The Tokyo Transitions project (www.Tokyo-Transitions.net) 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.