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In early September, the Kyoto city government began enforcing regulations against ugliness in the city. Yes, ugliness. The mayor of Kyoto, Yorikane Masumoto, and his municipal government found the political will to think beyond the immediate concerns of day-to-day business demands, and to consider how Kyoto, once one of the world’s most beautiful cities, could look a lot better. Hopefully, the rest of Japan’s cities will follow suit.

The half-century of postwar building frenzy, where practicality, price and size seemed the only aesthetic values, may finally be coming to an end. And none too soon inasmuch as Japan’s modern cities have failed to build on their tasteful, well planned past. It is not that all cities are completely horrible, but that they have fallen into a jumble of unattractive elements that neither match the past nor fit Japan’s economic level. Improving the quality of Japanese cities is urgent and essential and still very possible.

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