Land-use decisions and following land conversion process in a medium-sized city in Japan.

Department of Humanities, Faculty of Law and Letters, Ehime University 3, Bunkyo-cho, Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture, Japan, 790-8577

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Given general observations on land-use studies, several researchers suggested, in relation to the fact that the issues have been analyzed separately at micro or macro levels, land-use issues should be argued from the view point of ewhole cityf or ewhole urban fieldf, not from the narrow view point of each study area. That is because land-use is the mirror of socio-economical and cultural activities in the city. They stated that land-use analysis at the micro-level in sample areas should be synthetically considered in the context of natural and socio-economical environments surrounding a city.
In Europe and North America (especially in Canada), the balance between macro and micro scales and between individual and synthetic analyses have attracted the attention of many geographers in academic journals, who have promoted similar view. Most of these studies analyze land-use issues in a chain of land-development stages from rural to urban. These studies are categorized in eland conversion studiesf, and many related issues has been under study since the late 1980s (Pierce, 1981; Gore and Nicholson, 1991; Pond and Yeates, 1993; 1994a; 1994b; Ganderton, 1994).
In the geographical literature, espatial processf which includes the decision-making process was treated as a eblack boxf, because it was beyond the domain of geography. Conversely, in other sciences like psychology, sociology, and behavioural sciences, there have been a large number of studies on cognitive processes, which control human behaviour. As a result, during the 1980s, there has come to be the common recognition that human behaviour could be considered as an output of rational decision making under several restrictions.
Most of the urban functions and activities are located in an area ranging from the city centre to the inner fringe. The number of land transfers is therefore very intense in this zone, with land-use change occurring in the proper direction (i.e., from non-urban to urban land-use). In this presentation, the author uses the phrase eDecision Agentf to denote decision-makers including landowners, land buyers, and intermediate actors who have a close relationship to the process of land-use change. The decision agent is responsible for an act of subjectivity. When we consider a micro-level analysis of agentsf decision-making processes from a macro-level viewpoint, for example, in the context of several restrictions affecting their behaviour, it is possible to analyze land-use synthetically.

From these general observations, this presentation has the following objectives:
1.Analyze the land conversion process at the micro-level from the viewpoint of DECISION AGENTS in an urban land market (e.g., landowners, land buyers, intermediate actors, etc)
2.Discuss this analysis at the macro-level in view of the whole process of urban development from rural to urban.
3.What kind of actors are identified as the key agents who regulate and/or facilitate land conversion and land-ownership change?
These objectives are pursued by undertaking a case study of Maebashi city.


First of all, an outline of the urbanization process for the city is presented. Digital land information is employed for selecting two example areas for micro-level analysis. After that the author explains the decision-making processes of agents (e.g., landowners, land buyer and intermediate actors), in the example areas. In order to obtain land-ownership data, Land Assessment Rolls were used. The rolls were housed in the Property Tax Division of Maebashi City Hall.
By using the rolls, it was possible to compile an array of information about land-ownership including the name and address of landowner, lot size, the date of sale or inheritance, and so forth.

The selection of agents in the urban land market was based on land trade and land inheritance data from the rolls housed in Maebashi City Hall. The land-ownership data of 1980 and 1993 were examined for the example areas. The example areas are located in the CBD (1,159 lots); and the Rokku area (2,008 lots), an example of rural-urban fringe. The land-use survey for the Rokku area was conducted in August, 1993; and for the CBD area in August, 1997. To obtain information on the decision-making processes, the author interviewed the selected agents during the period of September, 1993 to August, 1994 for the Rokku area. The interviews were repeated for the central area during the period of March, 1997 to March, 1998. Aerial photographs, topographic maps and residential atlases were used to interpret land-use in 1980 for both areas. The GIS package was used to assist in representing, processing and visualizing (mapping) spatial data.
Outline of the city
Maebashi city has a population of approximately 300,000 at present. The trends in population decentralization and associated rural land-use changes have been similar to those of other Japanese cities of almost the same size in population. Raw silk trading has been the mainstay of the economy since the Meiji period (about 120 years ago). When railroads were laid (about 100 years ago), it was decided to locate the central Station at the edge of the city to avoid the crowded built-up area. The road from the origin of Route 50 (national road) to Maebashi Station can be regarded as the most important street of the city (simply, the main street). After the late 1960s, large scale financial institutions (banks and insurance companies) decided to open branch offices in Maebashi along the main street. Now the blocks along the main street form the CBD of Maebashi.
The author illustrates the spatial pattern of land-use changes (aggregated by 1km2 interval). Owing to data constraints, the conversion from rural to urban use was analyzed. Little change was observed in the central area, where by 1980 almost all land was urbanized. A high rate of change was identified in two zones: the inner fringe zone (two to four kilometers from the CBD); and the isolated residential and industrial parks zones (six to seven kilometers from the CBD).
To supplement the underestimate of urban land-use change, Administrative Rolls of Construction Permits, recorded by the Urban Planning Division of Maebashi City Hall for the years from 1991-93, were used for the city centre where by 1980 almost all land was urban.
The largest number of constructions was identified in three areas:
the CBD
the eastern part of Maebashi Station; and
the exsample area of Rokku.
According to the analysis taken above, the two example areas are characterized as follows;
the CBD area is characterized as a centre for the construction of new shops and high-rise buildings;
and Rokku, situated at the reral/urban fringe, as a newly developed residential area adjacent to the existing built-up area of Maebashi.


