The pluralization of life-styles as well as the concomitants of economic globalization are said to have re-intensified both social fragmentation and spatial segregation in the larger cities of industrial societies. Critics of this view note, however, that most hypotheses of this debate have been drawn from studies on U.S. cities, where a highly liberal economic system has favored high levels of urban segregation. Japanese cities, on the other hand, have so far attracted only minor attention by Western researchers in this context. Even the explicit reference to Tokyo by Saskia Sassen (The Global City, 1991) failed to start a more sophisticated debate. To be sure, there are some stimulating analyses by Japanese urban sociologists, but these works confine themselves either to referring to gross macro-level changes only or, conversely, to scattered micro-scale evidence based on interviews.
This presentation will examine fragmentation and segregation patterns in Tokyo by focusing on changes both at the ward level and the meso level, i.e., by using block-level (chocho) data. Since recent urban change is said to be most vigorous at inner-city locations, I concentrated my study on the following three wards: Taito-ku around Ueno Station (social problem locations combined with de-industrialization); Shinjuku-ku (with the largest proportion of new Asian immigrants); Minato-ku (location of many new building projects that have attracted a new strain of higher income groups (gentrification)). My first result is that the overall degree of social polarization in Tokyo is lower than in most other mega-cities of the industrialized world, but that this is due to a still low proportion of foreign workers rather than high social homogeneity of the Japanese population. My second message is that residential segregation is decreasing at the macro level but increasing at the micro level.
Ralph Lützeler is lecturer at Bonn University and currently at Kwansei Gakuin University as JSPS fellow. He is preparing a habilitation thesis on the topic of this presentation.