Central Place Theory

Central Place Theory: A case study on of Tokyo Chu Shun Wang 1155106798

Tokyo, was named Edo(??) 400 years ago. The city has become the center of politics in Japan since Tokugawa Leyasu (????) established the Edo Bakufu (????), where the shogunate begin the 265 years of ruling. However, in the Meiji Restoration, the Emperor Meiji put an end to the Edo period and Japan is under imperial rule. He then renamed the city, as Tokyo, meaning the capital of the east. After all these years, Tokyo has changed from a town to a flourish metropolis. The purpose of this essay is to apply the central place theory to this historical city.

Literature review

The central place theory by Christaller and Losch points out that different locations on an economic landscape have different levels of centrality. Goods and services are efficiently provided on a hierarchical basis. In 1976, Japan, Noboru Hayashi and Yoshikazu Ito took Ichinomiya (???), a major city in Aichi Prefecture (???), as a case study of the central place system, and they had investigated the affiliations among the central places in the region. In their studies they agreed that the ratio of existing of central function changes according to the level of central place, where the higher the level, the further is the distance between two cities with similar levels. The linkage between the levels of central places is illustrated by the number of central function and the radius from a place to Ichinomiya. Having the highest level in the area, the situation is similar to the marketing principle K=3, where the market area of Ichinomiya occupies about one-third of the North West region of Aichi Prefecture. Apart from Ichinomiya, the nearest city that has the same level of central function will be Nagoya (???), which located in the middle part of Aichi Prefecture. (Noboru & Yoshikazu, 1976)

In fact, what Noboru and Yoshikazu found in Ichinomiya is totally in accordance with the central place theory. Ichinomiya is actually a higher-order place with lower size place surrounded. In figure 1, it explains the metropolitan community in Aichi Prefecture, where nearby cities see Ichinomiya as the destination for working and purchasing goods. Figure 2 describes the transportation network of Aichi Prefecture, where Ichinomiya has the most stations and population in the area. Figure 3 shows the products and services available in cities. The region rely much on Ichinomiya providing a variety of goods. Figure 4 points out the distribution of all central places in the North West of Aichi Prefecture. Only Ichinomiya is alone classified as a higher-order central place, with a larger scale economy. Although the data of Noboru and Yoshikazu’s study is absolutely outdated, the model presented in their work can precisely covers similar metropolitan area, including todays Tokyo since the central function of the Tokyo region can be viewed as similar as Ichinomiya, just in a much bigger scale. The position of Tokyo with recent data will be analyzed in the coming paragraph.

Data used comes from the Tokyo Statistical Year Book, published by the statistic division of Bureau of General Affairs of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. (Statistics Division TMG, 2018) Tokyo Metropolis is located in the southern Kanto region, the area is about 2,200 square kilometers with a population of 13.64 million. Having a population density of around 6,160 persons per square kilometer, Tokyo is the most densely populated prefecture in Japan and the population is uniformly distributed. According to the National Census of 2010, employed persons were distributed into several employment groups. The least is agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, only 23,000 persons (0.4%) were employed; 1.064 million (17.7%) in manufacturing and transportation-related occupations; 1.575 million (26.2%) in sales and services; and the most in clerical, technical, and management occupations, about 2.542 million (42.3%).

In Christaller’s (1933) theory, central places are towns or cities (locations) which supply central goods. Tokyo as a central place, it provides higher-order goods with bigger scale economies and lower transportation cost. The hierarchy property points out that larger cities are more diverse is not merely because of having more industries but specialize in industries with bigger scale economies. We can easily see that this structure involves a skewed city size distribution. The region of Tokyo consists of cities of different layers. Cities of the same layer have similarity in their demographic and economic characteristics where they perform the same functions. For instance, there are only five significant central places in the whole Kanto Heiya (????) as you can see in figure 8. Apart from Tokyo, the rest are Saitama (???), Sagamihara (????), Kawasaki (???), Yokohama (???)and Chiba (???). Tokyo is located at the center of the above cities and figure 6 shows the amount of people living around Tokyo travel there for their job. The smaller cities they lived in host the same set of industries like heavy industry or agriculture.

The difference between a high-order metropolis like Tokyo and a normal town was not simply because of Tokyo’s bigger population. Tokyo’s market brought customers for products and services from an extremely wide region is the reason why it has such a high rank. (Hsu, 2012) In figure 7, it indicates that Tokyo a single city contribute much on the national economy. We can see that it has great influence on a regional aspect. Economic goods is ranked base on the number of people and concentrations of wealth needed to create a market for them. The hierarchy of urban settlements is also a hierarchy of markets. As goods alter in their degrees of scale economies, those with massive scale economies, for example huge stadiums like the Tokyo Dome or the Nippon Budokan (???) are very few. Yet, for some with small scale economies, like FamilyMart in Tokyo can be seen everywhere. On the other hand, Tokyo as a large city would offer a wider range of goods. Tokyo has a variety of industries, with a notably huge concentration of companies’ headquarters, contributing to a rapid economic activity. The city continually supports business bringing new fashions and cultural phenomena. There are more than 680,000 business establishments in Tokyo. Among the 8.2 million work force in Tokyo, 70% of them work for small and medium businesses. Tokyo also contains different types of real estate establishments making people are willing to travel much further to reach. For education institute, there is national universities like the University of Tokyo and private universities like Waseda University (?????). Many universities in the area have great reputation and academic status. Tokyo also has Haneda Airport (????), the largest airport in Japan. These are just some examples of Tokyo. In contrast, smaller cities around it cannot offer this level of goods.

Implication to real estate market

Tokyo is formed by 23 wards, each one of them has different characteristics, leading to diverse real estate trends and pricing. For instance, in Minato Ward (??), a densely populated area with office buildings, having the highest price of new apartments in the region, with an average of JPY 1,811,714 per sq meter of space. Also, transportation affects the pricing of real estate. As there will be two new JR stations built in Minato by 2020, one between Kamiyacho and Kasumigaseki on the Hibiya Line, and another between Shinagawa and Tamachi on the JR Yamanote Line, the housing prices in Minato Ward are predicted to remain a high level for the coming decade. (Kaori, 2018)

Shibuya Ward (???), the fastest growing ward in Tokyo, also has a very high price level in real estates. Within the categories that are studied to be crucial in expanding, Shibuya is the only ward to perform excellent in three main categories, including convenience, raising amount of restaurants, and comprehensive economic contribution to Tokyo. In the Shibuya Ward hotel sector, due to the coming Tokyo Olympics 2020, foreign investors raise their spending on hotels in Tokyo as they foresee a great demand of hotel rooms. Investment funds is increasing and there are people target on purchasing hotels in Shibuya as it has well developed transportation network, especially the JR railway.(Masaya, 2018)


The development of Tokyo has been significant in the world major cities. As a metropolis, Tokyo has contribute much for the economy and daily living of people in Kanto even the entire Japan. The central place system has a close relationship to its surrounding socio-economic environment, it is good for us to review the changing of central places worldwide with the analysis of spatial structure and demographic factors.?