Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City.

An aerial view of Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City in Chiba Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo.

Kashiwa City, with a land area of 115 square kilometers (44 sq mi) and a population of just over 400,000, is in Chiba Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo in Japan’s Kanto region. Though it is home to companies in food processing and other industries, as well as a professional soccer team, it is now best known as the home of Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City. Currently being developed on a 273-hectare (675 ac) plot of land in northwestern Chiba Prefecture, Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City was launched in 2005 with the opening of Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Station on the Tsukuba Express train line.

Accessible from Tokyo in less than an hour by train, Kashiwa-no-ha is an area rich in natural beauty and is the site of a concentration of academic and research institutions. The land is divided into 299 parcels to be subdivided further into blocks with interconnecting streets and pathways.

Initial development is taking place in parcels 147, 148, 149, 150, and 151, which extend outward from Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Station and encompass the University of Tokyo Kashiwa campus, Chiba University Kashiwa-no-ha Campus, Kashiwa-no-ha Park, and industrial areas, as well as the National Cancer Center. Creation of the grand design for the project was from the beginning a collaborative endeavor, with Chiba Prefecture, Kashiwa City, the University of Tokyo, and Chiba University involved in the planning and deliberation.

The project scheme called for work to proceed in two stages, the first being the development of Gate Square, a 13-hectare (31 ac) pilot area surrounding Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Station, which would serve as the center of the Kashiwa-no-ha Campus. The official opening of Gate Square in 2014 marked the completion of stage one of the smart city development, with the pilot area having become fully functional. The initial 127,000-square-meter (1.4 million sq ft) development area is home to about 5,000 residents and 1,000 workers, with 7 million visitors per year. It features Japan’s first functional smart grid and includes residential, office, retail, educational, and medical facilities.

The development of stage two, now underway and slated for completion in 2030, represents the scaling up of the pilot area development, expanding concentrically to an area of about 3 million square meters (32 million sq ft). A government-driven artificial intelligence center and a research center for the development of next-generation medical devices is being planned for this area, and the complex is expected to attract the participation of Japan’s top firms.

Upon completion, the city is forecast to have 26,000 residents, 10,000 workers, and 10 million visitors per year. It is intended to serve both business and community interests by encouraging more employment uses in association with institutional and academic partnerships located nearby to cultivate an active and vibrant civic realm. The area supports creative-class industries through the vitality in this new urban platform that serves multigenerational communities in a sustainable, healthful environment.

Guiding Themes

The Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City concept was built on the themes of environmental symbiosis, health and longevity, and creation of growth industries. These themes were formulated in 2003 and 2004, before the Tsukuba Express train line opened, when Chiba Prefecture established an advisory board focused on industry and urban development along the train line in the cities of Kashiwa and Nagareyama. The objective was to develop a city focused on environment, healthy living, creativity, and communication.

Formulation of Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha (UDCK) in November 2006 was the first step in implementing the Kashiwa-no-ha International Campus Town Initiative in March 2008. The initiative, formulated by Chiba Prefecture, Kashiwa City, the University of Tokyo, and Chiba University, states that its objective is to “realize an international academic city in which cutting-edge knowledge, industry, and culture can be developed and bring about a next-generational environmental city where people coexist in harmony with a rich natural environment and healthy, high-quality living and working environments in a creative setting that integrates the campus and town through partnerships among the government, private industry, and academia.”

The initiative has eight goals devised with the help of a survey of stakeholders and citizens:

  • creation of a garden city coexisting in harmony with the environment;
  • development of creative industrial and cultural space;
  • formation of international academic and educational space;
  • development of a sustainable transportation system;
  • creation of a “Kashiwa-no-ha style”;
  • implementation of area management;
  • design of high-quality urban space; and
  • development of a city that supports innovative fields.

Under these objectives, 21 action programs were identified with the themes of environment, healthy living, creativity, and communication. Implementation of these measures began in 2008. As the project progressed, the themes developed further, sparked by Japanese real estate developer Mitsui Fudosan’s development concept for the area around Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Station, which eventually became Gate Square. In July 2011, Mitsui Fudosan announced its new concept, Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City, based on three pillars: environment symbiosis, health and longevity, and creation of new industry.

@Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd. Gate Square, which serves as the center of the smart city and brings together offices, residences, retail space, a hotel, and academic facilities, encourages interaction among the residents of the area, as well as those who commute to the city to work.

Gate Square, which serves as the center of the smart city and brings together offices, residences, retail space, a hotel, and academic facilities, encourages interaction among the residents of the area, as well as those who commute to the city to work. (@Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd. )

Partnership of Stakeholders

UDCK, unique in Japan at the time, is made up of public and private partners, as well as local academic institutions that help hold community and business interests together as the neighborhood develops. The smart city’s success relies on the constant and supportive guidance from this singular entity, a structure that is now a prototype being replicated across Japan.

UDCK creates a forum for discussion of how development can reinforce business and community goals. Having just celebrated its tenth anniversary, UDCK has been essential to the community’s adaptation to economic stresses and unexpected disasters, as well as efforts to make the smart city a sustainable place.

Because of UDCK, this new city has been transformed from a conventional transit-oriented development to become the largest smart city to earn a platinum ranking under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) plan rating system, devised by the U.S. Green Building Council. The 42-hectare (104 ac) development owes its start to the advance of technology and local community aspirations to make a healthful place for multigenerational lifestyles.

UDCK is led by Atsushi Deguchi, a professor in the Department of Socio-Cultural Environmental Studies at the University of Tokyo, who has been involved in urban engineering for more than three decades. UDCK provides support for urban design, the introduction of advanced technologies and services, and the creation of a new lifestyle and community. In addition to public and private entities, UDCK gives the citizens a voice in the evolution of their community. It served as the platform for the formulation of the Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City vision and the catalyst for putting those ideas into practice.

Given momentum by the LEED ND Platinum certification, the highest rank awarded for an urban development plan, UDCK will play a key role in organizing property owners to subscribe to site- and building-performance guidelines to achieve objectives for sustainable design, as well as the community’s desire to create more active and vital neighborhood spaces.

Not only does UDCK bring together stakeholders in an environment where they can regularly discuss and deliberate on urban development issues, but also the center’s staff initiates and manages a variety of community programs that put community members in leadership positions concerning the creation, maintenance, and development of value. UDCK plans and tests these programs to evaluate their effectiveness across the community’s various demographic groups.

“The ‘Center’ in Urban Design Center represents the confluence of information, people, and activity,” says Deguchi. “Anytime these elements come together, issues inevitably arise. The members of the center then work cooperatively to resolve these issues.

“The real value of UDCK is that it is a collaborative effort involving public, private, and academic entities,” he says, “and this multidisciplinary structure affords us great flexibility as we operate autonomously—free of political associations or obligations—enabling us to respond at the same speed at which Kashiwa-no-ha is developing.”

Retail and Services First

In November 2006, the first element of Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City was launched—LaLaport Kashiwanoha, a compact shopping complex with 155,700 square meters (1.7 million sq ft) of space located on a 58,400-square-meter (629,000 sq ft) site. It has 180 retail outlets, restaurants, and service firms, as well as the Town Health Station, which includes medical and dental clinics, research institutes, an acupressure station, a fitness club, and a yoga studio. The facility also has a movie theater and a bookstore.

That same year, LaLaport Kashiwanoha became the first retail facility in Japan to earn the S rank (excellent) under the Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency (CASBEE) standard, which was established in Japan in 2001.

As a part of the Kashiwa-no-ha International Campus town scheme, UDCK formulated a plan to connect the campus with the parcels that exist within it. At the core of the plan are the Campus Road and Green Axis paths, connecting educational and research facilities and enveloped in greenery. The Green Axis has the new elementary and junior high schools to the south and Konbukuro Pond to the north; Campus Road links Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Station with Chiba University, Kashiwa-no-ha Prefectural Park, and the University of Tokyo.

