Table Speech

How Tokyo and Japan will Change towards 2025

July 12, 2017

PhD. Hiroo Ichikawa
Dean, Graduate School of Governance
Studies, Meiji University

 Tokyo and Japan will undergo major changes beyond the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games towards 2030. Today, let me focus on three topics of the environmental changes surrounding Tokyo, analysis on city power and future outlook on the urban inner city area.

 In October 2013, the Abe Administration designated 18 wards in the Tokyo metropolitan area as National Strategic Special Zones (NSSZ) to promote regulatory reform especially in the fields of medical care, employment, education, urban revitalization and management as well as agriculture. The NSSZ Council has been set up, the first-ever inclusive framework consisting of representatives of the national government, local authorities and the private sector. To date, considerable progress has been made in the urban revitalization and management field such as easing restrictions on the floor-area-ratio and renting out private lodgings to tourists. As for medical care, however, we have seen only piecemeal progress, such as only a few foreign doctors permitted to treat patients at specific medical institutions.

 The future of Japan looks quite alarming with its aging and declining population. Our population is estimated to shrink to around 90 million by 2050, while middle-aged and elderly persons will become twice as many as young people by 2035. Against this backdrop, the major challenge lies in demographic shift to the three major metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. In 1960, the population ratio between rural areas and the metropolises was 1.5 to 1.0, but the ratio equaled in 2005. Tokyo continues to attract growing numbers of population which is estimated to peak around 2025 with over 14 million people. When we look a couple of decades ahead, the maglev train is scheduled to start commercial operation between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027. Easy access between the two metropolises will create a 50-million-population megalopolis where Tokyo will continue to function as the commercial and financial center and Nagoya as the manufacturing center. Economic output of Tokyo, Nagoya and Tohoku regions combined is estimated to account for 75% by 2027, thus the future looks less gloomy if we can mobilize their resources as a driving force for economic growth to override the negative impact of depopulation.

 Now, let us focus on Tokyo. I serve as Executive Director of the Institute for Urban Strategies at the Mori Memorial Foundation. We issue the Global Power City Index (GPCI) every year which evaluates and ranks the comprehensive power of 42 leading cities around the world. Based on 70 indices on 6 main categories of Economy, R&D, Cultural Interaction, Livability, Environment and Accessibility, the GPCI 2016 ranked London at the top for the fifth consecutive year, followed by New York and Tokyo. London overtook New York to become No.1 in 2012 when it hosted the Olympics. Tokyo made it into the top three for the first time, thanks to various measures taken in the build-up to the 2020 Olympics. I believe Tokyo has a good chance to become No.1 if we overcome our weaknesses identified in the categories of Economy (Market Attractiveness and Easy of Doing Business), Livability (Cost of Living) and Accessibility (International Transportation Network and Traffic Convenience).

 We also release the Global Power Inner City Index (GPICI) which ranks the world’s 10 leading cities based on the five indices of vitality, cultural interactivity, luxury, amenities and mobility. Tokyo ranked No.1 for the 10-kilometer target area and No.2 for the 5-kilometer target area, proving its strength. Research results show that there is room for improvement on “airport access and performance,” thus we must work on the internationalization of Haneda Airport.

 It is commonly believed that the Olympic host countries would suffer consequent economic recession. But let me highlight that Atlanta and London proved otherwise, showing well-developed cities with extensive infrastructure required low level of investment and therefore, its economic strength actually enhanced after the Games. I foresee Tokyo will follow in the footsteps of this positive economic pattern. When Tokyo hosted the Olympics for the first time in 1964, it spent 1 trillion yen (equivalent to 30 trillion yen today). 80% of the amount went to infrastructure development, including the metropolitan expressways, hotels and the shinkansen bullet train, which redrew the map of the inner city area. For the 2020 Olympics, we have limited infrastructure work planned such as extending the Kanjo 2 Loop Road to the Tokyo Bay zone for easy access.

 Regardless of the outcomes of the 2020 Olympics, the urban inner city environment will keep evolving towards 2025, while we must take heed of some challenging issues that await us from around 2030. I have published several books related to my topics today, so I hope you get a chance to read them and get a clearer picture. Thank you.