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Getting to Know Urban Wasteland—A Look at Vacant Lands as Urban Green Space in Japan

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Abstract

Urban spaces are dotted with various interstitial spatial areas from very narrow spaces between buildings or structures to huge spaces between parcels. These in-between spaces are filled with plants that represent the surrounding nature, partly or entirely. In urban areas with past human interference, can we thus consider or recognize this quasi-nature as urban green space? This research begins on the premise that the role of urban green space is important in supporting the combined well-being of urban residents. We thus review the potential of vacant lands as urban wastelands in the context of the state of affairs in Japan, which is undergoing a paradigm shift in urban green policy. We surveyed Ichikawa City (Japan) as an example of a city that has already been or is currently being urbanized. The survey combined field surveys and perception surveys to identify vacant lands and to understand residents’ perceptions. The quantity of vacant lands observed corresponds to about 1.43% of Ichikawa City. Residents with higher exposure to traditional green space in their daily lives were more aware of the existence of vacant lands. In addition, respondents who see vacant lands as an urban green space show a positive and active attitude toward existing urban green space and urban nature. Moreover, they respond more strongly to the issue of the non-sustainability of vacant lands than to the issue of private property. As a result, vacant land may have a high tendency to be perceived by residents as an intimate, local space, suggesting usability. We finally highlight that vacant lands can serve an alternative or supplementary role in cities with limitations to creating new urban green space.

Keywords

  • Vacant land
  • Urban wasteland
  • Green space policy
  • Informal green space
  • Participatory management

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Japan enacted the Urban Green Space Conservation Act (都市緑地保全法) in 1973 and revised the name to the Urban Green Space Act (都市緑地法) in 2004, but the English name is maintained as the Urban Green Space Conservation Act.

  2. 2.

    The Urban Park Act in Japan recommends an urban park area of 10 m2 per capita.

  3. 3.

    Article 60 of the revised Urban Green Space Conservation Act.

  4. 4.

    The indicator at the time when the municipal government began to declare the plan was 2.70 m2, and the next goal was set at 3.85 m2 for 2015 before the final goal of 4.73 m2 per person by 2020.

  5. 5.

    To propose the supplementary availability of urban green spaces, we identified and classified nine types of informal green spaces: vacant lots, street verges, water verges, gaps, brownfields, unimproved lands, parking lot verges, railroad verges, and overgrown structures (Kim et al. 2018), referring to prior research (Rupprecht and Byrne 2014a, b).

  6. 6.

    Figure 1 is a re-use of Fig. 2 in the journal Land (Residents’ Perception of Informal Green Space—A Case Study of Ichikawa City, Japan, by Kim et al. 2018).

  7. 7.

    Currently, Ichikawa City is composed of more than 70% urbanized areas, including residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, and about 30% of the urbanization control area.

  8. 8.

    Description of variables: I’m concerned about the conflict with the landowner of the site [OWNER]; Signs or fences make it difficult to get into the site [ENTER]; It seems to be polluted and dirty [DIRTY]; It is too small or narrow to use [SMALL]; It may be either developed or disappear someday [DEVELOP].

  9. 9.

    Description of variables: It is important to coexist with plants, animals, and humans in an urban environment [COEXIST]; I’m willing to participate as a volunteer to conserve nature [VOLUNTEER]; I’m willing to arrange a time for conserving nature [TIME]; I’m willing to pay some money to conserve nature [MONEY]; I’ve known plants, animals, and insects that are often observed in or near my area [LOCAL]; I can feel the community attachment from plants, animals, and insects that are often observed in or near my area [ATTACHMENT]; The neighborhood green space should be managed [GREEN].

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Katsunori Furuya for constructive comments on the previous version of this manuscript. We are very grateful to all respondents for participating in this study.

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Correspondence to Minseo Kim .

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Kim, M., Rupprecht, C.D.D. (2021). Getting to Know Urban Wasteland—A Look at Vacant Lands as Urban Green Space in Japan. In: Di Pietro, F., Robert, A. (eds) Urban Wastelands. Cities and Nature. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74882-1_9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74882-1_9

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-74881-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-74882-1

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