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Tokyo: Towards a Slow City? Strategies and Initiatives Aimed at Slowing Urban Contexts of Life (2015 - 2018)

The current discourse about “good living” in urban areas emerged in Japan as a result of the transition from a long period of rapid economic growth into a multiform period of stagnation since the 1990s. Processes such as the migration of industry, population decline in rural areas, the aging of society, and structural changes and reforms of the labour market have led to complex differences in the social space and called for the necessary development of sustainable urban planning processes. As an alternative model to the functional, fast moving city focused on efficiency and growth, which an increasing number of citizens struggles to participate in, for quite some time various stakeholders/actors have been developing strategies and visions for a post-industrial city, based on sustainability, deceleration and strengthening of the local interpersonal relationships. Consideration of a partial slowing down, which has its origin in the European slow city discourse, has been taken up in Tokyo. Partial because Tokyo has to be understood as one of the few still growing metropolitan areas of Japan where there is a conflictual tension between growth processes on the one hand and deceleration processes on the other. The project investigates the properties of decelerated spaces in the city and the social practices in which deceleration surfaces. The focus is on the question of which ethical ideas of “good living” the negotiation processes will lead to.

To arrive at a critical analysis of urban deceleration discourses in contemporary Japan and their relationship to other globally circulating discourses of a similar nature, the project utilizes philological-hermeneutic methods of content analysis of actions, utterances and attitudes and key stakeholder/actor groups’ claims. For a subsequent review of the transferability of the slow city discourse on selected regions in Tokyo, the project relies on ethnological methods of participant observation. Furthermore, semi-structured interviews and surveys are conducted among selected stakeholders/actors.