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The beginnings of modern city planning

The early Meiji period was clearly a time of enormous upheaval and rapid organisa- tional change. Understandably, city planning was not the top priority of the government, which was preoccupied primarily with establishing its own legitimacy, finances, and powers of control, and with national economic growth. The Meiji gov- ernment did nevertheless put significant effort into city planning initiatives, and some

The institutional framework of central and local government had a profound and lasting impact on how these priorities were tackled. As noted, the dominant trend during the Meiji period was towards increased centralisation of the government. Most new institutions and town planning measures were therefore designed with a high degree of central control. In contrast with the development of city planning in most Western countries, where municipal governments frequently led the way in the design of town extension schemes, improved infrastructure and the building of workers’ housing, in Japan centralisation of power and finance left very little room for local initiative. The small role of local governments and other local actors in the development of early planning initiatives meant any such efforts tended to reflect central government priorities.