- What are you focusing on during your fellowship period?
In Japan and North America, a lot of public housing developments were constructed from the 1950s to 1970s to cope with a postwar housing shortage, and many of them have gotten older by now, and the time for renewal has come. With a decreasing and aging population, how to proceed with the renewal of housing developments in Japan is a great challenge in city planning and a housing policy. As one countermeasure, an effort called PPP (public-private partnership), in which public and private enterprises coordinate on projects, has been attracting attention.
The purpose of my study is to understand the actual condition and problems in the ongoing project in Toronto to rebuild a public housing development, the biggest in North America, and I have been conducting research on the plan of a rebuilding project, the condition of removal of residents and new occupancy, the division of roles between public and private enterprises, and project evaluation. As my research proceeds, it has become clear that the social role and the problems of public housing developments differ between Japan and North America and that the social significance of the rebuilding project also differs. From now on, I intend to sort out hints for facilitating rebuilding projects in Japan with these differences in mind.
- Could you explain briefly what exactly you have been doing during the International Fellowship period?
Here in Canada, I belong to the Department of Human Geography, University of Toronto as a visiting professor. In this department, the Japanese type seminar system is not adopted and there are no research or experimental laboratories which are managed by the faculty of the university. So, I conduct research individually without belonging to a specific laboratory. The teaching staff member here who is in charge of me is not only my old friend but also a co-researcher, Dr. Andre Sorensen, Chair of the Department of Human Geography. I talk with Dr. Sorensen periodically and consult him about the way to proceed with my study and research policy. In addition, I actively participate in related academic meetings and seminars, where I get acquainted with professors. Asking for their cooperation on my study and research, and with advice from them, I have been making progress in my study.
Since the time when I came here, I have had many encounters with researchers. On the premises of housing development that is the subject of my study, there is a lifetime study center organized by University of Toronto and I got along well with a female teaching staff member working there as a coordinator because our interests in studies are close and both of us are mothers of two children. We travel together for research and inspection and exchange opinions about studies. Also, professors of the Department of Sociology , which provides me with office space now, are very helpful to me, like giving advice on my study and introducing related researchers to me.
As for my study activities such as reading a huge amount of study-related materials, interviewing researchers, investigating the sites of housing developments and interviewing residents and developers, I conduct all these in parallel. At the same time, I also present the situation of city planning in Japan at academic conferences here, because I explain so often the actual state of housing developments in Japan when I conduct my study activities.
- Please give your feedback on the International Fellowship Program.
In Toronto, the price of commodities, land and tax are high. However, I am really thankful for an environment in which I can concentrate on my study because I could live without worry owning to the ample support of International Fellowship by the Nippon Foundation. Moreover, it has been a valuable experience for my children and also a precious period for other family members that all the family could live here for one year. For this, I again thank for the generous support of the Fellowship.
Because city planning covers places where people live, it contributed a lot to my study that I could understand the social structure here through my children’s school and enrichment lessons, and that I could establish relationships with the community through close family friends of this country and friends who are foreign researchers like me from all over the world. I think that there are very few fellowships which allow us to study freely without limits on study themes or the countries to stay, so I recommend that you try proactively.
- How do you want to build on your studies in the US after returning to Japan?
I would like to further broaden my study using the relations with many researchers I met here. Hereafter, I want to advance a comparative study with a special focus on housing policies in city planning such as: how we will rebuild public housing developments which need renewal when the role of the public sector is decreasing, and how we can increase the affordability of housing when there is fear that income disparities will expand. Though city planning in Japan has developed, using various efforts abroad as reference, not a few systems were introduced without a thorough understanding of preconditions and the differences in social structures. On the other hand, through comparative studies thus far, we can see the advantage and the advanced aspect of Japan’s city planning objectively. Therefore I would like to disseminate positively the outcome of Japan’s city planning to the people of the world hereafter.
Because city planning is strongly influenced by country-specific systems, I cannot help centering on the systems and circumstances of Japan when I teach. But in the curriculum of University of Toronto, equal importance is given to the understanding of assignments about overseas city planning, and there are many students who play an active role in the world after they graduate. Applying what I experienced this time also to education, I will make further efforts to foster human resources who will play an active role in the world.