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Japan: Protecting the Kyoto Cityscape

While many countries around the world are struggling to tackle Kyoto at home, the city the environmental accord was named after is caught up in its own struggle. The capital of Japan for over 1,000 years (794-1868), Kyoto was once a picturesque ancient city surrounded by mountains. Today it is a major tourist destination, attracting about 47 million visitors every year, with a set of historic locations listed as World Heritage sites. At the same time, Kyoto is one of the major economic centers in the west of Japan. The economic boom in the 1980s and 1990s accelerated modern development in Kyoto, which turned the city into a big jumble of tall concrete buildings, glaring neon signs and rooftop advertisements. To clean up its negative image, the city of Kyoto recently passed a bill to introduce an ordinance protecting its cityscape and views. As the bylaw came into effect on September 1, raising some controversy, bloggers from Kyoto and elsewhere expressed various concerns and opinions.

Kyoto Tower
Photo: Flickr user Jameswy Wang CC-BY-NC-ND

One blogger writes:

と言うわけで、新景観条例には大いに賛同します。是非協力したいと思います。大体京都は観光客の多い町ですし、町が綺麗になれば、観光客が増える。つまり、「町を綺麗にすれば金が儲かる」わけです。極論すれば「町の美化=金儲け」なんです、こんな図式が成り立つのは京都だけですよ。

Well, anyway, I totally support the new landscape bylaw. I would like to help by all means. Kyoto is a city which has a lot of tourists, and if the city becomes much cleaner, there will be even more tourists. In other words, “if the city is cleaned up, then there is money to be made”. To put it in extreme terms, “beautification of the city = money making”. Kyoto is the only place where this kind of scheme can be applied.

On the other hand, this blogger writes:

観光都市の京都なら仕方ないと思いますが、これがどこの街でも制定されるような状況になったら都市の発展が止まると思うのですが..。
変化を嫌う地方都市住民には歓迎されそうで不安です。

I think it's understandable in the case of Kyoto, a tourist city, but if this measure gets implemented in other cities, then I think it will prevent city development…
I am worried that this may be welcomed by people in regional cities who don't like change.

Kyoto Station
Controversial Kyoto Station
Photo: takasunrise0921 (GNU Free Documentation Licensed)

Fuji-chan Film is sceptical about the new bylaw.

規制するには遅過ぎると思う一方で、現状の景観の悪さはネオンや看板や電線だけではなく、京都駅や京都タワーや四条界隈のパチンコ屋等々複合的な要因が絡み合って構成されていますので、一部の景観規制をしてもどうしようもないような気がします。
そもそも観光客がイメージする所謂「京都」が残存している地域は、元々極一部なので、寺や歴史的建築物などをスポット的に保護するというのが現実的ではないでしょうか!?
京都の街並は日本のどこにでもあるような昭和を髣髴とさせる建物が大部分なので、結果的にそういったものを保護することになる景観政策には無駄が多いように思えます。

While I think the regulation came too late, I don't think you can do much by regulating some part of the city landscape. That's because the ugliness of the present landscape is made up of not only the neon signs and electric wires, but also Kyoto Station and Kyoto Tower as well as the pachinko places in the Shijo area and a combination of other elements.
The kind of areas that tourists think of as “Kyoto” are very scarce, so wouldn't be more realistic to pinpoint and protect temples and other historical architecture?
Because the city scape of Kyoto is largely made up of buildings that are reminiscent of the Showa era, which you see everywhere in Japan, the landscape policy seems to be a waste as these things will be protected as a result.

Towers in Kyoto
A pagoda with Kyoto Tower in the background
Photo: Courtesy of Chisaki Inoue

This blogger shares his/her experience and view.

京都市の景観条例。
建物の高さ制限や屋上広告の制限。
写真を撮るときどうしても屋上看板や高いビルが入ってしまうと、
地方の友人を京都案内した時いつも言っていた。
確かに歴史ある建造物や景色に無機質な物体が写っていれば、
何となく興ざめしてしまうだろう。
日本が誇る歴史的観光地として、
ひとつくらいは世界の歴史都市の真似をしてもいいと思う。

「ベランダから大文字焼きが見えるんです。」
高層マンションの住人が得意気に言う。
その高層マンションのために何人の人が、
大文字焼きを見ることが出来なくなったのだろうか。

Whenever I show my friends around Kyoto, they always say that rooftop signs and tall buildings are in the way when they try to take pictures.
Indeed, I can imagine that it could be a turnoff to see drab objects in pictures of historical buildings and landscapes.
As a historical tourist city that Japan boasts about, I think it should mimic at least one thing that other historic cities in the world do.

“I can see the Daimonjiyaki from my veranda,”
residents of high-rise condominiums boast.
As a result of these high-rise condos, how many people have lost the view of the Daimonjiyaki?

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