Two Residential Districts

Japanese architecture firm Jun Mitsui & Associates was hired to design the first two residential developments in the 12.7-hectare (31 ac) pilot area. Park City Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Ichibangai, completed in spring 2008 on a 29,000-square-meter (312,000 sq ft) site on the opposite side of Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Station from LaLaport, consists of five towers ranging from 18 to 35 stories with a total of 997 residential units in a gross floor area of 145,000 square meters (1.6 million sq ft).

The second residential district, Park City Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Nibangai, comprises six residential towers housing a total of 880 units with a gross floor area of 115,000 square meters (1.2 million sq ft). This district is near LaLaport, and in addition to the residences, includes a large common area where residents can relax and interact.
Each unit in Nibangai has a monitor allowing residents to track their use of water, as well as electricity and natural gas, which generate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, so they can be aware of how their use of utilities is affecting the environment. Later, residents of Ichibangai were also given the option of having such monitors.

This residential area was completed at the end of 2012.

After the Earthquake

Development of the Kashiwa-no-ha pilot area had been proceeding essentially on schedule until March 11, 2011, when the country was struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami and nuclear disaster caused widespread loss of life in Japan and cessation of a wide range of vital services.

A plan had been formulated and preliminary construction initiated for the development of what would become the centerpiece of the project, but the original plan did not incorporate an emergency power supply system. An area energy management system had been developed to share Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) power sources across the project, and following the disaster the system was expanded to include battery storage, on-site renewable power, advanced controls to share heating and cooling between buildings, and other measures not initially part of the system.

Following the disaster, UDCK coordinated a six-month, comprehensive effort by Mitsui Fudosan and other stakeholders to revise the original plan, which led to creation of the “disaster-ready energy system.”

Under the revised plan, in the event of a disaster, the newly implemented system will provide offices and medical and commercial facilities in the target area (parcels 147, 148, and 149, which house Gate Square, Nibangai, and Sanbangai, scheduled for completion in 2018) with 60 percent normal power for up to 72 hours; supply residential properties with energy to support elevator operation and lighting in common areas; and provide water with newly installed groundwater pumps for daily use during an emergency.

Construction of the core element of the project—its gateway, Gate Square—began just before the 2011 earthquake and resumed months afterward. Comprising offices, retail space, 145 residential units, 166 hotel rooms, conference centers, and other key features, Gate Square encompasses a gross floor area of over 53,000 square meters (570,000 sq ft) on a site measuring about 24,000 square meters (258,000 sq ft). Gate Square opened in July 2014.

Connected by Greenery

The Green Axis is a key urban space that encapsulates the character of the pilot area. It connects Konbukuro Pond, which contains a spring and was part of the golf course formerly on the site, to Campus Station, Gate Square, Nibangai, and Park City Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Sanbangai. The Nibangai, Sanbangai, and Gate Square projects were organized to allow the Green Axis to serve as an interior pathway that reflects the recreational and community activities of residents nearby.

Jun Mitsui, principal of architecture firm Jun Mitsui & Associates, designed buildings that supported the Green Axis concept.

“It was important to us in designing the Green Axis to ensure it was seamlessly integrated with the buildings that surround it,” he says. “We succeeded for the first time ever in developing a green axis as a central community street space by creating a firm link between the abundant greenery—high and low trees, ground cover, and terraced greenery—the structures, and the outdoor space.”

His firm based its work on the existing, government-approved master plan. “In order to realize the urban space the plan called for, we employed numerous devices and techniques in adjusting the design and landscape plan, and finally obtained approval through repeated, in-depth discussions with key players from the client and the local government,” he says.

The external appearance of the buildings is crucial in giving form to open spaces and streets, Mitsui says. To achieve this, it was necessary to create a clear facade on all buildings approaching the Green Axis. Though the individual characteristics of the surrounding buildings remain evident, they share commonalities in colors and design, resulting in an integrated backdrop.

