Ethnic Clusters and the Urban Planning System: The Japanese Experience

By Shahed Khan and Jake Schapper.

Published by The Diversity Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As cities compete to attract investments in a global economy, diversity and multiculturalism are often played upon in the city’s image building. Diversity is seen as one of the crucial indicators of a city’s quality of life. Tokyo is regarded as one of the three alpha global cities. Despite its undisputed global city status, however, its population still remains over ninety-six per cent ethnically Japanese, making it one of the least ethnically diverse global cities in the world. Indeed many Japanese consider their country’s racial homogeneity as its best trait. On the other hand, pockets of minorities do reside within the Tokyo region. The two main minority groups, the Chinese and the Koreans, have both established “ethnic towns”. For local governments these ethnic clusters present an opportunity to tout their city’s global credentials and diversity. Within the minority groups that form the clusters, however, there seem to be two factions: those who seek to promote the tourist appeal of the cluster for increased trade; and those who value the cluster as a place of cultural sanctuary in a sometimes culturally in- sensitive ‘foreign’ city. Their motivation and interests in shaping these clusters are not necessarily aligned. From theoretical viewpoints ranging from Henri Lefebvre’s production of social space to Antonio Gramsci’s concept of counter-hegemony to Manuel Castells’ views on proliferation of social spaces on internet, this paper sets out to explore how, and to what effect, the urban planning system and processes are used or avoided by the local government and ethnic minorities in the production of urban space. The paper focuses on observations from the Kanto (Greater Tokyo) Region to describe how diversity is handled in a major Asian global city.

Keywords: Ethnic Clusters, Global City, Social Space, Chinatown, Koreatown

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp.91-110. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.096MB).

Dr. Shahed Khan

Associate Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia

Shahed teaches at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Curtin University, Perth. In recent years, he has taken urban planning students from Australia to Japan for fieldwork and cross-cultural learning as part of the International Perspectives of Planning unit. Other units he teaches include Planning Theory. His current research interests include community development, cultural planning, housing and transit oriented development. Previously, he has researched informal housing in Asian cities, focusing on factors that influence the occurrence of evictions.

Jake Schapper

Sessional Academic, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia

Jake works in both academia and in private practise, mainly in the areas of urban design and transport planning. Over a number of years he has developed an interest in the way in which ethnic minority communities and individuals engage with the city. After organising, with Dr. Khan, a number of study tours to Tokyo, a city in which he was a resident for over 5 years, he and Dr. Khan started to study ethnic minority communities there.


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