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Smart Cities – Japanese Style

The HSE Institute of Regional Studies and Urban Planning held a panel discussion entitled ‘Developing Cities and Infrastructure’ as part of the Russian-Japanese forum ‘Points of Intersection: Business, Technology, Culture’ that took place in Moscow. The discussion focused on development opportunities in Moscow and the adoption of solutions to urban problems already applied in Tokyo.

‘Moscow and Tokyo, despite their many differences, are very similar,’ moderator Irina Ilina, Director of the HSE Institute of Regional Studies and Urban Planning said, opening the discussion. ‘They are comparable in terms of territory, population, and population density, and they share similarities in their radial-circular design. It was over 30 years ago that Japan started working on solutions to numerous issues that also currently face Moscow and other major Russian cities. In this time a great wealth of experience has been amassed – and they are willing to share it with us. Tokyo has achieved impressive progress in terms of development. Not that long ago the city was shrouded in smog and battling gridlock. In the 1970s, traffic policemen stood at crossroads wearing oxygen masks. But now it is a city of skyscrapers, boasting clean air, a developed transport network, and predictable traffic. It is perfectly possible to make Moscow a 'smart city', too. But this goal requires standards to be raised – not just by the authorities, but also by the city residents. Everything that was achieved in the Japanese capital – was achieved with residents' help.’

Representatives of Moscow city and Moscow Region government agencies, major construction firms, and community groups took part in the panel discussion, presenting reports on the current state of and future development options for the urban environment in Russia. Moscow City Department of Foreign Economic and International Relations, Moscow, Evgeny Dridze gave an investment program presentation about plans for Moscow that will be unveiled on October 27 in Tokyo. The presentation covers current and future development projects for: infrastructure; natural, recreational zones; a demonstration of completed sites with a view to attracting Japanese investors; and the implementation of major urban environment development projects involving the latest technology. Addressing the development of Moscow Region, Moscow Region Minister for the Construction Sector Marina Ogloblina noted that, today, the region's urban planning policy chiefly comprises measures to ensure the population has access to social infrastructure, amenities, and utilities. 'However, this can only be achieved by tapping into the synergetic effect of cooperating with the capital,' Marina Ogloblina noted. 'And here the Tokyo agglomeration's development is particularly important and instructive.'

Which organizational and technical solutions have enabled the Japanese capital to become more comfortable?

One of the main factors in the accelerated development of both Tokyo itself and the surrounding region has been the rapid expansion of high-speed rail links between the center and outlying towns. As the Vice President of East Japan Railway Company Yuji Fukasawa noted in his speech, the railway network in Tokyo combines high-speed and regular lines meeting at interchange stations, offering residents convenient transport provision. Each such station is a kind of micro-city with residential buildings, offices, retail centers, hotels, service sector businesses and so on. 'Smart transport' has become one of the key features of the 'smart city'. Takeshi Nakawake, Senior Executive Officer in charge of Global Strategy and Urban Planning Section General Manager at Nikken Sekkei Ltd., outlined his company's experience of adopting transit-oriented design technologies and approaches to territorial evaluation as key development drivers for the 'smart city.' Tokyo's experience shows that the urban environment can be improved by ensuring poly-centric development – in which each centre is based around a major transport hub.

Inteko President Oleg Soloshchansky gave a presentation covering the Russian experience of creating an amenable urban environment. Inteko is implementing development projects employing energy-efficient systems that halve energy costs. Soloshchansky believes that today 'the moment has come, when investors are ready to get involved in public-private partnerships in infrastructure projects.' 'Developers now see a profit in taking on complex development projects, since investment attractiveness for construction design indirectly depends on the urban development level,' he added. 

In reviewing the results of the Russian-Japanese forum and considering which aspects of Tokyo’s experience could be useful to the Russian capital, Irina Ilina noted that in the Tokyo agglomeration, one of the largest in the world, the authorities implemented a decentralization program – chiefly through establishing satellite cities to which industrial enterprises were relocated. ‘Thanks to Tokyo’s outstanding transport infrastructure development, residents see that jobs are preserved,’ she said. ‘Japanese specialists believe that the expansion into New Moscow offers an excellent opportunity to create a city of the future, a ‘smart city’ boasting a qualitatively and aesthetically new urban environment.’

Evgenij Pliseckij, for HSE News 

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