The Rokku area is selected as an example of rural-urban fringe. The area is situated about three kilometers south south-east of the CBD. This area is easily accessible because of two major roads leading to the CBD of Maebashi.

Land-use change in the example area of rural-urban fringe
Between 1980-1993, the most striking change was the decrease in rural land-use. Along newly built roads there was a rapid increase in area-oriented usage such as shops, apartment houses and parking lots (with a capacity greater than 10 cars). Another notable change was the increase in wasteland and vacant land. After the remarkable increase in urban land-use during 1980-93, urban land-use accounted for more than half of the total land area.

Land-ownership change in the example area of rural-urban fringe
Between 1980-1993, the rate of land owned by those who lived in the Rokku area dropped from 81.1% to 77.8%. On the other hand, land owned by people in Maebashi city increased. Most of the land-ownership change was observed in the relatively broader land that extended over several parcels and more than 1,000 square meters in area. Two reasons are given for this type of land-ownership change:
1)The Rokku area provides good access to the city center and sufficient space for those who want to open branch offices or warehouses.
2)Since undertaking the land re-adjustment, some amount of land was needed by Maebashi Municipal Office (who conducted the program) for public facilities after the program was completed.
The major land buyers were individuals and corporations in the sample area, which were followed by individuals and corporations in Maebashi city and Maebashi Municipal Office itself. There were some examples of corporations domiciled in the Kanto region, especially in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area that purchased land in the example area.
As for land-uses undergoing land-transactions, two tendencies are identified. One is a tendency for urban land-uses such as residences and shops, and the other is for wasteland. Some rural lots with good access to roads were replaced by shops, and restaurants. Even in lots without good accessibility were changed to residential use through real-estate firms.

Land-use decisions of agents
The author focused on land-use decisions. Thirty landowners were selected as interviewees whose causes, conditions and behaviour of land-use decisions were closely examined. Of the thirty owners, 26 were farmers and the rest were non-farmers. Their land accounted for 43.6% of the total land-use change, 62.8% of the total inherited land and 45.0% of the total purchased land in the sample area. The rate of their own land to the total land of Rokku was 42.0% in 1980, which dropped to 34.1% in 1993. They all have a close relationship with relatively larger land transfer, such as transaction and inheritance of more than 1,000 square meters. In the interview landowners were asked about their reasons for disposing of landholdings. Items of question were land-use on their own land in 1980 and 1993, the reason for land-use change and for land transfer (land-ownership change). The decision agents in the sample area made land-use decisions based on two types of factors: the initial factors and decision factors. The initial factors were land re-adjustment, land inheritance, need for a larger income, request to sell their land, and failure of a non-agricultural business. Decision factors were the existence of their successors in agriculture, payment of inheritance tax, intention to keep farming, possession of land with good access to roads, and their own desire to utilize the land. Based on their decisions, their behaviour can be divided into three categories: trading (or selling), utilizing, and abandoning land. They all sold some pieces of their land between 1980 and 1993. For 20 owners their behaviour was trading only; a combination of trading and utilizing was taken by four owners; three owners took a combination of trading and abandoning; three owners took a combination of utilizing, trading, and abandoning.
Some farmers in the sample area made land-use decisions based on their intentions to keep farming. They sold part of their land to purchase new land several kilometers away in rural farmland areas that could be farmed more effectively. Moreover if the intention to keep farming was high, even when the head of the family died, the surviving members generally sold only a part of their land to pay inheritance tax while managing the remaining land for farming as before. On the other hand, some combinations of behaviour can be seen in the group where the intention to farm was low. When the head of the family died they tended to utilize, abandon, or sell their land. For example, if their desire was to utilize their land, some portion with good access to roads tended to be converted to urban use, such as apartment houses, shops and parking lots. If utilization was not desired, portions of land that were highly valued tended to be sold, while lowly valued portions tended to be abandoned. In case of non-farm landowners, some principal reasons for selling were at the request of a second party; and the failure of their non-farm businesses.


