Document Type

Article

Version

Postprint

Publication Title

Journal of Urban History

Volume

35

Publication Date

2008

Abstract

The term machi, signifying both neighborhood and small town, is a key element for understanding Japanese urban form and city planning. After tracing the origins of the term, this article explores the historic and contemporary significance of the concept and its particular spatial and socioeconomic forms. The article then argues that the concept of machi influenced the ways in which Japanese planners picked up foreign concepts through the nineteenth and particularly the twentieth century, absorbing some ideas and rejecting others. Building on their perception of the city as composed of urban units that allowed for planning in patchwork patterns, leading Japanese planners carefully selected models—independently of international appreciation—making, for example, the book The New Town by the German planner Gottfried Feder a standard reference. The article concludes by arguing that foreign observers must understand the concept of machi to comprehend contemporary Japanese neighborhoods, city life, and urban forms.

DOI

10.1177/0096144208322463