“It’s vital that the Green Axis generates an overall sense of unity by conveying the impression that it is a living space specifically created for the community,” Mitsui says. “Further, whether the construction facade is in harmony with human-scale sensitivity and the sense of scale of the tree branches and the shadows of the leaves can determine whether it inspires a biophilic reaction in residents when they view it.” Japanese-made ceramic tiles of many colors were used in the exterior design of the buildings, placed in intricate patterns to create precise shadows and a unanimity with the surrounding trees and nature, he notes.

The project’s Kashiwa-no-ha Open Innovation Lab (KOIL), is a first for Japan—a facility that brings together one of the largest coworking spaces in the country, a café, and a digital manufacturing studio; it also has business mentors on staff to assist and support entrepreneurs. Offices of major corporations as well as venture companies are on site. A winner of the Japan Institute of Design Promotion’s 2015 Good Design Award, KOIL encapsulates the premise of Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City—the natural, comfortable, synergistic merging of knowledge, industry, and culture.

Smart about Energy

Gate Square also incorporates the University of Tokyo Kashiwa-no-ha Campus Station Satellite, a facility for research and collaboration; the north wing of LaLaport; Mitsui Garden Hotel and Park Axis Kashiwa-no-ha, which both offer hotel rooms and rental residences; the Kashiwa-no-ha Smart Center, the facility responsible for overall energy management for the project; and the energy building, which houses power storage systems.

Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City uses energy from TEPCO, along with solar and wind energy generated and stored locally, and shares that energy across parcels as needed via private transmission lines. This makes intelligent, situational energy sharing possible, not only leading to reduction in energy consumption and the subsequent decrease in CO2 emissions, but also ensuring that energy is available and distributed as required to Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City facilities if a natural disaster or other event affects the operation of primary systems. On average, only 10 percent of power consumed in the pilot area is provided by TEPCO.

The monitors provided in the residential units at Ichibangai and Nibangai are components of the Home Energy Management System, designed specifically for Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City. Residents can view the status of their electricity use both on their monitors at home and via mobile terminals when they are away. Air conditioning and lighting can also be controlled remotely, further contributing to effective energy-use management.

During winter 2015, after completing design sessions, UDCK began developing a master plan that would implement the community’s vision for sustainable neighborhood design, and guidelines specific to the development of the project’s Innovation Campus were adopted by Kashiwa City. Working with Tokyo-based architecture firm Nikken Sekkei, Portland, Oregon–based ZGF Architects designed a plan for a new Innovation Campus located on an undeveloped 20-hectare (49 ac) area in the northern portion of the pilot area around a retention pond. Were it not for UDCK, the broad and shared agreements between property owners regarding existing areas and areas to be redeveloped would not have been extended to incorporate additional guidelines pertaining to all future site and building improvements.

In September 2016, UDCK and Mitsui Fudosan achieved a LEED ND Platinum rating for the Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City plan. Two months later, the rainwater retention pond, which was a physical barrier in the center of the Innovation Campus and inaccessible to the public, was converted into the Aqua Terrace, a waterfront space, by Nikken Sekkei. A new public amenity, its construction ended a two-and-a-half-year discussion concerning the transformation of the space while maintaining its standard function as a retention pond.

The area around the pond is owned by Mitsui Fudosan and numerous individual owners, all of whom bear a portion of the costs of taking care of the landscape and enhancing the value of the area. There are benches, a stage, a fountain, and an environment in which wild birds can exist safely. Along the northeast edge of the Aqua Terrace is the Kashiwanoha T-SITE, a complex that upon opening this spring will offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy movies, music, and books in a comfortable setting with cafés and specialty shops.

Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City—winner of the MIPIM 2017 Best Futura Mega Project award—has been established as an integrated, technologically advanced place with neighborhood facilities that accommodate a variety of lifestyles, generations, and uses. This would not have been possible without UDCK’s ability to coordinate and serve institutional, municipal, business, and community interests in a new urban form. UL

Michael Deininger, as adviser, and Migiwa Yamamoto, as chief coordinator, manage daily affairs for ULI Japan.

For further details on Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City, visit the ULI Case Studies database at casestudies.uli.org.