Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Tokyo: The Subterranean City

  1. #1
    Administrator gc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Posts
    8,581

    Question Tokyo: The Subterranean City

    Subterranean City

    Packed to the gills aboveground, Tokyo looks to expand its skyline below the earth’s surface
    By George Wehrfritz and Kay Itoi - NEWSWEEK
    http://www.msnbc.com/news/978188.asp#BODY

    Oct. 20 issue — Forget concrete jungles. Think glass-and-steel icebergs—huge, complex structures largely hidden beneath the surface. That, say urban planners in Tokyo, is the future of the city.

    WITH 27 MILLION residents, Tokyo is both the world’s most populous metropolis and, in many places, one of its most densely packed. That leaves little room for further expansion; already the average commute time is 56 minutes, with some salarymen traveling like sardines on local trains for as long as two hours. The solution? Build down instead of up. “To me it’s obvious that, in Tokyo, we have no choice but to go underground,” says Nobuyuki Takahashi, an engineering professor at Waseda University. “We have been studying the possibilities of deep-underground space for nearly 20 years.”

    Those plans are picking up steam. During the go-go 1980s, firms began drafting schemes to create underground cityscapes replete with office buildings, sports clubs, roadways and rail links—even gardens. Most of those plans were stalled by the economic doldrums of the 1990s, Japan’s lost decade. Yet neither recession nor tumbling land prices has entirely squashed the idea. In 2001, lawmakers passed legislation that legalized “deep underground” development beneath the country’s major cities. The zone, more than 120 feet belowground or 30 feet beneath existing buildings, is now open to public-works projects free of charge and without prior permission from landowners on the surface. “The discussion grew kind of quiet for about 10 years,” says Hideki Murata, a manager at the government’s Deep Underground Utilization Plan Office in Tokyo. “Now we are finally able to take advantage of the underground space we need.”

    The focus today is on burying infrastructure in order to free up space on the surface. The objective: to craft a landscape rich with promenades, bike paths and gardens to form a natural veneer above the “guts” of the city. The idea isn’t new, to be sure, but Japan hopes to implement it on a heretofore untried scale. Tokyo’s topography will remain one of clustered towers. But many surface roads will turn to green belts, railway lines will disappear into tunnels and major urban systems, everything from dumps to gas-storage tanks, will move deep underground—and all by the middle of this century.

    The path to Tokyo’s future is anything but glamorous. It winds through a construction yard in suburban Kanagawa prefecture, disappears into a circus-tent-like warehouse and descends 150 feet down an elevator shaft to Tokyu Construction’s Sub-Terranean Urban Development project. Dug in 1989 at the cost of $100 million, it penetrates a geological formation known as the mudstone layer, a thick stratum of soft bedrock with properties ideal for building tunnels and caverns. Initially the object of gee-whiz promotions—including schoolkid photo ops and underground concerts—the classroom-size catacomb quickly lost Japan’s attention. Today its arched ceiling sprinkles ground water, forever dampening air that remains at a constant 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors encounter a modest fern garden and a tiny goldfish pond.

    Appearances aside, the site has yielded vital data on the dynamics of the mudstone layer and techniques for exploiting it. New insights into tunneling methods, concrete’s durability within the bedrock and ground-water management are among the pay-offs. Earthquakes deliver just a tenth of their surface impact at the site; deformation—the slow twisting and compressing of the bedrock observed in tunnels—is minimal. In contrast to undersea construction, where water pressure increases with depth, ground pressure within the mudstone layer is actually less than in the stratum above it. “We have the capability to build cities up to 300 feet deep,” says Takakura. “The barrier isn’t technology, it’s the cost.”

    Economics now will dictate the form Tokyo’s deep underground takes. Early this year Chikage Ogi, the construction minister at the time, voiced her support for Tokyo’s plans to jump-start a controversial freeway project by sinking it far below the surface. Frozen since the 1960s after not-in-my-backyard —landowners blocked it, the 10-mile-long stretch of highway once threatened 3,000 homes and looked untenable at an estimated $1.1 million per every 3.3 feet to construct. But the underground version of the roadway would require demolition of only 480 homes and cost 30 percent less, according to official estimates. “We’d like to complete it as the first project under the [new] law,” Ogi said in January. Japan’s maglev—a proposed 300-mile-per-hour bullet train linking Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka—is another test case. “This is the biggest project that could involve the new law,” says its main champion in Parliament, Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Taizo Nozawa. “There’s nowhere else for it to go but deep underground.”

