Tokyo Transitions

The Tokyo Transitions project ( was a first step for developing this new methodology of community knowledge mobilization and place governance in the specific context of urban Japan, where non-expert citizens so far have little place in official planning processes, where many policy makers still understand participation as a mere utilitarian means for achieving the end of expert-determined planning objectives, and where a strong asymmetry persists between non-expert citizens on the one hand and planning and governance experts on the other.
The project started from a student plotting exercise of community innovations in autumn 2014, and lead to a one-weekly citizen workshop with town walks in four archetypical Tokyo neighbourhoods, synthesising community mapping exercises, an interactive exhibition as well as three forum events, carried out in a dis-used public bath house in April 2015.
The objective of Tokyo Transitions was to systematically identify, map, and connect the rich variety of actually existing citizen-led community design initiatives that have begun blossoming over the last decade in Tokyo – often outside of the official planning system and ignoring government policies – but that aren’t well documented and remain only known to certain sub-publics.
In these projects citizens themselves offer small but creative solutions to the most pressing demographic, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges that the world’s largest, most disaster-prone, and rapidly aging metropolis is facing today. Sharing these alternative practices more broadly could lead to further mainstreaming of such niche innovations and to greater individual and community empowerment.

Jan Lindenberg, Christian Dimmer