Land-use change in the CBD
In 1980, both sides of the main-street (Route 50 and Maebashi Station street) were dominated by financial and insurance companies and other offices. Land-use for the study area in 1980 was characterized into three major categories: office blocks (either side of the main street); shops (northern district); and residential (southern district). Along the main-street there was a cluster of parking lots with a capacity around 20-30 cars.
Land-use categories in which there was a high increase during 1980-96 were public use (86% increase), parking (75%), high-rise apartment houses (58%), and hotels (35%). Conversely, categories in which there was a large decrease were residencies (23% decrease), food shops (38%) and restaurants (25%). Moreover the total space for factories was almost halved during 1980-96.
There were two general types of land-use change:
1)Old residences, low-rise offices, and food shops were replaced by parking lots, offices, hotels, and apartments. That is, change to more intensive use of land after renovation. This type of change is evidence for the increased significance of the central area functioning as a business district.
2)Changes to transitional land-use with no buildings (e.g., parking lots) were seen in almost all the blocks in the area. This type of change is evidence for decline (after the collapse of the Bubble Economy).

Land-ownership change in the CBD
Land-ownership in the central area of Maebashi city changed drastically between 1980-1993. The rate of land owned by those in the CBD dropped to 54.8%, while the rate for agents in other areas increased during the same period. Several major insurance companies with head offices in Tokyo and Osaka purchased larger lots around the highest land priced areas in Maebashi city. Some of these lots were renovated to high-rise office buildings, while several other lots remained as parking. It can be identified that such insurance companies tended to purchase several small neighbouring lots at once so that they could get a large amount of land on which they could construct a high-rise office building. This kind of behaviour conducted by large-scale companies can be thought as a good predictor of urban growth.
Another characteristic of land-ownership change in 1993 was identified. Landowners in Tokyo Metropolitan Area came to own land located off the main street (back blocks). Especially, small corporations and individuals in Tokyo made a tremendous impact on the area. Along the main street, relatively larger lots were renovated to high-rise buildings by insurance companies that had ample funds, while other kinds of corporations and individuals constructed middle-rise buildings in the back blocks. At the same time, many original dwellers in the sample area sold land which was changed into parking lots. In general, there seems to be a close relationship between land-transactions and land-use change.

Land-use decisions of agents
In the analysis taken so far, it has been identified that some lots along the main street tended to be renovated to high-rise office buildings by insurance companies in Tokyo and Osaka, and that a large amount of lots in the southern residential district were converted into parking.
Fifty-four agents (twenty cases) with which the author could make contact were selected for interview. For each agent, the causes, conditions and behaviour of their land-use decisions were closely examined. During the interview each agent was asked about their reasons for disposing of landholdings. The agents were questioned on the number of agents and their roles in the land conversion process; the reason for land-use change; and so on.
In some cases, land-use decisions were made by the main agent by themselves subject to a variety of causes and conditions. However it was also revealed that some intermediators played very important roles in the processes of renovating high-rise buildings in the central area of the city. Moreover, the roles of intermediators in the highly urbanized areas were much more important than at the earlier stages of development because their roles included coordination as well as just mediation.
The major causes (occasions) for their decisions were shortages of space for shops, warehouses, residences and parking lots, which were the causes in the nearly the half cases. In addition, other causes for land-use decisions were identified: looking for more effective land-use; profitable tendering of new business; profitable bank finance; land inheritance; desire to rent apartment houses and offices; slump or failure in business; request to sell property, and others.
The conditions motivating such decisions were: funds for paying for inheritance tax or purchasing land; desire to diversify management; sufficient space to renovate own land; the possibility of purchasing or lending neighbouring lots; and securable bank finance. Above all, the desire to diversify and secure finance effectively influenced their behaviour.
Their behaviour can be divided into six categories:
1) erenovating (utilizing)f;
2) erentingf;
3) ebuying or lending landf;
4) eidling lots used for parkingf;
5) esellingf; and
6) erelocation of head office to suburbsf (the original building is vacated so that they can rent it).

Categories 1-3 were brought about by more positive decisions; on the other hand categories 4 and 5 were brought about by negative decisions. Finally, category 6 was somewhere between a negative and positive decision.
A notable feature of decisions in the city centre, where most of the land was in demand, was that behaviour in one case affected others. For example, when some agents decided to renovate their own land or to buy other pieces of land, these behaviour generated new demands for parking lots, apartment houses and offices. In other words, one decision affected another in a network of causal relationships.


