Learning from the Japanese City: Looking East in Urban Design, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Learning from the Japanese City

Looking East in Urban Design, 2nd Edition

By Barrie Shelton


192 pages | 200 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2012-03-28
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Japanese cities are amongst the most intriguing and confounding anywhere. Their structures, patterns of building and broader visual characteristics defy conventional urban design theories, and the book explores why this is so. Like its cities, Japan’s written language is recognized as one of the most complicated, and the book is unique in revealing how the two are closely related. Set perceptively against a sweep of ideas drawn from history, geography, science, cultural and design theory, Learning from the Japanese City is a highly original exploration of contemporary urbanism that crosses disciplines, scales, time and space.

This is a thoroughly revised and much extended version of a book that drew extensive praise in its first edition. Most parts have stood the test of time and remain. A few are replaced or removed; about a hundred figures appear for the first time. Most important is an entirely new (sixth) section. This brings together many of the urban characteristics, otherwise encountered in fragments through the book, in one walkable district of what is arguably Japan’s most convenient metropolis, Nagoya.

The interplay between culture, built form and cities remains at the heart of this highly readable book, while a change in subtitle to Looking East in Urban Design reflects increased emphasis on real places and design implications.


"On behalf of all Japanese who are interested in cities and architecture, I must thank Barrie Shelton for his enormous contribution made on the study of Japanese cities. I am particularly impressed by his analysis of the Japanese street and sidewalk and…the morphological characteristics of the city, which none of us has hitherto explored so well." – Fumihiko Maki

"…I find this new edition to be riveting. The speculations and discussions [Shelton] began in the first edition have evolved and been broadened - this is, in effect, a new book. In a staggering display of scholarship he illuminates complex Japanese concepts of religion, landscape, urban design, archtitecture, spatial-definition, map making, writing systems, graphics…." - Journal of Asian Urbanism

"…Learning from the Japanese City still represents the clearest articulation of the substance of Japanese urban form. I would strongly recommend it to anyone studying or travelling to Japan. I took my first edition with me when I went, and the trip was immeasurably more informed and fulfilling as a result." - Built Environment

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Western Interest in the Japanese City 2. Areas and Lines: From Written to City Texts 3. Aspects of Form: Street and Related Scenes 4. Strands of Culture 5. Learning from the Japanese City 6. Superblock Synthesis: ‘Glorious Gokiso’. Summary. Appendix 1. Japanese Historical Eras. Appendix 2. Glossary of Japanese Terms

About the Author

Barrie Shelton is Associate Professor – Urban Design, University of Melbourne and Honorary Associate Professor, University of Sydney.

About the Series

Planning, History and Environment Series

This series offers a unique window on the creation of the modern environment. Designed for an international readership, the emphasis is on:

  • urban and regional planning
  • recent as well as longer-term history
  • what the past can tell us about the present
  • local as well as global and comparative topics

Within this framework the books address three themes:

  • regional, continental and comparative studies
  • planning histories of key cities
  • changing planning ideologies and policies


Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / Urban & Land Use Planning
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / Geography