Schematic depiction of study results.

By Toshiaki Jo, Masayuki Sato, Toshifumi Minamoto, and Atushi Ushimaru.

Read the full article here.

As well as green spaces such as parks and forests, ‘blue’ spaces such as coasts and rivers are important for improved health and well-being of urban people. Urban planning that ensures both types of ecosystems are sustainably managed would be effective for healing their physical and mental stress caused by the pandemic, while being careful about their infection.

It is well known that cultural services brought by natural ecosystems are functioned as a solution to stress and disorder, the importance of which is much more substantial under the recent COVID-19 pandemic. However, contrary to green spaces, the role of urban blue spaces has been less focused, although the development of most large cities closely relates to coastal and riverine areas. We conducted an online-based survey targeting 5,756 respondents in the Japanese megacities to examine the personal characteristics, purpose, and motivation of urban people accessing blue spaces during and after the state of emergency (April to May, 2020).

We show that the residents who have more nature experiences in childhood, are satisfied with surrounding nature, and/or have more children who accessed these blue spaces more frequently. On the contrary, after the emergency period, those who have more nature experiences in childhood and/or longer stay-at-home duration increased the frequency accessing rivers but not coasts. In addition, they tended to visit coasts for recreational activity (e.g, fishing, swimming, marine sports) and rivers for interacting with animals and plants. These findings imply that, although both blue spaces are valuable for their improved health, urban people may recognize and use the former as ‘active leisure’ for their energy release and the latter as ‘passive leisure’.