Parking Lot City Anan 駐車場都市-阿南

The photographs of the countryside in Japan that are said to be scenic, are so to speak, over-consumed images. Everyone finds them beautiful, but everyone has already seen them in the media and nothing is fresh. In this blog, we have been introducing scenery that is not special, scenery that is maybe too plain for the locals, but beautiful scenery (I think) if you look at it with fresh eyes. The plum orchard that we posted recently is an example. But unfortunately this time photos may not be beautiful. This city borders a national park and has a beautiful view, but once you enter the city, you can see what has become a typical ugly, super messy townscape.


The city once prospered as a castle town and a local stop along the old inter city road. However, a new road bypassed the narrow old road, another bypass of it, and another bypass of the first one, and the city is steadily moving away from the old center. Now the old shops are almost wiped out, the shutters of the shops are all closed. There are now only 2 “machiya” shops left to imagine what the street view looked like when it was the heart of the city.


These photos were taken around 4 pm on weekdays. It’s not a weekend, nor is it early in the morning before the city wakes up. ここに載せた写真はかつては最も繁華であった地区でとったもの。すべて週日の午後4時ぐらいにとられたもので、週末でもなければ、早朝、街が目覚める前でもない。

It’s just a 1-minute walk from the most popular railway station. There are vacant lots like missing teeth between the shops with the shutters closed. They are the sites of former stores that have become parking lots. I was stunned to see how many parking lots actually existed when I plotted them on the map of the old city center.

ここは、ひとけの最もあるはずの鉄道駅の目の前、駅前から歩いてわずか1分のところ。シャッターを閉じた商店の間に歯が抜けたように空き地が点在している。かつての商店の跡である。ここには駐車場がどのくらいあるのだろうか? 旧市街中心部の地図にプロットしてみて、唖然とした。

In the oldest area along the historic main street lined with shops, 39% of the ground is parking (in orange), and in the next oldest area along the main street, 30% is parking (in yellow). The expanded city area from the time when the first new road was built, 20% is parking (in blue), and in the latest expanded area, 20% is parking (in light blue). Scattered agricultural sites in the newest area, will soon join the parking, it is only a matter of time before this area is also 30% parking, the same as the older city. It can be called a “parking lot city”, but it would be more appropriate to say that buildings are erected on a huge parking lot.


If you try Google Street View, you’ll find that these are not carefully selected photos showing parking lots. If you actually walk down the street, parking lots will appear one after another. The decline of the old heart of the local city is a common problem (for various reasons) all over the world, but the situation is extreme here. “Urban planning” assumed that cities are expanding, but that is not the case here. The mayor is studying how to solve this.


The scene above is in front of the railway station which is supposed to be most vigorous spot in the city. When it was busy, people would go out into the streets, talk to their neighbors, and hang out without any particular purpose. There was a kind of daily enjoyment and refreshment. Is it fun to walk here now? Now people go out on the street only when they have a specific need.


People living here seem to have given up on obtaining a beautiful living space. But that’s actually not the case. In some parts of the city, I found trees planted, though they were tucked away in unnoticeable locations. Even with tiny leftover land, people are looking for a beautiful environment. Trees are planted in the corners of the parking lots and in unusable land, where residents have maximized income by making it a parking lot. If each person thinks of the city as his/her own garden and strategically planted trees in the city, the relaxed life will return. Of course, the city can help the activity. What about a communal vegetable garden? Will the city come back to life from there? I think there is a possibility. Wouldn’t it be possible to survive as a beautiful residential area, not a commercial area?


Imagine the city in such a landscape. And if the city can’t create a vitality of its own, it would be a good idea to have people come from outside. Remember the national park starts here, wouldn’t it be possible for many people to stop by in this gateway town? If the city is relaxed, enjoyable, and beautiful you will visit it. For that purpose, economic activity is not always necessary. People from outside will skip this town because it’s getting easier and easier to get to their final destination on the newest highway. You need to plan. Couldn’t it be a station town for people who want slow traveling, such as those who travel by bicycle? Tourists rushing in by car will exhaust the National Park. This idea also will take advantage of the national park and maintain it as a sustainable resource by preventing over-tourism.



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