Tokyo Beyond 2035—Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future

Calendar 6 December 2019
Time 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm. Registration from 3.30pm, seated by 4.00pm 
Location MND Auditorium, MND Annex A, 5 Maxwell Road Singapore 069110
cpd2 BOA-SIA CPD Pts, 2 SILA CPD Pts, 2 SIP CPD Pts

Seats are available on a first come, first served basis. Please be seated 10 minutes before lecture begins, after which we will open the venue to walk-in guests.


Lecture Poster (PDF: 109 KB)

Lecture Video and Photos

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Tokyo is the largest city on the planet. It is also the political, economic and cultural heart of Japan, one of the world’s largest and most technologically advanced economies. How is this remarkable metropolis planning to face the future?

Tokyo faces many challenges. In terms of climate change, how can it prepare for more frequent extreme weather events, including floods and heatwaves. How will demographic ageing affect the city in terms of service provision, tax burdens or land use? Economically, how can Tokyo maintain international competitiveness?

Dr Ichikawa has been tasked to help develop Tokyo’s long-term plan. In this lecture, he will cover Tokyo’s past and present development, and how current planning will address future challenges. Policy topics will include sustainable development, compact hub cities, mitigation of effects due to climate change, international business centre development, inter-/intra-urban transport connectivity, and the adoption of new technologies such as AI, robotics, and autonomous vehicles.

Lecture Report

Robots, foreign labour and redistributing the urban population are just some of the solutions Japan is considering in the face of an ageing population. The resulting decline in its labour force is a serious problem for the country, but the greater challenge may be convincing its citizens to adapt to a changing society and urban environment, said Professor Hiroo Ichikawa of Meiji University at a CLC lecture in December.

“How can we compensate if the labour force decreases by (say) 20 per cent? One idea is (more) immigration, but (there is also) the power of technological advancement. With many elderly people, we will need more helpers and maybe half of them can be robots,” he said.

Dr Ichikawa, who is also the executive director of the Mori Memorial Foundation, a think tank on sustainable urban renewal and development, added that the government should also look into increasing the labour participation of females and even seniors.

“A change of mindset would be important, and I’m not necessarily pessimistic about the (declining) labour force.”

He believes that Japan can maintain its economic competitiveness even with less labour. However, the government will need to address issues brought about by some of its solutions. For instance, Tokyo’s population has grown tremendously over the decades even as its rural areas face a declining population. Thus, the Japanese government has proposed relocating seniors from the city to remote areas of the country where many houses are vacant.

“Small towns, small cities are not easy to accept newcomers… maybe next stage we have to answer how we can sustain that,” he says.

To envision such new ways of living, working and urban mobility, the Japanese government has gathered together planners, economists, futurists, technologists and other experts. Dr Ichikawa has been tasked with developing an urban strategy for Tokyo.

As part of his lecture covering the urban development of Japan over the decades, Dr Ichikawa presented a short animation of Tokyo that speculated on its future. It included the prevalence of sharing economies, autonomous vehicles and the development of virtual entertainment. Other possible solutions are the use of drones for maintenance and security and traffic control through artificial intelligence fleet management.

These were also ideas such as urban farming and the redevelopment of parks and green spaces, which address various urban challenges that Tokyo is facing today such as climate change and the need to renew its urban infrastructure.

“The most serious topic for Tokyo now is the urban heat island effect,” says Dr Ichikawa. The city is looking at new air-conditioning technologies that mitigate the release of heat, as well as road construction methods that do not drastically increase urban heating.

While presenting a high-tech future of Japan, Dr Ichikawa is cautious about an over-reliance on technological solutions and how it can impact on society. He cited how the adoption of better incineration technology over the years has changed how the Japanese view waste.

“Tokyo is famous for making it easy for people to segregate plastic or paper (waste), and it is said (we are) a recycling society,” he said. “Now Tokyo has top level (waste) incinerators, (without) dioxins (released from burning), so recycling is not so serious for Japanese society now.”

About the Speakers

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Dr Hiroo Ichikawa

Professor Emeritus, Meiji University
Executive Director, Mori Memorial Foundation

Dr. Ichikawa is Professor Emeritus and former Dean at the Professional Graduate School of Governance Studies, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan. He is also Executive Director of the Mori Memorial Foundation (MMF), Japan. He majors urban policy, urban and regional planning, emergency management and policy for foreign aids. Before he became a professor at Meiji University in 1997, he was a chief researcher at Fuji Research Institute, one of biggest Japanese think tanks, as well as a senior researcher at International Development Center of Japan. He is active in the several executive committees of the central government, local governments and professional organizations in Japan such as Cabinet Office, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation, Japan International Corporation Agency, and Tokyo Metropolitan Government. He is also internationally active as a Steering board member of Future of Urban Development and Services, World Economic Forum, and an international committee member of Fourth New York Metropolitan Plan, Regional Plan Association.

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Michael Koh
Executive Fellow
Centre for Liveable Cities

Mr Michael Koh has 25 years of experience in the public service including 7 years as CEO of the National Heritage Board and 4 years concurrently as CEO of the National Art Gallery. He was also the former Director of Urban Planning & Design at the Urban Redevelopment Authority where he spearheaded the planning and urban design of the new mixed use Downtown at Marina Bay, revitalisation of Orchard Road as a shopping street and creation of an arts and entertainment district at Bras Basah Bugis.

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