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Trap of Regional Revitalization Policy

July 26, 2018

Misa Ogura

Currently in Japan, local revitalization is a buzz word. Yokosuka city is not an exception. Yokosuka city is located in the southeastern part of Kanagawa prefecture. It is known for Sarushima, the only uninhabited island in the Tokyo Bay, a popular summer BBQ venue foryoung people. Surrounded by the Tokyo Bay and Sagami Bay, Yokosuka area is a perfect place for marine sports. And in May 2017, the ANA Windsurfing World Cup was held at Tsukui Beach. Because of the US Naval Base, Yokosuka is a cross-cultural town, as well. There are many specialty foods of Yokosuka such as US Navy Burger and Japanese Navy Curry. Yokosuka was important place in the pre-modern history of Japan. In the 1850s, Mathew Perry, a commodore of US navy, came to Yokosuka with a fleet of black ships, which lead the opening of Japanese ports after 250 years of isolation policy.It is about 1-hour from metropolitan Tokyo area and 30 minutes from Yokohama area, prefectural capitol. Yokosuka has been popular residential and resort destination for long time.

   Although Yokosuka is full of attractiveness, it faces a serious problem. That is the "hollowing out of the population.” As of April 2018, it is estimated Yokosuka has population of 397,736, a 7 percent down from the peak of 433,358 in 1990.

   Where did Yokosuka people go? Most of them have flown into the greater Tokyo area. Young people leave the town for entering schools and for new jobs. And in 2013, Yokosuka ranked worst in losing the population in one year. This is not only phenomena of Yokosuka. 

   Many Japanese local cities and towns have been suffered from rapid outflow Tokyo metropolitan area.

Reasons of “Hollowing Out”

Why is the hollowing out of population the serious problem? When younger generation decreases in a local city, its birthrate and labor force will also decline. Because elderly people usually do not move out quickly, the community become aged and the city government had to owe high burdens of health and nursing services and insurance programs. All these social security costs go to the shoulder of younger generation.

Lack of Policy Coordination

There are many anti-hollowing out measures all over Japan. But most of them does not work well. According to the NHK survey conducted in June 2016, among all 75 city-revitalization projects which are recommended by the Cabinet Office, 40 percent of them failed to achieve their targets of visitors and migrants.Why are there so failed areas of local creations? The reason is their lack of sustainability in the local revitalization projects. I think this is the biggest problem.Most of the regional revitalization programs cooperate with government. Because the knowledge of the private enterprise which is a professional of a business is most effective to appeal for region. But it's one of the difficult factors for success.    Because there is little participation of a local resident in the policy. What happens next? If these local creations are performed, it takes a burden on a local community (noise damage, garbage problem, and others), which will cause the rise of opposite opinions. Then conflict between both sides of pro- and anti- revitalization event will become apparent. It is needed to create a partnership among the residents, local government, and local private companies to produce the event.

Importance of Community

It is obvious that local residents have to move forward independently. But still it isn’t easy to make their voice heard to the local government.In Japan, most local communities form a resident group. The group is called “neighborhood association.” The group is shared local resident's voice through the meetings and often holds some events for resident's friendship and exchange. There is an important role by the working of the group for consciousness of a community. But recently such function is also declining. Recently many people live alone, so they don’t need community to exchange. So they don’t think about the importance of their community. If it goes on like this, we cannot succeed in  “sustainability of the local creations.”





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