    Professor Takahashi of Waseda has a less glamorous pet project in mind. “What we are thinking about is burying the city’s whole circulatory system,” he says, which boils down to moving waste out and energy in. Instead of street-level garbage collection, he has proposed an underground system that carries rubbish to the edge of the city to be burned in power plants—a scheme that might someday rid the city of diesel-belching garbage trucks. Private developers are now considering a “phase one” system linking areas of Tokyo’s main business district to a power plant on Tokyo Bay, with construction to begin “hopefully in a couple of years,” he says.

    Tokyo is already breaking new ground. In 2000, the city christened a new subway line that runs 150 feet below the surface at its lowest point, brushing the upper edge of the area marked for “deep zone” construction. But riders soon discovered a predictable problem. Those exiting from downtown stations spent nearly three minutes on escalators moving from the subway platforms to the street—an eternity for commuters obsessed with shaving seconds off their trip to and from work. It’s no surprise—or coincidence—that Mitsubishi Electric Corp. has a two-speed escalator in development that could shorten the trip by a minute. In Tokyo’s urban underground, how quickly people can come up may determine how low they will go.
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

  2. #2
    Administrator gc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Posts
    8,581
    I cannot imagine having this type of problem here. This is wild.
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

  3. #3
    Low-Rise Member
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Dallas
    Posts
    198
    If you guys get a chance, check out the latest issue of Newsweek that features this article (it's the one with Rush Limbaugh on the cover). There's a special section on the explosive growth of Asia and its megacities. Some cool photos too.

  4. #4
    Skyscraper Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Posts
    1,703
    If any of you have not been to Tokyo, GO! I've been three times, and to various other Japanese cities on multiple occasions as well. It's beyond amazing. Absolutely the most enchanting city in the world. Hopefully this summer I will be back there doing a bit of acting work, but, that remains to be seen. If you get a chance, do go!! You will never forget it.

  5. #5
    LH Copycat Columbus Civil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    5,589
    Hopefully this summer I will be back there doing a bit of acting work..
    Whiskey ads?

  6. #6
    Administrator gc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Posts
    8,581
    Hopefully this summer I will be back there doing a bit of acting work, but, that remains to be seen.
    Not whiskey ads, but rather japanese movies with terrible voice-overs and sound effects!

    just kidding B&P
    “We shape our Cities, thereafter they shape us.”

  7. #7
    High-Rise Member dallastophoenix's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Phoenix, AZ
    Posts
    992
    bloodandpopcorn,

    I am actually heading to Tokyo for pleasure at the end of the month for 6 days- staying at the Four Seasons at Chinzan So... any recommendations on what are definite "to-do's and see's?" I recently bought a new dig. cam. just for the trip.

  8. #8
    Skyscraper Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Posts
    1,703
    Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Shinjuku! My favorite area of Tokyo. Lots of shopping, bright lights, restaurants, clubs, karaoke, one of the most massive and crowded train stations I've ever seen. You could spend all six days there and never get tired of it.

    Ginza is also really impressive. Harajuku has some, er, interesting offerings (you know what I mean) in addition to more standard tokyo charm.

    There is an English language theater company operating in Tokyo right now (www.tokyoplayers.org). I've never seen them myself, but I've heard some very, very positive comments about them. It might be an intersting experience to see a great Western play in the middle of Tokyo...

    Also, if you can find the Tokyo Olympic Village (I used to keep a Tokyo transit map on me, but I loaned it out to a friend and consequently don't have it anymore, otherwise I'd tell you the trains to take to all of these places) There is a really huge Shrine/park just beside it. Walking through there two years ago was the most amazing spiritual experience I've ever had. I'm not religious at all, but it was really powerful. If you can find it, I definitely recommend a visit.

    Also, be sure to go to the Emperor's palace. I believe they offer tours, but I've only been to the outside. Still, it's some really wonderful architecture and is right in the middle of one of the areas with the most new skyscrapers going up in Tokyo.

    There is so much more... I guess if you get a chance to, just explore a bit. I assume you don't know Japanese, and the extent of most grown Japanese people's english is "hallo", "bai-bai", and "yes!" -- so you might have a bit of trouble. But Tokyo has a pretty decent foreign population, particularly compared to the rest of Japan, so you will probably be able to find a native english speaker or two without looking too hard.

    Tokyo is also home to the most odd condom shop in the world. "Condomania". It's rather small, but you can't miss it. They have a statue, or something like a statue, of Captain Condomania standing out front. It's about 5', give or take an inch or two, and it is impossible to miss. The store has so many amusing gags and things for which I couldn't even imagine a plausible use (sexually or otherwise)... So if you're up for a laugh, check it out.

  9. #9
    High-Rise Member dallastophoenix's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Phoenix, AZ
    Posts
    992
    thanks so much for the info! I get more excited just reading your recommendations! When I get back, I'll be sure to post some cool pics...

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •