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I don't know whether it's the same outside of cities, but based on my limited experience, Japan appears either to have no zoning laws at all or to have such permissive ones that basically anything can be right next to (or, very often, on top of) anything else. Experiencing it after living in the US was a very jealousy-inspiring experience.

You can see similar patterns in dense urban environments built up in the US prior to the rise of zoning, too. New York, as an obvious example. But I bet without zoning, much of the rest of the US would probably look like New England, which had already substantially "suburbanized" well before the fashion for land-use planning took hold on this continent.

I think zoning has a lot more deleterious effects than just creating alienating urban spaces, too. It influences everything from transportation infrastructure to energy consumption to individuals' emotional states to macroeconomic patterns. Out of all the utopian policy innovations that have backfired over the past century, zoning is probably the worst.

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