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Participatory place management in the age of shrinkage: The case of Kunitachi within Tokyo’s peripheral areas

Marco Capitanio (School of Science for Open and Environmental Systems, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, Yokohama, Japan)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 12 June 2018

Issue publication date: 3 October 2018



This paper aims to focus on citizen participation as a crucial place management factor in Tokyo’s shrinking suburbs as a way to facilitate the goal of retaining and attracting population and improving townscape quality. This research qualitatively examines participatory practices in place management and place branding strategies in one case study.


A historical overview of participatory place management in Japan introduces the case study of Kunitachi City, in the western periphery of Tokyo, chosen because of its peculiar development tied to bottom-up practices, high-quality built environment and strong identity. Analysis was carried out by means of literature review in Japanese and English, interviews and extensive fieldwork between 2015 and 2017.


A certain degree of conflict between progressive and reactionary participatory practices can be beneficial to place management, and local governments should seek ways to actively support and grant legal status to civic involvement. Moreover, high-quality unique built space, achieved through participatory actions, is a prime tool to brand peripheral areas and foster the pride of residents.


In a context where municipalities need to devolve more and more responsibilities to their inhabitants, Kunitachi has emerged as a best practice thanks to a high degree of civic capital. While there is no ready-made recipe to be replicated, other areas should closely examine the efforts by this municipality to sustain bottom-up involvement, yielding the benefits of an attractive city image created by its own residents.



The author would like to express gratitude to Professor Darko Radović for his continuous support and advice on this research. Sumiko Enbutsu has offered valuable comments and criticism for the improvement of this paper. The author is thankful to fellow doctoral candidates at co+labo and to the reviewers of this paper.


Capitanio, M. (2018), "Participatory place management in the age of shrinkage: The case of Kunitachi within Tokyo’s peripheral areas", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 447-462.



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