Yoyogi Village: Tokyo’s Latest Renewal Project Combines Eco-Features with Social Investment

Japan has had a rough 2011. Tourism is down from previous years, as visitors from abroad have been hesitant to travel to due to March’s disaster. However, as someone who visited in May—just 2 months after the earthquake and nuclear meltdown—I can say with certainty that Japan is perfectly safe and a can’t-miss destination.

Those with an eye for design and an interest in urban planning will find Tokyo a fascinating place. The city and surrounding areas epitomize mixed-use planning, and not because it’s the latest trend in smart cities. While American planners debate and try to convince the powers that be that mixed-use planning is the way to go, the Japanese have done it. The reason is simple—space is at a premium. Infill development is the norm; it’s common to see a factory next to an apartment complex next to a Joyful Honda store.

One of the many green projects that opened this year is the Yoyogi Village in Tokyo, which has been given a green makeover to draw visitors and tourists from abroad. The brainchild of Takeshi Kobayashi, the renewal is designed to highlight elements of simplicity and balance and features eco-friendly retail, organic restaurants and eateries, a music bar, art gallery and a mind and body center.

Proceeds from the Village will be reinvested in the AP Bank, a non-profit established by Kobayashi (among others) that provides loans for global environmental projects. “I don’t want this project to be a monster initiative,” Kobayashi told the Japan Times. “But to create jobs for people committed to the future of [ecological] circulation is at the core of sustainability, and we can provide an engine for them.” Beneficiary projects include organic farms that will, in turn, supply produce to serve in the restaurants of the village.

The eco-features of Yoyogi Village are great, but what I love is that the money generated will help keep the businesses within the village viable. The food comes from farms that have received seed money from the AP Bank, just as the cotton grown for clothing sold in the shops will come from small businesses funded by the Bank. This transparency allows consumers to learn more about the goods they buy.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller

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