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What is Senri New Town?

1.Its Birth

Pursuit of a livable town

Following World War II, the Japanese who had been living in its then colonies returned to Japan where many houses had been lost during the war. In addition, as the country began to show rapid economic growth and industrialization in around 1955, a massive population began flooding into large cities in search of work. This created serious problems of overcrowding and lack of privacy as people were obliged to live in small dwellings together with large families. From the point of view of urban planning, suburban sprawl could not be left uncontrolled either.

The Osaka Prefectural Government decided on a policy to construct over one million dwelling units. As part of the priority measures, it launched the Senri New Town project on the Senri Hills in the northern part of the prefecture, in order to create a good living environment through the provision of a large number of low cost quality dwellings and housing sites. This was the first large-scale new town project in Japan.

Japan’s first large-scale new town project

Following a preparatory study beginning in about 1956, implementation of this project was approved in 1958. The master plan, initially based on 2,500 hectares, was revised to 1,160 hectares for the final plan in 1960, in accordance with the prefectural finances. The construction began in 1961 and the first residents moved into the Satakedai unit in 1962. Meanwhile, legislation concerning the development of new towns was introduced.

LocationSuita City and Toyonaka City, Osaka Prefecture
Operating bodyPublic Enterprise Bureau, Osaka Prefectural Government
Developed area1,160ha
Planned population150,000
Number of dwellings37,330
District/Neighborhood unitSuita City: 2 districts/8 neighborhood units
Toyonaka City: 1 district/4 neighborhood units
District size per citySuita City: 791 ha/approx. 100,000 residents
Toyonaka City: 369 ha/approx. 50,000 residents

Photo courtesy of the Osaka Prefectural Government

2.Planning

A planned city based on the neighborhood unit theory

MAP

In Senri New Town, a master plan was first formulated, and then roads, railways, parks, schools, retail shops and other elements were provided both comprehensively and systematically based on the neighborhood unit theory. This was an entirely different approach from the old urban development. While bringing together the wisdom of Japan, the plan incorporated many advanced case studies of new town projects of the West.

【Senri Housing Project Development Plan】
Source: Construction of Senri New Town, published by the Osaka Prefectural Government

Districts and neighborhood units

The entire site was divided into three districts; south, north and center, which were subdivided by main roads into a total of 12 neighborhood units (primary school districts), named by either ending with “dai” or beginning and ending with “Shinsenri/machi” respectively, in which Neighborhood Centers and parks were allocated. The neighborhood units consisted of 60 to 100 hectares each. The neighborhood unit theory systematized by the American, Clarence Perry in the 1920s, is one of the concepts that encouraged the construction of 20th century new towns.

Districts and neighborhood units

Diverse mix of housing types

With the aim of creating harmonious communities consisting of various and different residents, all types of dwelling were provided including detached houses, collective housing (consisting of public rental units by the Osaka prefectural/municipal governments/Osaka Prefectural Housing Corporation/Japan Housing Corporation (present Urban Renaissance Agency), and public/private units for sale), as well as company housing. Allocating collective housing in the center of each neighborhood unit and detached houses on its periphery, it was designed to create a townscape where residents benefit from quick access to key facilities.

Rich green spaces and safety

Out of the total area of 1,160 hectares, 42% is residential, of which the detached houses and collective housing ratio is about the same. Abundant space was allocated to public spaces such as roads and parks, especially parks and other green areas, which occupy approximately 21% of the total area. In order to protect the environment, the entire New Town site is enclosed by a surrounding green zone, while every district and neighborhood unit is dotted with parks. This lavish amount of vegetation is the strikingly unique feature of Senri New Town, exceeding by far that of collective housing complexes built before it and the new towns that followed it.

Sources: Materials prepared by the Senri New Town Regeneration Liaison
Council for the “1st Study Committee for Regeneration of Senri New Town”

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Another feature is that the traffic lines of pedestrians and automotive vehicles are separated as much as possible to maintain the safety of residents. Enclosing open spaces with buildings, while making good use of the varied topography of its hilly land form, the Radburn Layout was introduced in which cul-de-sacs running off the main roads were planned throughout as service areas, providing residents with spacious and quiet open spaces.

