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Open Access Publications from the University of California

From Shrinking Cities to Toshi no Shukushō: Identifying Patterns of Urban Shrinkage in the Osaka Metropolitan Area


Japanese cities losing population represent an emerging research field among international studies on shrinking cities. Japanese- speaking works exploring this topic (Oswalt et al. 2008; Yahagi 2009) use the words toshi no shukushō to translate “shrinking city”, as a notion originating in Western research on urban decline, which particularly affects cities from OECD countries at the beginning of the 21st century (Pallagst et al. 2009). This paper explores the transfer and the idea and whether some Japanese cities in decline constitute a Japanese-specific version of this global phenomenon, combining de-industrialization waves, socio-economic crisis and demographic transition. To see how shrinking cities/toshi no shukushō relates to the evolution of Japanese urban spaces, this article investigates the factors behind urban decline within a metropolitan area considered shrinking in Japan, the Osaka Metropolitan Area. Osaka’s decline is particularly affecting its distant suburbs, where depopulation and devitalization are associated with the rapid aging of its remaining residents in addition to the decline in the manufacturing base of the area. The paper discusses the problems that such patterns of urban decline raise for urban planners in Japan. While certain actors within the public and private have responded to depopulation by creating local policies to serve elderly residents, at a higher level, there are gaps between metropolitan and local views on strategies to address peri-urban decline, as well as between cities and suburbs within regions. This gap suggests urban shrinkage requires regional governance and coordination, in addition to local solutions.

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