Picture: Ueno Park
2023 marks the 150th Anniversary of the Establishment of Public Parks in Japan
This year, Japan celebrates the 150th anniversary of “Dajō-kan Futatsu No.16 in 1873”, the government edict that decreed the establishment of public parks.
We would like to briefly introduce the 150-year history of public parks in Japan as well as our project to celebrate this historic moment.
The History of Urban Parks in Japan.
The history of public parks in Japan began with the edict “Dajō-kan Futatsu No.16 in 1873”, which newly designated parks in temple and shrine precincts or in existing scenic locations such as flower viewing sites from the Edo period.
The first group of parks made through this edict included Asakusa Park, Ueno Park, Shiba Park, Fukagawa Park and Asukayama Park in Tokyo, Hakusan Park in Niigata, and Sumiyoshi Park and Hamadera Park in Osaka, to be followed by other parks across the country later on.
In 1919, the passing of the City Planning Act (known today as “Former City Planning Act”) defined public parks legally as a type of urban planning facility.
After the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 (with an estimated magnitude of 7.9 and more than 105,000 fatalities), urban parks were revaluated as evacuation sites and prevention areas of spreading fire, which prompted their further development as a post-quake reconstruction project.
In Tokyo, hit heavily by the disaster, Hamacho Park, Sumida Park and Kinshi Park were newly developed in addition to as many as 52 small-scale parks.
The tumultuous period after World War II saw successive reconfigurations of public parks such as abolishment and repurposing for other public facilities, resulting in the legislation of the Urban Parks Act in 1956 to manage the situation.
The law established rules such as the very definition of urban parks as well as standards for their development and maintenance.
Since then, the standard law has been revised in line with the changing times.
It was after the passing of the Urgent Measures Act for Urban Park Construction in 1972 that the creation of urban parks gained momentum.
At the time of this legislation, in fiscal year 1972, the total number of urban parks of all scales across the country was around 12,000, while their aggregated area amounted roughly to 24,000ha.
In fiscal year 2020, these figures increased to nearly 113,000 parks and around 129,000ha, with park area per capita reaching around 10.7 ㎡.
Today, amidst the maturation of our society and the diversification of people’s values, and with the provision of social capital having reached at an adequate standard, the policies concerning green and open spaces have moved to a new phase, with emphasis placed on the following three aspects:
1. Improving the stock-effects of existing green and open spaces.
2. Enhancing collaboration between public and private sectors for the development, maintenance and management of urban parks.
3. Utilizing urban parks flexibly according to their unique potentials.
Project to Celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Establishment of Public Parks in Japan
Throughout this year, we are anticipating various events to be held across the country to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of public parks in Japan.
They include symposia, seminars, illuminations, photo contests and stamp-collecting across multiple parks.
This is a great opportunity to revisit the 150-year history of public parks in Japan and encourage citizens to rediscover the significance and necessity of urban parks.
Municipalities and park management entities will collaborate in this project through the year to promote the development of urban parks for the future.