Photo courtesy of the Osaka Prefectural Government

3.Transition

History unique to the new town

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The construction of Senri New Town took only eight years amid the rapid economic growth period from 1962 to 1970, and following its completion, similar young nuclear families moved in. Simultaneously with its completion, the year 1970 saw Expo ’70 held on a neighboring site, while the transportation and environment in this area was improved, making the name Senri very famous. Many more new towns were constructed throughout Japan based on the model of Senri New Town.

Senri New Town was thus loved by most of its residents who continued to live there without moving elsewhere, despite the limited space of each dwelling. This however resulted in a successive polarization of the original residents’ generation. In the early years, with a rapid increase in the child population, there was a shortage of schools, and when this stage was over, the grown up second generation moved out while their parents stayed. As a result, vacancies in school classrooms increased while the improvement of facilities for the elderly became imperative. Although such generational polarization is a unique phenomenon of the Japanese new towns overall, it was particularly evident in Senri New Town. This is because the construction of new towns following Senri New Town slowed down during the oil-shock period in the 1970s, which contributed to a leveling out of the generation of new residents.

Population

Since its peak of approximately 130,000 in 1975, the population of Senri New Town continued to decrease and was less than 90,000 at the time of the national census in 2005. The number of households has remained more or less unchanged since 1980, while the number per household has decreased. The aging rate began to soar in about 1990 and reached 30% in 2011, higher than the entire Osaka Prefecture average. 

Population
Sources: The national census, and materials prepared by the Senri New Town Regeneration Liaison Council for the “1st Study Committee for Regeneration of Senri New Town”

Housing

Many of the original detached houses were rebuilt at about the time of the so-called bubble economy in the late 1980s. The collective housing began its rebuilding when some of the company housing units were sold following the collapse of the bubble economy, and became private condominiums. From 2005 onwards, major rebuilding rapidly increased in both housing for sale and rent.

Commerce

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As many residents started to drive to large outside shopping facilities, the hollowing-out phenomenon advanced especially in the Neighborhood Centers, resulting in the withdrawal of their key retail shops and an increase in the number of vacant stores.

Photos courtesy of the Osaka Prefectural Government and OKUI Takeshi

4.Regeneration

The front-runner at all times

While Senri New Town enjoyed glorious attention as Japan’s first new town, it was also the first one to face many problems such as a declining birth rate and aging population. Thus it began to address its regeneration ahead of others. Although partial renewal had been carried out on a constant basis, it was in the 1990s when a full-scale revitalization of core facilities such as the District Centers began. Discussions over rebuilding of the collective housing units also began at approximately the same time, and especially since about the year 2000 when the 40th Anniversary of Senri New Town was approaching, it became an official task for which various ideas and guidelines were gradually formulated by the cities of Suita and Toyonaka together with their citizens. In 2007, Senri New Town Indicators for Regeneration were formulated in collaboration with Suita City, Toyonaka City, the Urban Renaissance Agency, Osaka Prefectural Housing Corporation, and Osaka Prefecture Town Management Foundation. By placing emphasis on the open atmosphere typical of new towns and taking advantage of its good location, the path was laid to attract new residents. This expedited the rebuilding of old collective housing complexes and construction of private condominiums, contributing to a slight increase in its overall population including the number of children.

Efforts to improve our town

Neighborhood Centers, by utilizing their vacant store spaces for community-related and life support facilities, have great potential to play a new role as the core for ‘the walkable town’. With the strong resident attachment to this town, activities of the community associations and residents’ groups are very vigorous. In parallel with the aging original residents, young families have returned to the areas where the rebuilding of collective housing has advanced. Collaboration between the young and old is the theme of Senri New Town.

Senri New Town is still an experimental city, and its regeneration continues to inspire new towns both in Japan and other Asian countries. “The first new town” is and will always be “the first new town”.