Based on the analysis of the relationship between land-use and land-ownership changes, the marked differences have been indicated in the pattern of land-use change; the number and kind of agents; and the roles of intermediators who influenced the main decision-maker indirectly according to the stages of development from rural to urban. In this section, the emphasis was on the relationship between the characteristics of each stage of urban development, especially in terms of the roles of agents.
In 1980, the percentage of rural land-use in the rural/urban fringe, was more than 50%. On the other hand, the rate of urban land-use, for example, residences, offices, shops and parking lots, still remained at the level of 40 %. In 1993, urban land-use increased remarkably in the Rokku area and came to account for more than half of the total land area. Conversely, the rate of rural land-use dropped to 32%. This fact is sufficient to explain the growth of the area. In addition, as the land re-adjustment program was undertaken in this area, further growth in the area is presumed.
As for the sample area of the CBD, the rate of urban land-use had already reached the level of 98% in 1980. In 1996, since parking lots, offices, hotels, and apartment houses replaced many pieces of land where old residences, low-rise offices, and food shops were located.
To examine the relationship of the roles of particular agents to urban growth, the rate of land owned by each type of agent in the example areas is shown in the Table. In the Rokku area during 1980-93, farmers, office workers, shopkeepers, normal offices, and Maebashi Municipal Office were typical agents. In 1980, the predominant agents were farmers accounting for more than 50%. In 1993, the land owned by farmers decreased remarkably to the level of 33.2%. On the contrary the land owned by office workers increased to 38.3% and went ahead of those of farmers. In addition, the amount of land belonging to shopkeepers, normal offices, and Maebashi Municipal Office also increased. In general, the original land owned by farmers was replaced by the other agents, who were recent arrivals to the area.
In the CBD during 1980-96, office workers, shopkeepers, normal offices, financiers and developers were typical agents. In 1980, the majority of agents were office workers accounting for 52.3%. In 1993, although the rate of land owned by the two largest groups of agents, office workers and shopkeepers, decreased slightly, they still outnumbered the other agents. At the same time, financiers, developers, builders, and Maebashi Municipal Office increased their shares to additional 3 to 4%. In general, the original land owned by individuals (i.e., office workers and shopkeepers) was replaced by the several kinds of corporations.

At the earlier stages, the majority agents were farmers whose typical behaviour was to abandon or sell their farmland. When the area undergoes the process of urbanization, office workers, realtors, shopkeepers, and factory owners newly become the notable agents. In this process, some local real-estate firms (realtors) intermediated the transactions between the predevelopment owners (farmers) and final consumers.
Due to further urban expansion of the city, many residences and large-scale shops were built not only along the main roads leading to the city centre, but also around existing urban land use (so-called plain development). With a rapid increase of urban land demand, as well as office workers and realtors some builders and developers entered the area for the purpose of developing low-rise residential and office buildings. Moreover, farmers come to utilize their own land by renovating shops or offices themselves as well as selling land. The change in behaviour by farmers from one kind (selling only) to several kinds (e.g., selling and utilizing) was one of the most notable features of urban development. When the number of choices increased due to the urban growth, farmers took of combination of options, whereas only one option was taken in the earlier stages.
The reason for their behaviour can be considered as follows:
1)The causes and conditions for their land-use decisions diversified due to the increase of the number of agents:
2)As a result of diversification of decisions, the choices for their behaviour also diversified, thus the behaviour itself becomes more complicated.
The several kinds of behaviour taken by one agent was a phenomenon only observed in the city centre with high urban land demand. However, when the change in urban structure was due to urban growth; characteristic behaviour of the later stages of development was seen even in the suburbs, which were previously at an earlier stage of development.
After the area was urbanized, the major agents were office workers, shopkeepers, factory owners, developers, and builders. Moreover, the roles of normal offices that occupied rental space in the buildings became more important. It is typical behaviour of agents (builders and developers) seen in this stage to renovate their own buildings. Furthermore, they purchased land through the mediation of realtors, financiers or a municipal office. A financier and a municipal office acting as mediators was unique to the later stages of development.
Finally most of the area is highly urbanized, the major agents are limited to builders, financiers, and normal office workers who have ample funds, while the roles of farmers and office workers decreased. In this stage, the majority agents make decisions by themselves and also behave as intermediators. Some examples of renovation caused by these agents required large-scale areas and finance.
The city of Maebashi has a population of about 300,000, which ranks the city as a middle class among the prefectural capital cities in Japan. In terms of urban system, what kind of agents play critical roles in the development process? In the previous studies in Japan, some researchers suggested that the roles of developers and financiers are critically important in the progressing. The role of each agent who plays an important role in the 'gentrification' process should be closely examined.

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