Satoyama Landscapes in Tokyo

  • Lidia Sasaki
Part of the International Perspectives in Geography book series (IPG, volume 8)


Tokyo is well known for its modern urban landscapes, but in the suburbs and the broader metropolitan area, “islands” of traditional rural landscapes still survive, although under increasing pressure from urbanization. The present study aims to introduce the traditional Japanese satoyama landscapes and to examine not only the vital role they played in the development of Japanese rural communities but also their continued relevance in the contemporary context of global environmental change. The first part of the study, based on extensive literature review, explores various definitions of satoyama and satoyama landscapes, and identifies their key features and the range of ecosystem services and benefits these multi-functional landscapes used to provide to Japanese rural communities. After briefly exploring the historical context of satoyama development, the study examines the demographic, socio-economic, and cultural processes that led to the decline of satoyama during the past decades. The dominant forces identified are the process of suburbanization, on the one hand, and the abandonment of rural land management on the other. The second part of the study focuses on recent approaches to the conservation and revival of satoyama landscapes: first, the grassroots citizen movements for the management and alternative use of satoyama landscapes; second, the national strategies and regional policies adopted so far to revitalize these multifunctional rural spaces. The study uses examples from the western fringe of the Tokyo metropolitan area, where a network of satoyama landscapes survive and are locally preserved. These are communities where a combination of local policies and citizen involvement has resulted in the successful revival of local satoyama landscapes, and where alternative uses (recreation, environmental education, etc.) are promoted: positive examples with the potential for implementation in other areas. Conservation and revival of satoyama landscapes pose major challenges in the years to come. In the countryside, efforts to address the decline of satoyama landscapes need to be coordinated with broader strategies to revive rural communities throughout Japan. In the context of major urban concentrations, surviving satoyama landscapes represent strategical resources that could have a vital contribution to mitigating the impacts of climate change or natural disasters, making their conservation an urgent priority for sustainable development in the twenty-first century. The study stresses the need for increased public awareness and citizen involvement in satoyama conservation. At the broader level, a long-term vision and an integrated strategy, on the one hand, and cooperation at various levels, on the other, are key to satoyama landscapes’ revival in the future.


Satoyama Ecosystem services Tokyo metropolitan area Suburbanization Multifunctional landscapes Conservation 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tokyo Metropolitan UniversityHachiohjiJapan

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