Research Projects

Water City: its Founding Structure

Project Leader

Takamura Masahiko

Born in 1964. Specializes in the history of Asian cities and architecture. Graduated Doctoral Course, Hosei University Graduate School. Doctor of Engineering. Awarded the Prize for the Maeda Engineering Foundation's and the Society Prize of Architectural Historians of Japan. Editor and author of works including, Tai no Mizube Toshi: Tenshi no Miyako o Chushin ni [Mizu to "Machi" no Monogatari], 2011, Hosei University Press, and Chugoku Konan no Toshi to Kurashi: Mizuno Machi no Kankyo Keisei, 2000, Yamakawa Shuppansha.

Photo:Hiroshi Aoki

Study of the natural environment of landforms and rivers from ancient to present times


We know that waterfronts are an asset for a city; the aim of this project is to reveal on a comprehensive scale the build-up of history and landscape only to be found in Tokyo, and to put this to good advantage in proposing a new vision for the city. In order to clarify the reason for Edo-Tokyo's long survival, as well as its significance, we will investigate in particular the founding structure of the region and city, whose bonds with land and nature have continued from ancient and medieval periods, although remain largely unconsidered. 

Water has always been deemed a threat. In the past, once the natural equivocality of its space was sufficiently accepted, however, water began to be utilized in positive ways, and later brought in the period of industrialization. For a while we turned our backs on water, but now attempts are growing to repair the richness of its space. In the 21st century, called the age of the environment, how can we maintain a better co-existence with nature and engage in various ways in its joys? The time has come to examine the history of city and region - and the possibility of its renewal - focusing on the diverse waterfronts of Edo-Tokyo, that have protected lives from the dangers of water, and where water has provided abundant benefits. "Water City", proposed alongside our first Center Director, Jinnai Hidenobu, has already produced a wealth of research on water cities of the world from various perspec­tives in the past and now: rivers and canals, the function and role of ports, environment and wildlife, and also disas­ters and organizations (Jinnai Hidenobu, Takamura Masa­hiko eds. Suitogaku 1-V, Hosei University Press, 2013-2016). The focus was not in presenting the charm of a water city, but to mark the establishment of "water cities studies" as a cross-cutting research method for understanding cities, discovering new viewpoints, and reading the era in a move towards subsequent regeneration. 

This process has given rise to our next important perspective: the founding struc ture, the point of connection of topography and geology with ancient and medieval civilization. The foundations of human culture, rooted in, and built on top of, these natural landforms and geological features, became a base for later urban and regional contexts and mechanisms, and development of human enterprise. Water played a central role at every stage, and by perceiving it in this way we hope to gain a more correct understanding of water city. We will not just analyze things we see from a technological and technical aspect, but also find how they connect to the spirituality that water has always possessed, how the city and individual locations were created and shaped influenced by various landforms and natural elements. 

In this way, we will clarify the connection between region and organic city founded on natural conditions - in particular an abundant water system. By indicating our vision for a future Tokyo that makes the best of its history, environment and culture, we anticipate our most important and final result to be sharing overseas - with Japan as model - the concept and method of creating a city where we coexist with nature in a way fitting for the 21st century. This project will take on the role of developing an open platform for this purpose.