrastructure is prioritized in an UPA. Development projects are permitted only in the UPA.
Zoning controls building usage and provides the foundation for regulation of land use and building standards. Each UPA has several types of land use districts. Location and building of schools, libraries, hospitals, child-care centers, and other public use facilities  are not subject to zoning controls.  Such public services are subject to City Planning for public facilities.

Urban Promotion Areas (UPA) and Urban Control Areas (UCA)




Land use control Development controls according to Land Use Districts Development controls according to agricultural plans; Urban development is not permitted
Public services Public facilities including roadways, parks, sewage  are approved and funded by public monies Public monies expended for the expansion of agricultural activities
Urban development projects Such projects are promoted Such projects are not permitted
Land development permits Large-scale projects require discretionary approval by the Governor of the Prefecture Development activities are rarely permitted
Loss of farmland The project must provide a report on the conversion of farmland to urban usage The project must obtain the approval of the Prefecture Governor  
City planning taxes City planning taxes are imposed to generate revenue for city planning projects. Not allowed to be imposed

The land development permit system promotes formation of planned urban areas.  All new buildings must be approved by the local government. Public infrastructure facilities including sewers, parks, roads must be transferred to local government which is then responsible for administering and maintaining them.
Urban development projects are large-scale projects done for the benefit of the city. The public sector may construct urban development projects. The urban development projects system serves as the basis for developing these projects.
In urban development project areas, the governmental body may restrict the purchase and sale of lands and take land using eminent domain. These projects are often urban redevelopment projects.
The prefectures typically approve large-scale city planning, whereas small-scale projects are approved by the municipalities. Because city plans restrict the rights of private property owners, the system has implemented procedures to obtain public input.  These include a system of public review of plans, public hearings and city planning council meetings.
Public hearings are held to obtain the input of residents in the planning area. Hearings are required when private landowners may suffer serious developmental controls, when the boundaries of the UPA may be adjusted and new major roadways are under consideration. The public is allowed to review the city plans and make submissions to the responsible authority. The city planning council for the prefecture makes input;  this is a committee independent of the body preparing the city plan.

New Legislation Proposed to Revitalize City Centers
The government has recently proposed new legislation to revise city planning laws and other laws to bolster city and town centers.
The government plans to encourage commercial development in city centers and, at the same time, increase restrictions on development in suburbs.  One goal is to discourage supermarkets from opening stores on the fringes of cities and towns.
In order to prevent large stores from locating in suburban areas, the city planning law will be amended to allow municipal governments to determine the type and size of structures to be built.  Certain cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya will be exempt from the new laws.
The revision also will impose stricter controls on converting farmland into commercial development. Municipalities will be given the right to determine whether other businesses and facilities such as hospitals, welfare facilities and schools may be constructed in suburban areas.
A primary goal is to encourage commercial facilities and businesses remain in city and town centers.  Another law will allow subsidies for certain condominiums to be constructed in city and town centers. Also, subsidies may be available to construct public facilities such as hospitals and welfare facilities.
The approval process will be expedited for businesses planning to open stores such as supermarkets in city and town centers.

         The Future
Due to increasing suburbanization due to cheaper land prices and the trend toward car-oriented living, suburban living has continued to increase. Consumers enjoy the western styled center with large parking lots.
As hospitals, schools and government offices have moved out of downtowns, the retreat from city centers has continued.  Elderly citizens are impacted severely because of their lack of automobiles. These proposed laws have been very controversial and are opposed by certain business leaders.  Department store owners which own stores close to train stations support the laws.  As a result of this controversy, it remains to be seen whether and how the legislation will be implemented.