Degree completed in 2018.

The resilience of shrinking communities in rural Japan: Can the Cittaslow approach be a possible development strategy?


Academic Profile

Heuishilja is a DPhil student at the Transport Study Unit within the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, where she recently completed her MSc thesis. She qualified as an architect and holds a BE in Architecture and Building Engineering from Tokyo University of Science and an MA in Architecture from the University of Tokyo, Japan. Currently, Heuishilja is a senior visiting researcher at Keio University, Kanagawa, Japan.

On completing her academic studies, Heuishilja worked at Arata Isozaki Associates in Tokyo. She was project architect for various architecture and design projects including: the master planning and facility design of Education City, a university complex in Doha; the permanent exhibition design for the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo; and the art installation project for the Japan-Russia cultural exchange in Moscow.

Current Research

Heuishilja's research interests traverse the disciplines of urban geography, planning, spatial design and architecture, which intersect in the creation of a quality living environment. Key research topics listed below evolved from her core interest in the well-being of depopulating and ageing societies.

  • Sustainable development models of shrinking cities and towns
  • Social innovations under shrinkage
  • Slow urbanism and degrowth development
  • Roles of spatial design in planning for shrinkage

Heuishilja's MPhil research investigated the shrinkage management and urban renewal strategies adopted in Leipzig, Germany, and proposed new roles for urban designers and architects in the shrinking city.

In her doctoral research, Heuishilja is working on the community resilience of shrinking rural towns and assessing possible development models. This solution-oriented empirical research consists of two parts. The first part reviews the process and impact of regional shrinkage in postwar Japan. It then considers the responses of the society to shrinkage at the local, regional and national levels, using the adaptive cycle model (panarchy) in evolutionary resilience as the theoretical framework. It places particular emphasis on the adaptive ability at the community level, through an in-depth analysis of the revitalisation efforts of Japanese rural towns. The second part evaluates the Cittaslow (Slow City) as an alternative local development model which enhances the resilience of shrinking communities. Exploring the Cittaslow activities in the towns in Italy and the UK, it assesses the conceptual relevance, practical applicability and cross-cultural transferability of the approach in rural Japan.


Conference papers and presentations

  • Chang, H. (2016) Can Slow City Enhance the Resilience of Japanese Shrinking Communities? JSPS London Research Promotion Conference, London, 16 November.
  • Chang, H. (2016) Can Cittaslow (the Slow City approach) Enhance the Resilience of Japanese Shrinking Communities? Joint East Asian Studies Conference, London, 7-9 September.
  • Chang, H. (2016) Evaluation of the Slow City Approach as a Degrowth Strategy for Shrinking Communities. 5th International Conference on Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity, Budapest, 30 August - 3 September.
  • Chang, H. (2016) Cittaslow and the resilience of shrinking communities. Nissan Institute Workshop: Slow Cities? The Revitalisation of Japanese shrinking communities, University of Oxford, Oxford, 10 March.
  • Chang, H. (2016) The resilience of Japanese shrinking communities: Can Cittaslow be their development strategy? Regional Urbanism in the Era of Globalization Conference, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, 3-5 February.