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Photos courtesy of the Osaka Prefectural Government and HATA Tomoya

History

1958 Senri New Town development project became official.千里ニュータウン写真
1960Master plan completed.
1961Groundbreaking ceremony held.
1962Occupancy began in the Satakedai unit, marking the opening of Senri New Town.
1963 Occupancy began in the Takanodai and Tsukumodai units.
Hankyu Senri Line between Senriyama and Shinsenriyama (present Minamisenri) stations opened (the first railway access to Senri New Town).
1964 Occupancy began in the Furuedai and Fujishirodai units.
1965 Occupancy began in Aoyamadai.
Minami District Center specialty retail stores opened.
1966Occupancy began in the Shinsenri-kitamachi and Shinsenri-higashimachi units.
1967Shinsenri Hospital (present Saiseikai Senri Hospital) opened.
Hankyu Senri Line between Minami-Senri and Kita-Senri stations opened (the world’s first automatic ticket gate introduced at Kita-Senri Station).
Kita District Center specialty retail stores opened.
Occupancy began in the Momoyamadai and Takemidai units.
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1968 Occupancy began in the Shinsenri-nishimachi and Shinsenri-minamimachi units.
Osaka University began to move to the Suita Campus.
1969Population exceeded 100,000.
1970Japan World Exposition (Expo ’70) held.
Kita-Osaka Kyuko Line, Shin-Midosuji Blvd. and the Osaka-chuo-kanjo-sen Belt Line opened.
Chuo District Center opened.
Senri New Town development project completed.
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1971Expo ’70 Commemorative Park opened.
1972Selcy entertainment complex opened.
(The ban on resale began to be lifted starting with detached house plots following 10 year occupancy.)
1973The ‘toilet paper panic’ due to the oil crisis started in Senri New Town, and spread throughout Japan.
Hankyu Senri Line Yamada Station opened.
The first primary school not included in the master plan opened to accommodate a rapid increase in the number of children.
Development of the surrounding area expanded with the apartment construction boom.
1974(As private bathrooms increased, the use of public baths in the Neighboring Centers began to decline.)
1975Population peaked at 128,993.千里ニュータウン写真
1977National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center opened.
National Museum of Ethnology opened in the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park.
1978One-room extension of prefectural housing began.
(Libraries, community halls and gymnasiums began to be opened one after another.)
1982Bamboo forest in Senri Hills selected as one of Japan’s 100 best natural sceneries.
1990Senchu PAL reopened.
Osaka Monorail between Senri-Chuo and Minami-Ibaraki stations opened.
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1991 (Company housing began to be rebuilt as private condominiums, and rebuilding of collective housing complexes began to be considered.)
1993Osaka University Hospital moved to a neighboring area.
1994Dios Kitasenri commercial complex opened.
1997AZAL Momoyamadai commercial complex opened.
Population decreased to less than 100,000.
2004Garden Mall Minamisenri commercial complex opened.
2005Population of 65 years and over exceeded 25%.
2007Senri New Town Indicators for Regeneration formulated.
Population bottomed out at 89,212.
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2008Senri Culture Center “Collabo”, Toyonaka City opened.
2011Redevelopment of Senri Chuo District Center completed.
2012Senri New Town Plaza (Senri New Town Information Center), Suita City opened.
50th Anniversary of Senri New Town
Senri Candle Road started.
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2015SENRITO Yomiuri culture complex opened.
2017Water Battle event started.
Senchu Shibafu Night Theater started.
2018Senri New Town Indicators for Regeneration 2018ver. formulated.
Northern Osaka Earthquake hit.
2019Redevelopment of Senri Minami District Center completed.
Population exceeded 100,000 again.
202050th Anniversary of Senri New Town development project completed, Chuo District Center & Kita-Osaka Kyuko Line opened, Expo ’70 held.
30th Anniversary of Osaka Monorail opened.

Photos courtesy of the Osaka Prefectural Government,
AKAI Sunao, KITADA Junzo, KITAMURA Taku and others.

MAP

Minami District (Suita City)

1. Minami District Center

With the Hankyu Minamisenri Station (opened in 1963) as its core, it is located in the oldest part of Senri New Town, and served as its entrance until the Chuo District Center was built in 1970. Redevelopment has been underway since about 2000.

4. Senri New Town Plaza

Housing a Suita City government branch, it also has the Senri New Town Information Center on the 2nd floor. The Plaza serves as a base for residents’ activities.

A. Tsukumodai

Occupancy began in 1963 (125 ha). Located in the center of the Minami District, with the Minami District Center and Senri Minami Park. The essential services required for new towns are centered in the 7-chome area in the north.

