The main purpose of this study is to examine the population growth pattern of the Japanese urban settlements and the factors behind the changes between 1970 and 1990. To investigate the changing Japanese urban settlements on the basis of functional urban regions, a new definition of functional urban regions called 'Japanese Functional Urban Area' (JFUA) was established. Analyses based on the new JFUA definition, such as population change and urban development stages, show that the Japanese settlement system witnessed the concentration of population into larger settlements in the 1970s and the 1980s. The largest settlements such as Tokyo and Osaka recorded growth in the 1970s and 1980s. In addition, the Tokyo area showed a 'unipolar concentration' pattern of population growth. We can classify these areas with high levels of population growth into two types. The first one is JFUAs that contain a prefectural capital city, political centre of its region, and the second one is small or medium-sized settlements that are located near the largest settlements such as Tokyo or Nagoya. Declining areas share similar characteristics; they are remote from the largest settlements and relatively small in size. In addition, some old style manufacturing centres recorded population loss in the 1980s. Although the Japanese settlement system presents a different growth pattern from the US and UK, the factors contributing to urban change in Japan turned out to be similar. The role of the service sector was highly important to growth, whilst the declining industries such as steel and shipbuilding were no longer important in promoting regional development and influenced urban decline. This study also examines the changing population pattern of selected areas that are treated as the government's policy target areas, and shows that it is difficult to find any evidence of policy effectiveness.
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