The Green City of the Future (Jia Sheng & Denise)

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Toyota is building Woven City, which is touted as the world’s first “smart city”, on the site of its former Higashi-Fuji Plant. Woven City will be an autonomous community designed to test new technologies in a real-world environment where people, buildings, and vehicles can communicate with each other via real-time data and embedded sensors. The city’s connected ecosystem is expected to be powered by three clean energy sources, which are geothermal energy, solar energy, and hydrogen fuel cells. Woven City will integrate together streets meant for pedestrians, personal mobility vehicles and automated driving. Residents of Woven City will be transported by cars that are autonomous and produce zero emissions, and receive deliveries from e-pallet autonomous delivery vehicles Toyota designed for the Tokyo Olympics. This city is required for the full adoption of autonomous cars, as current cities are structurally unable to run the complex algorithms and transmit data. The new community will allow Toyota to try out a new city infrastructure so they can create safer systems. 

The article primarily presents Japan to be futuristic and environmentally conscious in its technological endeavors. It also shows how Japanese people exploit natural resources and reuse resources to create a “green” city that creates minimal to no pollution while being technologically advanced. 

By using the site of the former Higashi-Fuji Plant which closed in 2020, Toyota is portraying its method of sustainability where they reuse their former sites to create something new and futuristic. Woven City is also powered by solar energy, hydrogen fuel cells, and geothermal energy, which are renewable energy sources. Furthermore, these sources of energy are said to have “zero-emissions” as greenhouse gases or toxins are not released in the process of generating energy. Toyota also intends to use the e-pallet autonomous delivery vehicles it designed for the Tokyo Olympics, which is another example of how Toyota reuses their vehicles for other purposes. Residents are expected to use autonomous, zero-emission cars to travel. By increasing the efficiency of their vehicles on the roads through data optimisation, this translates to a conservation of energy as the vehicles use less energy.

This news strongly resonates with how Japanese bureaucrats are said to be eagerly “harnessing underexploited resources with regard to energy” (Kirby 2011, 190). It shows how the economic and development goals of Japan can align with environmental objectives regarding scarce resources and improve Japan’s sustainability. However, the positive image of “zero-emissions” is called into question by Kirby (2011, 188) as there can never be no waste produced in an industrial process. Woven City could be a potential case study on the theme of sacrifice explored in Walker’s introduction (2011, 4). The research conducted in Woven City relies on its population of researchers and ordinary residents, who have to move into the city from other parts of Japan or the world. Woven City’s residents will likely be sacrificing their safety to assist with the research held there, like how the Japanese citizens sacrificed their health for Japan’s industrialisation. Toyota also attempts to create a landscape which the world has never seen before, but its direction opposes that of Kurokawa’s fūkeizukuri which “touches visitors’ emotions” in its formation (McMorran 2014, 6). The exploitation of nature to fuel the energy consumption of Woven City lines up with how Kalland and Asquith perceive Japanese interactions with nature – a rejection of the raw and chaotic form of nature and embracing the cultivated end of the spectrum (1997, 28). The exploitation of natural resources can also be observed as an extension of the trends observed since the Edo period (quoted in Kalland and Asquith 1997, 5-6).

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Kalland, Arne, and Pamela J. Asquith. 1997. “Japanese Perceptions of Nature: Ideals and Illusions.” In Japanese Images of Nature: Cultural Perspectives, edited by Arne Kalland and Pamela J. Asquith, 1–35. Richmond: Curzon Press.

Kirby, Peter Wynn. “Constructing Sustainable Japan.” 2011. In Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan, 160–92. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Marr, Bernard. 2021. “Toyota’s City Of The Future.” Forbes Magazine, July 26, 2021.

McMorran, Chris. 2014. “A Landscape Of ‘Undesigned Design’ in Rural Japan.” Landscape Journal: design, planning, and management of the land 33 (1): 1–15.

Walker, Brett L. 2011. Toxic Archipelago: A History of Industrial Disease in Japan. Seattle: University of Washington Press.