Machinoeki – Human Stations

“Machinoeki” is a station for people whose main mode of transport is walking. It offers free use of toilets and resting places, local information and guidance, and smiles of “station masters” with a spirit of hospitality. Any existing facility can become a Machinoeki. Using this logo, more than 1600 Machinoekis are located throughout Japan.

Hirotaka Koike and Keiko Yoshida, Utsunomiya, Japan

Japan is now facing a major challenge never experienced before. For the first time in history, Japanese population started to decline accompanied by the rapid increase of elderly population. Meanwhile, the downtown areas of local cities are losing its prosperity due to the excessive motorization and subsequent urban sprawl. In order to curb this trend and to revitalize downtown as well as to revive local communities, new approaches are to be called for.

We started a new community development movement in Japan called “Machinoeki”, the Human Station, in 2002 in order to revitalize city centers and to create pedestrian -friendly urban environment. “Machi” means city, town or community, and “Eki” means station. Machinoeki is a community station for people, whose main mode of transport is walking, cycling and public transport. It is a focal point where people can drop by occasionally to have a rest, to get information or to socialize with other people. There are four functions provided by a Machinoeki. They are 1) provision of free rest rooms, 2) visitor information and guidance, 3) social exchange between visitors and local residents, and 4) collaboration or cooperation among other machinoekis. The advantage of Machinoeki is that it does not require the construction of a new facility. Any existing facility, be it a store, museum, hospital, school, or city hall, can become a Machinoeki. The standard kit required to start a Machinoeki includes common signage, free resting spaces and toilets, resident guides and local information. The most important ingredient is the sense of hospitality shown by the station masters to welcome visitors. It is called “Omotenashi” in Japanese, which became famous worldwide at the presentation of International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires in 2013 to choose Tokyo in 2020.

The Logo of Machinoeki symbolizes three persons in Chinese character to form a group of people. The three persons stand for community leaders, young people and people from outside. The character “i” in the middle stands for information. As mentioned above, everyone can easily make a Machinoeki without a lot of financial resources. That’s one of the main reasons why Machinoeki has continued to grow and spread throughout Japan at such a high rate and now it reached to over 1600. They are managed by organizations such as chambers of commerce or tourism associations, municipal governments, institutions, private companies and stores or individuals. Recent trend is the networking of many Machinoekis in a region, ranging from several to a few dozens. One local city with the population of 100 thousand has more than 90 Machinoekis.

The effects of Machinoeki are revitalization of city centers, community redevelopment in rural areas and increase of interactions among different cities. It contributes to attract sightseeing visitors, to ensure the safety of community by crime prevention functions, and to help the enhancement of community pride. In addition, the roles as emergency rescue centers in case of natural disasters such as large earthquakes or heavy rain storms were actually proven effective at the Great East Japan Earthquake in March, 2013.

Submitter

Hirotaka Koike and Keiko Yoshida, Utsunomiya, Japan

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