B. Takanodai

Occupancy began in 1963 (94 ha). It is the second oldest neighborhood unit after Satakedai.
In the Takamachiike Pond area, the New Town’s perimeter green zone, one can enjoy seeing Himebotaru fireflies in May.

C. Satakedai

Occupancy began in 1962 (87 ha). The first neighborhood unit to receive residents, it represents the site as a pioneer for Japan’s new towns. Regeneration including the rebuilding of collective housing complexes is underway.

D. Momoyamadai

Occupancy began in 1967 (79 ha). Named after peach (“momo” in Japanese), which used to be one of the specialty produce of Senri Hills along with bamboo shoots. This unit enjoys the quickest access to Osaka City center.

E. Takemidai

Occupancy began in 1967 (53 ha). The smallest neighborhood unit in area among the twelve. The so-called ‘star-house’ high-rise landmark building in front of Minamisenri Station serves as a symbol of the entrance to Senri New Town.

Kita District (Suita City)

2. Kita District Center

With the Hankyu Kitasenri Station (opened in 1967) as its core, it is used by many students as an entrance to the Osaka University campus and by many who live in eastern Minoh City situated north of the New Town.

F. Aoyamadai

Occupancy began in 1965 (97 ha). Located on the highest hill of the New Town, it has many vantage points, and the view of the collective housing complex on the slope spreading north west from Kitasenri Station is impressive.

G. Fujishirodai

Occupancy began in 1964 (139 ha). This, the largest neighborhood unit of the New Town includes the vast Senri Kita Park and the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center, and is adjacent to the Osaka University campus and Expo ’70 Commemorative Park.

H. Furuedai

Occupancy began in 1964 (120 ha). This is the only neighborhood unit that includes an old village of more than ten dwellings and that maintains a small shrine. It is the unit first developed in the Kita District.

Chuo District (Toyonaka City)

3. Chuo District Center

With Senri-Chuo Station, Kita-Osaka Kyuko Line (opened in 1970) as its core, it is the largest District Center of Senri New Town, attracting many users also from outside as the new urban core of northern Osaka i.e. Greater Senri. It has a business quarter on the west side of Shin-Midosuji Blvd.

5. Senri Culture Center “Collabo”

Housing a Toyonaka City government branch, it provides the Toyonaka City Senri Library on the 4th floor focusing on informational materials of Senri New Town. Collabo serves as a base for residents’ activities.

6. Observation deck (Senri Chuo Park)

Situated on a hill-crest bordering Toyonaka City and Suita City, it provides a panoramic view of Senri New Town as far as the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park, and is known as a historic spot enjoyed by many VIP visitors.
(Currently closed)

7. Kamishinden

This area contains a village from the early Edo period (1600 – 1867), that is more than 400 years old. During the initial New Town development stage, only the surrounding fields and hills were purchased and the village itself was excluded from the development project, resulting in the preservation of this traditional townscape in the middle of a city of the future. However, many private apartments have since been built here.

I. Shinsenri-kitamachi

Occupancy began in 1966 (97 ha). The first neighborhood unit developed in the Toyonaka City region, it includes the highest altitude spot in the New Town, and serves as the water distribution base for the north area.

J. Shinsenri-higashimachi

Occupancy began in 1966 (98 ha). The only unit which consists entirely of collective housing. There is a dense bamboo forest preserved and tended by the residents in Senri-higashimachi Park close to the Senri-Chuo Station area.

K. Shinsenri-nishimachi

Occupancy began in 1968 (84 ha). Comprising the west half of the Chuo District Center, it has a business quarter, which is unusual in Senri New Town. Rebuilding of collective housing is underway.

L. Shinsenri-minamimachi

Occupancy began in 1968 (99 ha). The last neighborhood unit developed in the New Town, it stretches north-south along the west side of Shin-Midosuji Blvd., the artery from the center of Osaka to Senri New Town.

Gallery

Click each photograph to enlarge.

1960s-1970s

Photos by UBUKI Tamihiko(♦), AKAI Sunao (●) and NAGAI Toshio (○)

2000s-2010s

Photos by OKUI Takeshi (□) and TANAKA Yasuhiro Study & Information Center for Senri Newtown (■)