Land Use Control Regulation in Japan

n Japan, the zoning system is considered as the most important element in urban planning. Urban city planning area is divided into two areas: urban promotion area (UPA) and urban control area (UCA). UPA is the area in which the local government is to promote urbanization, and the rest are areas in which urbanization is controlled as UCA.

There are a number of areas where zoning is not carried out, depending on the location. The development of such area requires permission from the government. In the UCA, development is basically prohibited, except for special cases such as agriculture and forestry.

Japan has twelve different types of zones for commercial, industrial, and residential uses. Basically, Japan has regulations on the types of facilities that can be built in specific areas or specific zones. There are also regulations on floor ratio and building to land ratio.

    1. City Planning Area

  • City planning area is designated in the area to be planned and developed as a comprehensive unit.
  • Approximately 100,000 Km2 or one quarter of the nation’s land (380,000 Km2) is designated as city planning area, which includes about 2,000 cities, towns, and villages.
  • Some 114 million people or 92% of the total population live in the designated city planning area.

    2. Urbanized Area and Urban Controlled Area

  • City Planning Area is divided into the two areas: 1) “Urbanized Area,” which includes existing urbanized areas and areas to be developed within next ten years; and 2) “Urban Controlled Area,” where urbanization is restricted.
  • The urbanized and urban controlled areas are designated within the city planning area, which include three major metropolitan areas, and the cities with a population of more than 100,000 persons.
  • The urbanized areas amount to approximately 1.4 million ha in total, which occupies about 4% of the nation’s land area.
  • Approximately 82 million people or 66% of the nation’s population live in the urbanized areas.

    3. Development Permission

  • Any development with change of building/land form or use is required to obtain development permission.
  • Technical standard of development permission is regulated in the City Planning Law.
  • Under the Law, most of development actions are generally prohibited in urban controlled areas, with some exceptions.
  • Demarcation of urbanized and urban controlled areas is occasionally reviewed.

    4. Land Use Zoning Ordinance

  • Land use zoning is designated on the basis of existing land use pattern and its future orientation. The zoning is classified into the three major categories: residential, commercial and industrial uses.
  • There are twelve types of land use zoning. The type of building allowed to be develop is regulated by the zoning ordinance. The floor area ratio and building coverage ratio are also designated by the zoning ordinance.
  • Land use zoning is designated in urbanized area, not in urban controlled area.

Source: Takayuki Goto, Director for Land Use Coordination, City Planning Division, City Bureau, Ministry of Construction. Summary of presentation made at the Asian City Development Strategy, Tokyo Conference, July 1999

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