Neighborhood Streets as Meaningful Spaces: Claiming Rights to Shared Spaces in Tokyo



The focus of this paper is the strategies of civic actors in a central Tokyo neighborhood to claim a voice in managing changes to their community and creating shared meanings for neighborhood streets and public spaces. In Yanaka an active community movement has worked to protect and improve shared community spaces by celebrating them as a historic legacy and a shared community resource, investing new and more complex values and claims on shared spaces, and redefining public streets as civic spaces in their neighborhood. They assert the rights of community participation in managing urban change by creating a neighborhood constitution, organizing art events and festivals in the streets, engaging new participants in shared property rights, proposing new criteria for evaluating urban change, and telling stories of a strong and distinct community. Claiming ownership of the meaning and management of local public spaces is a political strategy of self empowerment by community groups that has been relatively successful in this case.