Meric Kirmizi

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Japanese gentrification: theory and practice

In this paper, the ambivalent relationship of Japanese urban research with the concept of gentrification is studied both theoretically and empirically. The recent gentrification literature of Japanese scholars in English provides an understanding of the Japanese perspective on the applicability of this concept to understand the post-industrial urban change in Japan in the East Asian context. However, the literature review shows that the recent adoption of the gentrification concept by Japanese scholars is not without reserve, as the differences of the Japanese case both in terms of the post-bubble urban change processes and their underlying political-economic and socio-cultural context come to the fore. Yet, there are some common points regarding the Japanese gentrification: being a less violent, more piecemeal and state-led or regulated process in a well-established individual property regime. The literature also underlines the increasing socio-spatial inequalities and polarization in the Japanese society. Hence, previous research warns against the challenges that await the Japanese cities in the near future. This paper provides additional empirical insights from a doctoral neighbourhood change study based on field work in Osaka’s Horie neighbourhood in 2013-2016. Although most of the findings from this particular field support the theoretical knowledge already built by the Japanese scholars, Horie differs for a lack of state domination in the revitalization process. Although Horie’s recent change is deemed to be a success story, it still attracted many internal criticisms from people who felt more attached as either residents or merchants to the area’s earlier place identity. This paper reinterprets Horie’s revitalization experience through the theoretical lenses of Japanese gentrification. It concludes by pointing to the problematic aspects of Horie’s change, such as its temporary achievements, and suggests ideas to consider regarding these further challenges, closely related to the mobility of capital and people in an increasingly crisis-prone urban environment.

I received a PhD degree in Human Sciences in the Graduate School of Human Sciences of Osaka University (OU) on March 22, 2017, and finished with my tasks as a research fellow at Urban Research Plaza (URP) in Osaka City University (OCU) on March 31, 2017. My PhD thesis, which was funded by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), and “URP Platform for Leading-Edge Urban Studies Special (Young) Research Fellow” program of OCU, is about the change of an Osaka neighbourhood after the collapse of the bubble economy. The research question of this study was where to locate Japan in the literature on post-industrial urban change and gentrification through the study of an empirical case.

Before I arrived in Japan as a MEXT Research Student in April 2012, I received an M.S. degree in sociology from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Middle East Technical University in Turkey. My master’s thesis was about the meaning of a highly symbolic public square in Istanbul, Turkey. As an assistant professor in sociology at the Faculty of Science and Letters of Ondokuz Mayıs University in Samsun, Turkey since January 2018, I continue teaching various subjects and doing research in the field of urban sociology about post-industrial urban change, gentrification, area revitalization, and urban commons.



Ondokuz Mayis University