Economic disparity in Japan has been increasing since approximately 1980. This change has been particularly significant in one of its global cities, the Tokyo metropolitan area, resulting in a dramatic transformation of its socio-spatial structure. Until the 1980s, economic disparity in Tokyo was not as large as that in the whole of Japan. Moreover, the concentration of high-income households in the center of Tokyo was not significant. However, the old middle class, which consist of self-employed individuals, and small capitalist class began to dissolve in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively, resulting in a decline in the population in the center of the city and its surrounding areas. In the 2000s the new middle class began to move into these areas. This was gentrification; however, because of the time difference between the dissolution of the old middle class and small capitalists and the influx of the new middle class, it was not violent but proceeded in a relatively peaceful manner. Until 1990, in areas 20-40 km from the center of Tokyo, income levels and the proportion of the new middle class were high, however by 2010 the proportion of the working class had increased, and income levels had fallen significantly. Thus, in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the old middle class and the small capitalists in and around the center of Tokyo were replaced by the new middle class, and a hierarchical socio-spatial structure culminationg in the center of Tokyo developed.
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